By Bubacarr Drammeh
The office of the Vice President is as important as that of the President. The Vice-President is the principal assistant of the President. Section 70(1) of the 1997 Constitution provides that:
There shall be a Vice-President of The Gambia who shall be the principal assistant of the President in the discharge of his or her executive functions and shall exercise such other functions as may be conferred on him or her by this Constitution or assigned to him or her by the President.
Whenever the office of the President becomes vacant (this happen when the President resigned or he/she is mentally or physically incapable to run the affairs of the state or he is impeached for misconduct) the Vice President will become the President and she/he will continue the term of the President. Section 65(2) of the Constitution stated that
Whenever the office of President becomes vacant…the Vice-President… shall assume the office of President for the residue of the term of the former President.
Thus the Vice President must be someone who is competent and is also qualified to be President. In some countries (for example USA), the President picks his Vice-President (subject to the approval at the parties national convention) and campaigned with him for office. Thus people will vote for both of the President and the Vice-President. This is not the case in The Gambia as the President is given the exclusive power to appoint his Vice-President. Section 70(3) of the 1997 constitution provides that “The Vice-President shall be appointed by the President”
Notwithstanding the exclusive power of the President to appoint a Vice-President, the Constitution sets out criteria a person must attained before he or she could be appointed by the President. Section 70(2) of the 1997 constitution of The Gambia provides that:
A person shall be qualified to be appointed as Vice- President if he or she has the qualifications required for the election of the President under section 62. Provided that the Vice-President shall not be a member of the National Assembly.
It is clear from the above provision that in other to be qualified for the post of
Vice-President, a person must have the qualifications to be President. What is the qualification to be President? This question is emphatically answered in Section 62(1) of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia. The said section provides that:
(1) A person shall be qualified for election as president if-
- (a) he or she is a citizen of The Gambia by birth or descent,
- (b) he or she attained the minimum age of thirty years but not more than sixty-five years;
(c) he or she has been ordinarily resident in The Gambia for the five years immediately preceding the election;
- (d) he or she has completed senior secondary school education; and
- (e) he or she is qualified to be elected as a member of the National Assembly.
- (2) A person who holds the citizenship or nationality of a country other than The Gambia, shall not be qualified for election as President .
- (3) A person who, while holding public office in The Gambia has been-
- (a) compulsorily retired, terminated or dismissed from such office, or
- (b) has been found guilty of any criminal offence by any court or tribunal established by law; or
- (c) has been found liable for misconduct, negligence, corruption or improper behaviour by any commission or committee of inquiry established by law shall not be qualified for election as President.
Thus, any person who did not fulfill the above criteria is not qualified to be the Vice-President of The Gambia and therefore he/she must not be appointed.
It is the duty of the President to ensure that he/she does not appoint any person who did not attained all or any of the criteria set out in section 62 of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia. It is the duty of the President to uphold and defend the constitution of The Gambia as the supreme law of the country. Section 61(2) of the Constitution provides that “The President shall uphold and defend this Constitution as the supreme law of The Gambia.”
If the President of the Gambia willfully violates any provisions of the constitution, he/she should be impeached because such a violation amounts to misconduct by the president. Section 67(1)(a) provides that
(1) The President may be removed from office in accordance with this section on any of the following grounds-
- (a) abuse of office, wilful violation of the oath of allegiance or the President’s oath of office, or wilful violation of any provision of this Consultation…
President Barrow appointed Fatoumatta Jallow Tambajang as his Vice-President. Madam Tambajang is said to be highly educated, warm and gracious. She has served The Gambia and her people most of her adult life. She is said to be great public servant and a patriotic citizen. She works tirelessly in ensuring that the people of The Gambia are freed from a dictator. In fact, many believed she was the architect of the coalition that eventually ousted Jammeh after 22yrs of dictatorship. She is classy, intelligent, strong, experience, open and authentic. Due to her impeccable character, she is highly respected by all and seems to be a great pick for the post of Vice-President.
President Barrow responded to the allegations in his first press conference upon his return from exile in Dakar, Senegal. He said that he has followed the law and those alleging that he did not should provide proof. The President’s response seems to suggest that those who alleged that the Vice-President is above the age stipulated in the constitution should provide evidence. He seems to have suggested that he is not obliged to prove that he acted within his powers.
His response calls for concern (I am concern). The President is mandated to uphold and defend the constitution. That is why it is mandatory for the President to take the oath of office. He/she must be sworn in to defend the constitution of the country. In fact he/she should be impeached if he/she willfully violates any provision of the constitution. Thus President Barrow must ensure that his actions are in line with the provisions of the constitution of the country. If his actions are questioned and there is compelling evidence, it is incumbent upon him to refute the allegations with empirical evidence convincing in a democracy. This will make the public to have trust and confident in the office of the President and he will ultimately earned their respect. The allegations that Madam Tambajang is above the age limit set by the Constitution is serious and there has been compelling evidence showing that she is disqualified for the office of Vice-President. The President should immediately resolve the issue regarding Madam Tambajang’s age by providing the Gambian people with evidence that Madam Tambajang is indeed within the age bracket. The office of the President’s mere denial without any formal documentation suggests (to the citizenry) that the allegations are true.
I will end with a statement made by Mai Fatty our Minister of Interior.
“Our Constitution is one of the best. We have entrenched clauses that protect the fundamental rights and liberties of individual. We don’t need more laws. What we need is the effective enforcement of the existing laws. And if we go by the dictates of the Constitution and the directive principles of state policies, I think we will find our job easier”
If the new government follows the Constitution its job will be easy and the hope of establishing a democratic state will continue.
My next article will be on whether President Barrow has the power to change the name of the NIA.