By Alhagie Jobe
Judicial independence is the concept that the judiciary be kept away from the other arms of government, that is, the courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government, or from private or partisan interests.
In paper and pen, The Gambian Constitution provides separation of power meaning all organs of the government operate on its respective field without encroaching on each other’s domain. In practical, the recent unsavory happenings in The Gambia’s judicial system notably the sackings, resignation, reappointments and appointments of senior judicial officials has again confirmed the continued government interference and made many wonder if there is any independent of the judiciary.
Today, every Gambian and non-Gambian alike is asking who is actually in charge of the administration of justice in The Gambia, whether the Chief Justice as head of the judicial department or the Attorney General and Justice Minister who is chief legal adviser to the government or President Yahya Jammeh himself is controlling everything.
The Fatu Network has obtained a confidential letter from the Office of the President of The Gambia from security sources giving urgent executive directives to the Inspector General of Police copied to the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) to arrest, detain, investigate, charge and prosecute, therefore, confirming the level of government interference in the judicial system.
The leak confidential letter was dated May 28, 2015 and signed by Ebrima Jawara for Secretary General with subject: Arrest, detain, investigate, charge and prosecute Mr Momodou Lamin Gassama, Project Director NEMA.
The letter reads: Executive Directives have been issued for Mr Momodou Lamin Gassama, Project Director of the Nema Project, to be arrested, investigated, charged and prosecuted as per the findings in the attached report.
Further Executive Directives have been issued for the Inspector General of Police and the Director General of the National Intelligence Agency to set up a panel to investigate, charge and prosecute Mr Momodou Lamin Gassama, based on the findings in the attached report.
Immediately after the circulation of this letter, Mr Gassama was arrested at his residence in Jambur Jarri Kunda (Sinchu Giddon) by officers of the National Intelligence Agency. He was arrested with Sarjo Marenah, the financial controller of the Central Project Coordinating Unit and Bakary Jarju, director of the FASDEP Project in Basse while on the annual tour with President Jammeh.
Therein lies the problem. In any country governed by the rule of law, it is the responsibility of investigators – in most cases; law enforcement agents to first conduct searches through the acquisition of a warrant from a judge, and handing all evidence to the prosecutor who makes the determination as to whether a law has been violated – and if it has, whether charges should be brought against the individual in question. It is at this point that an arrest order is given by the prosecutor if in fact there is a case to answer. Guilt or innocence call is made by the judge/jury and the imposition of penalty is determined at such point by the court. The opposite is what happens in the Gambia where an individual who hasn’t yet been determined to have committed any crime is first arrested, taken to court, at which time the government starts fishing for evidence – all under the orders of and remote controlled by Yahya Jammeh. All part of the pattern of pervasive abuse witnessed in this country since 1994, the judiciary has become totally compromised rendering the justice system a joke. If Yahya Jammeh wants you in prison, you go to prison no matter what is stipulated in the Constitution of the land. Period! So it would have been laughable if it wasn’t such a life and death situation for so many, when a judiciary insider recently quipped: “well if you know the case against you is politically motivated, don’t even bother getting a lawyer – it is pointless!”
The multi-million dollar National Agricultural Lands and Water Management Development Project (NEMA) launched in The Gambia in 2013. The project amounted to US$65M is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) targeting women and youths, seeking to contribute to the eradication of hunger and poverty in rural Gambia.