Gambia’s National Assembly on Tuesday amended the country’s 1997 Constitution removing the upper age limit for holding office as President of the Republic of The Gambia from 65 years.
They also amended and voted by revising the compulsory retirement age of a judge in the Superior Court, extending the age at which a judge should vacate his or her office from seventy to seventy-five years.
Sections 62(1)(b) of the Constitution is amended by deleting immediately after the words ‘he or she has attained the minimum age of thirty years’, to the words ‘but not more than sixty-five years’.
Section 141(2)(b) of the Constitution is amended by substituting for the words ‘seventy years’ to the words ‘seventy-five years.
It is envisaged that this amendment will facilitate and encourage qualified, competent and experienced Gambians to be appointed as judges of the Superior Courts or be elected to political office.
Presenting the bill to removing the upper age limit for holding office as President, Interior Minister Mai Ahmed Fatty said the amendment will truly consolidate democracy in the country, eliminate discrimination against senior citizens who still have so much in terms of experience , expertise and competence to serve the country.
“This will therefore, cure that defect. The the amendment will enable any Gambian who has attain the age beyond 65 years to present him or herself as candidate for President of The Gambia” he noted.
Fatty reminded that The Gambia is a signatory to the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and it makes it discriminatory for someone who attain a certain age to be banned from participating in the political life of his or her country exclusively on grounds of age.
“As a signatory, we owe it to the international community and the Gambian people to comply with international laws. For the first time in the history of The Gambia, this amendment will also put the country inline with national best practice and enable us to stop for the first time, the violation of very important international instrument in which The Gambia is a signatory” he said..
Superior Court Judges
He said seniority is always cherished and commendable and it is acquired by age and years of experience. He said, for judges particularly those of the Superior Courts, the higher the age, the greater the wisdom.
He confirmed that the Gambia’s judiciary is suffering tremendously because of the lack of sufficient Gambian judges who are prepared to occupy the bench.
“As a result, we are left with a number of foreigners who are imported into The Gambia to occupy seats in the Superior Courts. Today, there are many cases at the Supreme Court awaiting to be determined upon. This has not been possible because we do not have Gambians to take up positions in the Supreme Court and other superior courts. There are so many Gambians who are willing to serve the nation – imminent judges and lawyers who can serve in any tribunal around the world with distinction and are ready to come forward and enrich the judiciary but the age limit makes them impossible to do so” he said.
Minister Fatty finally made it clear that this amendment will therefore eliminate the ubiquity provision and enable the Gambia to truly realize the Gambianisation of the judiciary.