The only reason why NAMs shouldn’t change anything in the Final Draft Constitution is to avoid partisan capture of the document. That is, to make changes that would be perceived to favour one party or politician in one way or another. The consequence of touching the document therefore undermines its legitimacy and integrity. This is because those changes will now be perceived in terms of a particular party or politician’s interest.

Remember, the 1997 Constitution has been nicknamed the ‘Soldier’s Constitution’ or ‘Jammeh’s Constitution’ simply because from the very onset the AFPRC Junta interfered with the draft that was submitted to them by the National Consultative Council in 1996. Since then many citizens lost faith in that constitution. In fact, in the 1996 referendum there was a massive campaign against it as a soldier’s constitution. Twenty six years later today, people still refer to it as ‘Yaya Jammeh’s Constitution’. We should avoid our 3rd Constitution to be impugned as such.

It is obvious that parliaments do comprise several political parties. Thus in many instances issues get politicized and partisan. Thus if NAMs were allowed to touch the document there is no doubt that partisan and personal interests will surface.

Furthermore, if NAMs touch this draft, even with the best of intentions, it will dilute the citizen ownership of the document. It means from that moment, the draft constitution is no more fully reflective of the original opinions of the citizens of this country. Rather it will become a politicized constitution in favour of this or that party. That will make the draft lose its sincerity, genuineness and honour and consequently lose public confidence and ownership of it.

Therefore, let us protect the legitimacy, integrity and the sanctity of the 2020 Final Draft Constitution by preventing anyone from touching it. If we allow changes to the document that seems to favour one party or the other, there is high likelihood that some people will campaign against it as this or that party’s constitution.

Even if it gets eventually approved in the referendum, the constitution will be tainted with that mischaracterization that it is a Barrow or UDP or PDOIS or NRP or GDC or PPP or APRC constitution depending on which side had more influence on it. This is precisely the reason that we must appeal to our NAMs to rather approve the bill so that the Final Draft Constitution goes to a referendum, untouched.

Allowing NAMs to touch the document also creates the risk of promoting a No-Vote in the referendum as voters may see the draft as favoring that party or this party. If the No-Vote wins, it would mean sticking with the obnoxious 1997 Constitution hence a catastrophic failure of ensuring true system change. That means the country is still within the orbit of Dictatorship.

On the other hand, if that draft got approved anyway and becomes the substantive constitution, what that would trigger is a series of amendments in due course by any new government that comes into office with control over the National Assembly. What this means is that we will once again have to contend with an overly butchered constitution just like the 1997 Constitution. This is what will further take away the legitimacy and integrity of our Constitution, thus once again undermine national unity, national security and further polarize our society.

Therefore, let us urge NAMs to protect the legitimacy and integrity of this Final Draft Constitution and maintain the public ownership of it by not touching it but approve the bill and send it to a referendum ASAP.

For The Gambia Our Homeland
Madi Jobarteh