On 1st December 2016, Gambians went to the polls to change the government of Yahya Jammeh and usher in a new and democratic Gambia. Jammeh was defeated and forced into exile after a rocky tussle; and alas, a new Gambia was ushered in. Now that Jammeh is gone, the new government led by Adama Barrow has started appointing its cabinet.
The first appointment, although highly welcomed by many Gambians, has contravened section 70(2) of the 1997 Gambian constitution which states 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”
Section 62 (1)(b) of the aforesaid constitution clearly states inter alia that a person shall be qualified for election of president if “he or she attained the minimum age of thirty years but not more than sixty-five years;”
Mrs Tambajang, as of the appointment, is above 65 years old. She is categorically unqualified based on the cited sections of the Gambian constitution.
The big question is what was the coalition thinking? Were they depending on the declared state of emergency as a legal basis to appoint her? If that is the case, I am sure that they are aware that the imposition of this state of emergency in Jammeh’s final days was termed as illegal and irrelevant by their own, as it was considered a ploy to extend his term. Where we go from here, is up to our legal luminaries to shed light on. What’s clear is that we need an explanation.
This new development has undoubtedly started a debate among Gambians. Some argue that the constitution was amended by Jammeh and as such they see no reason why this should be a problem. However, others argue that the current government must adhere to the whims of the Gambian constitution, until it is reformed or amended to suit the current reality. I am with the latter group.
I am not saying that Tambajang is not qualified or cannot do the work. We know very well what she is capable of doing. She was very instrumental, as a neutral person, in bringing the various parties together and even chairing the coalition convention etc.
Fifteen years ago, long before most of us joined the struggle to liberate our country, she had already decided that The Gambia will not progress under Jammeh. She took part in the demonstration that led to the arrest of UDP party leader Ousainou Darboe. Whereever the movement for democracy called, she was present. Equally, she has laudable experience in the public sector, having served under Jammeh as Minister of Health briefly. She also has experience working for the UN. Indeed she deserves to be VP as much as any other Gambian with the required qualifications and competencies.
However, we have a constitutional crisis that prevents her from being made the VP. We cannot allow the rules to be bent or even ignored. Until we fix this missing link, we call on Barrow and his government to respect the constitution as it is.
Let it be clear from now on. We did not remove Jammeh for Barrow to continue to govern without due process. We voted for change and we voted for rule of law. The Gambia must move forward from here and we will not at any point allow the constitution to be ignored for whatever purpose. We are watching you and every move you take will be scrutinized.