The Gambia: EU concerns over constitution review

“The European Union has been at the forefront of support to the democratic transition in The Gambia since 2017 and to the reforms aiming at entrenching democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Over the last months, it has observed with growing concern a marked slowdown in the pace of the reform process and in particular noted the recent important setback with the rejection of the draft new Constitution. It is key for the 2021 Presidential elections to take place on the basis of a new social contract” reads the statement of the head of the EU diplomacy Josep Borrell.

“The constitutional review process is linked to other pillars of the democratic transition, in particular the transitional justice process with the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), as well as the Security Sector Reform (SSR). It therefore remains important to lay the foundations for the follow-up of these processes. Moreover, taking forward other significant reforms, such as the revision of the Public Order Law, media and access to information laws prior to the 2021 Presidential elections, requires decisive Government action.

“The European Union calls upon the Government to take the lead in building the necessary national consensus around the future direction of the democratic transition, with a new Constitution at its core”  the EU top diplomat wrote.

In December 2017, the National Assembly of the Gambia had established a Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) to draft a new statute book to replace the 1997 constitution, which many analysts believed had many undemocratic provisions. This constitution had been drafted three years after a military coup led by Yahya Jammeh, who amid high drama was overthrown, by a seven-party political alliance loosely called Coalition 2016.

But since then Gambian President Adama Barrow has walked out from the coalition that brought him to power and has launched his political party he National People’s Party (NPP).

Experts say that that the country’s transition that received praise from the international community and counted as one of the successes of post-dictatorial democratic transition on the rocks. They say, that democracy has become trapped under the complexities of power struggle.

After registering his new party in January, Barrow made it clear that he plans to run for president again in 2021, although he indicated when he was elected that he would be a one-term president.

The constitution bill would have created a two term limit, with the President serving five years per term. A clause in the bill for a transitional president, such as Barrow, would have his current term counted as one term.

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