Gambia: Commentary: Judicial Corruption In The Gambia!

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The judiciary is the last hope for the citizenry. It is charged with the responsibility to dispense justice with fairness, without fear, favor, or ill will. Therefore, the expression “equality before the law” should not be a mere political rhetoric, but a reality. All human beings are equal before the law. We expect members of the bench to exercise high degree of honesty, and professionalism in the due execution of their duties.

During Jammeh’s era, we blamed the Nigerian mercenary judges for doing the dictator’s bidding by sending wrong people to jail; confiscate people’s properties, deliver frivolous judgments in favor of the state and so on. Thus, there was a growing call for the “Gambianization” of our judiciary. But Jammeh never heeded. He maintained the foreign magistrates and judges under his payroll. 

The judiciary under Jammeh was not only inept, but corrupt to the core. Cases were being settled at the police level, AG Chambers, and Judges chambers. The dictator was also running his show on the sideline. He instructs Judges to send his opponents to jail, and seize their properties.

In this new political dispensation, we expect the judiciary to remain independent and refuse to connive or fraternize with the Executive. The Chief Justice Assan Jallow, who is at the epicenter of this important government branch, should demonstrate that independence, and honesty for his subordinates in the bench to follow.

It is disturbing to learn that the CJ benefited from the Saudi free tickets to perform Hajj in Mecca. He traveled with members of the Executive to perform Hajj. He could be seen around his longtime childhood friend Foreign Minister Ousainou Darboe. They are both from Basang, even though Darboe’s birthplace is Doobo. Doobo is a village outside Bansang. 

There are far reaching political ramifications of having the CJ accepting gift from the Executive or socializing with them. This is the man, who is expected to adjudicate election petition cases in the event future elections have been disputed by the opposition. Today, he has been annexed into the Executive by default.

Ousainou Darboe is a leader of an opposition party called—the United Democratic Party (UDP). Mr. Darboe has a presidential ambition. He is likely going to run in future elections, or a member of his party might be sponsored to contest for the presidency.

Therefore, for CJ Jallow, to be hanging around Darboe, and the Executive undermines his independence as a judge. He has also compromised his oath of office.  The National Assembly should look into this matter.

CJ Jallow should learn from his colleagues in Kenya. Had been that the Kenyan Supreme Court judges have sold their souls to the Executive, they wouldn’t be able to deliver such a landmark ruling by annulling the results of Kenya’s presidential elections.

The last time we checked, dictator Yahya Jammeh’s election petition case has not been formally withdrawn from the Supreme Court. Jammeh’s lawyers were asked by CJ Jallow to come up with a formal request to withdraw the case. That’s yet to be done.  

Now our CJ, is hanging out with the ” Coalition” government Executive Members that Jammeh is challenging the legitimacy of their political mandate in the courts.  The CJ ought to know better. He should be better than this. 

Judicial independence is sacrosanct in any democratic dispensation. Those entrusted to enforce the law should distance themselves from the Executive or any arm of government that might try to curry favors from the judiciary.

There was a reason why the French philosopher Montesquieu came up with the political doctrine called the “separation of powers,” which is implemented by so many democracies around the world. The goal is to promote checks and balances, and to avoid abuse of authority. I guess the Gambia, under Barrow’s rule embraced Montesquieu’s doctrine of separation of powers.

In both the lower and higher courts of the Gambia, complains are abound that some legal officers are in the habit of working with lawyers, and litigants to deliver judgments in favor of parties that are willing to bribe their way to defeat justice. These are serious allegations. Our judiciary should not be reduced as case settling grounds. Justice should be dispensed with fairness. No underhand dealings! We rest our case!

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