A leading Gambian Human Rights Lawyer and also the President of the newly set up Gambian Law Society Lamin K Mboge, has warned that if President Adama Barrow decides to disregard the three-year transition period he agreed with his Coalition partners to stay in office for five years, he (President Barrow) will be committing a civilian coup d’etat, which according to Lawyer Mboge, could derail Gambia’s new-found democracy, peace, stability and socio-economic development.
“We are not talking about the legality of his appointments or his terminations or whatever he does in his office within the three years; that is constitutional, but if his mandate goes beyond the three years, I am telling you, it would amount to usurpation of power; that is a coup; civilian coup d’etat; that is what we are going to experience in The Gambia, and we don’t want that kind of scenario to happen in The Gambia. We are going through a transition; going through a democracy that we are grooming; we don’t want anybody to spoil that,” Mr. Mboge told Freedom Radio Gambia during an exclusive interview.
“The implication of Barrow prolonging his stay in office is that; it will upset the political movement in the country and more so, to say, the socio-economic advancement of the country, because I am sure that it will lead to a lot of political upheaval. And that political activities and upheavals will affect the socio-economic activities of the country,” he added.
Mr. Mboge is a former Gambian magistrate. He studied law in Nigeria. He is one of the country’s finest lawyers.
Mr. Mboge said he has lost faith in President Barrow’s ability in steering the affairs of the nation. He said the country is not moving towards the right direction under Barrow’s leadership. He cited the rising crime rate; abject poverty, the current economic stagnation coupled with the hopelessness of The Gambian citizenry.
Mboge said if he is hired to take Barrow to court he will do it just for the sake of restraining The Gambian leader from perpetuating himself in power.
“If I have the instructions today, tomorrow I am ready to go to court. That’s is my job and I will do it without any hesitation,” he said, adding that he is not ruling out the possibilities of he himself suing the President if Gambians didn’t come forward to restraint Barrow from not prolonging his stay in power.
When asked why he is interested in the Coalition government three year transition Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), lawyer Mboge said: “Because this is touching on The Gambia. We are molding a democracy that is just beginning; our former democracy has been shattered and battered by the former regime; and now we are building a new democracy; another person will not be allowed to shatter that democracy; it is like a new baby that is being born; and you want to slaughter it even before it starts crawling; and that is what we are not going to allow to happen in the Gambia again,” he told me.
President Adama Barrow came to power in December of 2016 after defeating Gambia’s longtime dictator Yahya Jammeh. Barrow and his Coalition partners committed themselves to a three-year transition period before ascending to the Presidency. He campaigned on a three-year agenda to win the hearts and minds of the Gambian electorate.
But Mr. Barrow is apparently reneging from that agreement. He has consistently stated during his meet the farmers tour that he is going to stay in office for five years as stipulated by the constitution.
“At the time that they were making the agreement they were aware that the constitution gave for five years for Presidential elections. But the agreement that they have signed disregarded that constitutional provision. And this is written in black and white: That is disregarding of constitutional provisions aiming at protecting the citizenry. So, the drafters of the agreement knew at the time that the constitution gave five-year term limit, but this was disregarded by the drafters,” Lawyer Mboge contended.
“The President Adama Barrow, as an Independent candidate signed. He said I have offered myself, as an Independent candidate, who will serve for only three years at the end of the broad base and inclusive Coalition government. An agreement, we call it an agreement; and the purpose and intent of that agreement is to have a legally binding; otherwise they will not put it into writings. And number two, it would be endorsed by the drafters. So, it is not only a verbal agreement, but a written agreement. And that agreement is capable of being enforced. It can be enforced through the law courts,” the Niamina Dankunku born lawyer remarked.
Mboge maintains that Barrow has no reason or legal justification to backout from the three-year agreement he reached with his colleagues. He warns that any attempt on the side of Barrow to disregard that agreement should be resisted by the people of this country.
“If the President decides to stay anything against what he himself has signed; it is up to the citizenry to take legal action. In fact, in this case, I can say it is not only the parties that we have in the country, but any individual, who is affected by the pronouncement to extend that three years to five years, have a locus standi to go to court to challenge it because that agreement is binding and enforceable; and it will be enforced,” he said.
“I am sorry I have to say it in Wollof so that people can understand. President Barrow “ Dafa Taka Bobpam” meaning he has tied himself. When you sign an agreement, you tie yourself, and in this situation nobody can break it; nobody. He is the only one, who can free himself,” he added.
When we put it to Mr. Mboge that the constitution of The Gambia supersedes any agreement reached by the then opposition, he remarked: “The constitution is made by the Gambian people; we have to be aware of that. The agreement that he has signed together with all other political parties, are equally representing the Gambian people. The argument that the constitution supersedes, that argument I don’t agree because an agreement is binding on all those who endorsed it; all those who signed it and that binds the President himself.”
“It is because of the agreement why he is there; is because of that agreement he has endorsed himself. Nobody forces him to sign it. And he was aware, like all others that the constitutional term limit is five years, but the reason they reduce it to three years is to form a transitional government; a transitional government is not bound by the constitutional term limit of five years. The agreement is for them to create an avenue whereby they will be able to end the dictatorship and the suffering that The Gambian people have been experiencing,” he added.
It would be recalled that Vice President Ousainou Darboe, who is also the leader of the United Democratic Party, has threatened to sue the Coalition government if President Barrow should resign from the Presidency at the end of the three-year transition period. Darboe contends that Barrow has been elected to serve for five years and not three years.
But Lawyer Mboge disagrees. He said one of the reasons why Barrow is obsessed with prolonging his rule is because of such flawed legal advises.
“Well, I beg to differ with him because at the time that Mr. Barrow was signing that agreement he was aware that the constitutional term limit is five years; so, why did he agree to serve for a period of three years? It is because of a purpose. You see, in interpreting any agreement, you have to look at the intent and purpose of the agreement,” he noted.
Mboge added that Ousainou Darboe was not around when the opposition signed the MOU. Darboe was serving jail time in Jammeh’s mosquito infected mile two jailhouse at the material time.
“I think he is getting some differing opinions; different opinion about what he has signed. If other people say the constitutional supersedes the agreement that he has signed; I don’t agree, and I beg to differ in respect to any differing opinion because I think that is a misleading advice,” Mr. Mboge posited.
Written By Pa Nderry M’Bai