Moral Leadership Vs. Constitutional Requirement
I, Adama Barrow, do solemnly swear that I will preserve, defend and protect the Constitution of the Gambia. So help me Allah.
When President Adama Barrow uttered those words on 19thJanuary 2017, Yahya Jammeh had already declared a national state of emergency and Parliament had just extended his term of office by 90 days. Gambia was in a state of intense political climate and many people were looking forward to the elected President Barrow for change. Today, three years after Barrow’s inauguration, Gambia is still in a political quagmire and the controversy surrounding morale agreement versus constitutional mandate seems to be dividing the country apart.
While other countries in the region have been protesting against violations of their Constitutions, some Gambians are uncompromisingly demonstrating against President Barrow for following the Constitution. Section (65) of the 1997 Constitutionmandates the president to serve for a term of five years. Barrow opting to serve the rest of his mandate is constitutional.
In Guinea, there is widespread sit-down strike that made the capital Conakry to become almost a ghost city. Markets, offices, businesses, schools and shops have been closed following the opposition call for a quiet protest against the president who wants to change the constitution to extend his mandate for another term. So far many Guineans lives have been lost for standing firm against changing the Constitution to extend the president mandate.
Senegalese are also making loud noises to resist any moves byPresident Sall to change the Constitution. Already two close allies of the president have been sacked for denouncing any changes to the constitution to extend the presidential term limit. Meantime, while the president is mute over the issue, undercurrent of political debates have been heightened in the public media with civil liberties associations ready to challenge any amendment to the constitution to extend the presidential term limit.
In Cote D’Ivoire, similar moves by President Ouattara is being challenged by the masses who are ready to take to the streets to protect and preserve the constitution against any changes extending his mandate. Already, the leading opposition leader has been banned from entering the country and the former President Mbagbo is still in a legal limbo at the ICC having been set free by the same court earlier in the year.
Last month, thousands of Gambians from three years pressure group took to the street demanding Barrow to honor the agreement of the coalition and step down from power. This weekend umpteen of protesters in the thousands also took the streets to demand President Barrow to honor the constitution which he had sworn to preserve and rule for five years.
It seems Gambians are trapped in a delicate political world but one thing is clear there is no shortcut to the Presidency. Even if Barrow decides to step down whoever step up to replace him will be calling the shots without being elected. This is not the democracy we want. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past and have a president perpetuating himself/herself in office.Again, there is no short cut to the presidency, any politician worthy of his salt must start preparing for the 2021 election and desist from using any pressure group as a pond to fight for its hidden agenda.
Democracy is messy, every voice should be heard. But removing a democratically elected president must be legitimately done through the ballot. There is a lot at stake and so far Barrow’s government has been grappling with widespread policy uncertainty, delayed reform agenda, and elaborative coordinated campaign of sabotage by stooges within his government ready toderail any progress in his development programs.
There is no justification to stage a protest against President Barrow for following the provisions of the 1997 Constitution. Barrow is not secretly changing any presidential term limit as others are doing in the sub-region but simply fulfilling the requirement to serve the rest of his mandate as required by law. Our country is not stupid, it’s those politicians hiding behind pressure groups who are stupid.
Constitutional requirement should take precedence over any issues of moral leadership.
Written by: Morro Gaye