The Gambia of our dreams is a land where no one is above the law; where the law applies equally to the rich and the poor; to the president and the petty trader; to a National Assembly member and the janitor.

And, I dare say the Gambia is a land where public officials understand that impunity is criminality; where the custodians of the law and lawmakers are held to a higher standard of responsibility and accountability, accepting that an oversight does not neutralize culpability, because those who are law makers have a solemn responsibility to model the law that they hold others accountable to and to themselves.

It is in this regard that every Gambian to put The Gambia first and approach the current matter involving a member of a National Assembly of the land without bias, in the interest of justice and accountability, with the objective of institution building and in the spirit of the New Gambia.

Note, in addition, that President Barrow must himself operate in accordance with due process, with utmost respect for the independence of the legislature, and in compliance with constitutional provisions on both substantive and procedural matters, knowing that two wrongs, no matter how seemingly well-intentioned, cannot make a right. This ethos of regard for due process, respect for the rule of law, and reverence for justice over politics, is the spirit of the new Gambia of our dreams.

Too early to call for President Adama Barrow’s impeachment concerning the firing of Ms Kumba Jaiteh as Nominated Member of the National Assembly based on alleged violation of the constitution. Some pounced on this as evidence that an impeachable offence had occurred for removing a National Assembly member.

The removal of a member of the National Assembly, by the executive is an action capable of undermining the nation’s legislature and intimidating law makers and creating uncertainty in the democratic and electoral process. Other constitutional breaches in complicit by certain lawmakers are more grounded, noting that all the evidence needs to be analysed. What are the Impeachment Clauses references?

As lawmakers who represent a shrinking portion of the population prepare to confirm a justice more Gambians oppose than support, who was nominated by a president for whom most of the electorate did not vote, the crisis of Gambian democracy comes into sharp relief.

Whatever their self-perception, the United Democratic Party control of the legislative branches of government is counter majoritarian. With the guardrails of separated powers broken, the last remaining defence for Gambian democracy and the rule of law is the electorate itself.

Sometimes, when democracies die, they do so in grand gestures. But often, there is no single event that heralds the end of the rule of law, but a slow, imperceptible erosion of the safeguards against political abuse of state power.

If you voted for Adama Barrow or if you didn’t vote at all in the December 1, 2016 presidential election you are culpable in this deep dive our republic has taken into darkness. It won’t be easy to restore the republic to its democratic underpinnings but we all must commit to try like hell to do exactly that. Everyone (every adult in The Gambia and in the Diaspora) must vote in 2021 and in all the elections including the referendum for the Third Republican Constitution going forward in The Gambia. The future of our democracy depends on it.

I believed that Gambians and this great nation can tolerate a president who makes mistakes, but it cannot tolerate one who makes a mistake and then breaks the law to cover it up. The president is not a king but a citizen, deserving of the presumption of innocence and other protections, yet also vulnerable to lawful scrutiny.

We hope President Adama Barrow recognises this. If he doesn’t, how our lawmakers respond will shape the future not only of this presidency and of one of the country’s great political parties, but of the Gambian experiment itself.

This past three years in Gambia’s political history has been called by many the Year of Resistance. This year and beyond must become the years of both resistance and persuasion. The Gambian Constitution established a system to provide checks and balances on abusive power. The National Assembly has the power to impeach a president who has become a clear and present danger to the republic. Let this year and subsequent years be one of continued resistance but also persuasion. Let Gambians Resist and… Persuade!

By Alagi Yorro Jallow

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