COLUMN | The Democratic Extermination of CRC’s Genocide Charter (Draft Constitution): Time To Coalesce & Move On
By Pa Louis Sambou
I think one would be hard pressed to find anyone who in 2017 foresaw any cataclysmic defeat of the primary pillar of the Coalition agenda: the draft Constitution. Well, even if one existed, any such projection would most certainly have invited valid accusations of madness on the part of the maker. I’m sure there’s no short supply of voodoo artists who would today with a straight face claim to have had a ‘prophetic’ foresight of such an event through their crystal ball and in ways no rational being would comprehend. I speak of the marabouts of course but perhaps we should park their superstitious subject for another day.
Now, how has the most popular and lauded public policy of pedestal public appreciation become the casualty of the very people who championed it, the team captain (President Barrow) included? I am sure the supine lobby and their extremist allies will blame everyone and everything else but themselves and their unsophisticated approach. However, the average nonpartisan, apolitical citizen with knowledge of the facts and developments will take a completely contrary view. I self - identify with the latter.
I will be the first to concede that the 1997 Constitution leaves a lot to be desired but, is the solution to such, the institution of a gravy train edifice disguised as a Commission? Well, I guess the results speak for themselves: D116 million spent and, no goods delivered but, it’s perhaps not as simple black and white as that, I get it. However, in my view, the existing Constitution could have quite frankly been amended by a cross-party National Assembly committee with technical support by appropriate legal experts and consultants. This would have been much more cost effective, democratic and the result would have been much more acceptable to the National Assembly as a body, likewise the Executive. The decision to adopt the approach which led to the establishment of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) was a terrible mistake thanks to our emotion-driven former Attorney General who at every given opportunity gave the impression that he was fighting a personal ‘jihad’ against not just the former regime but, everything which it left behind no matter how insignificant. Rational consideration was certainly not an attribute which featured in the discharge of his public duties.
One important lesson to draw from the defeat of the draft Constitution is, that the formulation of a major public policy framework such as a new superior legal order requires moderation and cool heads in every respect. However, the high stakes and reckless strategy adopted by the CRC to strongly skew every aspect of the discharge of their mandate towards the interests of the ‘majority’ at the colossal expense of others was extremely dangerous. Such was not only dangerous in terms of the unprecedented and unhealthy tension it triggered between Christians and Muslims but also risky in terms of the toxic partisan atmosphere it generated in addition to the aforementioned. In my view, if there’s any victory to celebrate from the defeat of the Genocide Charter of a draft Constitution, it is the restoration of sanity and the end of an era of toxicity initiated, inspired, enabled and disgracefully driven by the CRC and fellow citizens whom were once-upon-a-time very respectable and honourable citizens.
Having voted for or facilitated the coming into office of this government, advocating for its biggest policy agenda to be made historical was the last thing on our minds. However, having weighed the options between the need for reform on the one hand and, the need for the safeguard of fundamental human rights of the Christian minority, women and vulnerable citizens, most like me opted for the latter, for good reason and without any regrets whatsoever. I am absolutely convinced that the legal effect of aspects of the draft Constitution if it passed were going to inflict “conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction in whole or in part of the Christian minority”, something which by all accounts constitute a genocide under Article 6(c), Statute of Rome. Therefore, ‘Genocide Charter’ is a very fitting and legally accurate name to associate with the now historical draft Constitution. Those behind it and their extremist allies will of course disagree but, the facts to the contrary are indisputable.
Those of us who feel victorious for the extermination of the draft Constitution must however not be naïve into thinking that this is the end. It certainly is not. Besides, it was voted down for reasons other than human rights concerns. After Jammeh was sent packing, I doubt any of us anticipated the arrival of another Jammeh in the guise of a legal luminary who in lockstep with the same fringe minority laid in the open an intolerant and selfish determination to lay down the template of what would have been the infancy of an Islamic State.
After yesterday’s verdict, it is vital that we all take stock, leave the division behind us and coalesce around a consensus to pursue an alternative constitutional reform objective but, without the draft and without its divisive architects and drivers of the poisonous atmosphere which prevailed since November 2019. As for ownership of the failure, the bus driver (President Barrow) is of course a low hanging fruit for most to pinpoint, however, truth be told, the CRC had the latitude, the independence and a blank cheque in order to deliver but, they were so scandalously inadequate, we should file a class action to seek a refund of every butut of our money. Their return was repugnant, it stank to the high heavens at every level and, as their supine lobby strictly instructed the National Assembly Members not to “touch anything” (amend the draft) so, in the absence of a surgical operation, democratic extermination remained the only alternative. Therefore, the CRC must and should own the failure and the voting down of their Genocide Charter of a draft Constitution which in light of events, I will humbly advise they donate to the Gambia National Museum for historical archiving and for good. Their now historical Genocide Charter is good enough for our history but, certainly not good enough for our future.
The architects of the now historical Genocide Charter of a draft Constitution, their supine lobby and extremist allies shall be remembered as the cult which took active measures to extinct the Christian minority in The Gambia whilst culling the rights of women and vulnerable citizens along the way.
To do justice to the subject matter, I definitely cannot conclude without paying homage to the Attorney General who, having been given a ‘hospital pass’ by his predecessor Ba Tambadu, had to go the Parliament to try to sell a government business which his boss, President Barrow did not want any of its potential customers (National Assembly members) to buy. Not an envious position to find oneself in at all.
About the Author
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Twitter handle: @That_Pragmatist