Gambia Needs No Federal Constitutional Arrangement With Senegal

lamin j darboe

By Lamin J Darbo

If he is to be believed, Ebou Jallow (EJ), with an unnamed Ghanaian lawyer, and Edward Singhateh, former AFPRC junta member, and APRC Cabinet Minister, were the three inspirations behind the one-sided executive document called the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia. With a “Federal Republic of Senegambia” his latest pet project, I hope the powers that be exclude EJ from the committee to be assigned the task of drafting the proposed federal constitution of a highly anticipated liberal democracy anchored in the mores of the rule of law. Although allowing for EJ to spring a surprise by working his persuasive magic on the principal federal negotiators in Dakar, and Banjul, my hunch is that this constitution is unlikely to come to fruition. His project of a Federal Republic of

Senegambia is unlikely ever to see the light of the day. Contrary to EJ’s contention, there is no political,prospect of Napoecurity basis for it. None whatsoever!

It is astounding that EJ’s central justification for a proposal so seismic is rooted in governance failures in the security domain, particularly in 1981, and 1994, and the totalitarian system now running our country. A proper reading of Gambia’s political development as of 1981 conclusively demonstrates that an overriding concern, as demonstrated by Kukoi’s easy displacement of the government, was the failure to institute a robust security regime within the overall governance mechanism, not of national viability. This is an extremely vital distinction in the sense that a compelling federal argument must demonstrate that viewed in the round, The Gambia is not viable as a state even where it faces no security challenge.

Without question therefore, 1981, and 1994, were exclusively issues of internal security failures by the political authority governing Gambia.

Indeed, 1981 was a non-event in political terms in light of the irrefutable fact that Kukoi never ascended the pinnacle of Gambia’s leadership. On the other hand, 1994 was a watershed event, a fork-in-the-road moment that could have ushered in a fundamentally positive redirection in the structure of Gambian governance. The authority that catapulted itself to the helm of national affairs had priorities different from the security, prosperity, and dignity of all Gambia.

In advancing his mere assertion for a “Federal Republic of Senegambia”, EJ appears to have lost all sense of proportion, and more importantly, the fruits of his rarefied US military training and expertise. He commands no credibility, and demonstrates no courage whatsoever in the critical arena he now propounds on, i.e., what to do with Professor Jammeh in the domain of the use of force. I emphasise to EJ that those who oppose violence are neither “weak-minded”, nor are they “do-nothingists”, as postulated by this eminent US military personality. Some of those people are at the forefront of the fight against public lawlessness in the most critical theatre, the home-front, with all that entails.

EJ conflates his federal assertion with what I call the theatrical idiocy of an argument that denotes active frontline soldiers as cowards, even as it regard deserters as lion-hearts. Gambia’s preeminent proponents of “by all means necessary”, the euphemistic shorthand for violence as a means of instituting a political settlement in the home country, are resident in the relative comfort of cities and towns across Western Europe, and the North Americas. I do not criticise anyone propounding that liberation mantra, but I ask how many of us are willing and committed to the critical project of relocating to the land of our birth, to assume the role of inspirational foot-soldiers in the legitimate battle for human dignity and national redemption. There is a palpable insurance in numbers, and with the knowledge, ideology, and strategic wisdom in place, plus exposure to the beauty of democratic political cultures, there is no question we can enlarge our collective freedoms via several distinct avenues. With EJ, and many an enlightened Diaspora activist on the ground, the Professor would have no option but to negotiate his survival in exchange for a tolerant and accountable public space.

To the extent that Professor Jammeh expressly and implicitly accepts that “violence is the only instrument capable of restoring the scales of justice…” against him, I do not challenge EJ at all. Again, I do not refute his contention that extrajudicial violence is a central aspect of governance, and that yesterday’s untouchable darlings of the Professor are today’s dehumanised straw men languishing in all manner of degrading locations in the country.

But what has these aspects of Gambian public life got to do with EJ’s ill-conceived and un-argued call for a federal arrangement between the sovereign and viable republics of Senegal, and The Gambia? Absolutely nothing is the simple answer!Contrary to EJ’s postulation, there are no insurmountable “sub-regional fears and socio-economic problems”. Even if there are, they are not remotely attributable to the absence of a federated Senegal, and Gambia. EJ advanced absolutely no political or economic arguments for a federal arrangement between Senegal, and The Gambia. But even the tangential nonsense he appears to advance as a basis for his federal thesis, i.e.,

Professor Jammeh’s “tyranny”, is hollow to the core. The man is an ordinary mortal, and assuming EJ is to be believed, the Professor is the sum-total of Senegal, and The Gambia’s political and economic troubles. Approaching the matter from such a perspective, there is no case whatsoever for aconstitutionally mandated federal tie to bind the two sovereign republics.

If we are too petrified to take on the Professor, the natural course of time will do it for us. After all, there was historical precedence for this. At the height of his powers, the Russians were alarmed by the prospect of Napoleonic invasion. They took solace in their “General February”, the most unforgiving winter month of the Russian calendar! “We cannot defeat Napoleon but our General February would do it for us”.

The Gambia travelled the route of separate statehood voluntarily, and EJ’s assertion of “geopolitical dismemberment” is clueless nonsense.

“Balkanisation”? Nonsense again, especially in light of historical fusion, and current separation, in larger Sudan generally, and South Sudan in
particular. And EJ’s historical precedents (Jolof Empire (1350-1550); the Muslim theocracies of Nasir al-Din from Mauritania (1673-1803), and Abdou Qaadir Khan from Futa (1775-1803) are not persuasive in so far as they were grounded in “violence”, the fundamental bedrock and guiding ethos of empire creation and management.

As to EJ’s “troubled Cassamance”, the bureaucrats in Dakar are fully aware what their responsibility to the peoples of the contiguous territory of Senegal is. Peace is a pipe dream in the absence of justice and the equitable distribution of commonly-owned resources. It is imperative that the leadership in Dakar treat Cassamance as a fully integral part of Senegal!

The sensible preference would be for Senegal and The Gambia to exist within a larger space of individual liberty rooted in a government under the rule of law, not create a schizophrenic creature designed to paralyse any federal mechanism this side of independence. Integral to the cultures of Senegal and The Gambia are the languages of French, and English, and therefore the nuances of the governance cultures of the UK and France!

These two aspects of our cultures can be complementary at the regional and larger continental level, but Gambia has no need to subsume its national identity in the larger ocean of Senegal. Contrary to EJ’s view, such would denote not a mutual surrendering of sovereignty, but Banjul’s unilateral surrender of sovereignty.

Those among our liberation-era leaders who argued for an independent Gambia are emphatically vindicated by the course of events. Gambia’s ability to survive as a sovereign state is now conclusively established, and the country has the potential to be a political and economic giant in our part of the world. It is brimful of intellectual and technical expertise, and in the right governance climate, it can benefit immensely in an immediate neighbourhood where it alone conducts national affairs in the preeminent language of international diplomacy and commerce. There is work to do but that work is doable under the auspices of a clearly viable, self-determining, and sovereign Republic of The Gambia!



  1. Lafia Touray la Manju

    To call for a federation with Senegal is at best unpatriotic and at worst bonkers because it is not informed by any sound political, economic or security reasons. Just because we share the same cultures and languages doesn’t mean that either country are being disadvantaged by its distinguished status as an independent sovereign country. This is my view.

    I know that PS Njie and IM Garba Jahumpa were at one point unenthusiastic about an independent Gambia going it alone but this was out of fear that jawara was going to dominate the political land sap and so he did until 1994 when he was unceremoniously removed. Such a reason should not bother the rest of the country for the law provided they can elect a government of their chosen every five years.

    As a country, we’ve come a long way and there is going back.


  2. Lafia Touray la Manju

    To call for a federation with Senegal is at best unpatriotic and at worst bonkers because it is not informed by any sound political, economic or security reason. Just because we share the same culture and languages doesn’t mean that either country are being disadvantaged by its distinct status as an independent sovereign country. This is my view.

    I know that PS Njie and IM Garba Jahumpa were at one point unenthusiastic about an independent Gambia going it alone but this was out of fear that jawara was going to dominate the political land scape and so he did until 1994 when he was unceremoniously removed. Such a reason should not and have not bothered the rest of the population for the law provided they can elect a government of their chosen every five years.

    As a country, we’ve come a long way and there isno going back.


  3. This Ebou Jallow guy is another crook, thief, and liar. He was part of Jammeh’s team until he stole what he can lay his hands on and took off. Goddame juddas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Now that he is in America and far way from Gambia, he started running his mouth against Jammeh, then changed tactics to win Jammeh’ favor again. When things failed to work his way, he now decided to go on another smear campaign against Jammeh and any one else.
    This idiot called himself a captain when he was a mere 2LT in the army reserve or national guard, posing in photos in weapons he don’t know how to fire “lying that he is hunting terrorists”. Folks, a captain in the GNA is like a couple in the US Army and being a Captian in the GNA 10 years ealier does not automatically make one a captain in the US Army reserve or national guard. I caught Ebou Jallow on one of his articles on and lambasted his ass with the truth and exposed his lies. He could not take the heat and became so defensive and denided that he called himself Captain ever.
    Now fake ass lying Ebou Jallow, the great CAPTAIN of nothing but stealing, is writing about a federalism with senegal. Who that hell is this moron to decide Gambians fate ?

  4. Lafia Touray la Manju

    He said it was given to him by Jammeh as a gief. The amount is 100,000 US Dollars. Anyway, he knew the money does not belong to Jammeh but the gambian people. Therefore, he should return the money to its rightful owners. He should face prosecution for his aiding and abetting in the fraud since he himself confessed to his crime on freedom radio which was very kind of me.


  5. I think it is a wast of time brothers to even talk About Ebou jallow,he is betrayer a fool who promote himself and even saying he was fighting in Iraq.I am sure even the Senegalese will say he is mad when they hear this stupid idea of his.I am 100% sure even as good Gambian even those who don’t love them self Gambians will say the man is out of his mine. So please brothers don’t waist your time on a fool like Ebou jallow look at his family back ground and ask him when his father came from Guinea-Conakry to Gambia or his grand father who came through Senegal to Gambia.

  6. Jammeh well said. There are many Ebou Jallows in our dear gambia today who do not know the history of the land they call their country and hence go on about promoting a senegambia federation.

    Ebou Jallow has been promoting this stupid line of argument for a while now. He is a dreamer and i think it should be an eye opener for gambians with regards to who we will put in charge of our nation and its institutions come the next republic.

  7. Yankuba Jobe

    The Gambia will ever remain independence state until the doomsday! We don’t need Senegal to liberate us from Yaya Jammeh for the sake of so called Senegambia Federation.. No matter how long it will take us, it will happen one day by the grace of Allah..

  8. Contrary to the hasty reactionary sentiments given here, a closer look at the argument and rational thinking about Senegal and Gambia cannot fail to see the need for closer ties – economically, socially, culturally and politically – between the two geographic entities inhabited by essentially one people who intermarry and show a greater tolerance to one another than you could possibly find anywhere in Africa. Just because the idea, which is not new, has recently been badly and inarticulately argued by the idiosyncratic and cantankerous Captain Jallow doesn’t make it untenable. The issue deserves every honest and sincere debate which Darboe appears to have started. Just look at how the US the EU and even Federal Nigeria are doing. A word for the wise should be enough. Let’s not be sentimental and myopic about it.

  9. Deyda Haidara

    What is wrong with UNITY ??? I just don’t get it folks. Gambians in general are anti-unity reason why JK survive for 20 donkey years.
    I am afraid that Gambians will once more give a chance to Senegal to ANNEX the Gambia for good. The next time the Gambia EXPLODES in civil war, Senegal will not ask the permission of any Gambian and will invade and annex the Gambia in the name of maintaining PEACE and mind you the International Community will approve the move.
    What will you do? Absolutely nothing. JK overthrew a democratic regime and stayed for 20 years and still counting. There is nothing you can do about it as yet. The Gambia is in the brinks of civil war and all of us know it but we prefer to fight amongst ourselves than uniting to tackle JK before the country sink in chaos.
    I would rather stay a free man in Senegambia unity than fighting Senegal in exile for the rest of my life.

  10. Lafia Touray la Manju

    With all the trouble our forefathers took to make gambia an independent state when everybody said it wasn’t possible and now we are having somebody who is feeling less gambian calling for a federation with Senegal. You lot who support this idea are having a laugh.!! You can’t be serious.

  11. Dida Halake

    Only the Blackman cannot unite with his brother – the Scots remain united with England! Chei Aduna!! When will Pan-Africanism come?

  12. It is said that how a message is received,is often influenced by the messenger and how the message is/ was delivered…And I suspect that is clearly being manifested here…Perhaps, Mr Ebou Jallow is not the best person to “deliver” this message…

    In any case, the premise on which his argument is anchored is seriously flawed, but I can understand why a person with his background would approach this issue from a security failings perspective…

    However, regardless of “who” he is and what he may or may not have done in the past, there is no excuse for some of the dangerous sentiments that are being expressed here and elsewhere,which expose a “hidden ugliness” about The Gambia that Jammeh’s ascension to power and divisive politics has brought to the fore..These bigots and bigotry should be condemned by all without hesitation…

    The Gambia belongs to all Gambians, irrespective of whether they can “trace their ancestry in The Gambia back seven generations” or not…That your great, great, great, great grandfather migrated to The Gambia before my father, neither makes you more Gambian than me, nor gives you more entitlements to life in the country..

    Equally, when we take away all the misconceptions, misinformation, distortions and artificial barriers “erected” between our “two peoples”, we will discover that Senegal and The Gambia share a lot more in common than we have in “differences”.. Hence any sort of union that is based on our shared values, a common agenda and “one nation; one people” developmental approach is bound to be good for the “Senegambian” People, as a whole…

    Of course, it should be.pointed out that any union between us must be a gradual process that begins with closer ties in all areas, as, a planned, systematic and well.managed process of integration that promotes the re-establishment of the true culture of.the Senegambian People, in its purity, within a modern context..

    I am in for a Union with Senegal…I am also in for a Union of African States..Because I am a Pan-Africanist. ..

  13. Lest we forgot, it was only recent forefathers (at the time of independence in 1965, not our forefathers of Mali and Songhai … empires), who took a stand against hasty political union with Senegal at the time, presumably, because that would not have been an unequivocal choice of the people as opposed to lazy and political convenience of France and the British. However there is nothing in the recent past that has been or is realistically objectionable to a strengthened tie between the two countries that constitute Senegambia.

    Certainly, and by all means, closer ties akin to the situation that obtained in the Balkans before and immediately after the European ethnic wars (WWW I & II) should be resisted; but the people of Senegambia should be educated on the issue, allowed a decent and informed debate and make a choice. As Halake has pointed out, Scotland’s decision (this morning) is a good pointer.

  14. Deyda Haidara

    @Lafia Touray, am sure you don’t mean what you are saying. Being a gambian means what in this 21st century? What can the Gambian offer to the world that you cannot find better else where? You see most Gambian intellectuals want to be president or ministers and all of them are scared to compete on a global scale or on the Senegambian space. Remember english speaking countries in the West have the best universities in the world so why are you scared to compete with your french speaking counterparts?
    The Founding Fathers of the OAU must be ashamed of us. Our tiny fragmented economies will never give us the leverage to sustain our wellbeing without begging and to compete and have say in world affairs. Until and unless UNITY amongst ourselves becomes reality, we will always be at the mercy of other continents.
    Long Live African Unity!

    • Dayda I am lost , i dont think anybody understand what you taking about.

      • Deyda Haidara

        Too bad if you are lost….we senegambians are ready for unity.
        We did not for wait governments to be senegambians, all they can do is to make it official and we will be 17 millions people with a bigger economy.

  15. if Ebou Jallow had said senegal should either treat the cassamance with respect and equality or give them independence so the the casamance, the gambia and guinea bissau can form a federation or union would have been a wiser proposal. These three regions have much more in common that the rest of senegal .

    The gambia and senegal will always have cultural and economic ties and that is okay indeed. Senegal seems to look like a democracy from the outside but a closer look at how the government is run shows a different picture.

    There is no need to try a federation with some one who thinks they know better. it will eventually lead to problems.


  16. Lafia Touray la Manju

    Kemo, what is this Mali connotation for in this debate?? For me, the likes of JC Faye and Edward Small are forefathers. And by the way, 1965 is half a century ago.

    Haidara, nobody call EJ less gambian. I am saying he is feeling less gambian because he thinks he is being shun by the entire nation because of his own confessed crime.

    God forbid a federation with Senegal

  17. The gambia can and will shine like a blazing fire after this fool and his gang have drowned themselves in their very own evil and soon come Allah. WE CAN DO IT AND OWES IT TO YOUR DEAR PEOPLES.



  18. Pipe Smoker

    Lamin, this piece is excellent and timely. Those who wish to misconstrue what you wrote will do so no matter whoever did. Senegal neglected Cassamance, hence the trouble in that region. Senegal will do likewise if any union happen between her and Gambia. The claims of Ebou is not about mutual cooperation and partnership the Pan-Africanist founding fathers hope to achieve. We can work as separate countries just like the European Union is. It is too late in the day to change the sovereign arrangements of this two countries. Jammeh’s dictatorship is a Gambian problem, and the solution is not else where. Ebou should desist from engaging in such useless conversation. Thanks Lamin


    Even if it is going to happen not in this way,because we cannot face jammeh,so the federation is the solution,hell no.No one will impose that fake unity on gambians,it happened before but it does not work because of insincerity,people of both country have a say in this,but not now lets face jammeh first and then we can think about that later.

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