The dust over President Yahya Jammeh’s proclamation of The Gambia as an Islamic State continues to rise, with the opposition People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism calling for his (the President’s) impeachment if he begins to implement the unilateral Brufut Declaration.
Read below a statement penned by the party’s Secretary General Halifa Sallah:
IMPEACHMENT OF THE PRESIDENT SHOULD BEGIN IF HE IMPLEMENTS HIS DECLARATION
On Thursday 10th December, 2015 President Yahya Jammeh stated at a rally held in Brufut, attended by APRC party enthusiasts, that “As from today, Gambia is an Islamic Republic.”
PDOIS would like to take this opportunity to emphasise with all the emphasis at our command that this declaration is fiction and not fact. Everybody should know as from today that The Gambia is not an Islamic state. The reason for PDOIS’ declaration is simple. The declaration of the President could only have legal effect if it is based on law and if the legal procedures established to give it the force of law are followed to the letter.
In that regard, we want to make it abundantly clear that the President’s declaration is not based on any law or religious injunction. It is baseless in law and religion and cannot have any effect on the de-colonisation process as alluded to in his Brufut statement.
The President’s statement is without legal foundation because an Islamic state must have a Constitution, institutions, administrative structures and judicial systems, among others. These instruments and mechanisms do not come about through declaration. This is why we say that his declaration amounts to building castles in the air.
What exists in The Gambia as the fundamental law is the 1997 Constitution. Section 4 of the Constitution states:
“This Constitution is the supreme law of The Gambia and any other law found to be inconsistent with any provision of this Constitution shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”
Now one may ask: What does the Constitution have to say about establishing a religion as a state religion? The answer is again very simple:
Section 100 Subsection 2 reads “The National Assembly shall not pass a Bill
a) To establish a one party state;
b) To establish any religion as a state religion;
c) To alter the decision or judgment of a court, in any proceedings to the prejudice of any party to those proceedings, or deprive any person retroactively of vested or acquired rights.”
Section 60 Subsection of the Constitution 2 adds:
“No Association shall be registered or remain registered as a political party if
- a) it is formed or organised on an ethnic, sectional, religious or regional basis.”
Section 105 of the Elections Act states among other things that the Commission shall register a party if the “political party has a national character and is not formed on any sectional, religious, ethnic or regional basis.”
Hence the instruments of the Gambia do not permit the formation of political parties on religious grounds.
There is absolute necessity for the Gambian people to alert their minds to the fact that if nothing stops the executive from unilaterally declaring an Islamic Republic what would stop him from unilaterally declaring a one party state at a later date.
The question now arises: Why did section 100 bar a state based on one party or religion? The answer is simple. Gambia’s Constitutional and legal instruments are based on the principles laid down in Chapter 1 Subsection (2) that “The Sovereignty of the Gambia resides in the people of The Gambia from whom all organs of government derive their authority and in whose name and for whose welfare and prosperity the powers or government are to be exercised…”
The fact of the matter is that the Gambia currently has a Republican Constitution which puts sovereignty in the hands of the people who are all equal in sovereignty. Hence there is no religious or ethnic minority in the Gambia. Each Gambian has one vote and each could elect or be elected to any post irrespective of gender, ethnic origin or religion.
The Constitution does not hinder the holding of a belief or its practice. Section 25 guarantees freedom of thought, conscience and belief and freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice.
It recognises the personal and community laws of religious persons in terms of marriage, divorce and inheritance and safeguard them either by statute or constitutional provision. For example, Section 7 paragraph (f) of the Constitution recognises as law “the Sharia as regards matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance among members of the communities to which it applies.”
People have been co-existing with their diversities as equals under the law, within a national entity we all call a homeland. What could the declaration add to the unity of our people and the continent as a whole?
In fact, by departing from the principle of sovereign equality of all citizens which negates the marginalisation of citizens into minority groupings based on religion or ethnicity, the President is perpetuating the division that the Constitution sought to eliminate by stating: “Let me make it very clear that, that does not mean Christians cannot worship in their own way; Christians will be given
The issue is not about freedom of worship. The issue is about being equal in sovereignty and have the right to be President etc. The danger confronting the Christian is the fear of being deprived of being a sovereign person with equal rights as all other citizens and be marginalised into a minority without equal political rights. In short, if a Christian could be a President in an Islamic state why would one call such a state an Islamic state? To promise respect as a minority and not state clearly whether a Christian would be deprived of the right to become president of the Gambia if the people so will is to put every Christian in a dilemma, especially those who do not see themselves as members of a minority group but as equal sovereign citizens who have the right to a belief and to practice that belief without any discrimination or branding as a vulnerable minority. The question now arises:
Does the declaration of an Islamic state have any basis in religion? Senegal has a Muslim population of over 90 percent. The same goes to Mali and Guinea. All these countries are Secular sovereign Republics. Indonesia has the largest Muslim population of 196 Million people constituting 95 percent of their population. They have a Secular Sovereign Republic where Sovereignty resides in the people. In Afghanistan, Algeria, Yemen, Somalia where you have almost 99 percent or near 100 percent Muslim population, fragile peace or full blown war prevails.
In 2002, movement of Malians who claimed that Mali should be an Islamic state built up momentum before the Presidential elections with open air conferences and public rallies. They laid condition for Candidates claiming that they represent 95 percent of the population. Ultimately, more radical groups came and denounced all those Islamic associations as being un-Islamic and took over Northern Mali. This led to a welcomed intervention of France and the occupation of Mali by foreign forces. Somalia is occupied by foreign forces. Yemen, Afghanistan and so on and so forth are all in the same boat.
However, no foreign force has occupied Indonesia. Hence the recolonisation of the continent is being promoted by leaders who do not respect the fundamental rights of their citizens and bring about failed states which provoke foreign interventions, as well as citizens who have been transformed in to robots and create instability in their own countries by being suicide bombers. The claim by President Jammeh that declaring Gambia an Islamic state is part of the de-colonisation process does not have the backing of social scientific evidence.
What is as clear as noon day is that national security mechanisms of Saudi Arabia and other gulf states are connected with and dependent on the security apparatus of the US. The National security of Turkey is linked to the Security Apparatus of NATO. This is why Russia is helpless in the face of the downing of its plane. Iran was brought down to its knees by sanctions despite its claim to be an Islamic state.
The sad story is that forces in countries whose leaders sit and negotiate with the West and are trying to win foreign direct investments from the West are accumulating wealth and financing agents who would recruit African arsonists and suicide bombers and programme them to attack so called Western interests in exchange for a place in heaven.
These Africans should have been the thinkers, inventors and builders of a civilisation that would redeem Africa’s image of a continent engrossed with heavily indebted poor countries and wretched people.
How long will we allow the African people to become robots in the hands of people inside and outside of the continent who direct them to kill innocent people and destroy property in the name of promoting a religion?
Muslims are a community of 1.6 Billion who must live in every state and should have the freedom to practice their religion. All those who are committed to the five pillars of Islam are Muslims wherever they may reside namely, declaration of the oneness of God, performance of one’s prayers, giving of zakat or obligatory support to the needy, fasting during Ramadan and going to Mecca when one has the means. This is why there is an injunction for a Muslim to go all the way to China to seek knowledge.
Muslims should examine which type of state could breed just and humble leaders who hate injustice and oppression and are ready to be the architects of a destiny of liberty, dignity and prosperity while ensuring that they could perform their religious obligation without hindrance.
De-colonisation comes through the nurturing of a free dignified and sovereign people who own their country and the building self-reliant and self-determined economies which could guarantee prosperity to a citizenry. Both objectives have eluded the Jammeh Administration. Declaring Gambia an Islamic state would not free Gambia from being a heavily indebted poor country.
The country is indebted because it is having growing trade and budget deficits. In 2015 the trade deficit is almost 12 Billion dalasis. The budget deficit is 3.6 Billion. The domestic debt has risen from 11.3 Billion in 2013 to 20.7 Billion in 2015. Debt service charges have risen from 2.8 Billion in 2014 to 3.7 Billion in 2015. Foreign reserves have fallen to below three months of imports. If they fall any further the Gambia would not be credit worthy. Hence getting loans and grants would be impossible and scarcity of goods and service, inflation and unemployment would be the order of the day. More public corporations would have to be privatised to pay the debt. Tourism would not be able to recover in the face of such contradictory signals regarding the future of the country.
THE CHANGED WORLD FOR MUSLIMS
The issuing of Treasury Bills, the interest paid for domestic and foreign loans, the heavy dependence on tourism for foreign exchange makes Gambia part and parcel of an economy based on interest (rebat). Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar etc. are all investors in US Treasury bonds in association with other oil producing countries amounting to 278 Billion Dollars. We live in a world governed by interest. Hence one could have Muslims performing their religious obligations but not states operating according to religious principles.
Hence each Muslim should have an open mind to choose which form of state could best serve their interest. It is during this process of choosing leaders and serving as leaders that Muslims display the virtues of their religious convictions. The humility, humaneness, honesty, care and solidarity they display would be the means to attract people to the religion which started as an oppressed community of refugees who did not want to oppress any one by committing themselves to the principle that there is no compulsion in religion.
Section 100 Subsection (2) creates double entrenchment so that one would not be able to establish a one party state or a state based on religion without holding two referenda. In the first place, one must amend the provision which forbids the National Assembly from passing a Bill to establish a one party state or a state base on religion.
Since this is an entrenched provision section 226 requires two publications in the Gazette for a combined period of not less than three months and ten days. This would then be followed by the holding of a referendum by the IEC within a period of six months. 50 percent of the registered voters must vote and 75 percent must approve to empower the National Assembly to be able to consider a Bill to establish a religion as a state religion.
Secondly, if the first process is approved a second process of publication of the provision to be amended to establish a religion as a state religion would start. The two publications would also last for no less than three months and ten days before being submitted to the National Assembly. The Bill which would have to include many entrenched provisions of the constitution would have to be subjected to a referendum before one could establish a religion as a state religion.
PDOIS cannot see how such a Bill would succeed at a referendum, especially giving the time frame that 2016 is an election year. More over what benefit would such a development avail the Gambia. To conclude the constitution has said that no Bill to establish state religion should be passed by the National Assembly. As a precaution if such a Bill were to be introduced the members of the opposition and the Independent Candidates should not only expose what section 100 states but should begin to draft a motion for impeachment as the first stage of exposing the unconstitutionality of the declaration. PDOIS intends to put a big drama around such an activity by applying for a permit to hold a procession ending with a demonstration to highlight any attempt to subvert the constitution by the executive.
Section 67 wants the President to respect the Constitution. Subsection (1) states: “The President may be removed from office in accordance with this section on any of the following grounds.
- a) Abuse of office, willful violation of the oath of allegiance or the President’s oath of office, or willful violation of any provision of this Constitution…”The declaration of an Islamic Republic is already at variance with the provisions of the Constitution. If any action is taken to give a semblance of legality to the unconstitutional declaration symbolic motion for impeachment should be initiated as we do what is absolutely necessary to reverse the process. All Hands should be on deck and lawyers should not wait to be paid to make their contribution to the judicial process.
The constitution is not silent on the duty of a sovereign citizen: Section 6 subsection (2) reads:
“2) All citizens of The Gambia have the duty at all times to the right and defend this Constitution and, in particular, to resist, to the extent reasonably justifiable in the circumstances, any person or group of persons seeking or attempting by any violent or unlawful means to suspend, overthrow or abrogate this Constitution or any part of it.
“(3) A person who resists the suspension, overthrow or abrogation of this Constitution as provided in subsection (2), commits no offence.”
The executive has taken an oath to defend the Constitution. It has the duty to consult its legal advisers and act according to the dictates of law, reason, justice and the common good. That is the verdict of good governance and it is irrevocable. History shall record the events, prosperity shall deliver judgment.
Secretary General for the Central Committee