The Gambia’s Constitutional Review

By Saul Saidykhan

A commission compose of professionals and citizens from diverse backgrounds has been constituted to review and draft a new constitution for the Gambia some months ago. This group, known as the Constitutional Review Commission -CRC is gearing up to begin public hearings. I was informed by a member of the commitssion that they intend to visit and interact with the Gambian diaspora, including in America.  On where to stop by in the USA- given their limited resources, my advice was, visit: New York city, Washington DC (one location for the District, Maryland and Virginia), Atlanta (for the deep South), Seattle (for the US-West), and Minneapolis (for the NW -IL, MI, and WI can attend.) I previously posted a draft “dream list” on this subject in May 2017. Here is my updated list of areas of concern:

1.      ALL public positions from District Chief, National Assembly Representative, Regional Chairperson or Mayor, Regional Governor, and President shall be directly elected by the people they govern.

2.      A two-five years’ term of office for ALL elective public offices beginning with Presidency -to be an entrenched clause.

3.      An incumbent President defeated at the polls must vacate office within one week, but he/she and all cabinet-level officials of the outgoing administration MUST remain in The Gambia for 120 days to supervise the handing over to their successors and or to answer relevant questions relating to their stewardship if necessary.

4.      No one who has held the office of President for ten years in absolute terms can EVER qualify to run again for the same office-to be an entrenched clause.

5.      A presidential candidate that scores the highest number of votes in absolute terms or wins 4/7 Gambian Regions shall become president. No majority percentage necessary.

6.      Use the 7 Regional blocks of The Gambia (Banjul, KMC, Western Region, Lower River Region, North Bank Region, Central River Region, and Upper River Region) as a barometer of a candidate’s appeal to Gambians analogous to the US Electoral College system. A Presidential candidate needs four Regions to win the elections.

7.      A Presidential candidate must be at least 45 years of age and must have a minimum of two years of verifiable post-high school education or training before he/she can qualify to run for office.

8.      All elected public officials MUST fully declare their individual and immediate family assets at least a week before assuming office, and within a week after leaving office.

9.      A Freedom of Information FOI right for Gambians to seek and access all none national security-sensitive information regarding how their national affairs are run.

10.   All political parties must file a financial disclosure form with the IEC twice yearly to show all sources of funding for their operations, and how they expend those funds.

11.   District Chiefs should be stripped of administrative and judicial powers relating to land and civil disputes.

12.   Any attempt to change an entrenched clause must be funded privately by the person or group seeking the action from a verifiably CLEAN source. And 2/3 of REGISTERED voters must vote and agree with the change!

13.   Designate a Magnate town or towns in each Region of the country beside Banjul as Capital: Kanifing or Brusibi for KMC, Brikama and Bwiam for Western Region Mansakonko and Keneba for Lower River Region, Farafenni or Salikenyi for North Bank Region, Bansang for Central River Region, and Basse, Gambisara or Sabi for Upper River Region. (Based on population figures, government policies should deliberately promote these regional towns to become fully self-sustaining localities that can educate and create decent job opportunities for the indigents of the area. This will not only help in checking the dangerous Back Way phenomenon we’re yet to emerge from, it will help in stemming the alarming internal rural-urban migration we’ve seen in the past generation caused by the concentration of public resources in the relatively small urban area of the country to the detriment of the generality of the country.

14.   Anyone convicted of any crime anywhere in the world that would be considered a crime of moral turpitude in The Gambia cannot qualify to run for public office.

15.   Limit the number of political appointments a President can make to 60. (For context, the US Federal bureaucracy has 3 million employees, but the President can only nominate or appoint 500.)

16.   Require a Regional Character (analogous to the Nigerian “Federal Character” concept) for ALL governments. The Gambia currently has 45 electoral Constituencies. Appointments by the President to the cabinet, diplomatic service, and heads of public agencies and organs should conform to this. NO city, town, or village should have multiple political representatives in the cabinet, diplomatic service, or senior levels of the civil service when entire Constituencies and Regions don’t have any!

17.   No active public servant (elected) or their spouse whether, can operate or run a private foundation. A former President cannot run a private foundation until 5 years after leaving office.

18.   All presidential nominations for cabinet positions, ambassadorship, and head of public institutions should be subject to confirmation by Parliament.

19.   Parliament can reject a president’s choice with a simple majority vote.

20.   Parliament can override a president’s veto with a simple majority vote.

21.   Limit the number of years anyone can serve on the Supreme Court, and Court of Appeal. Judges are human and prone to the same level of bias like the rest of us. Given the experience of the US, it is dangerous and unwise to give a small group of people guaranteed jobs to behave anyway they like for life. Given our peculiar social setup, unless we preempt it, Judicial activism is bound to become as much of a problem in Gambia as political activism! NO ONE should be allowed to serve on either the Gambia’s Supreme Court or Court of Appeals for more than 15 years.

22.   No active public official – elected or appointed, can accept a “gift” in cash or kind from a Gambian that is more than D500.00 in value in the course of their duties.

23.   No active public official – elected or appointed, can accept a “gift” in cash or kind from a foreigner in excess of US100.00 in value in the course of their duties. Any gift over this amount shall automatically accrue to the Gambia government.

24.   ALL public officials – elected or appointed, must file Information Returns annually with the Ombudsman or similar oversight body listing ALL gifts accepted during the year to detail Date, Giver, and Value of the gift.

25.   All natural born Gambians of legacy Gambian descent (parents and grandparents being Gambian) shall qualify to contest for and hold ANY public position if they’re willing to renounce any other citizenship they may hold before assuming office.

Thoughts in search of a better homeland…

Culled from



  1. Lafia Touray la Manju

    America’s compromised power sharing model is not necessarily perfect for us. Our history and characteristics of state are different. For example:

    1. The US fought a real and prolong civil war to gain independence from Britain. We negotiated ours;

    2. They are a collection of states forming a federation. We are a unitary state occupying the smallest land area in mainland Africa;

    So, stop foisting everything American on us and starting thinking about what best suits our history, culture, people and circumstance. We don’t have to mirror everything to the American System in order to make things best for ourselves. We are not America.

    • S,Saidykhan

      So the present Gambian set-up works for you? Seriously? And which of the suggestions are uniquely American?

      • Lafia Touray la Manju

        I would have oppose the the constitutional review programme if the present set-up works for me. So no, the present set-up is not my cuppa tea.

        In the author’s write up, there is so much emphasis on the American model and I am totally against that. We can draw from a mixture of models but at the end of the day the end product should be something we can relate to our history, people, culture and circumstance. Otherwise, it is not a good constitution. That’s the point I was making.

        I prefer the 1970 constitution. I think it can be improved to catch up with contemporary global political trend and the aspiration of new Gambia. So even there, I am not suggesting it should be adopted in it’s original form. I’m saying it should be a starting point to an improved final constitution. I guess you now know my preference since that’s what you are interested in.

        Thanks for your post, Mr editor.

        • Lafia Touray la Manju

          And to answer your question specifically, The following appears to be either uniquely American or federal:

          Point 16 failed to take into account the fact that unlike the US, Gambia is a unitary state in which the central government is supreme and the administrative regions only exercise powers that government or parliament choose to delegate to them and which government or parliament can take back. What the author suggested only happens in a federal context and we are not a federation. There is always a balance of power between the state governments and the federation govt. That’s why there is that kind of arrangement in the US and Nigeria. The characteristics of our state is completely different from these countries, politically and constitutionally.

          Point17, 18 and 19 are also an American thing and has something to do with how the federation came about between 52 states. We don’t do confirmation hearing in many countries including Great Britain, one of the greatest Democracies in the world. It will be dangerous in our case because it will reduce the exercise power of the president to a mere ceremonial authority and could play in the hands of a hostile opposition that happens to control parliament.

          Point 21 is untenable. Judges should always have a secured tenure till retirement subject only to good behaviour. That’s what the principle of rule of law demands and it is like that in the whole of the Commonwealth including Britain.

          Point 22 is unnecessary because it is already covered by the common law and equity, which are part of the laws of The Gambia.

          This is not an exhaustive list. Just few examples for lack of time. I will write comprehensively on the issue at a later stage of this CRP if time permits.


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