By Arfang M.S. Camara
The Civil Society Organization (CSO) in the Gambia on Thursday threw their weight behind the country’s new draft constitution, saying it captures the will of the Gambian people.
In a joint statement the CSO’s have asked President Adama Barrow to submit the draft constitution to lawmakers “unaltered”
“It is incumbent on the current government to take all urgent steps necessary to ensure that the draft Constitution is submitted unaltered to the National Assembly to respect the aspirations of the people,” said the activists in a statement read by John Charles Njie, the chairman of Tango, on behalf of civil society organisations in the country.
The Draft Constitution, which was submitted to President Adama Barrow on March 30 and made public a day later, is due to be published in the gazette on May 30 and put before lawmakers in August before it is taken to a referendum.
Its referendum requires the support of 75% turnout of 50% of Gambian voters.
“Whilst not all opinions expressed in the consultative process have been incorporated in the final draft, the civil society believes that the CRC has managed to produce a draft Constitution based on the views expressed by the majority of Gambians,” said John Njie, chairman of Tango.
“The CRC also accommodated minority views in the interest of serving all citizens. The final draft constitution has appropriately taken on board very progressive provisions from different African Constitutions and has now obtained both local and international acclaim.”
Since the draft constitution was released, rumors were spread that the Gambian leader Adama Barrow does not support it. Among the issues Barrow appears to be contending is that the draft counts his current term as part of the two terms he is allowed to serve as President.
His cabinet is also contending the “too much powers” the draft gives to the National Assembly. They are also asking for it to not be compulsory for the President to appear in parliament. These, among other issues, were contained in the Cabinet’s position paper sent to the Constitution Review Commission.
The civil society organizations went on to urged Gambians to “engage and demonstrate to ensuring that the final draft Constitution, which reflects the will of the people, is passed before the 2021 (Presidential) election”.
The CSOs also urged the lawmakers and the Independent Electoral Commission to support the draft and to prepare the ground for referendum before the coming presidential elections.
Among the institutions represented were Gambia Press Union, Gambia Bar Association, National Youth Parliament, Activista, Beakanyang, Consumer Consortium and Gomsa Bopa.