Posted by / Thursday 22 December 2016 / No comments

How Rule of Law operated under the government of Yahyah Jammeh in The Gambia

Definition of rule of Law
Rule of law has two definitions, the classical meaning as proposed by A. V. Dicey and the modern definition by the New Delhi declaration in 1959 at a meeting of the International Commission of Jurists.

According to A. V. Dicey, in his classical opinion, Rule of Law means the law is supreme. In other words, the law is the highest authority of the land in the absence of which nothing else can prevail. For example, the law does not reside in the bosom of anybody.

The contemporary definition, as developed by the International Commission of Jurists states that Rule of Law is the conditions, structures, institutions, processes and procedures that must exist so that the individual can enjoy his life in dignity, security and prosperity.

In The Gambia, there are lots of instances that show that the Rule of Law was not in vogue at all. This is in spite of the fact that some institutions have received glosses in the past to give a semblance of the existence of Rule of Law.

The Independent Electoral Commission
One of the requirements of Rule of Law is the holding of periodic elections to renew the mandate of a government or to change one. In the Gambia, there is an Independent Electoral Commission that holds elections periodically. However, in practice, the votes were not counted in the open until the last election of 2016, which President Yahya Jammeh lost incidentally. The Security Forces of the Gambia have surrounded the office of the headquarters of the Electoral Commission and preventing its Chairman and his staff from entering their offices. For real, the Electoral Commission under Yahya Jammeh has not been free.

An independent judiciary
Another requirement of the Rule of Law is for the judiciary to be independent from every influence and interference from the other organs of government especially the executive headed by President Yahya Jammeh. The judiciary in the Gambia does not know independence. The executive could remove them from office at will and replace then where and when the president wanted. For example, before the 2016 general elections, President Yahya Jammeh sacked all but of the members on the Gambian Supreme Court. For more than a year, he refused to appoint the required number of members to the Supreme Court. After disputing the results of the 2016 election which he lost, he has quickly appointed to the bench people from another country to hear his electoral case that he has sent to the Supreme and realizing there was no quorum to hear his petition.

Freedom of the press
The constitution of the Gambia guarantees the freedom of the press and the law allows journalists to be free to say what they want to say without the fear of intimidation. However, in practice, it is not the case. Journalists who were critical of Yahya Jammeh met with stiff opposition from government details. Some journalist were sent to prison for expressing their opinions on national issues. Deyda Hydara, who was assassinated by unknown men, was the editor of The Post. This was suspected to be linked to his decision to oppose some new laws to gag the Gambian press.

Supremacy of the law
The International Commission of Jurists’ definition of the Rule of Law requires that citizens must live in dignity. An aspect of this dignity is the right to pursue one’s religious faith. The Chapter 1, Section 1 (1) of the 1997 constitution of the Gambia states that it is a secular state. President Yahya Jammeh has verbally declared the Gambia an Islamic state. This is against the constitution because that can only be done through a referendum. By his actions, the president was ruling the nation according to his whims.

Intimidation of the political opposition
One of the weapons Yahya used was the intimidation of his political opponents, especially those he perceived to be a threat to his political ambitions of staying in power for as long as possible. One of his political opponents who were threats to him was Mr. Usainou Daboe, who is the leader of united Democratic Party. President Yahya Jammeh managed to put Mr. Darboe in prison to remove his threat.

1. a. What is Rule of Law?
    b. What evidence is there to show that Rule of Law was operating in the Gambia?

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