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The main features of the 1951 constitution of the Gambia

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In 1951, a new constitution came into effect in the Gambia. This was under the tenure of Governor Sir. Percy Wyn-Harris. The constitution introduced a few new changes to the previous constitution of 1947.

Legislative Council
There was a provision for a Legislative Council under the constitution. The members included unelected members such as the Colonial Secretary, the Financial Secretary, the Attorney General, the Director of Medical Services and two others nominated by the Governor. The Governor presided over their meetings. There were three elected members also. They were John Colley Faye, Ibrahima Momodou Garba-Jahumpa and Henry Madi. Their main function was to make laws for the colony.

Executive Council
The constitution also made provisions for an Executive Council which was made up of the Governor himself, the Colonial Secretary, the Director of Medical Services, and the Collector of Customs. There were two Africans who were appointed to serve on the Council in the previous years. There was also another African was elected into the Council previously. The main function of the Executive Council was to advice the Governor on the administration of the colony.

Elective Principle
One of the advantages of the constitution was that the elective principle which was introduced under the previous constitution to elect a member of the Legislative and the Executive Council was maintained.

Increased elected seats
Also, there was a marked improvement on the number of elected seats in the Legislative Council. The number of elected seats was increased from one to three. Three constituencies were created and three candidates were elected. They were John Colley Faye, Ibrahima Momodou Garba-Jahumpa and Henry Madi, a Lebanese with deep family roots in the Gambia.

Introduction of party politics
It is also remarkable to mention that under the 1951 constitution, partisan politics was allowed into the body politic of the Gambia for the first time. The Democratic Party, which was formed a year earlier and the Muslim Congress Party which was later formed, contested the elections of 1951 together with an independent candidate. John Colley Faye won on the ticket of the Democratic Party, Ibrahima Momodou Garba-Jahumpa won on the ticket of the Muslim Congress Party and Henry Madi won as independent candidate.

Limited Franchise
It was true that the elective principle was maintained under the 1951 constitution but that was still not enough because there were still limitations or barriers based on property ownership, age and level of education. Universal Adult Suffrage was still many years away.

Governor’s Veto Power
Again, the constitution had a shortfall in the sense that the Governor still possessed his powers of veto and certification. With the veto powers, the Governor could prevent a bill from being passed into law. With the power of certification, the Governor could force a bill to be passed into law if in his opinion that was in the interest of the British government, regardless of contrary views from members of the Council.

Advisory of the Executive Council
Another limitation of the 1951 constitution was that the Executive Council was still functioning as an advisory body. They, as a body did not have much influence over the Governor. In fact, the Governor was not bound by any advice given by the members of the Executive Council. He chose to listen or not to listen to them.

Violated the principle of Separation of Powers
The constitution as it stood at the time violated the principle of Separation of Powers. Under the constitutional arrangement, some members of the Legislative Council were at the same time members of the Executive Council. This was against the principle of Separation of Powers which advocates strict separation of the three organs of government in functions, powers and personnel.

1. a. Examine the main features of the 1951 colonial constitution of the Gambia.
    b. What are its advantages and disadvantages?

The main features of the 1947 constitution of the Gambia
The main features of the 1965 independent constitution of the Gambia
The main features of the 1960 constitution

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