Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang

(JollofNews) – “He can’t leave. If he leaves, he is going to escape us. He would be prosecuted and taken to a National Commission for Asset Recovery in order to reclaim what had been stolen through corruption during his tenure.” With those words our nation was thrown into a political crisis of unimaginable consequences.

That announcement was made by Mrs. Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang in an interview with a British newspaper, the Guardian days after the December 2016 Presidential election. Those remarks created fear in Yaya Jammeh, and made him to reject the once accepted results causing confusing in the country.

Thousands fled across the country into neighboring Senegal. The anxiety, anger and fear that followed her unwitting remarks, held the whole nation in suspense and threw the country into a constitutional crisis which led to the intervention of the ECOMIG forces and the subsequent departure in exile of former President Jammeh.

In less than three months, Mrs. Tambajang is again embroiling herself in another controversial scandal that is about to throw the country into in another constitutional crisis. This time it is about her appointment as Vice President (VP) which was made on 23 February 2017 just four days after Mr. Adama Barrow was inaugurated on 19 January 2017 in Dakar, Senegal. Despite repeated calls on Barrow to appoint a VP without delay, Tambajang continued occupation of the VP even as an overseer, is unconstitutional. The Cambridge Dictionary describes Overseer in British English as “supervise (a person or their work), especially in an official capacity.” Who is she supervising right now?

At 68, Mrs. Tambajang Is Overaged
Constitutionally, she is ineligible to take on the role of VP because section 62(1) (b) of the Constitution of the Gambia states that the Vice-President must meet the same age requirement as the President which should not be above the maximum age of 65 at the time of entering the office. 

Mrs. Tambajang was reported to have been born on 22 October 1949 making her to be 68 at the time of her selection, three years older than the maximum age of 65. Although, she disputed the reported age – saying she was only 64 years but her official Tax Identification Number (TIN) Certificate shown below prove her wrong.

The right procedure not followed to change the upper age limit
On 28 February 2017, the National Assembly tried to approve a change to the constitution to eliminate the age limit. However, Mr. Halifa Sallah, the former spokesman for the transitional Government and a Member of Parliament, highlighted the illegality of going ahead with the amendment and said that the proper procedure had not been followed for amending the constitution, and that the action needed to be revisited and such a change would take an additional several months to properly accomplish (according to section 226 of the constitution).

According to Mr. Sallah, “when you are to introduce a bill to amend the constitution prior to doing so; you must publish it in the gazette for three months for the first reading.  And then publish it again nothing less than ten days; the second publication before introducing it in the national assembly.” As a result of Halifa’s intervention, that bill have now been published in the Gazette and will be returned to the national assembly for remedial actions as soon as the required time limit have been met.

President Barrow’s government is doing everything to amend the Constitution in order to revise the upper age limit which in turn will make it possible to appoint a Vice President. Amended the age limit will also make it possible for Lawyer Darboe to become president whenever Barrow decided to step down. The urgency to have the bill pass in the next sitting of Parliament when there are other equally more pressing constitutional amendments awaiting publication in the Gazette ( such as restricting the presidential term to two terms,  repealing the dual citizenship restriction and the eliminating bad media bills ), is raising many eyebrows and has engendered a climate of distrust for President Barrow , whose popularity has taken a hit and he is now being viewed as elevating partisan interest above the country’s constitution.

A rebel in authority

Mrs Tambajang should do us a favour and know that when Gambians went to the polls, her name was never on the ballot boxes. We voted for Barrow with a little over 19, 000 margin of victory, which is not a commanding difference in an election in which some over 400, 000 Gambians voted. Approximately, 200, 000 people voted for Yaya Jammeh and 17, 000 for Mama Kandeh. Will their voices be heard in determining the choice of VP? With only 4% lead in the polls, there is no guarantee of widespread legitimacy of Barrow’s administration to start flagrantly abusing the constitution of the country that has suffered for 22 years of a brutal regime of Yaya Jammeh who had no regard for the highest law book of the land.

The rule of law is the bedrock of the constitution, there is widespread belief that, if President Barrow is not that much experienced, people expect Mrs. Fatoumata Tambajang and the team of competent ministers with legal background to guide him to avoid making blunders when it comes to safeguarding the constitution or changing the name of public institutions by a Presidential Directives contrary to the constitution of the Gambia. Lest we forget, former President Jammeh was declared a rebel for refusing to honor the dictates of the Constitution ad hand over power to President-elect Barrow. In the same vein, Madam Tambajang could become a rebel in authority if she continues to hold on to the Vice Presidency in contravention of the Constitution.

Amending Entrenched Clauses in the Constitution should be through a referendum

She has caused enough troubles to Gambians, the people should now be given the chance to decide on the age limit and other constitutional amendments to bring genuine democracy and effective delivery of the rule of law in the country. It is only through a referendum that the voices of those in the other side of the political divide could be heard. If madam Tambajang cared so much about human rights and the rule of law, the things that motivated her to join the UDP during the Fass stand-off in 2015, then she has to let go the VP position and allow President Barrow to fulfill his mandate with the people. Otherwise, her defiant attitude will be met with the tenacity of frustrated individuals who are ready to take to the streets to make sure the right thing is done.

Enough of the impasses

She cannot be bigger than other members of the coalition who are faithfully carrying out their ministerial roles. One individual cannot hold 2 million people in ransom. We have had enough impasses since Barrow won the election, it is now time to deliver the goods. Since Barrow came to power, we have had election results impasse, Supreme Court impasse, place of inauguration impasse, State of Emergency impasse, tribalism in the public service impasse, Constitutional impasse and now VP age limit impasse. Barrow’s transitional government is definitely a work-in-progress that is not progressing.
Mrs. Tambajang is constitutionally overaged and must give way for the President to immediately appoint a VP in line with section 62 (1) (b). A country where illegal things are being made legal and legal things made illegal, there will be no guarantees of peace and justice in the long run.

In pursuit of the truth and for a better Gambia.

Blessed Ramadan!
By MBO Gaye