The Battle At The National Assembly On The Tenure Of The President

The issue of the tenure of the president reached its climax during the adjournment debate at the National Assembly when members of the Assembly have the right to deal with any issue of concern for a maximum time of fifteen minutes. Those who attended the seesion or have listened to the proceedings would not be wrong to say that the issue of the tenure of the president gave rise to the most explosive debate among the members. Finally there was consensus.

What then is the consensus? Three views were initially expressed that became marked in the whole debate. First and foremost, the member for Serrekunda summed up the issue of the tenure of the President in a few words. According to him, power, rights and law are the key elements in democratic governance. He argued that rights to protest, speak and associate with others are designed to scrutinise and restrain power. However, he added that the exercise of power and rights must be dictated by law.

He indicated that the Coalition did aim to put an end to self-perpetuating rule by unanimously adopting the principle of a three year tenure transitional presidency. According to him, this is realisable through resignation under section 65 of the constitution. He added that if a transitional president reneges from a three year contract and refuses to resign after three years, he would be bound by section 63 of the Constitution to serve a five year term to be followed by presidential election; that any attempt to go beyond the five year term without an election would be a violation of the constitution and the citizens would have the right to remove such a president from office.

He emphasised that while those who wish for the president to respect the three year term could advocate for him to do so by all democratic means. They would have no constitutional right to overthrow him if he refuses to resign and instead decides to serve a five year term under section 63 of the Constitution. All the members who spoke during the debate either buttressed this viewpoint or expressed demand for either the former Coalition partners or the president to go around and explain to the citizenry why the three year term could not be respected and seek the understanding of the electorate. No National Assembly member expressed that it is constitutional to overthrow the president if he ignores the Coalition agreement and serve a mandate of five years.

The president is the one who exercises executive powers. Advices have been given. It is for him to listen to all the advices and take those ones that will enable him to earn the respect of the people. There is no reason for the Gambian people to scratch each other’s face over spilt milk. What they should do instead is to look for another source of milk.

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