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OPINION: Coalition 2016 Revisited - 3 or 5 Years for President Barrow?


Eighteen (18 ) months into the presidency of His Excellency President Adama Barrow as the custodian of a transitional government ushered in by the Gambian people to lay down the needed foundations for a progressive democratic Gambia, we ask this simple question: Will President Barrow step down on 18th January 2020 to pave way for fresh presidential elections in which he will have no part to play? 

Coalition 2016 aimed to: To put an end to impunity and Self-perpetuating rule by establishing constitutional and institutional safeguards and propagate normative values and practices that would ensure the consolidation of participatory Democracy, Good Governance, Rule of Law, Substantive Justice and Human Rights; To institutionalise term limits, strengthen checks and balances by consolidating Judicial, Parliamentary, Media and other Civil Society oversight in order to hold Government officials accountable to the people, amongst others.  


His Excellency President Adama Barrow

With eighteen months(18 months)  remaining, will president Barrow honour the agreement that catapulted him into the highest office of the land as per the Coalition 2016 MOU thus:  

The flag bearer will: 1. a) Head a transitional government for a period of three years. 2. Be opened, transparent and accountable to all during the transition. 3. Respect the views and rights of the citizens. 4. Not support any party during the transition period. 5. Not seek for re-election until after the five years after the transition period. 6. Be a unifier, good listener, team player and easily accessible person. 7. make a pledge to respect and uphold all the conditions circumscribing his or her tenure as established by the coalition.

There has been a lot of debate on the question of the legality/constitutionality of the three years coalition MOU for the “flag bearer” to remain in office following a presidential election which elects a president for a five year term. Some argued that the constitution should rein supreme over any agreement by the coalition partners. Those with this view believe that President Barrow should not honour the three year agreement and to serve the full term of five years as mandated by the constitution.

Some also argued that three years isn’t sufficient for the necessary legal and institutional frameworks to be in place for a genuine democratic dispensation and a level playing field for all political parties.

Others argue that President Barrow should not honour the Coalition MOU simply because it has not been signed by all parties in the coalition pact.

We are of the view that President Barrow should honour the Coalition 2016 MOU(regardless of whether or not the MOU was signed) and step down form the presidency by way of resignation. He is to be replaced by the Vice President who should call for an presidential elections no later than six months from the resignation of the president.

President Barrow is opportuned to go down the annals of Gambian political history books for being the transitional leader of a nation broken by 22 years of totalitarian rule who “put an end to impunity and Self-perpetuating rule by establishing constitutional and institutional safeguards and propagate normative values and practices that would ensure the consolidation of participatory Democracy, Good Governance, Rule of Law, Substantive Justice and Human Rights”

In our opinion the agreement between the “signatories” to the coalition MOU is binding whether or not the agreement has actually been physically signed.

Given that a lot of work is needed to be done to widen the space of inclusive, functional and participatory democracy, 

It may be prudent for the president to reach out to his coalition partners for an extension of the three years term agreement to five years in order to complete what needs to be done. 

In our opinion, the only honourable way for President Barrow to continue as president past the three years as per Coalition 2016 MOU is to seek the expressed agreement and blessings of his coalition partners. We know he is on record to say that it is up to the Gambian voters to decide if he serves three years or five years. We beg to differ! Gambian voters gave their blessings to Coalition 2016 by voting for the coalition candidate in the 1st December 2016 presidential polls based on the propositions contained in the Coalition 2016 MOU and the manifesto. Gambians were encouraged by the content and sincerity of the Coalition 2016 MOU, which seeks to establish a truly functioning democracy and end to self perpetuating rule over sovereign Gambians. 

It is therefore important to read the entire portion of the agreement reproduced below: 

GAMBIA OPPOSITION COALITION 2016 MoU

“Preamble”

"We the signatory stakeholders of this memorandum being convinced that participatory democracy should give rise to freely elected representatives who are the undiluted choice of the people. Recognizing that the absolute majority principle that makes it mandatory for a Presidential Candidate to only win in the first ballot if he or she has more than 50 percent of the votes cast, is the only way to guarantee election outcome that reflects the undiluted choice of the people." "Taking note of the constitutional amendment 2003 which replaced the absolute Majority principle with first past the post which is disadvantageous to the opposition." "Taking cognizance of our duty to create an atmosphere congenial for peaceful democratic change that would usher in an inclusive , democratic , accountable and transparent political dispensation that would give rise to the consolidation of Democracy, Good Governance, Respect for Human Rights and Rule of Law; Have agreed to put our differences aside and in the supreme interest of the country, support an Independent candidate elected at a National Convention constituted by equal number of delegates and further consider ourselves bound together as follows: Part 1 1. Name Coalition 2016 is hereby established to support one Independent Candidate elected by The National Convention of Opposition stakeholders and herein after referred to as “The Coalition.” 2. Goal The Goal of the Coalition is to: 1. a) Put an end to impunity and Self-perpetuating rule by establishing constitutional and institutional safeguards and propagate normative values and practices that would ensure the consolidation of participatory Democracy, Good Governance, Rule of Law, Substantive Justice and Human Rights. 2. b) Institutionalize term limits, strengthen checks and balances by consolidating Judicial, Parliamentary, Media and other Civil Society oversight in order to hold Government officials accountable to the people. 3. The Strategic Objectives

The Coalition aims to: 1. a) Educate coalition partners and supporters on ethics of electoral conduct prior to, during and after the National Convention so as to promote exemplary display of mature citizenship during the entire 2016 electoral process and beyond. Promote tolerance of ethno-linguistic (tribe), religious, gender and other diversities in promotion of national unity and peaceful co-existence. 1. b) Uphold and defend the secularity of the Republic and will not entertain any discrimination based on ethno-linguistic origin, religion, gender or political opinion. 2. c) Respect and uphold human rights as provided in the Constitution, ECOWAS and AU protocols and International Conventions. d) set up a truth and reconciliation commission to enhance the healing of wounds that have caused pain and trauma through a cycle of confession, repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation and remedies for injustice including payment of compensation by the state , as it deems fit; 1. e) Reconstruct a new Gambia free from extreme poverty, persecution and impunity where democracy and the rule of law will thrive and dissent and free expression of divergent views tolerated. 2. f) Extend an olive branch to all Gambian in exile to return unconditionally without fear of being prosecuted for any allegations against them. 3. g) Propagate legislation to revoke all provisions of law criminalizing speech including libel, sedition, false news and false publication 4. h) Set up a Commission of Inquiry to look into any claim of seizure or damage of any legally acquired property without just compensation to protect the right not to be deprived of one’s property. 5. i) Promote the right to fair hearing and speedy trial by respecting and protecting the Independence and Impartiality of courts and judges. 6. j) Oversee the establishment of a Judicial Service Commission that would enable the judiciary to carry out judicial oversight in protecting and enforcing respect of rights. 7. k) Establish an independent National Human Rights Institution as an oversight institution empowered to order the release of persons detained unlawfully and having unlimited access to all places of detention to stop unlawful practices at detention centres such as torture. 4. Composition

The Coalition shall comprise all stakeholders who are signatories to the agreement establishing it and or are parties to this Memorandum Of Understanding ORGANS OF THE COALITION i) OFFICE OF FLAG BEARER a) The person elected at a National Convention of The Coalition who stands as an Independent Candidate belonging to no party shall be supported by the Coalition as Flag Bearer, b) The Flag bearer is the Focal point in all Coalition support activities ii) Functions

The Flag Bearer will

1. a) Present and propagate the content of a Manifesto endorsed by all signatory stakeholders of The Coalition 2. b) Open an account to Finance Coalition support activities and be a principal signatory to the checks of the account iii) On The Tenure Of The Office and Conduct Of The Flag Bearer The flag bearer will: 1. a) Head a transitional government for a period of three years. 2. Be opened, transparent and accountable to all during the transition. 3. Respect the views and rights of the citizens. 4. Not support any party during the transition period. 5. Not seek for re-election until after the five years after the transition period. 6. Be a unifier, good listener, team player and easily accessible person. 7. make a pledge to respect and uphold all the conditions circumscribing his or her tenure as established by the coalition. Iv. Transitional Cabinet The transitional government will: 1. a) Treat all Gambians equally regardless of gender, political, religious and tribal affiliation; 2. Respect and protect the fundamental principles of human and people’s rights; 3. Exercise impartiality among all stakeholders; 4. Not engage in any form of revenge or witch hunt against its citizens; 5. Respect and honor all the international conventions and treaties that The Gambia is a signatory to; 6. Carry out the following reviews and reforms: (1) Conduct constitutional review and electoral reforms and organize referendum, (2) Institute review and reform of the Judiciary and Civil Service, (3) Conduct foreign policy review and reform. Cabinet Composition 1. The Transitional Cabinet shall comprise not more than 19 Ministries. 2. Cabinet position(s) will be allocated in consultation with each signatory stakeholder in the CEC. 3. c) All Presidential appointments and Removals shall be done in consultation with CEC. 4. d) In the event of the removal of a Minister the President, will consult the signatory stakeholder affected for proposal before appointment of a replacement. 6. THE COALITION EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE i) The Coalition Executive Committee is the Principal Policy and Decision making arm of The Coalition. It is the Governing arm of the Coalition 1. ii) Composition the Coalition Executive Committee comprises the Flag-bearer, three representatives from each of the signatory party stakeholders, the independent presidential aspirant and each non -party signatory stakeholder. One of the party signatory stakeholders shall be designated head of delegation. iii) Functions 1. a) The Coalition Executive Committee is the supreme decision making body of the Coalition and will serve as an Advisory and Consultative organ to the Flag-bearer and the Government. 2. b) The Transitional President shall constitute the transitional Cabinet to form a Government of National Unity in consultation with the CEC. 3. c) In making recommendations on Cabinet Composition after mutual consultation among CEC members regard should be given to the dictates of Section 72 of The Constitution which emphasizes the desirability of ensuring that Cabinet responsibilities’ are entrusted to competent persons with relevant qualification or experience. 4. d) The CEC has powers to establish Standing /Permanent and AD-HOC- Committees to investigate and provide recommendation for its approval on all issues of importance to the Coalition AD HOC Committee of the CEC 7. a) Composition of such Committees shall reflect the composition of the Coalition stakeholders 8. b) Unless appointed by The CEC, The Committees shall elect their own Chairpersons and Secretaries to conduct business aimed at attaining the objective of the Coalition. c) The meetings of Committees shall be convened by the Chairpersons 9. d) Gender balance shall be taken note of in constituting the composition and Chairing of such Committees. 10. e) Decision in the Committees shall be based on Consensus. 11. f) Reports presented by Committees and approved by the Coalition shall form part of the decisions taken by the Coalition, as long as they are in conformity with the letter and spirit of this Memorandum. 12. g) The CEC will decide on a Periodic basis which AD-HOC Committee will have its mandate extended and the extent of the renewed mandate." "The AD-HOC COMMITTEES 1. COMMITTEE ON GOOD GOVERNANCE This committee shall comprise a Chairperson and one representative from each of the signatory stakeholders. 1. The Committee will a) provide guidance on the Post-Election conduct of the flag bearer; 2. b) Provide proposals on Cabinet composition and reform 3. c) Articulate the Civil Service reforms to be undertaken 4. 5. COMMITTEE ON DEMOCRACY AND RULE OF LAW 6. Composition a).The Committee will comprise a Chairperson and one representative from each of the signatory stakeholders 1. ii) Functions The Committee will serve as an advisory and consultative body on Democracy and rule of law and will provide recommendations on: a) Electoral Reform, b)Parliamentary Oversight, c)Civil Society Oversight, d)Media Oversight 1. e) Institutional Reforms of The Executive, The Judiciary and The Legislature COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE AND HUMAN RGHTS i) Composition: The Committee will comprise a Chairperson and one representative of the signatory stakeholders of the Coalition Agreement 1. ii) Functions: 1) The Committee will serve as an advisory and consultative body to the CEC on Justice and Human Rights and give recommendations as and when required by the CEC on: 1. a) Issues of granting general amnesty to prisoners, 2. b) Providing reprieve to Gambians abroad who may feel insecure in coming back to the Gambia, 3. c) The repealing of laws that are in contravention of best practice in upholding human rights. 4. d) Identifying all the International Conventions’ on Human rights for domestication 5. e) Strengthening media, civil society and judicial oversight to enhance observance and enforcement of human rights. COMMITTEE ON VOTER EDUCATION AND NATIONAL RECONCILIATION 1. This Committee shall comprise a Chairperson and one representative from each of the signatory stakeholders. 2. Functions: The Committee will serve as an advisory and consultative body on voter education and National reconciliation and will give recommendation as and when requested by three CEC on: 1. a) how to cultivate mature and exemplary citizenship by conducting voter education on the letter and spirit of electoral instruments and ethics to ensure a free and fair voting process in all elections , in the national interest. 2. b) how to conduct civic education to promote National identity and reconciliation by enhancing tolerance of ethno- linguistic, religious, gender and other diversities in pursuit of national unity and peaceful co-existence. 3. PLANNING AND FINANCE COMMITTEE 4. Composition This Committee shall comprise a Chairperson and one representative from each of the signatory stakeholders. 1. Functions This Committee will serve as an advisory and consultative body on strategic planning, funding. Budgeting and ensuring financial discipline and accountability in managing resources that are under the control of the Coalition or Coalition Government resources of the Coalition and the Government. iii. This Committee shall preside over the raising and management of the campaign fund for the 1st December 2016 Presidential Elections. 1. CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE 2. This Committee shall comprise a Chairperson and one representative from each of the signatory stakeholders. 3. This Committee shall be responsible planning, management and control of the campaign. iii. This committee shall have regional branches to facilitate effective and efficient campaign.

The Secretariat

8. i) The Coalition shall establish a Secretariat which shall serve as its Headquarters. The Chairperson of the CEC shall be the Executive Secretary of the Coalition and shall be responsible for coordinating all activities of the Coalition. ii) The Chairperson of the Coalition shall be elected by the members of the CEC upon signing the Memorandum of Understanding. iii) The Secretariat will constitute both the Administrative and Financial arms of the Coalition. It will employ a small but efficient staff to keep proper books of accounts and maintain proper filing system for correspondence.

9 Finance 1. a) The CEC shall be responsible for approving budgets and receiving reports on statement of accounts of the Coalition. 2. b) It has power to order the auditing of accounts by internal and external auditors at its own volition. 3. c) Proper books of accounts containing income and expenditure should be maintained and the Chairperson of the CEC in consultation with the Committee On Planning and Finance should maintain general control and supervision on the disbursement of authorized expenditure so that there is value for money. 4. d) The CEC shall convene a meeting to discuss financial matters at short notice. 5. e) The Flag Bearer will open up a Bank Account with a Coalition identity. 6. f) The Flag- Bearer or his Appointee shall be the major signatory to the account. The CEC will appoint two other signatories to the Account 7. g) All monies received must be paid in and all authorized expenditure paid from the said account. 10Transitional Provision 1. a) This Memorandum of Understanding will come into force upon signature by the Signatory stakeholders to the Coalition agreement. 2. b) The CEC will determine how any remaining income would be utilized after the Presidential Elections

Done This November 2017" At YMCA 

Photo credit: State House of The Gambia


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