Once again, President Yahya Jammeh has brought unnecessary international attention to the Gambia and himself for all the wrong reasons. Even the youngest school child in the country knows that President Jammeh does not have the power, constitutionally to turn the Gambia into an Islamic state through a mere verbal declaration.
Even though he is quite notorious for disregarding the constitution and behaving as an autocratic monarch who has both executive and legislative powers to say and do whatever he wants, but the reality is that Section 1 of Chapter 1 of the 1997 Constitution is quite categorical that “(1) The Gambia is a sovereign SECULAR Republic” which is an entrenched clause which can only be amended through a referendum.
According to Chapter XXII: Amendment of the Constitution, dealing with the Legislative and other powers of the National Assembly; certain sections of the Constitution, including Section 1, can only be amended when (c) The Bill has been referred by the Speaker to the Independent Electoral Commission and the Commission has, within six months of such reference, held a referendum on the Bill; and (d) At least fifty per cent of the persons entitled to vote in the referendum have taken part in the referendum and the Bill is supported in the referendum by at least seventy five per cent of those who voted.
Therefore, it is quite preposterous for President Jammeh or anyone else to believe that a mere declaration in a political meeting is sufficient to turn the Gambia into an Islamic state. That cannot happen even in an absolute monarchy, let alone in a country which regards itself a “sovereign secular republic.”
It would certainly do a lot of good to President Jammeh’s already battered image if he stops making such untenable pronouncements which have no basis in law and which only help to further transform the Gambia into a pariah state and the laughing stock of the sub-region.