Facct Sheet: Should Parliament Have a Say in ECOMIG’s Extension in The Gambia?

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FACTSHEET: Should Parliament have a say in ECOMIG’s extension in The Gambia
FACTSHEET: Should Parliament have a say in ECOMIG’s extension in The Gambia

By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT

In a recent State of Affairs interview conducted by QTV’s Alieu Ceesay, President Adama Barrow declared that the extension of the ECOMIG Forces mandate in the Gambia “is about Executive decision, this is not about National Assembly.”

ECOMIG is the Security Force unit for the ECOWAS invited to the Gambia in January 2017 when former President Yahya Jammeh refused to step down to secure the Gambia’s transition of leadership to then President elect Adama Barrow.

Mr. Ceesay followed up by asking if the National Assembly- the people’s representatives – should also not have a say on the plan to extend the stay of ECOMIG?

But the Gambian leader responded by saying: “I don’t think they have a say in this.”

President Barrow continued to explain that “if they were supposed to be part of it, we would have contacted them but this is about National Security. This is about the Commander in Chief. This is about stabilising this country. The security in this country is my responsibility.”

Terminology explained: ECOWAS stands for the Economic Community of West African States and ECOMIG stands for ECOWAS Mission in the Gambia.

This FACTSHEET will refer to relevant provisions in The Gambia’s 1997 Constitution to explain what is expected of key state actors in taking such decisions.

1997 Constitution, Provision 78 on National Security Council
1997 Constitution, Provision 78 on National Security Council
1997 Constitution, Provision 79 on Foreign Affairs
1997 Constitution, Provision 79 on Foreign Affairs

 

Analysis

ECOMIG is both a National Security issue and a Foreign Affairs issue. The Gambia’s 1997 Constitution provides for a National Security Council in provision 78. This responsibility is solely vested in the President and acts as an advisory body comprised of the President, Cabinet members, Security Chiefs and Intelligence Adviser.

However, Foreign Affairs is provided for in provision 79 and is a responsibility which is not exclusively vested in the Executive.

Making reference to the 1997 Constitution above, it can be seen that the President has the exclusive mandate to direct “Foreign Affairs.”

However, “the declaration of war and the making of peace” can only be exercised with “PRIOR approval of the National assembly”.

The Constitution also provides that “the conclusion of treaties and other international agreements” are “subject to ratification by the National Assembly”.

From reading the letter of the constitution it might seem obvious that the National Assembly should have a say on the ECOMIG extension- with the Constitution being the Supreme Law of the Land (1997 Constitution, provision 4).

The Constitution gives the Executive, exclusive authority on National Security matters however, on Foreign Affairs the Executive has the responsibility to conduct negotiations and agreements which are subject to National Assembly approval.

Gainako spoke to two National Assembly members in Hon Sanna Jawara of Upper Fulladu West and Hon Alhagie Mbow of Upper Saloum and asked them both if they agree with the President’s comments that the National Assembly has no say on the extension of ECOMIG’s mandate in the Gambia.

Hon Sanna Jawara, a member of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence and Security believes that the President is wrong and that the National Assembly have a say on the issue. In his view “ECOWAS intervention in The Gambia (ECOMIG) was given the code name “Operation Restore Democracy” and was backed by United Nation Security Council Resolution 2337.

Hon Jawara recalled that “the [ECOMIG] mission has the objective to enforce a political agenda – a pro-democracy agenda: 1. Uphold the results of the Presidential elections of December 2016, 2. Ensure the President elect was sworn into office on January 19, 2017, and 3. Ensure the safety of the president, political leaders and the entire population.”

Hon Jawara further opined that “although it [ECOMIG] is an arrangement done under special circumstances, it is still people centered and therefore has democratic implications for and on behalf of The Gambian people. So, I strongly believe that its implementation and further extensions should be subjected to sections 78(2), 79(1)(c) and 79(2)(a) of the 1997 Constitution.”

However, Hon Alhagie Mbow does not “believe that the coming of ECOMIG or the extension of their stay has anything to do with the National Assembly since The Gambia is a member state of ECOWAS and has agreed to various protocols since 1975.”

In his view “It is important to note that section 78(2) of the 1997 constitution confirms that the National Security council shall be responsible for advising the president on National Security matters. However, if their maintenance was the responsibility of the Gambia, which is a financial burden, then it would have been shown in the national budget and the parliament at that time can approve or disapprove the budget line.”

“Note that Section 188(4) of the 1997 constitution only talks about troop deployment outside of the Gambia needs National Assembly approval and not troops coming into the country” he said.

According to provision 79(1)c of the 1997 Constitution, the National Assembly has the authority to approve and reject any treaties and other agreements made with any foreign and international bodies.

It’s left to be seen if an interested party might seek redress at the apex court for an interpretation of the relevant provisions and make a definite ruling on the issue.

End of Factsheet. Below is a transcript from the QTV State of Affairs Interview where the President claimed Parliament has no say in the extension of ECOMIG’s mandate.

QTV’s Alieu Ceesay (l) and President Adama Barrow (r)
QTV’s Alieu Ceesay (l) and President Adama Barrow (r)

State of Affairs Interview Transcript

QTV Alieu Ceesay – At the last ECOWAS Summit in Accra where you had joined the other sub regional leaders. We heard the ECOWAS agreed to extend the stay of ECOMIG until after the Elections with a possibility of modifying it into a Police mission. Why do you think ECOWAS Forces should continue to stay in the country when you have your Army, your Police and other Security Officers?

President Adama Barrow – It’s not me alone it is the entire Government that think that we should maintain ECOWAS and we should thank them for supporting this country.

QTV Alieu Ceesay – We have the National Assembly a second arm of Government. Very critical as far as the country is concerned but why is it that they have no say on ECOMIG?

President Adama Barrow – This is about Executive Decision this is not about National Assembly. When they were coming it’s not National Assembly that approved their coming here. It’s not National Assembly. This is about the Executive; this is about Government. You understand and this is about Government this is about an international body this is about ECOWAS. This is about Protocols.

QTV Alieu Ceesay – But don’t you think they should also have a say on the extension of ECOMIG?

President Adama Barrow – I don’t think they have a say in this. I don’t think they have a say in this. We’re working with an international body that will never violate the laws of this country and I will never violate the laws of this country. It’s not possible.

If they were supposed to be part of it, we would have contacted them. But this is about National Security. This is about the Commander in Chief. This is about stabilising this country. The security in this country is my responsibility. It’s my responsibility and that’s what am doing exactly. Am not doing something else. Gambian Forces have been going in other countries for peace missions. In Liberia Gambians were there for 12 years. Our Director of Immigration was in Liberia. 12 years.

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Sang Mendy, managing director of the Media Academy for Journalism and Communication (MAJAC), is by default the head of Fact Check Gambia. Sang holds a BA in Journalism and Digital Media from the University of The Gambia. He also holds an Advanced Diploma in Mass Communication and a Higher Teachers Certificate. Prior to being the manager, he worked as a journalism trainer and a radio producer. Sang spends his spare time mentoring the young.

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