Launching the book, The Gambia in Transition: Towards a New Constitutional Order with ABA ROLI's Senior Technical Advisor, Ismene Zarifis; the Hon. Chief Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow; Dr. Satang Nabaneh, editor of the book; and two staff members from Freeom House, who are working alongside ABA ROLI on the Promoting Rights and Justice Activity in The Gambia.
Emerging from two decades of a prolonged dictatorship under Yahya Jammeh, The Gambia is currently navigating a delicate transition with ambitious plans to restore the rule of law, build strong institutions, adopt laws and practices to enhance good governance, inculcate a culture of human rights, and invest in its social and economic development. Years of authoritarian rule have left the Gambian judiciary in shambles. For years, the judiciary has operated under executive control with little assistance from the international community. As a result, communities in remote areas face the greatest challenges to accessing justice and basic services.
Left to Right: Commissioner Njundu Drammeh at the National Human Rights Commission of The Gambia; Mr. Salieu Taal, President of the Gambian Bar Association; Dr. Satang Nabaneh, editor of the The Gambia in Transition: Towards a New Constitutional Order; Hon. Chief Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow; Amie Bensouda, Manging Partner and Head of Amie Bensouda & Co LP; Ministry of Justice Representative; and Minister of Youth Bakary Badjie
On October 21, ABA ROLI in collaboration with the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) and Law Hub Gambia held a dialogue on “Building Strong Rule of Law Institutions” in The Gambia, with the Chief Justice of the Gambia as the guest of honor. The dialogue was accompanied by the launch of “The Gambia in Transition: Towards a New Constitutional Order” (Pretoria University Law Press, 2022), a first-of-its-kind book project that brings together diverse contributions from scholars and practitioners to provide context-specific understandings of the past, ongoing and future efforts of constitution-making, protection of human rights and enhancing accountable governance in The Gambia.
In mid- 2021, ABA ROLI kicked off a five-year program promoting rights and justice through direct support to the justice sector, and through capacity building of Gambia’s civil society and media. The same year, a rapid response project began to provide direct technical assistance to the Ministry of Justice. This project aims to equip the Ministry of Justice with the skills and capacity to advance its justice and accountability mandate for Jammeh-era crimes. The rapid response includes a provision of national and regional experts on prosecutions to advise the Government, support development of the post-TRRC (Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission) white paper for the Government, build capacity in the area of international criminal law for the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) staff and provide technical assistance to develop a Victims’ Bill to handle reparations for victims of violations.
The main objectives of the dialogue were to create a platform for decision-makers, practitioners, academics, and experts to reflect reflection on the role transitional justice mechanisms play in fostering strong rule of law institutions. It also sought to solidify the need for those mechanisms to deliver impartial and effective justice for violations, crimes, and abuses committed during the Jammeh regime. The dialogue amplified the discourse with a view of enhancing traction towards a constitutional framework that serves as a facilitator of equity, inclusion, and social justice. Lastly, it identified strategies to incorporate the rule of law, enhance the transitional justice mechanisms, safeguard constitutionalism, and undertake legal reform—inclusive of the interests of groups such as women, youth, persons with disabilities, and other marginalized identities.
The dialogue was warmly welcomed by the panelists and speakers as it revived a discussion on the all-important constitutional reform process in the country. The Chief Justice summed up in his keynote address the overall sentiment that a constitutional reform process was still viable and necessary to forge a new democratic order in The Gambia. Additional attendees included the Hon. Janet Ramatoulie Sallah-Njie Former Commissioner of the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and currently Commissioner at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, as well as Mrs. Amie Bensouda, former Solicitor General, for The Gambia. Other speakers featured were representatives from the National Human Rights Commission, the Gambian Bar Association, the Female Lawyers’ Association and ABA ROLI’s Senior Technical Advisor, Ms. Ismene Zarifis.
We must revive the process, engage all the stakeholders in a national dialogue that can deliver a new constitution acceptable to the nation. It must however be a frank and honest dialogue. A dialogue which will enable us to know the real issues holding back the adoption of a new constitution. We need to know and understand the concerns of the various stakeholders. And then we must be ready to compromise; to accommodate each other. A dialogue involving critical stakeholders such as the National Assembly, the Political Parties, the government. And supported by independent and impartial preferably local facilitators. I believe such a process can unlock the unfortunate deadlock we currently face and help us secure a new and progressive constitution. I once again urge all the stakeholders to review the constitution making process and with that spirit work together to ensure the adoption of a new constitutional framework for our nation.
ABA ROLI's Senior Technical Advisor, Ismene Zarifis during the dialogue event, Building Strong Rule of Law Institutions.
The book provides evidence-based local realities and contexts that are grounded on lessons from past experiences, in order to support the strengthening of rule of law and promoting access to justice. The book consists of 12 chapters, divided into three parts. The first part examines constitution-making in The Gambia and human rights protection issues, including social and economic development. The second focuses on issues of governance and democracy, including the important role of civil society in holding the government accountable. The third section addresses cross-cutting perspectives and includes a chapter on the role of transitional justice in fostering a human rights culture in The Gambia, and another chapter addressing institutional judicial dialogue and looking at the development of jurisprudence in The Gambia. The Chief Justice of The Gambia wrote the foreword to the edited volume.
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