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December 28, 2023

National Assembly Members in The Gambia Reviewed Six Bills During an ABA ROLI-organized Retreat

In October 2023, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) and the Gambian Ministry of Justice (MOJ) organized a retreat with National Assembly members (NAMs) of The Gambia to review six bills. Through ABA ROLI’s Promoting Rights and Justice (PRJ) activity in The Gambia, the retreat was in partnership with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The retreat was held from October 27 to 29, 2023, during which the NAMs conducted an in-depth analysis of each bill which ultimately led to four bills being submitted to the National Assembly for passage while the two remaining bills were withdrawn.

The retreat was opened by the Gambian Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Majority Leader of the National Assembly and representatives from ABA ROLI and the UNDP.

The bills under analysis were:

  1. The Victims’ Reparation Bill, 2023, which aims to establish a Reparations Commission responsible for administering reparations – both monetary and other forms - owed to victims from the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC). This bill was passed during an Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly in November 2023.  

  2. The Vetting Bill, 2023, which aims primarily to establish a National Vetting Agency, define functions and powers of the Agency, and establish the functions and powers of the Agency. The bill also defines the governing body of the Agency, defines a security clearance process and establishes financial provisions for the Agency.

  3. Former President’s Bill, 2023, which aims to repeal the President’s Act, 2006 and establish the office of former President as well as define pensions, gratuity and other benefits for the former President. This bill is designed to deter Presidents form overstaying in office by guaranteeing former Presidents certain benefits after their term of office. This bill was passed during an Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly in November 2023.  

  4. Ban from Public Office (TRRC) Bill, 2023, which aims to ban certain persons from holding public office following recommendations of the TRRC for their involvement in human rights violations. This bill was passed during an Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly in November 2023.  

  5. Commission of Inquiry (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which aims to add to the Commission of Inquiry Act 1903 a provision defining the Minister and the Whitepaper, as well as empowering the President to issue amnesty to persons banned from holding public office and provide criteria for applying for amnesty. This bill was passed during an Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly in November 2023.  

  6. The Judicial Officers (Remuneration and Other Entitlements) Bill, 2023, which aims to increase remuneration for the judicial sector in order to guarantee a higher standard of living and security for the judiciary, with the expectation that this will lead to a stronger and more independent judiciary. 

Images from the retreat with the National Assembly Members from The Gambia

Images from the retreat with the National Assembly Members from The Gambia

Top left: The Honorable Minister of Justice of The Gambia, Mr. Dawda Jallow; Middle right and bottom left: Members of the National Assembly of The Gambia

The retreat gave the NAMs the time and space to analyze each bill, provision by provision, as well as discuss with the MOJ staff bill drafters to gain insight and background on each. The retreat also offered a space for discussion on the bills’ content without the political debates that are often present in parliamentary sessions. A comprehensive report was prepared as a reference and guide for the bills, and four bills were submitted to the National Assembly. Less than ten days later, all four submitted bills were passed in November 2023 during the 6th legislature's first Extraordinary Session of the National Assembly. The retreat marked a great success for the NAMs and The Gambia more generally, being the first time that a retreat was followed by an extraordinary session, and a further success in that the retreat resulted in the passage of four bills. It is noteworthy that PRJ's contribution to these much-needed legal reforms is instrumental in shaping the post-TRRC (Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission) landscape in The Gambia.

The MOJ has agreed to review and resubmit the two withdrawn bills, The Judicial Officers (Remuneration and Other Entitlements) Bill, 2023 and The Vetting Bill, 2023. These bills will be tabled for their ordinary session to allow members time to deliberate and conduct further consultations on the contentious provisions.  

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Africa.