17 May 2018

Gambia: The Appointment and Removal of Chiefs - Will the Past Be Repeated?

Past and present experiences have confirmed that traditional rulers are not traditional rulers. They are subject to the supremacy of executive rulers who appoint and remove them at will.

The drafters of the 1997 Constitution acknowledged that unlike Ghana, Nigeria and other jurisdictions where kings of ethno linguistic groups were transformed into paramount chiefs who ruled over their kingdoms whilst the colonial administration centralised power and through indirect rule managed to control colonial power; in The Gambia such rulers had been liquidated and replaced by appointed Chiefs of Districts who could be removed by the Governor upon the recommendation by the Regional Commissioner. The drafters were informed that the PPP had to appease their different supporters by introducing a crude form of election to the Chieftaincy which allowed only compound owners to participate in an informal election to fill any vacancy in the Chieftaincy.

The situation warranted recommendation to introduce the elective principle in filling vacancies in the Chieftaincy. This is why the original version of the 1997 Constitution provided for the election of a Chief through universal suffrage within 120 days of the existence of vacancy in the office of Chief.

This constitutional provision was first applied in Sami. However because of the large majority enjoyed by the ruling party an amendment was made to restore the appointment and removal of a chief by the President.

Gambians elected an Independent President so that no party would use the Chief to consolidate their political interest on the ground through intimidation and inducement.

Foroyaa is receiving reports of the removal of Chiefs and Alkalolu and the appointment of new ones. We will investigate such developments and we hope the National Assembly members will take note and that this institution is not politicized to serve partisan interest. We also hope that civil society will now come forward and make independent investigation and raise awareness which will lead to the naming and shaming of all those who aim to subvert good governance, the rule of law, democracy and due process.

The objective of change is to enhance democracy and good governance and not to subvert it.

Gambia

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