By Madi Jobarteh
The conviction of Yankuba Touray on July 14 is indeed a welcome news for their dastardly act of murder of one of the best sons of the Republic, Ousman Koro Ceesay on 22 June 1995. This conviction proves that the road to justice can be so long but it shall always arrive at its rightful destination. Yet this journey is not yet complete until the co-perpetrators of Yankuba Touray including Yaya Jammeh, Edward Singhateh, Peter Singhateh, Alhaji Kanyi and the rest all face justice. Life is sacred. No one gives life and therefore no one should under any circumstances take life.
It is in recognition of the sanctity of life that in fact this ruling is most significant yet raising many questions. In the first place, the Barrow administration cannot carry out this sentence of death because he had signed, in September 2017 the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which calls for the abolition of death penalty. The National Assembly ratified the protocol a year later in September 2018. Before that, Pres. Barrow had announced earlier in February 2018 that the Gambia has put a moratorium on death penalty. Therefore, by international law the Gambia cannot carry out this death sentence, which means Yankuba would at best spend the rest of his life in prison, deservedly.
What the Second Optional Protocol of the ICCPR indicates is that the right to life is absolute. Under no circumstances, is it justifiable to deprive someone of his or her life, either by an individual or a state even if the perpetrator killed 1 million lives. The idea and practice of killing life should be abandoned by every civilised human being and every civilized society and government.
Yet having said that, the death penalty remains in the Constitution of the Gambia, where Section 18(3) states,
“The National Assembly shall within ten years from the date of the coming into force of this Constitution review the desirability or otherwise of the total abolition of the death penalty in The Gambia.”
This provision should have been dealt with since 2007, i.e. 10 years after the Constitution came into force in 1997. Yet here we are in 2021, fourteen good years after that deadline, and still neither the Executive nor any National Assembly Member or Committee of the National Assembly submitted any bill for the amendment of this section in order to remove the death penalty.
What kind of Government will go to the international community to ratify laws and make pronouncements to commit oneself to an obligation yet at home your own national laws contravene that very commitment? This is what the Barrow Government has done and certified by the National Assembly when they ratified the Second Optional Protocol in 2018. One again this shows that the new rulers of the Gambia – both in the National Assembly and the Executive – and their political parties are not committed to system change as they love to proclaim it.
Once Gambians must rise up to demand real system change. Five years has been wasted without any system change. Citizens must put pressure on their political parties, NAMs and National Assembly as a whole as well as on the President to make sure that there is system change now. There are multiple places in the Constitution that require an act of the National Assembly to either set up an institution or create a procedure for the better governance of this country, yet they are not done even though NAMs and the Executive know about them.
One such provision is Section 92 which is to set the procedure for the recall of a NAM by the electorates. But since that is not in their interest, they ignored that provision completely and rather went to change Section 91(1)(d) to protect NAMs from losing their seats if their parties sack them. The Executive also changed Section 62 to remove the upper age limit just to allow Pres. Barrow to appoint both Fatoumatta Tambajang and Ousainou Darboe as Vice Presidents. We do not need selfish NAMs and a President!
For the Gambia Our Homeland.