World Watch Monitor | Dec. 7, 2019
Current Gambian President Adama Barrow at a polling station in 2017 during legislative elections.
The Gambia, a tiny nation on Africa’s North Atlantic coast, is considering a new constitution. Prominent Christian voices in the country say there is a lot to like in the draft, and one big thing to worry about: It does not explicitly define majority-Muslim Gambia as a secular state.
A committee of the National Assembly released a draft constitution on 15 November, and the public is submitting comments ahead of a national ratification vote.
The draft guarantees press freedom and access to public information. It limits presidential terms, which would preclude a repeat of the 22-year rule of former President Yahya Jammeh, who led a military coup in 1994 and ran an increasingly authoritarian government until he was voted out in 2016.
The proposed document also contains “entrenched clauses that state that no one can declare The Gambia a religious country,” said Pierre Gomez, director of research and policy planning for Gambia’s Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation. But, he said in a 4 Dec. column online, it needs to go further: It should affirmatively declare The Gambia to be secular; forbid public officials to promote any faith; and forbid religious discrimination in access to government resources.
“It would have been better and safer to maintain secularism as a reminder to would-be troublemakers,” Gomez wrote.