The Gambia’s justice minister has promised a new constitution to be voted on by referendum as the tiny west African country transitions from the long rule of former strongman Yahya Jammeh.
Attorney General and Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou said Thursday the new national charter would entirely replace the 1997 version written largely to consolidate Jammeh’s power after he took control in a 1994 coup.
A Constitutional Review Commission would consult a broad cross-section of society for a maximum two-year period, Tambadou said, to “reflect faithfully and accurately the views of the generality of Gambians both at home and abroad.”
The results would be put to a referendum, he added, but did not say when the commission would start work.
Jammeh’s 22 years in power were marked by significant rights abuses and the earmarking of state funds for the eccentric former leader’s personal use, the new government and rights groups say.
He only left the country in January under threat of a west African military intervention after losing to President Adama Barrow in a December election and refusing for weeks to acknowledge the result.
Tambadou also gave an update on an asset freeze placed on Jammeh and his associates in May, saying 49 additional properties had been traced in connection with investigations into criminal seizures of land by the former leader, with 180 now identified overall.
Tambadou has meanwhile found himself in hot water this week after his brother, a fellow lawyer, was forced to recuse himself from the prosecution team of the so-called “NIA nine”.
The National Intelligence Agency (NIA), since renamed, was Jammeh’s main tool to control political opponents and sow fear during his years in power.
Sheriff Tamabadou had a conversation with the wife of an NIA operative accused of the murder of a political activist, in which he was recorded saying his minister brother hadn’t wanted the case to come to court.
The justice minister admitted this “could reasonably be interpreted as creating the impression that my decisions… could be influenced by extraneous factors,” before praising his brother for resigning.
Jammeh ran everything from bakeries to farms during his 22-year tenure and was regularly accused of taking over successful businesses for his own gain.
Gambian police continue to investigate dozens of forced disappearances under Jammeh’s rule, with the families of the victims clamouring for justice.
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