By Omar Bah

The Constitutional Review Commission has maintained its initial decision not to include ‘secularism’ in the final draft constitution.
The provision on sovereignty in the final draft constitution reads: “The Gambia is a Sovereign Republic.”

The Chapter retains section 1 of both the 1970 and 1997 Constitutions by simplydeclaring The Gambia as a Sovereign Republic.
It also retains section 100 (2) (b) of the 1997 Constitution which prohibits the National Assembly, amongst other things, from enacting any law establishing any religion in The Gambia as a State religion.

It further reads that: “The Gambia is a multi-party democratic State founded on respect for the rule of law and the national values and principles of governance enshrined in this Constitution. The Gambia comprises people of different faiths and every faith shall be respected and treated fairly without any discrimination.”

The non-inclusion of the word ‘secular’ in the first draft sparked a huge controversy, especially on social media and mainly from the Christian community.
But the CRC chairperson Justice Cherno Sulayman Jallow has always maintained that ‘secular’ has never been included in any of Gambia’s previous constitutions.

According to the provision in the final draft, every person who, immediately before the coming into force of the New Constitution, is a citizen ofThe Gambia, shall, subject to this Constitution, continue to be a citizen of The Gambia and retain the same status as a citizen.

Citizenship by birth
“Every person born in or outside The Gambia after the coming into force of this Constitution shall become a citizen of The Gambia at the date of his or her birth if, at the time of his or her birth, one or both of his or her parents or grandparents is or was a citizen of The Gambia,” the draft reads.

Citizenship by registration
The final draft provides that a person who is or has been married to a citizen of The Gambia and has, since the marriage, been ordinarily resident in The Gambia for a period of not less than five years is entitled, on application, to be registered as a citizen.

Dual citizenship
“A citizen of The Gambia by birth may hold the citizenship of any other country in addition to his or her citizenship of The Gambia.”
Deprivation of citizenship
“The Minister may apply to the High Court for an order to revoke the citizenship of a person who has been registered or naturalised as a citizen of The Gambia on the ground that the person (a) has, since registration or naturalisation as a citizen of The Gambia, acquired by registration, naturalisation or any voluntary means, the citizenship of any other country; (b) has acquired the citizenship of The Gambia by means of fraud, false representation or the concealment of any material fact,” the draft added.

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