ECOWAS Holds Meeting on Unconstitutional Change of Governments
By Musa Saho
The Gambia hosted a four-day International conference of the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice on the theme: ECOWAS’ Zero Tolerance for Unconstitutional Change of Government, held at the Sir Dawda Kairaba International Conference Centre in Bijilo.
The high-level conference brought together judges of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS-Court), the Attorney Generals, the Chief Justices, legal practitioners, senior government officials, the National Assembly of the Gambia, and representatives from the academia among others.
In his opening remarks, Honorable Dawda A. Jallow, the Attorney General and Minister of Justice said, the choice of the theme of this year’s conference - "ECOWAS' Zero Tolerance for Unconstitutional Change of Government" – could not have come at a better time as it signifies member states’ commitment to strengthening democracy, preserving constitutional order, and respecting the rule of law.
“Our past experiences have shaped us, but they do not define us. Today, the Gambia stands as a testament to the resilience of a people who chose to prioritize unity, peace, and justice over discord, conflict, and impunity. As the Minister of Justice, I am dedicated to ensuring that we continue on this path, that we uphold the ideals of our constitution, and that we never again stray into the shadows of unconstitutional governance. The conference is greatly significant as it is a testament to our shared commitment, shared values, and shared goals,” he stated.
Minister Jallow urged his colleagues to leverage the opportunity to learn from one another, share experiences, and brainstorm strategies that promote democracy, uphold the rule of law, and prevent unconstitutional changes in government.
Speaking on behalf of President Barrow, the Vice President of the Gambia, Honorable Mahammad B, S Jallow, informed the participants that the theme of the conference was not merely a topic for discourse but also a proclamation of the region’s commitment, a testimony of its strength and call to action.
”This theme is a reminder of our shared vision for a West African region defined by strong democratic institutions, upheld by the rule of law, and led by governments that respect and adhere to their constitutional mandates. In The Gambia, our history has been marked by periods of unconstitutional change of government and we have gone through a period of authoritarian rule that lasted two decades, marked by deliberate disregard for democratic principles and violation of constitutional norms leading to anguish, pain, and despair. But we have also seen the dawn of a new era, an era of change, hope, and of commitment to constitutional order,” he said.
In his part, the Minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration, and Employment, Honorable Babucarr Ousmaila Joof, said over the past few years, the African continent has witnessed an unprecedented surge in the number of military coups, especially in our region, ECOWAS.
According to him, this posed a huge threat to the fundamental principles of ECOWAS in the area of economic integration through trade for enhanced standards of living for community citizens, and the promotion of regional stability through the maintenance of peace and security as well as good governance.