Talks on Gambia's constitutional deadlock moved to Abuja

Goodluck Jonathan

The mediation is been chaired by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

Photo credit: File

Negotiations to resolve a deadlock over a draft constitution for Gambia have been moved to Nigeria.

Representatives of the country's main political leaders were flown to the Nigerian capital, Abuja on Monday, where they are currently meeting.

The mediation is been chaired by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

Among those attending the Abuja meeting are Lawyer Ousainou Darboe, the leader of one of the largest opposition parties - UDP, and Dr Ismaila Sesay of the newly formed Citizen's Alliance. Also represented in Abuja are the party of former President Yahya Jammeh - APRC, and President Adama Barrow's National People's Party (NPP)

The Abuja meeting followed two others held in Banjul, which have so far failed to broker a deal to rescue the new draft constitution that should replace ex-President Jammeh's 1997 constitution which is said to have helped him preside over a reign of terror for over 20 years.

President Barrow, who seems determined to stay in power longer, is opposed to the draft in its current state due to a retroactive clause that could bar him from running for the high office for more than once.

Barrow came to power in a landmark election in December 2016, at the head of a coalition of opposition parties against Jammeh.

The coalition has since disintegrated, amidst allegations of betrayal.

Barrow ditched his original party - the UDP, to form his own - the NPP.

The president has also been accused of reneging on a number of other campaign promises, including ensuring justice for victims of Jammeh's iron fist rule, and the constitutional review.

The draft, which was done for a period of two years, cost the tax payer over a hundred million Dalasis.

The draft notably imposes a presidential term limit of five years per term.

A key source of the disagreement is a clause that counts Barrow's current term as his first term.

He and his supporters want the retroactive clause to be removed, to the dismay of the opposition.

The draft document was thrown out of the National Assembly after being rejected by the House dominated by the president's supporters.

Gambians are due to vote for a new president in December, the first after Jammeh's dictatorship was ended. And getting a new constitution is crucial in ensuring a peaceful, free and fair election.

In a rather controversial move, Barrow is represented in Abuja by a former close ally of ex-President Jammeh.

Seedy Njie is infamous for defending Jammeh when he rejected the outcome of the 2016 elections, a decision that brought the country close to a civil war.