Panic Among Minority Gambian Christians Over Draft Constitution Which Exclude “Secular’, Elevates Islamic Sharia Court.

There is mounting anxiety among the minority Christian groups in The Gambia since the release of the Draft Constitution last month, November 15, 2019, which failed to explicitly affirm The Gambia is a secular State and seeks to elevate Islamic Courts system by establishing Sharia High Courts which never existed in The Gambia.

More than 90% of the population of The Gambia is Muslim with Christian constituting about 6%.
On 11 December 2015, former President Jammeh declared the West African country an Islamic republic saying the decision was made because Islam is the religion of most citizens and the nation must break away from its colonial past.

Acknowledging the mutual coexistence between Muslims and Christians in The Gambia, the Gambian Christian Council (GCC) the body established to represents all Christians in The Gambia; suggests among other things for the inclusion of the term “secular” in the Constitution, “that all religions be respected and treated equally; and the proposed Sharia High Court [by the draft Constitution] be removed, and the Cadi Courts be maintained”

GCC wants section 1 sub 1 of the Draft Constitution to read ” The Gambia is a Sovereign Secular Republic” instead of only “The Gambia is a sovereign Republic

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The government of The Gambia has since not commented on the issue but government spokesperson has expressed his personal desire in a radio interview, West Coast Radio’s Coffee Time With Peter Gomez for the inclusion of the term secular, calling religion “a biological coincident”.

Section 25 of the Constitution protects the rights of citizens to practice any religion that they choose. However, the activities of the government are intertwined with religion (Islam), including budgets for “State House Imams” which the Christians termed as unfair treatment.

The called by GCC has been echoed by other human rights activists in the country amidst a campaign by few Islamic groups for the exclusion of the word “Secular” in the Draft Constitution.

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