Dr Ismaila Ceesay, Halifa Sallah Debate: Question & Answer with the Press


Transcribed by Yankuba Jallow

Sir, are you aware that the supreme law of the land, the Constitution, does not provide a basis for a President to be forced to resign. There is no compulsion for the President to resign. Why would you fault the Coalition leaders for not taking President Adama Barrow to court when resignation is voluntary? Yankuba Jallow, Foroyaa Newspaper.

Dr Ismaila Ceesay: The 5-year mandate is guaranteed by the Constitution in section 65, but the same constitution also gives the President the latitude to resign and that will not violate the constitution. The idea was that there was an agreement that was signed that became a contractual agreement. Therefore, it should have been tested in court to see if there was a breach of contract. It has nothing to do with the Supreme law. If President decides to resign after serving for 3 years, he would not have violated the Constitution. There are provisions that you can resign as a President. I see no reason why that could not have been tested in court.


The Fact that the Coalition failed to achieve some of its goals – the Coalition failed in that aspect. [This is] because all Coalition members were given executive posts [referring to cabinet positions]. Honourable Sallah, didn’t you see there is a collective responsibility in this? Abdoulie Darboe, Paradise TV.

Halifa Sallah: What I said was that the Coalition was designed to remove a person from office and it succeeded in doing that – to ensure peaceful transfer of power [and] it succeeded in doing that. After that, we had recommendations as to what should happen, but that cannot be supreme because we had a Constitution and it says the person who is elected would govern according to the Constitution.

I am telling you, my recommendation for the establishment of an Agency for Sustainable Socio-Economic Development did not go far prior to assumption of office by the President. If that has not gone very far, what is the use of me assuming a ministerial post when I was recommending something much grander? Imagine an Expert Bank, where all Gambians would have been involved in managing the affairs of the country. If that is rejected, what is there for me in a ministerial post?

The President would not give me a ministerial post. He would not offer me a ministerial post because I was his spokesperson. I had to demand for something. He would not know what I want. I had to look at the situation and look at what was going on. Won’t it be moral for me to say [to the President] give me the position of Vice President? Many people were saying this [referring to himself] should be the Vice President. What position should I have demanded for? What position should he had given me? I ask you.

That President knew that my motive, which I declared to the Inspector General of Police when I went there after the victory, that the incoming president was under threat and you [the Police] are responsible for defending both the outgoing and incoming President. I told the Inspector General of Police, who is still alive, that I have no vested interest because I will never be a minister in this Government because I wanted moral authority.

Both of you have made valid points, I want to know what has your colleague said that you have agreed with? Mustapha Kah, a youth leader.

Dr Ceesay: Apart from the fact that the first phase of the objectives of the Coalition succeeded; that is they were able to change government peacefully, I agree with that.

Sallah: I have seen an attempt for us to try to have a holistic view of coalition prior to assumption of office and coalition after. I believe some facts are missing and with an analytical mind, if those facts are present, I believe that the conclusion which Dr Ceesay made would not be made which is a blanket allegation that all of us are responsible for what is happening now. I bet to differ in that regard.

Dr Ceesay said the Coalition should have litigated the alleged breach of contract by the incumbent [President]. Dr Ceesay have you sought legal advice as whether or not an agreement of this manner is enforceable giving the fact that the Constitution gives a 5-year mandate? Lawyer Salieu Taal asked.

Dr Ceesay: Yes, I spoke to a few lawyers on whether a signed agreement is legally binding. The Constitution is clear that the mandate of the President is 5 years and the same Constitution gives the President the privilege to resign anytime he so wishes. It provides basis for resignation. For me I see nothing wrong with the President resigning from power to fulfill an obligation that he himself signed.

I believe that if I was [were] President Adama Barrow and I made a pledge/commitment and I signed – that’s an obligation. I would have resigned to fulfill that pledge.

Whether the Supreme Court will rule in favour of President Barrow or not, I wouldn’t know but for me it wouldn’t have been good to test the waters and stretch the limits and resilient of our Judiciary.

Halifa, you made a very controversial statement once that there is a regime change but not a system change. Dr [Ceesay] has highlighted that the second part was the most important part. Are you now saying regime change which brought President Adama Barrow is the ultimate success? Yusuf Taylor, Gainako Online Newspaper.

Halifa Sallah: You mentioned that I mentioned a very controversial statement. I don’t know what is controversial about that. We see the poverty in the people. Go to the market now. What is the price of meat? What is the price of rice? What is the price of food? Is that system change? Over 500,000 students come out of our schools every 12 years. What is the possibility for them getting jobs? Is that system change?

I emphasized that the Coalition was not designed for system change. It is a transitional instrument to shape the constitution, to shape the institutions and to carry out the reforms so that we have a foundation for a leap forward. That was the objective.

If that have not been attained, my argument with Dr Ceesay is that he is putting the Coalition as a continuous organ for government. I am saying there was discontinuity after the assumption of Executive Power. That’s my argument. That discontinuity must be seen to be responsible for what is happening here and I am not part of that.

Are you saying regime change that brought President Adama Barrow is success? Yusef Taylor, Gainako Online.

Halifa Sallah: That is precisely what I am saying. We had Jammeh here and we removed him in peace. That is successful. For 52 years, your country never changed through the ballot box, this was the first time it happened in your country’s history. That is success. It gave you a starting point.

A lot of people are saying you are generally angry and that is why you are responding to every single issue that people talk about you. Some people said you are childish to respond to every individual who says everything about you including ordinary Gambians and that will delay your process. A leader let’s talk the talk and work the work while others talk. What is your response to those who believe Halifa Sallah, when elected into office, will be busy responding to every comment made against him instead of working? Fatou Samba, Gambia Talents TV.

Halifa Sallah: If leaders are not responsive to the questions of the people they lead, I don’t know what type of leaders they are. If they think they are above the people who elect them, I don’t know what type of leaders they are. If those they are leading think their leaders are above them and they cannot raise questions and debate with them, I don’t know what type of people we have. We are building a sovereign country with a sovereign people, people, who would know that leaders are not rulers. They are servants of the people and they must answer to their every question so that they are clear as to who they are supporting and for what.

Those people making those statements are entitled to their opinions. I do not argue with opinions, I respect them.

To be continued.