Sunday, February 5, 2023

Who Is a Citizen of the Gambia?


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This will be dealt with in a separate article. For the time being a scenario would suffice.

Imagine Modou and Fatou, husband and wife respectively, from a neighbouring country, came to settle in The Gambia in 1968. They are not Gambians though they can become so by marrying to a Gambian and naturalization.

Modou and Fatou gave birth to twins, a boy (Adama) and a girl (Awa) in June 1970. They could not be Gambians because according to the 1970 Constitution, their parents and grandparents were not born in The Gambia. Adama and Awa went to school and became a senior civil servant and businesswoman respectively. Both regard themselves as Gambians when they are not.

Awa got married to a man who was born in The Gambia and they had a child born in The Gambia in 1995. The name of the child is Dodou. Dodou is a Gambian because under the 1970 Constitution one of his parents (the father) was born in The Gambia.

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Adama on the other hand got married to a woman from the country of origin of his parents and they had a child (Amie) in The Gambia in 1998. Amie is not a Gambian because under the 1997 Constitution none of his parents is a citizen of The Gambia.

Adama however married a second wife, a Gambian and they had a child in the year 2000 called Isatou. Isatou is a Gambian because according to the 1997 Constitution one of her parents (her mother) is a Gambian. Hence even though they share the same father Isatou is a Gambian while Amie is not.

In short strictly speaking there is no citizenship by birth but descent and the expression “I am a born citizen of The Gambia” is misleading because being born in The Gambia does not necessarily make one a citizen of The Gambia. It does not matter whether you were born, bred and educated in The Gambia or are now occupying a senior position in the civil service.

The NCCE would need to conduct civic education on this issue and National Assembly members need to advocate for amendment of the constitution to make provision for non-Gambians who have been resident in The Gambia for decades to become citizens of The Gambia by registration which the 1997 Constitution failed to cater for.

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