Celebrating Fifteen Years of Development (1994-2009)
THE LAW REFORM COMMISSION OF THE GAMBIA
Establishment of the Commission
The Commission was established in 1983 by Act of Parliament No. 3 of 1983. The Commission was set up to study and keep under constant review the Statutes and other Laws of The Gambia with a view to making recommendations for their improvement, modernisation and reform.
Activities during the period 1983 Ė94
In its early days of existence, the Commission concentrated on studying and making recommendations for the Reform of specific archaic Colonial Laws eg. Treason, Statute of Limitations (2JAC C16 of 1623), Draft Conveyancing Bill, the Law of England (Application) Act, Cap5. Thereafter, the Commission endeavoured to develop other areas of the Law befitting the needs of a modern Independent Nation like The Gambia and produced Reports on the need for Legal Aid, a Draft State Proceedings Bill, a Draft Bill on Survival of Actions. The Commission also registered successes in the modernisation of some Family Laws. With Funding from Abroad which facilitated the engagement of not less than five Law Research Officers, the Customary Laws Codification Project was embarked upon. The Ford Foundation also financed a Seminar on "Expediting the Administration of Justice". A full Convocation of The Gambia Bench and Bar validated the Commissionís Draft Wills Bill, at a conference organised during the 1989 Legal Year celebrations.
Achievements during the period 1994-2004
The Commission had given serious thought to the possibility of eventual codification of the Unwritten Laws, Customs and usages of The Gambia, much of which were Customary laws regulating the use and ownership of land. These rules govern the original acquisition of the land mass itself, its subsequent development into farms and residences; the different land-ownership rights of Chiefs, Alkalolu, Kabilolou and families; the nature, quantum and legal incidents of the Estate or interest in farms and residences of both indigenous members of a local community, the family, and of strangers. The need for the study, research and codification of the Customary Laws and Usages of The Gambia was considered crucial on account of the total dearth of relevant literature, the absence of local high Academic institutions or staff devoted to the study of indigenous Customary Laws, and also because of the intrinsic merits and value of clarifying and then, perhaps preserving the rich cultural traditions of the Country and thereby contribute to the Socio-economic advancement of the people. The latest Gambia Law Reform Commission Report of the outcome of this as yet unfinished gigantic undertaking was published in December 1994. The report is entitled "Land Tenure, Dispute Resolution and Customary Law: A joint Research Project with the Land Tenure Centre of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA".
Review of the 1997 Constitution
Barely one year after the promulgation of the 1997 Constitution, the Commission, of its own volition, submitted to the Honourable the Attorney General a brief overview of the Constitution. This brief survey was a simple legal evaluation of essential areas of the Constitution that the Commission considered worthy of underscoring in discharge of its responsibility to scrutinize and appraise all Legislation. During the month of March the following year, 1999, Government decided that the time was then ripe for a more detailed review of a number of innovative provisions of the 1997 Constitution, to determine their adequacy and efficacy, or otherwise.
The Commission was accordingly directed to undertake such a Review and was able to submit to the Honourable Attorney General within the year, a Report of its detailed dissection of the 1997 Constitution.
Other Law Reform Reports submitted to the Honourable Attorney General
Land Titles Registration
A brief summary of land alienation and Registration in The Gambia which showed the contrast between perceptions of Land Tenure in The Gambia and West Africa with what obtains in the UK and elsewhere; and sets the stage for an urgent National debate on land Titles, especially titles adversely affected by the Lands (Banjul and Kombo Saint Mary) Act. The in-depth debate proposed should cover the direction which land Reform should take in an age when priority is given to commercial needs, and when the compulsions of an electronic age cannot be postponed.
Report on Continuing Judicial Education
The report to which was annexed a Draft of a Bill intituled "National Judicial Institute Act" recommends institutionalised Continuing Judicial Education to enable Gambian Judges enhance the quality of their juridical output by updating and upgrading their legal skills and knowledge.
Report on Pyramid Fraud Schemes
This report turned the legal searchlight on Pyramid Fraud Schemes, examined their content, mischief and the havoc they have wreaked elsewhere and proposed Draft Laws to meet challenges in this area of Criminal Law.
Future Improvements and Development
The Secretariat of the Commission is being relocated from its isolated office accommodation to the ground floor of an existing building adjacent to the Attorney Generalís Chambers. This move will ensure greater interaction and collaboration with the State Department to which the Commission reports.
Membership of the Commission
The five-man commission consists of a Chairman and Deputy Chairman who are persons qualified to be appointed judges of the High Court, a representative of The Gambia Bar Association, plus two other members currently representing the Supreme Islamic Council and the Christian Council. In order to maintain capacity, efforts are being made to fill the two pivotal vacant positions of (1) Chairman of the Commission and (2) Principal Law Research Officer.
The Commission will be restructured to meet the one outcome of development and reform of aspects of the Laws so as to ensure they are equitable, fair, modern and efficient. Membership of the Commission would be enlarged to reflect the views and interests of significant sectors of the population that are not currently represented; eg. Youth, Women, Civil Society, Academia. BACK
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