Halifa Sallah Dilates on the Importance of Foreign Policy

By Yankuba Jallow

Halifa Sallah, dilated on the importance of good foreign policies, at a recent public lecture he gave at the University of the Gambia, School of Journalism and Digital Media, on Friday, 19th May, 2017.  Mr. Sallah asserted that good foreign policies enable the free movement of persons, goods and services.

He said Foreign Policies require instruments and institutions that will guide its formulation and implementation. He held that the fundamental principle of a country is its Constitution, and under the Constitution of The Gambia, Section 79 gives the executive and the legislature roles to determine the foreign policies of the country and the powers are not absolute. The said section, he said, gives the executive the role to conduct foreign relations, receive foreign envoys, appoint foreign representatives of the country in foreign lands, conduct negotiations of treaties and international agreements and declare war against a foreign state, among other functions; but that the powers are not absolute.

He added that Section 79 also gives power for the legislative arm to ratify any treaty or international agreement that is negotiated, before it is put into force.

“The Executive cannot act alone but must rely on the Legislature to be able to conclude foreign policy,” he said. He also said the Constitution provides two fundamental principles that help to determine the actions of the Executive, and the Legislature, which are the doctrine of ‘Sovereignty of the People’ and the doctrine of ‘National Interest’. He further said they should not enter into an agreement unless they ensure the sovereignty of the nation is not compromised and the national interest is not sacrificed and that is what the constitution says.

He said Section 219 stipulates that foreign policy makers must safeguard the national interest and when a treaty or international law is placed before the National Assembly to review, they are guided by the above principles in approving or disapproving the motion which is placed before them by the Executive.

He said in entering into a treaty, there are two principles that need to be looked into; which are conserving the sovereignty of the people and ratification by the National Assembly; that Section 79 clearly states that: ‘‘The Gambia shall not enter into any engagement with any other country which causes it to lose its sovereignty, without the matter first being put to a referendum and passed by such majority as may be prescribed by an Act of the National assembly”; that this is also affirmed in Section 1(2), which shows that the power of sovereignty, resides in the people.

He asserted that in determining foreign policy, three things are important and they are: a) state to state relation, b) state to people relation and c) people to people relation.

On Gambian foreign policy on bilateral relations during Jammeh’s regime, he cited the relationship between The Gambia and Senegal, which policy he said, failed. He opined that the bilateral relationship between these two states should have been the integration of the states that will result to the collective integration of the sovereignty of the two states.

“The state to state relation did not move in the direction of two states one people,” he said.

He added that the state to people relation suffered, which resulted into border closure; state to Unions conflict.

He said people to people relation remained, because of the traditional roots created, but not because of the state to state integration that was envisaged.

The second case study was the Gambian within the sub-region. Halifa Sallah said the ECOWAS protocol on integration of states calls for the free movement of people. He added that another protocol is the protocol of Democracy and Good Governance, which establishes governance by consent, human rights commission and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms. ‘‘If we rely entirely on the provisions of the Protocols of ECOWAS,’’ he said, ‘‘there would have been free movement of persons, goods and services, which will facilitate state to state, state to people and people to people relations.’’

In his final remarks, Hon. Sallah said foreign policy does not stop at intention of the state but actualization of the policy. He said the Barrow government has registered its willingness to enter a good bilateral relationship with Senegal, but this has not been actualized yet. He added that the message from the executive, talks of harmonization of the constitution, institutions and policies and programs of the two states but that this is yet to be actualized.

He concluded by saying that the current foreign policy status of the country, is yet be defined and articulated.