Its way too early’. ‘What about the TRRC report’. ‘Can he really deliver? These are some of the reactions that followed Presidential hopeful Essa Faals announcement of his bid for the top job, which now attracts the largest galore of hopefuls the country has ever seen ahead of the December 2021 presidential elections.
Mr. Faal whose work at the TRRC is widely celebrated, jumps into the scene with a glowing pedigree of success that could earn the former lead counsel a great cruise to significant breakthroughs in the political spectrum but is it too early to rate his chances.
Mr Faals CV is a definitive score that brings more clout to an already crowded race yet this might be a crucial factor for his political success.
The top international lawyer whose work has taken him around the world from Darfur to East Timor where he was part of the UN mission presents a powerful resume that vastly endears him to his support base. His exceptional performance at the Gambia’s truth commission also marked him as a unique candidate with a viable history of delivery in his work.
11th hour Pitch for the Presidency
Mr Faal faces a herculean task in convincing electorates with barely four months to the polls. Many will also charge him for abandoning the truth commission and drive to effectively support the transitional process, which enters a crucial phase as the TRRC wraps up its report of investigations into Jammeh’s human rights abuses.
And despite his extraordinary CV and experience, others strongly see a contender who used the commission to prop himself up for his candidacy in the upcoming December polls.
These issues will certainly influence the way voters regard him and could weigh down his performance in the elections.
A cluttered Political environment
For victims seeking justice for wrongs committed in two long and difficult decades, Essas candidacy expresses the very contradictions in Gambian politics, which moves into a decisive moment that becomes more critical to reckon as the polls edge closer. Gambians now encounter what is by far the most diverse political spectrum to ever line up for elections and choosing from the massive list of hopefuls challenging for the presidency brings the nation its biggest ever political test.
The overconfident beginner
Essa is definitely a beginner in the political scene who cannot be measured without a glance at the truth commission, which was clearly his turf to engage with the Gambian public in one of the most crucial aspects of its transitional justice program.
Away from the truth commission, the international lawyer could still make a viable candidate but joining the political fray after his work for the institution makes it nearly impossible to separate his politics from the TRRC, which in itself is a litmus test for his commitment to healing the country’s deep wounds and challenges.
The TRRC is almost done but an Essa Faal candidacy at the institutions pinnacle phase brings undue competition for any commitments needed to effectively implement the contents of the much anticipated report it’s now expected to deliver to the executive branch for implementation.
His performance at the commission could still be sufficient to robustly prop him as a major contender in the race for the state house but the fact remains, the electorate will judge him for shelving transitional justice efforts for his candidacy.
A race for the soul of the transitional justice process
The range of political hopefuls includes both contending independents and party leaders eyeing the number one Marina Parade on December 4th, which is a unique crossroad towards what’s expected to lead to a more viable future and the first elections after two decades of one of the most ruthless dictatorships in Africa.
This dark past makes the December polls inseparable from the populations transitional justice ideals, where Mr Faal has vast experience but as a beginner just stepping into the political fold, its essential to observe how this aspiration aligns with the country’s transitional future.
The polls are thus a massive decider not just for the presidency but the future of the country’s transitional justice process and efforts to right past wrongs and injustices; works that require a resolute political commitment to deliver and effectively conclude.
Mr Faals previous engagement with transitional processes around the world and his outstanding work at the Gambia’s own truth, reconciliation and reparations commission accords him great understanding of efforts required for effective transitional justice with his participation as lead counsel granting him unfettered access to the challenges and ills perpetrated during Jammeh’s two decades rule.
This gives him immense leverage over other candidates but how he uses this expertise to become a viable contender and convince the electorate in an 11th hour pitch for the presidency will be crucial in amplifying the focus of the December polls, which might on the surface look like a race between the country’s political magnates but is really a contest for the very soul of the country’s transitional justice undertakings.