Gambians from all walks of life, including victims of ex-president Yahya Jammeh brutalities, have been reacting to yet another cancellation of the submission of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission’s report to President Adama Barrow.
On Thursday, the TRRC supposed to submit its findings on the human rights violations to the President Adama Barrow but the commission issued a statement saying the submission has been cancelled, raising questions as to what is holding the TRRC from submitting its recommendation after seeking extension twice.
In the statement, the Commission said: “The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) had planned to submit today [Thursday], 30th September, 2021 its Final Report to the President of the Republic of The Gambia as required under the provisions of Section 29 of the TRRC Act, 2017. Work on the sixteen volumes comprising the Final Report has been completed, except for four volumes. It is the expectation of the Commission that work on these remaining volumes should be finished shortly.The Commission accordingly informed the Government, through the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, that it will continue the finalization work and submit the full report when it is completed. Without proposing yet another date for submission, the Commission assures that this final phase of its work will not be prolonged. The Attorney General and the Minister of Justice agreed to the proposal on behalf of the Government and reassured the Commission that the Government will continue to provide the funds required for the completion of the work of the TRRC.”
But the statement did not go down well with many Gambians, including the victims who have been seeking for justice since Jammeh’s ouster five years ago. Many believe the delay tactics is meant to frustrate victims’ quest for justice following a recently-formed alliance between ex-president Jammeh’s APRC and current president Adama Barrow’s NPP.
The Alkamba Times has been sampling opinions of Gambians since the postponement. Dr. Amadou Scattred Janneh was a victim of Jammeh brutalities and he even testified at the commission.
“Delays in the release of the TRRC report are serving to undermine the public’s faith in the Commission. But however slowly the process is dragged, I am confident that the Report will ultimately be released and the next government will fully implement all its recommendations,” Janneh, who once served as Jammeh’s Minister of Information but later fell out with him and sentenced to life imprisonment after he was accused of treason, told The Alkmaba Times.
As victims seek for justice, one man helping them and nicknamed ‘dictator hunter’ US human rights attorney and a member of International Commission of Jurist, Reedy Brody said:
“This is a blow to the victims, some of whom have already been waiting decades for justice. It’s critical now for the health of Gambian democracy that the report not be swept under the rug but that its contents and recommendations be known well in advance of the upcoming elections so they can be part of the national debate on the country’s way forward. The victims and civil society will be making the TRRC’s recommendations an election issue, asking each of the parties and candidates to take a position on key questions like justice for crimes of the Jammeh era.“
Also reacting is Sidi Sanneh, former Gambian diplomat and prominent political activist.
Sanneh told The Alkamba Times from his base in Washington DC: “TRRC report delay is unfortunate. The strategy the Commission adopted from the start was an ambitious one, that is, trying to cover the entire 22-year rule of Jammeh’s dictatorship rather than rank order the atrocities according to severity and egregiousness which would have reduced the number of cases appreciably. Well, as the saying goes, it’s water under the bridge. Therefore, the urgent task before the Commissioners is to conclude their terms of reference by completing their report as expeditiously as possible for submission to President Barrow. Any further delay will only sully the reputation of Commissioners and senior officials of the TRRC.”
For his part, Lamin Jarju, another social commentator on Gambian issues, said the constant postponement of the TRRC report is a clear indication of Barrow and his government’s lack of interest in accountability.
“The misleading narrative by some sycophants deliberately quoting revenge for justice is sad and insensitive. Since he tasted power, the president became so naïve and compromised the agenda of the transition government. These insensitive actions by undermining every reform initiative are well-calculated and executed by the president and his executive.
The president was the principal culprit that undermined the Janneh Commission’s recommendations, the CRC and now he won’t spare the TRRC,” he opined.
In May 2021, TRRC ended its public hearings after more than two years, signaling an end to its investigations into human rights violations committed from July 1994 to January 2017 under ex-president Yahya Jammeh.
More than 300 witnesses testified at the commission, mostly victims of AFPRC/APRC regime, detailing how their rights and freedoms were abused by the Jammeh leadership.
The principal purpose of the commission was to establish the truth of what happened during the twenty-two year reign and to create an impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights in order to promote healing and reconciliation, respond to the needs of the victims, address impunity, and prevent a repeat of the violations and abuses suffered by making recommendations for the establishment of appropriate preventive mechanisms including institutional and legal reforms; establish and make known the fate or whereabouts of disappeared victims; provide victims an opportunity to relate their own accounts of the violations and abuses suffered; and grant reparations to victims in appropriate cases.
“When the Commission began its work, it decided that its public hearings will be transparent and broadcast live for all to see and hear the truth in real time. There is nothing better than telling the truth in the open. During the 871 days, The Gambia and indeed the world heard from 392 witnesses, the majority of whom were victims of atrocities meted out to innocent civilians by the State, its agents or individuals sponsored by both. The witnesses appearing before the Commission also included self-confessed perpetrators,” TRRC Chair, Dr Lamin Sise, a former senior UN diplomat, said at the close of public hearings.
The commission was able to investigate during its operations various kinds of atrocities and other human rights violations, including arbitrary arrests, unlawful detention, unlawful killings, torture, enforced disappearances, sexual and gender-based violence, inhuman and degrading treatment, witch-hunting, fake HIV/AIDS treatment and general and widespread abuse of public office.