Thursday, 25th November, 2021
After nine months of preparation in 2018, the Government of The Gambia launched the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission; and on 15th October, 2018, H.E President Adama Barrow, swore in the eleven Commissioners. The Commission began public hearings on 7th January, 2019.
The principal purpose of the Commission was very simple: to establish the truth of what happened during the twenty-two reign of Yahya Jammeh.
The National Assembly of the Republic of The Gambia enacted a law (TRRC Act, 2017) which established the TRRC. The main objectives of the Commission are, inter alia, to
create an impartial historical record of violations and abuses of human rights from July 1994 to January 2017, 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 being told in real time. There is nothing better than telling the truth in the open.
During the course of its work, the Commission held 22 three-week sessions of Public Hearings over a period of 871 days and heard from 393 witnesses. Public hearings were also held in Jambur, Sibanor and Essau on former President Yahya Jammeh’s witch-hunt exercise.
Among the violations and abuses detailed by witnesses in their testimonies were the following:
Arbitrary arrests
Unlawful detention
Unlawful killings
Torture
Enforced disappearances
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, including rape and castration
Inhuman and degrading treatment
Witch hunt exercise
Fake HIV/AIDS treatment and
General and widespread abuse of public office
The Commission found that the violations and abuses referred to above resulted in the deaths of 240-250 Gambians and Non-Gambians in the hands of State or its agents.
The Commission this morning submitted its final report to the President. The TRRC Act, 2017, the constitutive instrument of the Commission, provides in Section 29 that “The Commission shall submit a report of its work to the President at the end of its operations. The report shall state the findings of the Commission and shall make recommendations concerning the reforms and other measures needed to achieve the object of the Commission.
The report shall include: (a) measures aimed at reconciliation and peace building; (b) individual and collective reparation of victims; and (c) recommendations that include initiatives on human rights and peace building studies for children.”
The Act also provides in section 15(h)(i) that the Commission shall identify and recommend for prosecution “ persons who bear the greatest responsibility for human rights violations and abuses”.
Acting in accordance with this provision, the Commission has in its report identified and recommended for prosecution those most responsible for gross human rights violations and abuses committed against Gambians and Non-Gambians alike between July 1994 and January 2017.
The names of those individuals recommended for prosecution have not been placed in a sealed envelope but mentioned expressly in the relevant sections of the report.
The report submitted to the President this morning is contained in seventeen volumes of thematic reports covering the following:
Volume 1 – Compendium of Findings and Recommendations
Part A: Compendium on Findings and Recommendations
Part B: Crimes and Jurisdictions: Recommendations for Prosecution and courts to try those accused.
Volume 2 – Soldiers With A Difference
The Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) Junta
Volume 3 – November 11th, 1994 Attempted Coup
Volume 4 – The Unlawful Killing of Ousman Koro Ceesay (Former Minister of Finance and Trade)
Volume 5 –
Attack on Religious Freedoms
Attack on Road Users
Volume 6 – April 10th and 11th 2000, Student Demonstrations
Volume 7 –
Attack on the Media and Freedom of Expression
Attack on Political Opponents
Volume 8 – The Junglers: Unlawful Killings, Tortures and other Human Rights Violations
Volume 9 – The President’s Alternative Treatment Programme
Volume 10 – Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, including rape and castration
Volume 11 – 2009 Witch-Hunt Exercise
Volume 12 –
The Killing of the West African Migrants
Enforced Disappearances
Volume 13 – Institutional Hearings: National Intelligence Agency (NIA)
Volume 14 – Institutional Hearings: The Gambia Prison Services
Volume 15 – Institutional Hearings: Justice Sector Entities
Volume 16 – Reparations and Reconciliation
Part One: Reparations
Part Two: Reconciliation
Volume 17 – Annexes to the TRRC Final Report
The structure of each of these thematic reports entails presentation of an overview or context in which the theme occurred, followed by the Commission’s findings and recommendations regarding the theme under consideration.
The flagship volume of the final report is the Compendium which contains all the findings and recommendations of the Commission as well as suggestions concerning prosecution of individuals should the Government accept the TRRC recommendation to do so with regard to persons found by the Commission to bear the greatest responsibility for human rights violations and abuses. The Compendium is a collection in one document of the findings and recommendations contained in each of the thematic reports.
The section referred to as “miscellaneous recommendations” contains matters which do not come under any particular theme such as renaming of Arch 22 as Memorial Arch remembering all the victims of the Jammeh dictatorship; continuation of the functions of the Amnesty Committee; and post-TRRC monitoring of the Commission’s recommendations.
The Commission, in its report, outlined approximately 427 findings and 218 recommendations. The recommendations fall generally under the following categories:
Prosecution of persons who bear the greatest responsibility for human rights violations and abuses,
Further investigation of allegations concerning persons who bear the greatest responsibility for human rights violations and abuses with a view to prosecuting them, if necessary,
Banning of individuals from public service,
Repeal of draconian laws and decrees still in the law books,
Legal and institutional reforms,
Training and capacity building of security and other personnel.
The final report is accompanied by the following documents for information and reference purposes:
(a) Annexes containing materials used or referred to by the Commission during its operations, including submissions by various entities, experts and Civil Society Organizations (b) selected decrees promulgated by the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC), (c) Activity report containing information on outreach activities conducted by the various units of the TRRC Secretariat, and (d) witness portrait album.
For the record and archives of the proceedings of the Commission during the public hearings, the TRRC produced verbatim record of the testimonies of all the witnesses who appeared before the Commission. The transcripts of these testimonies are contained in 33 volumes comprising 14,636 pages.
The Commission also indicated in its report that the D50 million advanced to the TRRC by the Government for reparations is still being distributed to the victims. As at 24th November, 2021, 671 have received reparations. The Commission also reported community reconciliation events had taken place in Si-kunda and Jambur, as well as interpersonal reconciliations conducted at the request of individuals concerned at TRRC premises.
In the final session of the Commission’s public hearings, I stated the following:
“The phenomenon of leaders of military coups civilianizing themselves was rampant in the sub-region of West Africa. These leaders rigged and held farce elections to perpetrate their rule. The Gambia became a collective victim of this phenomenon. Witnesses have testified before this Commission that structures that underpin good governance, e.g. respect for the rule of law and independence of the Judiciary were virtually non-existent during the 22 year Jammeh rule.
Yes Jammeh is gone; the killings by State agents have stopped; torture is no longer sanctioned by the state; the Junglers have dispersed, some in foreign lands while others stayed to confess their misdeeds. The folly of ruling The Gambia for a billion years abruptly and ignominiously ended in 22 years”
The violations and abuses of human rights that the National Assembly mandated us to investigate were, from the testimonies of witnesses, so calculated and wicked that The Gambia, to paraphrase the words of Justice Robert Jackson at the Nuremberg Trials in November, 1945, “ cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survived their being repeated”. The Gambia cannot through ‘Maslaha’, or letting “dinding katatolu” do what they want, ignore the gross violations and abuses perpetrated by the Jammeh regime. To forgive and forget with impunity the violations and abuses narrated by witnesses to the Commission would not only undermine reconciliation but also constitute a massive and egregious cover-up of the crimes committed. Not addressing these crimes could threaten, in the long term, the stability of our country and society. The individuals involved in perpetrating the violations and abuses must be held accountable for their crimes.
H.E President Adama Barrow in a speech launching the TRRC on the 15th October, 2018, told the Commissioners and the Gambian population the following: “Gambians had for far too long suffered under a repressive regime; regime that failed its social contract with the citizens and, in doing so, oppressed the very people it swore to serve and protect. As a consequence, the TRRC was born out of the aspirations of a people who decided that they want a society where truth and justice prevail. This Commission is the outcome of the dreams of a people united in their wish for a better: a future free of oppression, persecution and tyranny.”
The Commission commends its recommendations to the President.
Previous articleGambians call for peace ahead of crucial December election
Next articleThe Gambia: Truth Commission calls for prosecution of ex-officials
Mr. Sainey M.K. Marenah is a Prominent Gambian journalist, founding editor The Alkamba Times and formerly head of communications at the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) and Communications and PR Consultant for The Gambia Pilot Program, under Gamworks. Mr. Marenah served as the Social media Strategist and Editor at Gambia Radio and Television Services. He is also the Banjul Correspondent for Voice of America Radio. Sainey is a human rights and developmental journalist who has carved a strong niche particularly in new media environments in the Gambian media industry. Mr. Marenah began his career as a junior reporter with the Point Newspaper in the Gambia in 2008 and rose through the ranks to become Chief correspondent before moving to The Standard Newspaper also in Banjul as Editorial Assistant and head of News. He is a household name in the Gambia’s media industry having covered some of the most important stories in the former and current government. These include the high profile treason cases including the Trial of Former military chiefs in Banjul in 2009 to 2012. Following his arrest and imprisonment by the former regime of President, Yahya Jammeh in 2014, Marenah moved to Dakar Senegal where he continues to practice Journalism freelancing for various local and international Media organization’s including the BBC, Al-Jazeera, VOA, and ZDF TV in Germany among others. He is the co-Founder of the Banjul Based Media Center for Research and Development; an institution specialized in research and development undertakings. As a journalist and Communication Expert, focused on supporting the Gambia's transitional process, Mr Marenah continues to play a pivotal role in shaping a viable media and communications platform that engages necessary tools and action to increase civic participation and awareness of the needs of transitional governance to strengthen the current move towards democratization. Mr. Marenah has traveled extensively as a professional journalist in both Europe, Africa and United States and attended several local and international media trainings.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here