Victims of Ex-President Jammeh worry about slow reparations progress

Protest by relatives of victims of the regime of Yahya Jammeh, the former president of the Gambia [Screengrab/Al Jazeera]

By: Kebba Ansu Manneh

The delay in establishing a commission to provide restitution has sparked outrage among those affected by former President Yahya Jammeh’s administration. Despite current president Adama Barrow’s pledges following the publication of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) report and the accompanying White Paper in 2021, progress has been slow.

Victims who spoke with TAT expressed frustration at the slow pace of establishing the Reparations Commission, noting that victims of the former regime are growing impatient and losing faith in the overall establishment of the Commission responsible for paying reparations to victims, some of whom had already died before the Commission began its work.

In November 2023, the National Assembly approved the Victims Reparations Bill, which President Barrow signed into law. However, nearly five months after the bill’s passage and signing, the Commission has not commenced work, hindering the speedy execution of the reparations process.

“As chairman of the Victims Center board and another victim of the Jammeh regime, I feel that the process of setting up the Victims Reparations Commission, as recommended by the Victims Reparations Act, is a bit too slow. The victims are getting quite impatient with the slow process, ” said Demba Ali Jawo, former Minister of Information and Communication and the Chairman of the Victims Center.

Demba Ali Jawo, former Minister of Information and Communication and the Chairman of the Victims Center.

He said, “We can recall that the TRRC concluded its work in 2021 and submitted its report to President Adama Barrow. The Government later issued a white paper accepting most of the recommendations. Still, it has been almost three years, and hardly anything has happened, and the transitional justice system seems to be at a standstill.”

The Victims Center Chairman observed that some of the victims who suffered medical and health problems have died while still waiting for their reparations.

“Of course, we expect that the Reparations Commission should have its secretariat, which would be responsible for the Commission’s day-to-day operations. Therefore, the Government must set up the secretariat as a prelude to establishing the Commission,” DA Jawo submitted.

Binta Manneh, a native of Brikamaba and a raped victim of the former regime, also cast aspersion on the slow pace of the establishment of the reparations commission, hinting that many victims are living from hands, while many others are finding it very difficult to take care of medical and educational bills of their families.

According to him, The Gambia Government is not taking the plights of the victims with seriousness, who continue to wallow in continuous suffering with their families and loved ones, adding that the chicken change dashed by the Government to some victims only aggravated their situations instead of bringing closure to their cases.

“I’m not surprised by the delay in Reparation because this Government is not serious about the welfare of the victims’ families and survivors. Most perpetrators still serve in the Government and are rewarded with higher positions. One of the perpetrators is on record for saying that the TRRC report will be like the Janneh Commission, which will be thrown into the dustbin,” Abdou Karim Jammeh, April 2000, Student Victim, elucidated.

According to him, the Gambia Government is not demonstrating the political will to implement the recommendations of the TRRC Report, noting that President Adama Barrow himself is on record for provoking victims of the former regime for making unpleasant comments on the aftermath of the death of Nokoi Njie.

“We are calling on the Gambians, both at home and abroad, NGOs, CSOs and foreign embassies, and the UN agencies to help the victim’s families and survivors, especially those who need urgent treatment. I’m very much optimistic that if victims failed to get the needed support before the Reparations Commission, many more will die without getting any form of compensation,” Abdou Karim Jammeh disclosed.

Abdou Karim Jammeh

Abdul Aziz Barrow, also a victim, concurred with the sentiments of the other victims, hinting that the longer it takes to establish the reparations commission, the more compounding the victims’ plights become. He observed that the Government could have simply paid all the victims of the former regime through the treasury rather than establishing the Reparations Commission.

He told TAT that even though the Government has now started receiving applications for the positions of commissioners for the Reparations Commission, it may take until the end of the year before the Commission comes into entire operation. This, he added, also means that victims may not be able to get reparations until 2025.

He argued that the TRRC Report never recommended the establishment of the Reparations Commission in its final report submitted to the Government, hinting that many more victims could have died before the Reparations Commission started its work.

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