Editorial: Accountability and Justice for Innocent Victims is the first step to reconciliation

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The arrest of additional former NIA operatives in the Gambia sends a clear message that there cannot be reconciliation without accountability and justice for innocent victims.  That No citizen has the right, the power or the authority to not only order the arbitrary arrest, torture and killings of Gambian citizens, but  participate, supervise or witness crimes against citizens and decide to look the other way. The arrest further buttressed that Gambia is back to being a country of laws and therefore anybody who willfully, deliberately and illegally took part in torture, rape and killing of citizens must be held accountable.

Every Gambian citizen who takes an oath of office or signed an appointment letter to serve the government has the obligation and duty to operate within the confines of Gambian and International law.  From the President, cabinet ministers, public officials, security apparatus all swore to protect the lives, liberty and personal property of citizens. When these public officials who are paid by tax payers negate their duties and carry out illegal acts being it crimes against citizens, economic crimes, looting or illegal use of public resources outside the boundaries of their duties are in violation of the law. President Jammeh and his notorious operatives had no right to carryout illegal orders against Gambian law. Therefore the new government must investigate crimes both economic and violations of the rights of Gambian citizens and bring them to book.

Contrary to what some disgruntled, unpatriotic citizens who lost their illegal unearned privileges wants you to believe, the arrest of former NIA officials is a step in the right direction to hold citizens accountable for crimes they allegedly committed. Unlike their inhumane actions and brutality against citizens denying them the right to due process, the new government must treat those arrested lawfully and accord them the due process of the law. The government must show that they are the better side and therefore are going to accord them the very rights to due process and to life they denied other citizens. It is encouraging to see that within 72 hours of their arrest they have been brought before a competent judge in a court of law not occupied by a mercenary Judge paid to serve the dictator.  The police, minister of interior and the justice minister must ensure rights of those detained are protected and not tortured for revenge.

No society can progress without law and order and due process equally accorded to citizens and inhabitants of that land. Jungle justice and inhumane manhandling of citizens in clear violations of the constitution and fundamental human rights of citizens cannot and must not be endured. There was absolutely no reason for Solo Sandeng and UDP operatives to be tortured to death and bodies dumped like vultures. There was no reason why military officers who were accused of wanting to overthrow the government deserved to be summarily executed in cold blood without due process. Any and all citizens who have become victims of the callous Jammeh regime must be accorded a day in court before the country can move forward. In fact, no other citizen has the moral right to ask for the country to move forward without demanding that victims not only be heard but justice be seen to be delivered for the ultimate priced they paid with their love ones’ lives. It would be a moral failure and insensitive for anyone to call for reconciliation without putting the plight of victims in the forefront.

Therefore every decent Gambian must give support to the new government’s efforts to hold those alleged to have committed heinous crimes to account. This must be extended to include economic crimes. Any head of an institution who deliberately collaborated in the illegal distribution or squandering of public resources must equally be held to account and temporarily relieve of their duties until proper investigations are conducted. The new Gambia cannot and must no operate in any way that is resemblance of the former regime. The Barrow government must set higher standards and prioritize the prudent handling of the mess they inherited. With the cooperation of the Gambian people and determination to build a new and better Gambia, the government needs to appoint commissions to investigate these alleged crimes to ensure that proper justice is rendered. They must guard against any form of revenge or illegal arrest and detention without charges. Gambians expect nothing less than higher standard and absolute discipline from their new government. The local as well as the online media must act as the fourth estate and hold the government’s feet to fire. It must be recognized that governments cannot police themselves and therefore Democracies don’t work without participation of citizens. Accountability starts with each and every citizen who then holds their government accountable of their actions. We must all serve as watch dogs and activists for a better Gambia and people.

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  1. Accountability is a tricky business. And in the Gambian context the notion of accountability has always presented itself as a loop sided affair in the sense that people generally feel accountable only upwards towards their superiors, rarely horizontally towards their “equals”, and never downwards towards subordinates whoever defined.

    To put this into context, consider that, for instance, school teachers in Gambian state schools habitually, are absent from their classrooms more than 47.5% of the time on average when they should have been teaching. However, there is little or no evidence that teachers feel any accountability towards pupils children (who must bear the detriment of not having a teacher in the classroom when they should have) for being absent from their teaching duties. For example, there is generally, no apology or explanation, or offers to teach “catch-up classes”, or anything likely to show these biggest -albeit least powerful- group of stakeholders that the teacher cares about their learning and was absent for good reason etc, nor indeed do habitually absent teachers, it would seem, show horizontal accountability towards their peers, whose efforts they may have have helped neutralised, if not nullified by their actions not to have show up for teaching when expected. However, the same teachers may, at the same time as ignoring the interests of the pupils, and their peers, feel the need to be accountable (if only by way of explaining away their absence) to the boss,or head master – upward accountability, because he desires to keep his job.

    The above example was not provided to pick on teachers, just that there is such an important and noble profession, every nation on earth collects statistics on teacher behaviour, but no doubt the same behaviour equally applies across the whole of the public services.

    But even at the private, social, family level,s sometimes the lack of accountability is glaringly obvious, as the example below shows.

    Consider another example in a private context. It is well known fact that sometimes, the man of the household can feel no accountability towards either the lady of the house, or indeed the children, both of whom he rightly or wrongly views as his subordinates. Let us assume for argument shake that he often walks in late into the family home, and quite naturally does not expect to have to explain his where about neither to the musses, nor to the kids – horizontal accountability. However, such a man also expects some good explanation from his wife and kids, even where the latter can be viewed as young adults, (accountability upwards to himself), for coming home late. Moreover, the same man can be expected to provide an account of his movements vertically upwards to his boss, whenever it would seem that such banter would enhanced his career, but oddly, never to the musses, even if such horizontal accountability would have enhanced the mental health and welfare of his own family.

    Thus it can be very tricky to implement true accountability in the Gambian context, because accountability in in fact an “main menu” concept, rather than an ala carte buffet where one is can pick and choose only those dishes that are to one’s taste and simple ignore the rest, and be still full and satisfied. With accountability , one is either fully accountable, vertically, horizontally, and downward, or one cannot be said to be accountable. Only one main course exist. One can choose to increase ones’s accountable to ” team Gambia”, or one can choose to play it “the Jammeh way” and help to neutralise and nullify all team efforts – Pre-Jammeh our main export earner Groundnuts production was 236,000 tonnes, by 203-014 it was a mere 26,000 tonnes – now thats what I call “neutralise and nullify” .

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