By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Aisha Jammeh was around 13 years old when she lost her dad. Speaking about the impact of her loss she says “I lost my dad at a very early age when I was 13, 14. I don’t have that type of childhood that a lot of children have. I was robbed of my childhood”. Aisha’s father, Haruna Jammeh, was the cousin of former President Yahya Jammeh who was allegedly killed by the “Junglers”, a private killing squad that reported directly to then-President Jammeh.
One of the Junglers named Omar Jallow, commonly known as Oya confessed to participating in the execution of Haruna Jatta at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). The TRRC is an investigation on the human rights violations that occurred during the 22-year dictatorship of former President Jammeh. The final report and recommendations will be submitted in July 2021, after which they should be implemented. In that regard, we speak to one of the victims who also works at the Victims Center about what reparations means to them.
Junglers Execute President Jammeh’s Cousin
During his testimony to the TRRC, Omar Jallow explained that he knew Haruna Jammeh and frequently had lunch at his house. Mr Jallow narrated that he received orders from Tumbul Tamba, a leader of the Junglers, to transport Haruna Jammeh from the National Intelligence Agency to Kanilai, the home village of former President Jammeh.
Testifying to the TRRC’s Lead Counsel, Essa Faal, Omar explained how he assisted Senior Jungler, Sanna Manjang execute Haruna Jammeh in cold blood. “So, we tied the neck. But at that time, I was not informed that this was the mission, that we were going to kill Haruna” he said. “He [Sanna Manjang] was just sitting on top of the car. He jumped from that place and stamped [on Haruna Jammeh’s neck] and he died,” said Omar Jallow.
Reparations is more than Monetary Compensation
We met Aisha at the Victims Center where she told Gainako News that “reparations is not just about monetary terms reparations comes in different forms, it could be educational support, medical support, psychosocial support, sustenance and restoration of what you’ve lost.”
Gainako asked Aisha if acknowledgement of human rights violations from perpetrators can also be considered part of reparations. She responded by including both acknowledgements from perpetrators “and also the process of healing” as reparation.
On a personal level Aisha explains what reparations mean to her. In her view reparations means “seeing the alleged perpetrators – I would not even call them alleged anymore, because they have come to the open on the TRRC to confess to the murder of my dad. So, the word alleged I don’t use it because it’s confirmed that they were the ones that were involved in my dad’s killing. So, for me, reparations mean beyond giving me money, or giving me psychosocial support or giving me educational support”.
Reparations will mean different things to the different victims. However, to Aisha “it also means seeing the perpetrators being prosecuted because at the end of the day I’ve lost my dad at a very early age when I was 13, 14 and I don’t have [those] childhood memories that other children have. Although I have a few but not to the extent of me finishing my school, having my father be my guide. I haven’t experienced that so all the time was my mum and my mum being a dad at the same time” she said.
“So, reparations for me and justice for me, means seeing all those people going through the court of law” said Aisha. In her view “to attain the Never Again slogan we need to ensure that justice takes its due course. For justice to take its due course it has to be people that bear the responsibilities going through a court of law.”
In a moment of altruism, Aisha stressed that she wanted the perpetrators and the victims to be treated fairly “because even if those victims had done something there are laws in our country” she argued. In her view criminals or people who had offended the law should have been taken “to court. But just one person cannot just tell you go an take this person and kill this person and that’s it”.
“The perpetrators need to be prosecuted because at the end of the day all lives matter”, said Aisha Jammeh.
We Need to Ignite the Conversation Now
Given that the financial investigation (Janneh Commission) of former President Jammeh’s embezzlement of public funds has been concluded but facing challenges of implementation I asked Aisha what she felt should be done to ensure the TRRC’s Recommendations are implemented. In her view “we need to start the conversation now; we need to ignite that conversation”.
Speaking on the importance of starting the conversation Aisha explained that “when things happen and the hype that people would have when it’s fresh and when it takes some time how the hype will come to that level until we forget about it. We will not want that to happen to the TRRC process.”
“People were being brutalised women were sexually assaulted, our grandparents, our elderly people in our community were being called witches and wizards, they were given concussions to drink so all of these it’s a cut across people were missing in the Gambia. People were extra-judicially killed in the Gambia so any serious government wouldn’t want all those efforts that people put into this process ranging from the work of the TRRC, the investigations, the truth process. You wouldn’t want that all to go in vain. “I always say this it’s important that Gambians and people living in the Gambia need to make sure that we attain this Never Again slogan at the TRRC.”
Implementation of TRRC’s final report recommendations remains one serious shortcoming of Transitional Justice processes worldwide but particularly in Africa. To make progress in this regard it’s important to begin considering the institution and mechanism to implement the recommendations for the reparations process. CSO’s should also get ready to advocate for the consideration of the recommendations, taking the upcoming elections as an opportunity.
This article is supported by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).