Gambia’s Attorney General and Justice Minister Baa Tambedou has stunningly admitted that his justice ministry “is on the verge of collapse”. Minister Tambedou made this admission during an intense press conference he was forced to convene with the media after information leaked that he was planning to free three former Jammeh hit men called “Junglers” who admitted to killing more than fifty Gambians and other foreign nationals. The junglers confessed to these gruesome killings during their testify at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) set up to investigate the numerous atrocities committed by the former regime.
Three former dictator Jammeh’s assassin team of military operatives Omar A. Jallow, Amadou Badjie and Malick Jatta confessed to an unprecedented number of gruesome murders ordered by the Yaha Jammeh and his security team. The confessions shocked the conscience of a nation including citizens who had strongly supported the Jammeh regime for over two decades. The assassin team several of whom are still at large were detained under military decree since the change of government in December 2016. Their testimonies before the TRRC are seen to be an attempt to get a plea bargain for their freedom.
The minister of justice Tambedou and Solicitor General Cherno Marenah are believed to have been duped to release the junglers in exchange for more former junglers and NIA personnel to come out and testify on what they witnessed. The justice ministry’s misguided letter to release these serial killers was leaked to the press and social media. Gambians both within and outside vehemently condemned the justice ministry’s false choice to exchange freedom of the junglers to more citizens testifying before the TRRC.
The justice minister’s stunning press conference and admission of his ministry’s failures tell us more about a deeper dilemma and indictment of the Barrow transition government than most Gambians care to know. It is inconceivable for the justice minister to consider amnesty (freeing the junglers) who have admitted to the most heinous crimes in our nation’s history for simply getting more people to testify before the Truth Commission. It begs for one to ask the Attorney General serious questions of incompetence and lack of recognition for the importance of communication to the general public. What does Mr. Tambedou’s admission of his ministry’s failures tell us about his readiness to the task of Attorney General? Was he in fact being honest about the challenges and that he just admitted the obvious in public? Should he in fact be seen as honest and open to tell it as it is rather than pretending everything is fine and dandy at this ministry?
At the very least, the AG’s admission tells us more about the competence of his government and its ill preparedness to deal with the challenges of delivering justice for Gambians for almost three years since the change of government. Earlier in 2017 Gainako editorialized Baa Tambedou’s preparedness for the challenges of the job of Attorney General. At the time he looked undecided if he was ready to take up the challenge or stay in private practice. He made numerous complains about the condition of the justice ministry. Apparently, those challenges have never been addressed for almost three years. Baa’s admission is simply an attempt to throw the towel in the eleventh inning of a baseball game. A sad reality that accurately represents the gross incompetence of the Barrow regime. Being short of resources to run the justice department in the face of massive financial and technical support from the UN and other international partners is the least Gambians expected. Is it lack of capacity or incompetence of the highest order?
What Gambians expect from their Attorney General is not just admission that he has virtually ran out of personnel to help him run the justice department. What is expected is for the Attorney General to present a paper and demand that the government invest resources and possibly seek international assistance in not only funding the department but providing technical aid from the sub-region or the commonwealth with legal personnel. Instead, what Gambians have seen is people in a government that cares more about its international image than delivering justice for victims. A government that embarks on daily political activities at the state house than addressing the pressing problems of a struggling nation. A government that cares more about borrowing loans and spending on white elephant projects than addressing youth unemployment, increasing tension within the country and lack of public services for the citizenry. Baa Tambedou gave the Gambian people a false choice of having more people testify before the TRRC than delivering justice to victims. It is false to say that freeing serial killers is in the “best long term interest of victims”. There cannot be reconciliation without justice and certainly those who have custodians of the law must not shy away from using the full force of the law, employ every resource available to bring out perpetrators of human rights to testify or face the full weight of the law! No one gives amnesty to rapists because they admit to rapping women.
Demba Baldeh Associate Editor