The Gambia’s transition justice that has been hailed as one of the best in the history of transition justice systems in the world faces an unprecedented assault from none other than the President who championed the formation of the TRRC after he was elected in 2016. The Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commissions received overwhelming approval by Gambians and partners around the world and was the hope of many Gambians to bring about justice and reconciliation in the country after twenty-two years of brutal dictatorship and human rights abuses.
The TRRC which recently finishes its work and on the verge of submitting it’s final report and recommendations to the President, may have just met its untimely death through political expediency and desperation from the very leader who championed its formation. The much anticipated report is expected to recommend the prosecution and holding accountable to those who have been responsible for almost two decades of human rights abuses and murders of innocent citizens in the small West African State of the Gambia. The final report is expected to the President’s desk in less than 30 days.
However, faced with desperation and potential challenges of losing the upcoming elections in December, President Barrow did the unthinkable; he announced that he is forming a political alliance with the very political party and its leadership who presided over the worst human rights records and abuses that shocked the conscience of the world. The leadership of the APRC which was lead by the former dictator Yahya Jammeh has come under attacked and possible extinction due to their rights records and total disrespect for the rule of law and democracy for over two decades. The results of the Transition justice was expected to hold many of the perpetrators accountable – including the senior leadership of the party.
In an unprecedented move, the announcement of the desperate alliance are seen in two folds. First, President Barrow whose former party the UDP abandoned him due to his quest to highjack the party leadership so he can stay in power at all cost, formed his own National People’s Party (NPP) without much political base. Increasingly, it appears he was going to face possible hamulating defeat at the polls in December. He therefore continue to retain former APRC remnants in his administration as an insurance for future alliance. The APRC on the other hand were fighting for its political life where it openly decried the former leader refusing to finance the operations of the party. They were barely holding on to a life thread without any funding mechanisms and amid internal rift amongst its members. Many members of the party were also likely to face justice and accountability from the recommendations of the TRRC.
The unholy alliance seen as the height of political opportunism has triggered an unprecedented anger and reaction from the Gambian people. Many are shocked that the person who was elected to restore political stability, justice and democracy in the Gambia will make such a desperate move in an attempt to bring back the former regime into power. The terms of the MOU signed between the two parties have not been made public but many believe that has APRC demands for the former President to be allowed to return to the country as a freeman without any accountability to his atrocities. Sources also have it that the APRC are demanding that the purported recommendations of the TRRC which largely affects their members be ignored and not implemented should the alliance win the December 4th, 2021 elections. The NPP’s only demand is for members of the APRC to vote for the President come December.
It is inconceivable to many that President Barrow who was elected less than five years ago through a political alliance to ensure government reforms, establishment of rule of law, hold perpetrators accountable and create a level political playing field, would make such a blatant decision to ignore everything that happened in the country. Many are asking what is there in the interest of the Gambia and her people to warrant such an alliance; essentially an insult to victims of rights abuses and their families. It is certainly also a middle finger to the International community and Gambia’s allies who have been there for the country through difficult times.
One thing is absolutely clear, President Barrow has proven many critics right including this paper who consistently authored many articles and editorials calling out warning signs of such a scenario. We authored an editorial several months ago titled Why Present Barrow is failing the Gambian people. In that editorial, we highlighted why the President was keen to retain top cabinet members of the former regime. We argued that the president was up to no good thus the reason he had Jammeh’s top aides by his side. We have been proven correct as we stated that most African leaders were only interested in staying in power regardless of the consequences to the rest of the nation.
Mr. Barrow clearly demonstrated his political ineptitude through his inability to make sound decisions and understand the challenges faced by the country. From the get go he has shown that his only interest is to stay in power by all means possible. He may have underestimated the Gambian people who braced the hot summer son to protest and defeat an entrenched dictator. Adama Barrow was only a beneficiary of that two decades of fierce fight that saw many dead, tortured, raped and disappeared without trace. He was only a passive citizen who ran his business silently while the country went from one turmoil to another. Ironically, the President entrusted APRC members he brought into his government to negotiate an alliance with APRC. Essentially the APRC was negotiating with itself.
There is no question President Barrow’s desperate move and political expediency has woken Gambian activists and many victims’ families who have hope for justice to be delivered for their love ones. The President have shown his true character and doesn’t give a damn about the welfare of the victims. His misconceived efforts to reconcile the Gambia through an alliance with the very regime whose leaders have never taken any responsibility of their roles in the former regime will undoubtedly backfire contrary to his expectations. For Barrow, nothing appears to matter except his victory come December elections. If Gambians are worth the salt and are conscious of their history and how we got to the current regime, then President Barrow is up for a rude awakening. Those who failed to learn from their mistakes are condemned to repeat them. And as the saying goes “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice”