By Louise S A Alsan, @AlsanLouise
It’s no secret that former President Yahya Jammeh’s political party, the Association for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) wants the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) Report condemned by the current Government of President Adama Barrow. Former President Jammeh ruled the Gambia for 22 years with an iron fist, only to be ousted by a grand Coalition in December 2016 and eventually forced out of the country after refusing to concede defeat. Former President Jammeh was eventually forced into exile after regional forces entered the country during a Political Impasse in January 2017.
The TRRC was swiftly enacted by Gambian Parliamentarians in 2017 and has completed its Public Hearings in a bid to document all the human rights violations of the former regime. The former Lead Counsel, Mr Essa Mbye Faal who says he “played an important if not a crucial role” on the Commission has since resigned and launched his campaign to run for the Office of President. Bringing him in direct competition with President Barrow in the race to the December 4th Elections.
In a recent interview with Eye Gambia, Mr Faal told journalist Kebba Camara “there was no intention in the first place to act on the TRRC before the elections”. According to Mr Faal the reason why “there is no intention to act on the TRRC report [is] because the President [Barrow] sees no way of winning this elections if he does not go into a Coalition with the APRC. And the APRC would not accept to go into a Coalition with him if the President [Barrow] would act on a report which suggests that Jammeh should be taken to justice”.
It would be prudent to recall that President Barrow’s Government promised a complete reform of the Gambia’s governance systems. The Janneh Commission investigated corruption during the former regime and made numerous recommendations to address this scourge, many of which have been ignored by the current government. Similarly, Constitutional Reforms has been completed by the Constitutional Review Commission but killed at the National Assembly. Security Sector Reforms has progressed at a snail’s pace resulting in the continued stay of regional forces, ECOMIG and more recently Electoral Reforms has also been shelved by Gambian Parliamentarians as the country edges towards elections and the end of President Barrow’s first term.
In a quest to maintain his grip to power President Barrow’s newly formed National People’s Party (NPP) has gone into a Coalition with former President Jammeh’s APRC in early September 2021 raising doubts on the current Government’s political will towards Transitional Justice. The Coalition comes after APRC Party Leaders and supporters staged a protest march ending at the Justice Ministry towards the end of July 2021. During the protest supporters displayed banners reading “TRRC A PLATFORM FOR POLITICAL AND JUDICIAL PROSECUTION OF APRC” and “TRRC AND NOT POPULARITY CONTEST FOR PRESIDENT” as they demanded for the TRRC Report to be binned.
In reaction to President Barrow’s NPP-APRC Coalition the Gambia’s Victim Center responsible for organising Victims for the TRRC have called the Alliance “a threat that may affect the implementation of TRRC Recommendations”. In a strongly worded statement, the Victims Center highlighted that “the victims find it quite disheartening and treacherous for Adama Barrow to abandon the Gambia’s Transitional Justice Process and her crying citizens to run back to that killer and rapist tyrant and his terrorist party for an Alliance to consolidate a desire for self-perpetuating rule”.
“The Victim Center and the community of victims of the former regime of the APRC see this Alliance as outrageous and unpatriotic” and believe that “all Gambians regardless of Party affiliation [should] express their disappointment” read the statement issued in early September 2021.
Unconcerned with the Victims Center’s statement, President Barrow has recently doubled down on his decision to go into an Alliance with the APRC which he believes promotes National Reconciliation. In President Barrow’s view the decision he took “is the wisest political decision in [his] history as a politician for many reasons. Firstly, in the best interest of National reconciliation. In the best interest of National Security. In the best interest of coming together, moving this country forward. That means the first republic PPP and the second republic and this transitional government coming together. I think that is big and its commendable.”
The TRRC Report has now been postponed twice. The first postponement was from the end of July to the end of September. However, the second postponement has not specified any date to submit the Report to the President, derailing the Transitional Justice process.
Journalist, Kebba Camara asked Mr Faal his views on the President throwing the TRRC Report in the bin because of his late bid for the Presidency. According to Mr Faal “that would be the biggest travesty that the President [Barrow] can do. That would be the biggest injustice and the biggest betrayal of the Gambian people”.
In his view the choice to accept or reject the President’s decision to bin the TRRC Report rests with the Gambian people. “You see if the President [Barrow] decides not to act on the TRRC Report well the people have a responsibility to hold him to account for that,” said Mr Faal.
This publication is supported by the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).