By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) announced that “the total figure for reparations was D205,820,780” at a press briefing on 16th July 2021. According to TRRC Vice-Chairperson Ms Adelaide Sosseh, some “claims were really not victims” however, “the Commission will “also have to write those people and tell them that they did not qualify”.
TRRC Chairperson Dr Lamin J. Sise clarified that “victim perpetrators are not receiving any reparations, we needed to make that clear”. When asked who the victim perpetrators are, Vice-Chair Sosseh explained that is “when you were a perpetrator and then you ended up by going to prison, ended up by being tortured. You cannot have victimized other people and then qualify for reparations”.
The TRRC is a Commission enacted by the Gambia’s Parliament in 2017 to investigate the Human Rights Violations of the former President Yahya Jammeh’s Regime from 1994 to 2016. This was showcased in the TRRC’s public hearings where “392/3 witnesses appeared before the commission”. According to Dr Sise the public hearings “focused on the creation of a historical record of human rights abuses and violations that occurred during the regime of the past government of Yahya Jammeh”.
Government Failed 2nd D50 Million Promise
Highlighting the number of funds received by the TRRC for reparations Vice-Chair Sosseh told journalists that the Government “gave the TRRC D50 million with a promise to give an additional D50 million. The promise was not kept for reasons that are out of our control.”
On the first D50 million paid by Government, Ms Sosseh says the Commission “had set aside D20 million for [urgent interim reparations], but luckily we were only able to spend D13 million of that money. So, it meant that we had 37 million available to spend on 1,000 victims who qualified.”
On the D37 million remaining Vice-Chair Sosseh said “it was agreed that for the 198 victims who were to be awarded D50,000 and below they would be paid their money upfront because if you want to start giving pro-rata on a D50,000, what does the person get after all?”
“For those who are supposed to have D50,000 and above, they would be paid on a pro-rata basis. For that category of people, we had 758 people who qualified under the type of violation that I told you about unlawful killing, enforced disappearance, torture, physical assault unlawful detention, sexual gender-based violence and inhumane and degrading treatment.”
When asked what the actual shortfall of reparations that the Government had to pay. Meaning the total reparations the TRRC has committed to pay, less the total amount of money the TRRC has to pay right now, Vice-Chair Sosseh said “the actual shortfall is D168,820,000. This is out of those people that we have assessed. The 1,000 people that are due for reparations.”
“For those  people [awarded compensation of] D50,000 and below, the government doesn’t owe them anything but for the 758 people who are entitled to D50,000 and above Government owes D168,820,000.”
Vice-Chair Sosseh explained that the Victim Support Unit (VSU) has started disbursing payments to victims who have been coming to the Commission to collect their payments, however, “for those who live in rural communities the VSU has been going out to meet them in their communities because really it would be too difficult for them to travel.”
54 West African Migrants to get D32 Million
Speaking about the 54 West African migrants that were killed in the Gambia in 2005 Vice-Chair Sosseh says “it’s another D32 million”. Chairperson Sise further clarified “that the reason why you have the large figure for the West African migrants is that those people were killed and the compensation going for unlawful killing is the peak of the payments been made”.
Chairperson Sise told journalists that “the government has been told already that they should handle this [D32 million Reparations for the 54 West African Migrants] with the governments of the nationals of these West African migrants.”
On unlawful killing Vice-Chair Sosseh said the Commission was “only able to give D600,000 that’s the highest that we have paid to anybody but the person has not received the D600,000 they have only received part of that payment. The rest as I said will be paid by a government.”
Speaking about funds from other sources like the Gambian Public and the Diaspora Vice-Chair Sosseh said “the response from the diaspora has been phenomenal. When we went on the diaspora engagement, we were able to raise D899,000 from the diaspora. They have been sending inflows, yesterday alone in this hall we had D88,000 from the Gambia Association in Norway to support the Reparations Fund. A month earlier the Association in Birmingham had brought in D60,0000 to support reparations.”
Vice-Chair Sosseh appealed for “organizations and associations outside the Gambia to keep supporting this body that is going to be set up because we have to show empathy with the victims. The local response has not been as great but I would like to applaud some Gambians. The GRA has stood by us, Papa Njie of Unique Solutions, the Gambia Ports Authority and other Gambians in the country have been giving”.