By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The cheers and clapping which erupted when Justice Minister, Hon Dawda Jallow declared that the 22nd July Arch will be renamed the Never Again Memorial Arch has definitely died down now. Reading out his speech only a year ago to a packed crowd of the most influential people in The Gambia at the time, the whole crowd hung on his every word uttered during the launch of the Government’s White Paper on the Report and Recommendations of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC).
The TRRC is a defunct Commission enacted by the Government of President Adama Barrow in 2017 to investigate the human rights violations of the regime of former President Yahya Jammeh who ruled the country with an iron fist for 22 years. One of the Government’s pledges on the 22nd July Arch declared by Justice Minister Jallow is the “hope that this memorial may be repurposed as a fitting reminder that Never Again shall we allow such heinous abuses and violations in our beloved country”.
However, since the declaration not much has been done to renovate the 22nd July Arch. On the same day of the launch of the Government’s White Paper, an Official Media Advisory was circulated to the media which also stated that “the Government will rename Arch 22 to NEVER AGAIN MEMORIAL ARCH in memory of victims of Jammeh and will renovate it and erect a wall with the names of Jammeh Victims”.
If the Justice Minister kept true to his words the Government would have erected “a plaque with the names of the victims of the Jammeh regime”. Instead, all Gambians have to date are some images on a board at the 22nd July Arch with no significant renovation works completed.
During the Justice Minister’s speech delivered almost one year ago on 22nd May 2022, Hon Jallow highlighted that “the slogan never again summarises our dreams and aspiration for the future but we must ensure that it does not only remain as a slogan but it’s translated into concrete action”.
On that day, Minister Jallow seemed to have all the right words in his speech, even pledging that “the implementation must therefore be transparent and inclusive with clear timelines and measurable outcomes. Rest assured that the government is fully committed to the implementation as outlined in the Whitepaper. We have been given a unique opportunity to change the trajectory of our dear nation and posterity will judge us by our actions.”
Who would have thought that one year on the Implementation Plan for the TRRC which was promised to be launched in March 2023 has still not been launched. This would have ensured stakeholders can follow a clear timeline and measurable outcomes, thereby ensuring transparency and inclusivity. Stakeholders cannot participate in activities they have no information on when they will be implemented.
Another promise which has gone amiss is for the Government to “take steps to memorialise April 10th and 11th each year to mark the sad events that transpired on those two days in the year 2000 and ensure that it never happens again”. Given that this was what the Official Media Advisory on the Release of the White Paper to the TRRC Report declared, one would have expected the Government to demonstrate commitment by organising an event to memorialise the April 2000 Student Massacre victims.
Unfortunately, that also did not materialise, instead, Victim Led Organisations and Civil Society Organisations organised a Victims Ndogou at the Westfield Youth Monument which featured speeches from representatives of the Ministry of Justice and the National Human Rights Commission.
Interestingly enough the Government released a statement on the 10th of April 2023 declaring the progress it has made on the implementation of some 17 recommendations. In that statement issued earlier this month the Ministry of Justice tweeted that “on recommendation 14 which calls for memorialisation, the Gov’t recognises the need to memorialise this day as part of a comprehensive memorial plan that covers all atrocities committed between 1994 and 2016. Consultations on the Memorialisation Plan will hold in Q3 2023”.
So, another year has gone with no memorialisation plans from the Government. Another point on the Ministry of Justice thread of Tweets also touches on another key pledge made by the Minister of Justice on the immediate suspension of Adversely mentioned Government Officials indicted by the TRRC Report. During the Justice Minister’s speech back in May 2022, he explained that “now that we have the White Paper, it is important that Implementation begins in earnest. We recognise that integrity of the implementation process is anchored on the men and women in the driving process”.
Perhaps the boldest pledge the Justice Minster made that day was when he said: “We note that certain individuals who have been adversely mentioned by the Commission continue to serve in various areas of the public and security services. The Government shall take steps for their immediate suspension from service while we work on a lawful means to affect their dismissal, termination or compulsory retirement as each case may require.”
In response to this particular pledge, the Government tweeted on 10th April 2023 that it “has suspended all perpetrators who are still serving within the government including Gorgui Mboob and has completed the drafting of a law to permanently ban all perpetrators from ever holding public office”.
If the Justice Minister remained true to his words that the TRRC Implementation “must therefore be transparent and inclusive” it would have released the names of Officers who have been dismissed and when their dismissal was affected. However, to date not much is known of the names of the Officers who have apparently been dismissed and if any are still on active duty.
- The TRRC Report was Issued by the Minister of Justice on 24th December 2021.
- The Gambia Government issued its White Paper on the Implementation of the TRRC on 22nd May 2022. The Minister of Justice Hon Dawda Jallow made a speech and responded to questions on the White Paper.
- On the same day, the Government Issued an “Official Media Advisory on the Release of the White Paper to the TRRC”. This can be downloaded in the link.
- On 10th April 2023, the Government published a Twitter thread indicating it had made some progress on the Implementation of some 17 Recommendations. At least two have been interrogated in this publication.
A good number of other pledges have been included in the Official Media Advisory and in the Justice Minister’s speech which has still not been implemented, however, it’s anticipated that some pledges will take time. Hence only two of the promises have been referenced in this publication.