By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and Gambian Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) launched the MoJ-CSO Platform during a three-day coordination workshop for representatives of both Government and CSO leaders starting on 5th April 2022. The three-day workshop provided an opportunity for Government and Civil Society stakeholders to plan and coordinate efforts toward the implementation of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission’s (TRRC) recommendations.
The event was jointly organised by The Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (TANGO), the MoJ and the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation (GIJTR) and took place at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Centre. The TRRC was enacted in 2017 by Gambian Parliamentarians to investigate the human rights excesses of former President Yahya Jammeh who ruled the country with an iron fist from 1994 to 2016. After the conclusion of the TRRC public hearings, the final report and recommendations were submitted to President Adama Barrow in late November 2021. The reports were subsequently published on the MoJ website to enable public access.
TANGO Welcomes MoJ-CSO Partnership
The Executive Director of TANGO, Ms Ndey Sering Bakurin encouraged all stakeholders to make the three days an interactive discussion where all participants speak frankly. She urged all delegates “to share ideas because it’s not about a one-way system we must work together” in the spirit of true partnership.
Speaking on the partnership initiatives which TANGO was working on that focus on the TRRC, Ms Bakurin reminded delegates that “we have a post TRRC Road Map which CSOs are working on the implementation has started so this timely to work together as a team”. The CSO Leader welcomed the MoJ initiative which she believes “is a very good move and in the right direction”.
“We are happy that Government has seen it fit to work with us particularly today during these three days the MoJ will launch the CSO Platform this,” said the TANGO Executive Director.
Minister of Justice Lauds MOJ and CSO Partnership
In his opening remarks, the Minister of Justice Hon Dawda A. Jallow recalled that “CSOs were one of the beacons of hope during the 22-year dictatorship and played a very important role as partners in the Transitional Justice process. This partnership needs to be encouraged and strengthened as we find ourselves on the verge of the implementation process”.
“Admittedly CSOs and Government have not always had a rosy relationship, even more true given our history, be that as it may, one thing we can all agree on is that when Government and CSOs work together the benefit to society is immeasurable. The elaboration of coordination frameworks and exploring ways of coordinating our activities towards the attainment of our common goals cannot be overemphasised,” said the Justice Minister.
Hon Jallow further enthused that the “workshop is therefore very timely and highly applauded”. He elaborated on the three different platforms that the Government has set up to strengthen coordination between the Ministry, CSOs, Donor Partners and Victim Led Organisations.
The first framework is the MOJ-Partnership platform which aims to coordinate major partners and donors while the second framework is “the MoJ-Victim led Organisation Townhall which is a consultative forum for the Ministry and victims to meet in an intimate space and discuss matters beneficial to the overall implementation of the recommendations stemming from the TRRC Report”.
The third framework is the MoJ-CSO Platform which is explained by the event facilitator who chaired the panel sessions.
Transitional Justice Process Not Just for MoJ and CSOs
Moderator Mr Imran Darboe worked for the TRRC and now works for the MoJ. Mr Darboe, a lawyer by profession was responsible for drafting some of the TRRC Report’s Volumes. However, on this day he was speaking as a facilitator of the event.
Speaking on the aim of the initiative being launched Mr Darboe noted that “it’s a coordination platform where the MoJ in its role will also engage with the civil society organizations who have been active in the Transitional Justice process to come up and plan the process of implementation and then work on how we can all basically implement this together because it’s not only for the state and it’s not only for civil society as well”.
Our reporter questioned Mr Darboe if the initiative aims to cover communication gaps that marred the Transitional Justice process such as incomplete payment of Reparations and the Sanna Sabally Amnesty. Victims started receiving Reparations in 2021, however, the process hasn’t been concluded and some Perpetrators were given Amnesty which saw a backlash from the Victims.
Mr Darboe explained that “transitional justice by its nature requires compromises in certain situations, but if I don’t communicate with you clearly then there is no compromise because you’ve just made a decision which I don’t agree with. But usually, if I contact you prior to making a decision you can understand my perspective and we can find common ground and this platform is aiming to do that now moving forward with the implementation even the planning for the white paper”.
Not ending there Mr Darboe outlines how the process continues on “from the white paper to implementation. We’re trying to see how everybody can work together moving in one direction civil society victims and the Ministry of Justice and other government stakeholders. You can see the Human Rights Commission was here and the Gambia Bar Association and other stakeholders as well”.