By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Gambia’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ) released a statement on 16th October 2021 pledging D150 million to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) as reparations to victims via the 2022 Budget. However, with over half of 2022 gone the MoJ is yet to effect reparation payments to victims since it paid D50 million to the Victims Fund in October 2019. More importantly, the MoJ is yet to establish an independent body via the Reparations Bill to continue the work of paying reparations to victims.
Compensation is only one form of reparation out of a number of different options for reparations which can be as simple as an apology from a perpetrator to a victim, it may be an admission of guilt and for some families, it may be closure to know where their disappeared family members remain rest or even how they were killed.
It can be recalled that the D150 Million pledge was issued on the same day that Victims and Supporters held a “Never Again” march which featured speeches by Victims and various Civil Society actors at the Westfield Youth Monument.
The TRRC is a Commission enacted to investigate the human rights violations that occurred under the leadership of former President Yahya Jammeh which lasted from 1994 to 2016. The TRRC Recommendations and Report were submitted to President Adama Barrow in late November 2021 and followed up with the Government’s White Paper detailing how the TRRC Recommendations will be implemented. This was released on 25th May 2022.
On the day of the aforementioned launch, a Gainako reporter questioned the Minister of Justice Hon Dawda Jallow to confirm if the D150 million pledged to victims via the 2022 Budget will be paid to victims this year.
Speaking at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Centre Justice Minister Jallow explained that “the [Reparations] Bill is at [the] consultative stage at the moment. If consultation is completed, of course we are ready to table it” at the National Assembly.
“Maybe the consultation that is going on will advise us what we can do in the event that the [Reparations] Bill is not likely to make it through the National Assembly before the end of the year,” added Justice Minister Jallow.
1,010 Victims to be Paid Total of D238.2 million
Gainako has been following the payment of reparations to TRRC Victims from the Interim Reparations phase, to the first round of Reparations Payments announced on 16th July 2021 at the TRRC Headquarters.
Speaking at the press conference announcing the First Round of Reparations (proper), Vice Chairperson of the TRRC and Chair of the Reparations Committee, Ms Adelaide Sosseh explained that the “total Reparations to be paid is D205,820,780“. Further enquiries from our reporter with the TRRC Chair, Lamin J. Sise revealed that the Government will pay a total of D205.8 million to 956 victims and an additional 54 West African Migrants will be paid D32.4 million.
This brings the total number of victims up to 1,010 and the total Funds required for Reparations up to D238.2 million.
Both the TRRC and the MoJ have confirmed that Reparation Payments to the families of the West African migrants will be dealt with by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
When asked if the payments have been disbursed to family members of the West African Migrants, Justice Minister Jallow revealed that “the West African migrant’s reparations payment has not been affected yet. TRRC as part of the interim reparations took payments on. They did not pay anything to them… So, those are some of the residual responsibilities that government has taken over”.
Victims Fund and Reparations Payments
Reviewing all the revenues and expenditures announced on the TRRC’s Victims Fund it can be seen that The Gambia Government donated D50 Million to the Commission for Reparations Payments back in October 2019. This so far represents the only time that the Government has made payments to the Victims Fund so far.
Since then, the TRRC announced that D13 Million was spent on Interim Reparations leaving D37 Million to spend on payment of reparations. If D37 Million is removed from the D238.2 million highlighted above, then D201.2 million will still be outstanding in Reparations Payment to the victims.
Since the July 2021 TRRC announcement on Funds received and disbursed the Commission was eventually dissolved at the start of 2022 and the MoJ has not provided an update on the Funds paid to victims as reparations.
Considering that D201.2 million is still outstanding, even if the Government pays D150 Million into the Victims Fund as promised from the 2022 Budget, D51.2 million will still be outstanding to complete all the Reparation Payments recommended by the TRRC.
A Gainako journalist reiterated his question to the Minister of Justice to confirm if the D150 Million appropriated in the 2022 Budget will be paid to victims within the 2022 Budget Cycle. In response Minister Jallow said that he “can confirm to [our reporter] that [the D150 Million] is budgeted. I’ve been informed by the Ministry of Finance when the new Budget was passed that such amount was earmarked for the victims”.
Justice Minister Jallow added that “if it is ready to be made available to the victims it will be made available. But there is no doubt that Government is committed to work with partners to make sure that victims are adequately compensated. It is an ongoing process so the issue of arrears doesn’t arise”.
Speaking to National Assembly members of the Committee on Human Rights and Constitutional Matters on 22nd June 2022, Justice Minister Jallow revealed that resource constraints are short-term and could become long-term when he said that “in the short time, [our main] challenge is that there are no available short-term resources, and we foresee this to continue to be a long-term challenge too depending on how much support we are going to harness from our development partners.”
This begs the question if TRRC Victims will receive the D150 Million promised to them in July 2021, this year.
This article is supported by the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).