By Musa Bah
First off, it should be understood that this write-up is premised on two facts: One, that we (as a nation) are one people, one family with one destiny. The Gambia is such a small country that we are all interrelated and/or interconnected in one way or the other. Thus, there is no question of ‘us’ and ‘them’.
Two; that the entire Gambia is one huge crime scene as Comrade Nyang Njie keeps saying. There is hardly a family in this country that has not been touched by the various human rights violations that have rocked the nation. Almost everyone was affected in one way or the other.
It is based on these two fundamental facts that the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) should be viewed. The overarching objective is to effect reconciliation to enable us move on as a nation; to be able to say, with sincerity, Never Again! In order to achieve these important goals, we must endeavor as much as possible to view the goings-on at the TRRC as objectively as possible.
We must remember the cycle that has been created by the actions of many people during the reign of the previous regime. Some people were victims and perpetrators and back to victims. Others were perpetrators who turned victim and reverted to perpetrators. Many there were who inadvertently became either victim or perpetrator without willingly being part of any wrongdoing.
In a maze like this, it is difficult for someone to completely avoid being influenced by emotions; sometimes, no matter how professional one is. It is for this reason that the Commission is made up of a group of people who are as divergent as practically possible so that one can guard against the possible bias(es) or emotion(s) of the other if the need ever arises.
Thus, sometimes it is understandable that the Lead Council or one of his Deputies can and may be swayed by emotions. After all, they are human and are not immune to anger or annoyance at one point in time or another. I am not saying that this is what is happening; but, it is a possibility, even if not all the time or intentionally.
Therefore, saying that the witnesses should be given a fair treatment is not being insensitive or condoning what the perpetrators have done. It simply calls on us all to make efforts to not lose our humanity in the process of seeking the truth. We must not allow ourselves to be ‘like the ones we are fighting’. Otherwise, the purpose would be defeated and we will never attain our desired reconciliation or effect the Never Again slogan. We must rise above the emotions and realize that Lead Council Essa Faal or his deputies are human after all. They can err but there is a system in place to guard against that.
Take this particular exchange into account and weigh it considering what is going on. Prior to discussing the arrest and detention of former vice chairperson, Sana Sabally, for allegedly plotting a coup, Essa asked the following (I may be paraphrasing sometimes):
Essa:”How will you characterize your relationship with Sna?”
Edward: “Well, we had a good relationship but two things happened and to change that.”
Essa: “Can you tell us about that?”
Edward: “First, it was about a car… I was away and he sent for the car key. He was told that it was with my mother who declined giving it to him in my absence.”
Essa: “What happened next?”
Edward: “…. he threatened to arrest my mother… I had to cut my trip short and come home to reassure my family.”
Essa: “That created bad blood between you.”
Edward: “I wouldn’t call it bad blood; I would call it a rift.”
Essa: “Any way, this caused deep seated anger and resentment towards him…”
Edward: “No, because he apologized and we made up but my trust in him had dwindled.”
Essa: “But you were still angry, weren’t you?”
Edward: “No, as I said, he apologized and we made up. He was still my colleague and superior. If we were to go to battle, I would still have fought alongside him as a loyal soldier and gladly followed his command as my commander.”
Essa: “And stick a knife at him should an opportunity present itself?”
Edward: “Sir, I take exception to that. That one is expensive. I know what you are doing.”
At this point, even a layman like myself saw what was coming. Essa was preparing the ground to show why, in his eyes, Edward betrayed Sana and helped arrest him. As far as I am concerned, this was an unfair comment. Essa is not the judge and jury. His job is to elicit the truth and leave it to the commissioners to decide who was truthful or otherwise in light of other testimonies and evidence.
Inasmuch as we want the truth, we do not want to or have to compromise our human values of justice, fairness and compassion. Otherwise, we would be guilty of the same thing we are accusing these perpetrators of.
By all means get to the truth and get justice (where applicable) for the victims and compensation (where applicable) and ultimately reconciliation. And most importantly, always keep the victims in mind.
We must not lose our humanity in this process.