By Madi Jobarteh
It is now 5 days since the TRRC submitted its final report to the President, yet that event has not generated much talk in the ongoing political discourse at campaign rallies of all candidates as one would have expected. It is noted that the law gives the President 30 days from the day of submission within which to make the report first available to the National Assembly and the UN, and then share either the full report or summaries with citizens. Furthermore, the law gives the President up to 6 months to prepare his response to the report in a so-called white paper laying out his plans for implementation of its recommendations.
Be that as it may, nothing however stops the President and the other presidential candidates and indeed the rest of the citizens to speak to the TRRC and transitional justice as a whole given their importance to the destiny of this country. Fundamentally, any form of system change or reforms one intends to do in this country cannot but respond to transitional justice. Whether it is about a new constitution, change or creation of new laws or reform of institutions among others, transitional justice is the bedrock upon which this country can redeem itself socially, economically and politically if we are to ensure lasting and durable peace, reconciliation and progress.
For that reason, it is therefore utterly concerning that when the TRRC Report was given to Pres. Barrow, he failed to speak to the very heart of the issue. In his address, the President rather threw himself all the way to Rwanda where he referred to their ‘Gacaca’ courts. He then went on to speak about reparations and reconciliation, and only asked for citizens to be patient as “justice will prevail”.
What can be gleaned from the President’s speech is that he wants to subvert the course of transitional justice by downplaying the very reason why TRRC was set up. In other words, Prs. Barrow is not determined to ensure justice and accountability for the 22-year bloody reign of terror of the APRC regime led by the Tinpot Dictator Yaya Jammeh. Rather, Barrow intends to ignore the TRRC Recommendations in the name of his self-imposed confused understanding of reconciliation which he chose to ignorantly align with the ‘Gacaca’ courts in the context of the Rwanda genocide.
Therefore, let me educate Pres. Barrow to realise that the ‘Gacaca’ courts is the traditional form of community-based courts were a mechanism for truth seeking and justice. Through this mechanism, genocide criminals were tried by first making perpetrators confess to the truth and take ownership of their crimes and then promoting forgiveness by victims leading to reconciliation. While those who bear the greatest responsibility for that genocide were sent to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania, the ‘Gacaca’ courts also tried more than one million perpetrators who served as the foot soldiers of the genocide. Hence the ‘Gacaca’ courts were not a place of merrymaking.
Therefore if Pres. Barrow should talk about the ‘Gacaca’ courts, he must know the facts and be honest to them rather than seeking to trumpet it in a way that could undermine the entire transitional justice process. It must be recognised that the Gambia did not encounter a genocide or tribal conflict. The regime of Yaya Jammeh was not about one tribe against another. Rather this was a state-sponsored terrorism against all Gambians, regardless of tribe, religion, region or sex, among others. Hence the Gambian context is not the same as or even similar to the Rwanda story so that one can easily mix the two.
Furthermore, even if the President is to make reference to the ‘Gacaca’ court system in Rwanda, he cannot wilfully ignore the fundamental fact of that system which rested on the duty of the perpetrator to expose the truth and confess to his or her crime. Of course, Yaya Jammeh, APRC as a party and its leadership as well as the rank and file supporters have always vehemently denied any attempt to expose the truth and take responsibility. Rather the entire APRC machinery continues to ridicule the transitional justice process and the TRRC in particular.
To show their recalcitrance, we know that all APRC NAMs voted against the draft constitution in 2020 on the basis that they were protecting the so-called Yaya Jammeh Constitution 1997. We have also seen the APRC protest on two occasions: first, by calling for the return of Yaya Jammeh as a free man with the status of an ex-president and statesman, and second, by marching in the capital city calling for the disregard of the TRRC Report as toilet paper.
Therefore, how does Pres. Barrow envisage reconciliation to occur when the perpetrator is refusing the truth and taking responsibility? Didn’t we see Yaya Jammeh and hard-core unrepentant loyalists abandon Barrow and NPP while the Tyrant continues to inject tribal venom into the political discourse at this most critical time? But the fact that Barrow himself went ahead to first of all seek an alliance with APRC and then visit Jammeh Kunda in Kanilai in the name of his confused idea of reconciliation highlights that Barrow either does not seem to understand from where the Gambia came and therefore where it needs to go.
To therefore remind Adama Barrow and his Vice President Isatou Touray as well as his entire Cabinet, advisors and the members of his alliance including party leaders such as OJ, Hamat Bah, and Henry Gomez about what Yaya Jammeh and the APRC Regime did to the country and her citizens, here is a link to a great production by Journalist Sheriff Bojang Jnr to remind Barrow and his Coalition partners what their fellow citizens went through between 1994 and 2017 – A Nation Bleeding: Echoes of Gambian Dictatorship – https://soundcloud.com/user3940351/a-nation-bleeding-echoes-of-gambian-dictatorship.
Hopefully, Barrow and his unholy alliance members will have some conscience to abandon their evil alliance with the APRC and rather dedicate themselves to true transitional justice and the full implementation of the TRRC Report.
For the Gambia Our Homeland