By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
During the 64th Sumit of the Heads of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) earlier this week The Gambia’s President Adama Barrow thanked ECOWAS for the continued stay of ECOMIG Forces and insisted that the implementation of the TRRC Recommendations is on course.
The final communique of the ECOWAS summit details that it was held on Sunday 10th December 2023 in Abuja, Nigeria, led by President Bola Tinubu. Amongst those in attendance were the Presidents of Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo. Meanwhile, the Vice President of Ivory Coast, the Prime Minister of Niger and the Minster of Foreign Affairs for Benin, Senegal and Cape Verde were also in attendance for their country.
Our review of the ECOWAS Communique and President Adama Barrow’s speech at the summit highlights some of the salient matters raised concerning The Gambia. ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia (ECOMIG) is a military force which was invited into the country after former President Yahya Jammeh failed to hand over power to current President Adama Barrow. Back in January 2017, the first thing newly sworn-in President Barrow did was to invite ECOMIG into The Gambia to affect his handover and eventually facilitate former President Jammeh’s exile. Six years later, ECOMIG Forces are still in the country and will continue to remain until the end of 2024.
After the new Barrow Government came into power, they instituted a Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to investigate all the excess human rights violations that occurred during the leadership of former President Jammeh from 1994 to January 2017. The Commission completed its work and submitted its recommendations and report to President Barrow in 2021 which recommended reparations to victims and prosecution of perpetrators considered most responsible for crimes committed during the previous regime.
According to the ECOWAS Communique, “the Authority urges the Government and stakeholders to expedite the adoption of a new Constitution, ahead of the 2026 general elections, as well as the implementation of the White Paper on the recommendations of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission”.
The Constitution was voted out of Parliament by members of the Fifth Legislature back in 2020 after over D120 million was spent in developing it through the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC). Unfortunately, President Adama Barrow’s statement didn’t shed light on the Draft Constitution, however, it has been widely reported in the media that the Constitution will be tabled in Parliament to allow for a referendum before the end of 2024.
President Barrow’s speech touched on the TRRC as he tried “to reassure [the] Summit that [his government is] devoted to implementing reform programmes that enhance effective performance, operational efficiency, and judicious financial management to attain our national goals and targets. Importantly also, implementation of the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparation Commission (TRRC) recommendations is on course”.
However, back in The Gambia, there has been a series of questions raised by Parliamentarians and Civil Society Advocates on the Government’s implementation of the TRRC which is not on track with the timelines stipulated in the TRRC’s Implementation Plan.
Another issue raised by the ECOWAS Authority was to “extend the mandate of the ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia (ECOMIG) for one year and instruct the Mission to continue to support The Gambia in the implementation of the White Paper and needed Defence and Security Sector Reforms”.
In response to this statement by the ECOWAS, President Barrow’s speech notes that his “government continues to work, in consultation with all stakeholders, to nurture and safeguard the existing peaceful and stable environment in The Gambia. To achieve this objective, we place high priority on our ongoing reform programmes, including the Security Sector Reform (SSR), transitional justice agenda, and promotion of the rule of law. In view of this, [his] Government renews its commitment to work with the ECOWAS Commission in fast-tracking the SSR”.
President Barrow then seized the “opportunity to thank ECOWAS, ECOMIG Mission and Troop contributing countries and partners for the support in maintaining peace and stability in The Gambia. Also, I encourage you to accompany us in our efforts for sustainable peace and security in the Smiling Coast”.