Response to Dr. Omar Janneh’s Article titled ‘Objections to some of the appointments of the intended commissioners of the TRRC’

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RESPONSE TO DR. OMAR JANNEH’S ARTICLE ENTITLED “OBJECTIONS TO SOME OF THE APPOINTMENTS OF THE INTENDED COMMISSIONERS OF THE TRRC”

Reference is made to the article by Dr. Omar Janneh entitled “Objections to Some of the Appointments of the Intended Commissioners of the TRRC” and widely published in the print and social media.  I thank Mr. Janneh for exercising his right to object to any person mentioned in the list in adherence to the notice by the Ministry of Justice that “any member of the public who has any objection to the appointment of any person the list should indicate his or her objection with reasons through a letter addressed to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice not later than 30 August 2018”.

In his objection Dr. Omar Janneh has focused his dissension to the list on Mrs Adelaide Sosseh whom he accuses of being conflicted three times.  I want to disagree with Dr. Janneh on all three points.

  1. She has been a vocal critic of Dictator Jammeh. If this is a case for disqualification then we have to look at the case of South Africa where both the chair and the deputy of the TRC were both vocal and globally renowned opponents of apartheid.  This did not prevent Nelson Mandela from appointing Archbishop Desmond Tutu as chairperson of the South African TRC set up in 1995 and Dr. Alex Boraine as his deputy.  This did not prevent them from carrying out their task honourably for the South African TRC is hailed globally as a successful and innovative model of TRCs, for building peace and justice and for holding accountable those guilty of human rights violations and for laying the foundation for building reconciliation among all South Africans.  The fact that Mrs. Sosseh was able to stand up and speak out against Jammeh when so many others were afraid to do so indicates that she has the moral fibre to distinguish between what is wrong and right and what is injustice and what is unacceptable and should never be condoned. 
  1. Her daughter Ndey Tapha Sosseh has been a solid critic of Jammeh and until recently was living in exile. Ndey Tapha is one among thousands of Gambians who lived in exile all for different reasons other than the Deyda Hydara case.  Should this case debar Mrs. Sosseh from listening to the narratives of other victims and investigating a past history of violations of human rights in this country?  I think not. Her daughter being a staunch opponent of the dictator and his regime in no way constitutes a “conflict.” What you are saying is that Mrs. Sosseh is incapable of making moral and objective judgments. I can state here that the mother- daughter relationship that you refer to does not in any way constitute “conflict” for her, for even when her daughter was in exile she was working with the APRC in various platforms through her networking and advocacy campaigns and never once did she exclude any of them from her work because they were APRC.
  1. We may also be able to say with certainty that Mrs. Sosseh is a UDP supporter

For her being a UDP supporter you said you can “say with some certainty that Ms. Adelaide Sosseh Gaye is a UDP supporter which may make her unsuitable for appointment as a Commissioner of the TRRC under the TRRC Act, 2017; 5(3)(a).” I can publicly refute this statement.  To be a supporter is different from being a member and the TRRC Act says categorically “if s/he is known to be actively involved in a political party” which again is not the same as a supporter, which she is not.

Having known Adelaide Sosseh since 1965, when I was going to secondary school- and through to college and up till now, I can safely vouch that she has not been a member of any political party and is not involved in any. She has always and continues to be apolitical. But that does not negate the fact the she stands up to injustice of any form and to any one for that matter. I recall her stance when Lawyer Mariam Denton was arrested or when the 6 Newspaper Editors were detained and imprisoned in 2006 and how she mobilized moral support for these gallant women and men. She was also a founder member of the Human Rights Defenders set up after the April 2000 incident when the students were mercilessly gunned downed.  And these acts do not constitute being a member or supporters of a political party.

I reiterate that Mrs. Adelaide Sosseh does not engage in partisan politics.  She does not belong to any political party and has always encouraged those working with her to desist from such practices as she believes that it may interfere with her principles of inclusion, impartiality and objectivity.

With reference to some of the other points raised Dr. Janneh states that ” there is no judicial expertise (5) on the proposed list of commissioners”.  I would like to draw his  attention to the fact that a  TRC is essentially a non-judicial body, which is set up to investigate the past to determine the full extent of past human rights abuses through truth-telling public hearings. It holds perpetrators of past violations accountable, promotes reconciliation, makes recommendations on reparations, memorializes victims, survivors or historical events and makes proposals for institutional reforms designed to prevent future abuses.

There are several case studies of TRCs that one can draw lessons from and apply to the Gambian TRRC.  From the period 1995 to date Africa has seen its fair share of Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs).  These include South Africa (1995), Sierra Leone (2002), East Timor (2002), Ghana (2003), Liberia (2004), Uganda (2004), Burundi (2005), Democratic Republic of Congo (2005/6), Kenya (2008), Côte d’Ivoire (2011),  and Togo (2009) to name a few.  The most significant of these truth commissions was however, the South African TRC, which in many respects marked the high-water mark for truth commissions generally.  I would also like to point out that our situation is not the same as those countries mentioned by Dr. Janneh.  Liberia and Sierra Leone went through a brutal war while Kenya and South Africa both had ethnic conflicts and apartheid regime respectively and so the we can safely say ours is unique as it was perpetrated by a dictatorship (individual) even though we can argue that there were enablers.  We can therefore say that The Gambia can establish its own form of TRRC that it wants to use to ensure that “Never Again” will this happen in our beloved land.

Regarding the geographical spread (1) all the regions are represented.  And has been stated there was a call for nominations.  None of the nominees nominated themselves.

I therefore endorsed the nomination of all the proposed commissioners as I have seen no “conflict” in any of them to serve in the TRRC.

Matarr S Baldeh

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