By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) postponed the submission of its final Report and Recommendations to President Adama Barrow from the end of July to the end of September 2021. This article features the views of key stakeholders such as the Chairperson of the Victim Center, a TRRC victim, a gender advocate and the Chairperson of the Gambia’s umbrella CSO on the Government’s decision to postpone the submission of the report.
The TRRC is an independent commission enacted by Gambian Parliamentarians to investigate the human rights violations of former President Yahya Jammeh and his regime from 1994 to 2016.
Stakeholders React to TRRC Postponement
The Gambia’s Victim Center is undoubtedly one of the key stakeholders of the Transitional Justice process as they continue to spearhead efforts to organise victims under one platform. We conducted an interview with the Chairperson of the Victim Center, Mr Sheriff Kijera, who told Gainako that “the postponement of the TRRC submission on the final report and recommendations was due to the fact that the report was not ready on time”.
According to Mr Kijera the postponement of the report “is not a big issue for the Victims Center as far as we are concerned, we want the TRRC to do justice to the report that they are going to present to the President. I think it will be appropriate that they have as much time as they can to show that they can write a proper report and then submit to the President”.
The Chairperson of Gambia’s umbrella Civil Society Organisation, Mr John Charles Njie of Tango also believes that the postponement was necessary. According to Mr Njie “taking into consideration the fact that the work has not yet been completed. It is important that the TRRC takes its time to do a very good and diligent work”.
In his view “all the hard work over the years cannot be jeopardised by them being in a hurry to submit a report. We want to have a well-detailed report that the whole nation can be proud of”.
Gender and victim empowerment advocate, Ms Priscilla Yagu Ciesay who is a co-founder of the Women’s Association for Victims’ Empowerment (WAVE) opined that the submission “was postponed due to exigencies and that they will deliver under the revised timelines”. Her message was quite similar to TANGO and the Victim’s Center’s desire for the TRRC to “do justice” by preparing a “detailed” report.
Sharing a different perspective, Yusupha Mbye who testified at the TRRC’s public hearing believes the postponement should have been avoided. At the TRRC Yusupha narrated how security officers fired a bullet in his spinal cord, rendering him wheelchair-bound since 10th April 2000.
Yusupha returned his first reparations payment of D19,000 to the Commission. This was after the TRRC made efforts to treat Yusupha and three others during the interim reparations process which saw D13 million spent on four victims. However, Yusupha returned to the Gambia without any major operation or treatment.
According to Mr Mbye the submission of the TRRC’s final report and recommendations “should not to be postponed because the year is almost done and the election is coming soon so everything should be done before the election”.
“TRRC are Doing a Good Job,” says Victim Center
Still, on the topic of the postponement of the TRRC’s Report to the President, Mr Kijera explained that “as far as the TRRC are doing a good job and they would do justice to the report they will submit to the President” then the postponement would be necessitated. In his view, the Victim Centre’s “main concern is the implementation of the TRRC’s final report and recommendation”.
Mr Kijera heaped further praise on the Commission when he said the TRRC “have succeeded in a great part of the truth-seeking process because we know about the truth about the human rights violations repeated during the Jammeh era. So far so good, they have done a great job and I know it is quite a daunting task, it is not easy. The work is overwhelming and one has to commend them for doing a great job. Both the Commissioners, the Lead Counsel and his team and the Research and Investigation Department and the Victims Support Unit”.
Mr Kijera encouraged the public and donors to support the Reparations process; “reparations have started being paid. I know it is quite challenging but we all have to chip in to make sure that the process is well implemented” he said.
On the delayed report the Head of Programs for the International Center for Transitional Justice Didier Gbery highlighted that “revealing the truth and setting up the narrative of a country’s history is not an easy task, and the international experiences show that most countries that went through the truth-seeking exercise had to extend the mandate of their commission at least one time. So, it is not new neither a sign of failure. On the contrary, it demonstrates the weight and importance of the work and I think it is better for the commission to take the necessary time to achieve a good comprehensive report and recommendations than, being in a hurry”.
On the importance of the upcoming Elections, Mr Gbery opined that it “could be seen as a threat, but instead, stakeholders should build on it to make sure that the Transitional Justice process is not drawn by the election but be considered as a key issue in the political debate. This will strengthen the new democracy and ensure a more peaceful future for all Gambians”.