By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
The Chairperson of the Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) Dr Lamin J. Sise, revealed that the Commission’s Report will be submitted to the President on 30th July 2021. The Commission “has been liaising with the Attorney General and the Minister of Justice”, and the President’s Office “has given a date of 30th July  when we would meet him and then submit our final report to him” he said.
According to provision 30(1) of TRRC Act 2017, the Government is obliged to “submit a copy [of the report] to the National Assembly, United Nations Secretary-General and” other “organisations as the Minister may determine” within 30 days.
Provision 30(2) of the TRRC Act 2017, further obliges the government to “make copies or summaries of [the report] widely available to the public” when submitted to Parliament. Therefore, it would be prudent for the Minister of Justice to submit the TRRC’s Report to Parliament as soon as reasonably possible and by extension make copies of the report publicly available.
Regardless of when the report will be submitted, Chairperson Sise revealed that one component of the report is “the issue of disappeared individuals” which he says “is also going to be part of the report”. More importantly, is the Commission’s recommendation for an independent body to implement the TRRC’s Report.
Cash Reparations or Urgent Medical Treatment?
The TRRC has commenced paying cash reparations to victims, prompting some victims to voice their preference for alternative forms of reparations, specifically medical treatment. Last week one TRRC witness Yusupha Mbye, almost returned his first instalment of reparations while seeking clarification on his medical condition. Vice-Chair Ms Adelaide Sosseh who also Chairs the TRRC’s Reparations Committee intervened to reassure Yusupha that his “unique” health condition would not be abandoned.
Yusupha has been wheel-chair bound since being shot in his spinal cord by security forces ordered to crack down on students by former President Yahya Jammeh. Yusupha testified at the Commission and narrated how the unfortunate incident occurred on April 10 2000, snatching 21 years of his youthful life. Yusupha is just one of the numerous victims crying for urgent medical treatment.
A previous Gainako publication narrated how Yusupha was part of four patients who had testified at the Commission’s Public Hearings and flown to Turkey in December 2019 for “urgent Interim reparations”. At least three of the patients have spoken to Gainako after their Turkish Medical Trip.
One of the patients, Oumie Jagne was also shot on her elbow during the aforementioned student’s protest and has told Gainako News that her situation has worsened. According to her, fragments of the bullet casings lodged in her elbow were removed during an operation in Turkey. However, since then she has been plagued with serious pain rendering her arm useless. Oumie says before she travelled to Turkey, she could use her arm; however, things have gotten worse for her after her Turkish Medical Trip.
Another patient shot in the knee during the April 10, 2000, students protest, Abdoukarim Jammeh says his mobility has improved since his Turkish Medical Trip. Abdoukarim says he still feels pain. However, his situation has certainly improved and he has been able to walk without crutches.
Yusupha Mbye says he only received physiotherapy while in Turkey and could not receive his planned medical treatment due to the Covid 19 Pandemic. Gainako has been informed that the hospital he was scheduled to receive medical treatment from was being used as a Covid 19 Treatment Center. Unfortunately for Yusupha the Hospital did not resume normal service and the TRRC sent for his return before the conclusion of their mandate.
Unfortunately, efforts to contact the fourth patient, Nogoi Njie were unsuccessful. After talking to three patients who travelled to Turkey with her, Gainako has been informed that she received treatment in Turkey and is improving. So, in summary, two out of four patients have improved after their Turkish Medical Trip.
Vice-Chair Sosseh said the Commission “had set aside D20 million [for urgent interim reparations] but luckily we were only able to spend D13 million.” So far, the TRRC has received D50 million from the Government who has failed to honour its promise for a second payment of D50 million. The Commission has committed to pay over D205 million in reparations and currently requires over D168 to fulfil its outstanding payments.
TRRC’s Legacy, Independent Body
As the TRRC’s mandate comes to a conclusion, victims and those interested in implementing the TRRC Report have been calling for clarity on the independent body tasked to continue the Commission’s work.
Chairperson of the Reparations Committee Ms Adelaide Sosseh narrated a story encapsulating this concern harboured by victims. According to her a victim’s brother came to collect his sister’s reparations and highlighted the good work of the Commission. However, he (the victim’s brother) also requested medical treatment instead of money because his “sister is really suffering”.
To this, Vice-Chair Sosseh explained that “at this point in time, unfortunately, TRRC has ended so we can give the support but it doesn’t mean the TRRC’s work on reparations has ended because the government has announced that they are setting up an independent body to continue the work on Reparations that the TRRC has started.”
In reaction to this, Gainako asked the Commission, if the Gambia’s National Human Rights Commission will continue the work they have started. In response Chairperson Sise said the “independent body is only part of a proposal, they have not finalized their proposal yet as I said, I think they in the process of doing that and then would go to Parliament for that. So, we can’t comment on that. I just told you what the Minister has said to me. You may have to wait a little bit to hear from the Ministry of Justice on that particular point.”