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The Victims Center on Monday 20th January 2020 held a press conference “strongly recommending that the Government imposes a ban or suspend the APRC party, until such time that the on-going TRRC is concluded”. The Center which provides a platform for victims of former President Yaya Jammeh also seized the opportunity to inform all well-wishers of their “peaceful March for Justice to pressurize the Gambia Government to prosecute the former President Yaya Jammeh”.
The Gambia’s second President Yaya Jammeh came into power via a Coup in 1994 spearheaded by the Armed Forces Provisional Party (AFPRC) which was later re branded as the Association for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), and clinged unto power for 22 years. One of the first actions of the AFPRC Junta was to suspend the activities of the sitting first President Sir Dawda Jawara’s party named People’s Progressive Party (PPP) which had ruled the country for three decades.
Press Conference to give Victims a Platform
Mr Kebba Jome, Head of Program for the Victim Center, chaired the press conference and laid out the purpose of the event which was “to make sure the voices of the victims are heard by the government, by the CSOs and the International Community as well as the various stakeholders we are working with.” In addition to that, Mr Adama Jallow, National Coordinator of the Victims Center, highlighted that the “press conference is as a result of the permit issued by the Inspector General of Police to the APRC Party to stage a protest demanding the return of the former President Yaya Jammeh.” Buttressing this point Mr Jome stated that “all genuine Gambians are against” the APRC protest and not just the victims.
Mr Jallow stressed that they have been “consistently working to ensure that Victims are not retraumatised by the Transitional Justice process”. In his view the “protest was not just a mockery to the victims but all Gambians and non-Gambians alike. It was highly inconsiderate and insensitive to the suffering that victims went through in the Jammeh rule. By giving the APRC a permit to demand the return of Jammeh, they have been allowed to undermine all the Transitional Justice process in the Gambia. The Gambia Center for Victims Human Rights Violations will never sit back and allow Victims of the 22 years Jammeh’s rule to be mocked at.”
March for Justice, calling all “genuine Gambians”
Mr Kebba Jome seized the opportunity to inform the media “we are organising a March for Justice this Saturday on the 25th of January which should start from Westfield and will end at the Bufferzone where speeches will be made and we’ll deliver our petition and our demands to the Government’s representatives. We call upon everybody, all the media houses, all the victims and all genuine Gambians to support this gesture.”
- The march will commence at 8am and conclude at 1pm
When questioned on what Mr Kebba Jome meant by the term “genuine Gambians” which he used twice at the Press Conference he explained that “when we say genuine Gambians, we presume that the protest that happened last Sunday is a mockery because the same party that committed all the violations that we are crying off today are allowed to come out to protest to say that the main perpetrator, the former head of State Yaya Jammeh, they are demanding for him to come back and live in the Gambia as a free citizen”.
“To us it’s a mockery. That is why we say we deserve the support of genuine Gambians. People who are against Jammeh coming to live here as a free man just as an ordinary citizen. Things have gone beyond that. The testimonies at the TRRC are evidence enough to show that yes we need justice, the victims need justice. We cannot be fighting for justice at the same time APRC is coming to provoke us.”
Suspend APRC to allow Transitional Justice to Conclude
Responding to questions on what grounds the Victim Center is calling for the suspension of former President Jammeh’s APRC Party, Mr Jome explained that “we are not saying let them be banned forever but for the time being let them suspend APRC because when the APRC/ AFPRC government came into power they banned PPP after they overthrew. After some time, PPP came back into the Political arena. So, this is exactly what we are demanding for. Let them suspend the APRC, give time to the TRRC and other transitional Justice’s to conclude. Then they can lift the ban for them to come back.”
“Investigations cannot be going on and the same time they are mocking people. This is why we are requesting for the ban of the APRC.” Mr Kebba Jome
Dr Scattred Janneh, representing CSOs provided supplementary explanations highlighting that “ordinarily, I don’t think anyone is opposed to the APRC carrying out its activities as any other Political party, but we feel that calling on Yaya Jammeh to return and denying that any atrocities had happened under his regime is a threat to our peace and stability. It’s a threat to peace. Even if it’s allowed to continue to operate which may be alright it has to be within certain bounds. If you allow the APRC to engage in the type of activity and they get emboldened that could get other sides to rise up and it would be a threat to our national security.”
“So even if they can operate like any other party, getting support and trying to get candidates to win electoral victory, that may be fine but there has to be some boundary. We feel the type of activity they engage in is a threat.”
“If we had advance information about the permit being issued to them, we would have organised a counter demonstration because there is no way victims and Civil Society groups are going to allow a return to the status quo until where we will all end up in exile.” Dr Scattred Janneh