By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Ms Awa Njie, a female victim representative urged the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to deliver justice to victims of human rights violations during the regime of former President Yahya Jammeh. Ms Njie was speaking at the launch of the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) report on opportunities for reparations for survivors of SGBV on November 23rd 2021, just days before the submission of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) to President Adama Barrow.
The report is written in collaboration with the Women’s Association for Victims’ Empowerment (WAVE) and the Civil Society Gender Platform.
Ms Awa Njie is the wife of late Lieutenant “Dot” Faal and also testified at the TRRC. The TRRC is a Truth Commission enacted by Gambian Parliamentarians in 2017 to investigate the human rights violations of former President Yahya Jammeh’s regime. Appearing before the Truth Commission on 27th March 2019, Ms Njie explained how her husband left behind an eight-month-old son. According to Ms Njie, her husband’s house was seized by one Batch Samba Jallow, an Orderly of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) Leader, Edward Singhateh.
Counsel Jeng: MoJ will Reinforce Commitment to Protecting Human Rights
Present at the launch of the report was Ms Bafu Jeng, a Senior State Counsel at the MoJ. Speaking in Wollof Counsel Jeng introduced herself and extended greetings from the MoJ and the Solicitor General’s Office. Counsel Jeng congratulated “those who prepared the report being ICTJ and their partners for a job well done. When the work started the organisations came to meet the MoJ. So, it’s only right for us to come and grace the launching of this project”.
Speaking about the work of the MoJ she noted that “the Ministry of Justice is an institution that focuses on the rights of citizens. When it comes to the rights of citizens, the rights of women and children is a priority”. In that regard Counsel, Jeng pledged that the MoJ will “reinforce its efforts and commitment towards supporting your initiative today”.
Speaking on the formulation of the report Counsel Jeng noted that “it’s very inclusive and has included a lot of stakeholders. When the report is submitted the MoJ will also complement your efforts to promote the rights of women. Especially when it comes to the violation of women and children”.
Awa Njie: Victims Need Justice
Speaking on behalf of female victims who had made significant input in the report, Ms Awa Njie addressed the audience in Wollof and had an important message for the MoJ. She started her message by making reference to popular Gambian Rapper Killa Ace’s performance of “I’m a Victim”.
According to Ms Njie “the silence which has lasted for over 22 years [should come to an end], however, some are not courageous to speak [about their human rights violations]”. One of the reasons that victims of human rights violations refuse to speak up is because some people tell victims that “this has passed and you should forget about it”. Her usual reply to such comments: “it hasn’t happened to you that why you can say that”. In her view, people need to have empathy for victims of human rights violations thereby making it more comfortable for them to break the silence knowing that they will be listened to.
Speaking directly to the MoJ Senior State Counsel Ms Jeng, Ms Njie started by saying “we the victims want justice, we need justice. Madam Jeng, please deliver our message to the Ministry of Justice to support us. Reparations without Justice is not sufficient. Meeting human rights perpetrators everywhere, meeting people who are mocking you all over the country [is really painful]. We are calling on the Ministry of Justice to assist us in getting Justice. We need it desperately”.
Preaching about patience and forgiveness Ms Njie noted that they are both “important and all of us need to have patience, however, to forget is not easy. Before we forgive there must be justice. We can forgive but first, there must be justice. If we get justice, it can appease the victims to forgive”.
Speaking on the issue of reparations Ms Njie explained that “yes, the TRRC has started Reparations [paying victims of human rights violations], some have been paid and others have not been paid. We are hopeful that they will all have reparation”.
“Besides the reparations, our message is for the Ministry of Justice to give us Justice so it can appease our suffering”.
Watch the launching of the ICTJ and partners report on “Opportunities for Reparations for SGBV Victims”.