The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRCC), set up to investigate crimes and abuses perpetrated by The Gambia’s erstwhile president, Yahya Jammeh, has recommended the prosecution of the dictator.
Established by an Act in 2017, the TRCC for three years investigated and documented cases of human rights violation against citizens under the 22-year rule of Mr Jammeh.
Mr Jammeh, who lost the 2016 election to the current president, Adama Barrow, had held on to power but had to flee the country for Equatorial Guinea after pressure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Under his rule, there were several reported and unreported cases of extra-judicial killings, rape, disappearances, imprisonments among other grave vices.
In a 172-page report recently released in Banjul, the commission investigated 18 themes including the killing of West African migrants stranded in The Gambia in their attempt to transit to Europe, enforced disappearance, attack on media and political opponents, killing of student demonstrators among others.
Mr Jammeh, alongside several accomplices, was found guilty of most of the allegations and recommended for prosecution.
Student protest/ President’s convoy
In April 2000, students under the umbrella of The Gambia Students Union (GAMSU) took to the streets to protest the killing of a male student by fire officers and the rape of a female student by a security officer at a schools’ sports competition.
The TRCC found that the activities of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) and later, The Gambia National Army (GNA) led to the death of 12 students, a Red Cross volunteer and a toddler who died from gunshot wounds.
Also, 11 people were killed on April 10 when the armed forces first violently engaged the students while three others were killed the following day.
“The evidence revealed that Yahya Jammeh instructed Vice President Isatou Njie Saidy to ‘take care of the bastards in whatever way, in whatever form’. The Commission concludes that these instructions were an order to shoot the student demonstrators,” the report stated.
Apart from having him prosecuted, the commission recommended that Mr Jammeh be banned from holding public office for life.
The TRCC also recommended that the Ministries of Basic and Secondary Education and Tertiary Education should consider declaring April 10 or 11 a school holiday or develop other arrangements to memorialize the sad events and ensure a non-recurrence.
In the section on the reckless speed and driving of presidential convoy, the TRCC found that ‘Yahya Jammeh is responsible for the injuries and/or deaths of (several) persons’ and that ‘members of the President’s and Vice Chairman convoys, including former President Yahya Jammeh, be investigated and prosecuted for murder, manslaughter and other road traffic offences committed by them.’
Reparations for victims
Out of the 1,500 statements received, the commission classified 1,009 people as victims.
As part of its reconciliation and reparation efforts, the TRCC stated that it facilitated the re-entry of 69 students back to school and supported 17 women with entrepreneurial training and funding.
Further, the commission noted that in October 2019, the government of The Gambia through the Ministry of Justice disbursed an initial sum of 50 million Dalasi(D) for reparations, and pledged to provide another D50 million – but more needs to be done.
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It then recommended that the Gambian government, ‘pay the outstanding cost of the pro-rata payments for final Reparations amounting to D168, 820,831 (One hundred and sixty eight million, eight hundred and twenty thousand, eight hundred and thirty one Dalasis) out of a total Reparations bill of which stands at D205, 820,780 (Two hundred and five million, eight hundred and twenty thousand, seven hundred and eight Dalasis).’
The government was also asked to pay D32,400,000 to the West African migrants, mostly Ghanaians, killed on Gambian waters while trying to travel to Europe.
Speaking to journalists including PREMIUM TIMES reporters a few days after his re-election in December, Mr Barrow was dodgy when asked if he would act should the TRCC recommend prosecution of his predecessor.
“It’s not me per se,” he replied when a journalist asked if he would attempt to have Mr Jammeh extradited from exile and prosecute him. “It will depend on what is the recommendation and also, it will depend on my technical team.
“We have to look at the report and the recommendation, with my cabinet and my minister of Justice. They’ll advise us and cabinet will sit around the table…we just want to assure the entire world and Gambians that there would be justice,” he added.
Mr Barrow then said the report would go through some processes, lasting about seven months, before a final draft would be adopted, promising an eventual justice.
“The TRRC is a very important project to me,” he said “It can be part of my legacy as president. But this project and any other project, you have to follow a process. The process is (that) they submitted the report to me, we will look at the report, we’ll make sure we make it public after one month so that me and you can know what is in the report.
“Then not more than six months, we should come out with a white paper but this white paper is not entirely my decision. It will come to cabinet; the cabinet will discuss it. It’s not cabinet alone. We will have technical team that will advise us, after the advice, basically what we agreed on, we will have it on white paper. That white paper will dictate what we accept and what we didn’t accept.
“One thing we want to assure, there will be justice and reconciliation, reparation, it will all happen but we have to be patient.”
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