I submit it will be unjust, unfair and outright disrespectful to suggest any future Accountability exercise by the Gambian people as “witch-hunt”.
ONE THING we all can agree on, whether you are a pro-Jammeh, pro-APRC or not is this: lots of wrongs have been done to the Gambian people for the last 20 plus years. There have been reports of torture, rape, killings, disappearances as well as other misuses and abuses of office and power, not to mention the millions of dollars that were secured and or borrowed in the name of the Gambian people, but were squandered.
NOW, fair enough if there is a regime change through whatever method, be it reconciliation, dialogue, constructive engagement or whatever.
BUT one thing NO ONE must take away from the Gambian people is any future Accountability exercise they will want. And that, my brothers and sisters, is not the decision of any future government. That is the DECISION of the Gambian people, and they can decide or make that decision through a referendum or other mechanisms. And that is a process; it will not happen in one week, one month or two months, it will take few months, or longer.
The international community, as well as regional support, in the form of expertise, manpower and resources, will be sought and forthcoming in any future Accountability exercise by the Gambian people.
Gambians, overseas and at home, will be called upon or subpoenaed to testify or give testimony, or to provide information, documents, evidence, and so on. Whether those Gambians overseas will testify, provide evidence or not is entirely up to them.
Any such Accountability exercise will bring closure and or compensation to the loved ones and families of victims. Of course, many of us are victims of the Jammeh era, one way or the other, but EQUALLY as well, many of us again are perpetrators or contributors to the pain, anguish, havoc and suffering done to the Gambian people, and we must hold ourselves Accountable to the Gambian people for that. FAILURE to do so will not bring the lasting tension-free atmosphere we all want. Beneath this surface of the Jammeh era, there are lots of pain, bitterness, and strong desires of revenge and retribution.
The Gambian people would want to know, and so NO future government must take away from the Gambian people any future exercise of Accountability just because “change of regime” is needed and wanted now or in the near future. The Gambian people would want and demand Accountability for all the wrongs that have been done to her.
We owe the Gambian people that much and we must not take that away from them, lest our future generations will not look favorably on us, and they will judge us and write our history.
The Gambian people can decide whether or not they want any future Accountability exercise or not, and they can do so through REFERENDUM or other commissions. And this, my brothers and sisters, is not a truth commission like it happened in South Africa, or any other similar historical analogies in other countries. Our situation in the Gambia is unique and different from these other historical analogies in other countries, and as such, we MUST face and deal with our own unique situation in our own way, while at the same time learning and drawing from other analogies from other countries as well.
There is too much tension, bitterness, desires of revenge, grudges and other strong sentiments of not knowing, underneath this “Smiling Coast” of Africa called The Gambia, that have been brewing for the last 20 plus years, and the Gambian people would want to know a lot of things, to bring closure and recompense.
That is the least we can assure and give to the Gambian people, and her future generations.
By Abdul Savage
Retired, US Army
Member, Military Order of the Purple Heart
Member, Veterans of Foreign Wars.