TRC: Who’s Reconciling With Who?

Is former VP Isatou Njie-Saidy too a victim?

Foday Samateh has once again penned a brilliant article. He hit the nail on the head when he implied that very few people were responsible for human rights violations in Yahya Jammeh’s Gambia. The vast majority of security forces were not directly involved in the tortures or killings, so the idea of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) is a vague therapeutic process. It’s unrealistic and costly, especially if you consider the economic and therapeutic/health perspective of the program. The first step of any meaningful reconciliation is for people to accept personal responsibility of their action before going through rehabilitation or behavioural cleansing process. The goal is to help these people go through a rebirth.

The success of this process remains murky in the Gambia where people, particularly government officials, rarely take personal responsibility for their failures or crimes. What is the essence of having the TRC when those who perpetrated or committed atrocities would not be willing to own responsibility? Who among the dirty hands is willing to voluntarily wash their dirty linen in public in a society where everyone knows everyone? Only a tribunal or courts will compel the dirty hands to cough out.

Even Madam Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy does not muster the courage to accept any responsibility for the crimes of a government she had served for two decades. Who has heard her offer an apology to the victims and families of April bloody student protest? The reality is that Yahya Jammeh did not commit all these​ atrocities by himself. He relied on people who would remain in hiding unless they are forced out. If the people who wrong others do not come out, then who is going to reconcile with who?

Isatou Njie-Saidy should be arrested and tried for aiding and abetting atrocity. She has no excuse. We do not need TRC at the moment because so many self-proclaimed or false victims are ready to hijack the Commission. All we need to do is to arrest all the criminals and take them to courts since they are very small number of people. Gambian people will learn what really happens if GRTS does a proper job of educating the people. We need an open court where GRTS can cover the court proceedings for the entire country. Currently we have people who want to use the TRC for employment opportunities. The resources that will be used for the TRC can be diverted to upgrade the university, college, and high schools or improve the education system. Massive media sensitization is far better than the TRC. Using Sarjo Barrow and other news readers in local languages will be better than TRC. In fact, the coalition agreement does not ask for punishment of killers or human rights abusers, then justice part of TRC is vague.
What’s amazing is that every Gambian now seems to portray themselves as Jammeh’s victims. I don’t buy into it at all. Jammeh’s ministers are claiming to be victims and some people even believe that the Vice President too is a victim because she was held hostage by Jammeh.




  1. Foday Samateh

    Max, your brief and succinct piece reinforced the gist of the matter. Much better, I must say, than mine. Thanks once again.

    • Thank you Mr Samateh for your continued enlightenment. Hopefully they are reading your brilliant piece.