As a concerned Gambian citizen, I also deserve the right to voice out my opinion on the national discourse. I have to contribute my view on the long overdue Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC). The question that keeps coming to my mind is, do we actually need a TRRC in the Gambian context moreso to uncover and know what exactly transpired under the brutal and heinous regime of the APRC under the leadership of Yahya Jammeh? Do we need a reconciliation commission for the victims of the APRC and Yahya Jammeh? Do we need a reparation commission for the victims of Yahya Jammeh and his APRC? These are the questions I struggle with. The answer to the two above questions according to my opinion is definately NO. But my response to the third question as to whether the victims need reparation is a clear and resounding YES. This is my opinion. In The Gambia, we did not experience civil war or ethnic conflict. Rather we went through a babaric regime that inflicted untold pain on its own innocent citizens – even slaughtering them without a genuine reason. In that vicious process some disappeared without any trace. Some of the innocent and lucky ones were incarcerated for years without a proper legal trial while the less fortunate lost their lives in painful solitary confinements. These are innocent people going about their ordinary businesses, and if they should commit any crime it is about speaking out on the affairs of their country. Countless journalists, military personnel, ordinary civilian and civil servants were either killed, maimed or exiled while media houses got burnt to the ground. All these ugly scenarios took place in The Gambia. It is not like Gambians inflictes pain on their fellow Gambians, it was their own government that persecuted them. The regime of Yahya Jammeh had managed, with the help of some Gambians, to build a killer machine rarely seen in Africa and the world. The nation was held hostage for more than 22 hard years, a situation that created informants everywhere to the extent that fears of death loomed over innocent people. People within and out side of the country were made scared, intimediated and deprived of their inalienable rights to speak their mind. Neighbours were put against neighbours, villages against villages, communities against communities and families against families. This was the magnitude of the crimes of APRC under Yahya Jammeh’s regime. My argument is, if a government that is suppose to protect its own citizens but failed to do so and instead committed the most brutal atrocities against its own. Why then should anyone reconcile with the authorities or people who are responsible? The Gambia is a very small place and society and we still have living witnesses who had documented every single crime of APRC under Yahya Jammeh. There is no doubt whatsoever that a babaric crime had been committed against innocent Gambians and those responsible for that crime should be hunted down, detained and put to trial. This is what should have been taking place during the first two years of our new despensation. Not an upcoming TRRC whose mandate is yet to be spelled out clearly to the public and the victims.
Meanwhile, the irony is that those who have caused the the TRRC to be set up in the first place are today roaming our the streets freely. Some of them are still in the system and are being paid their monthly salary by the government as if nothing had happened. You find this people in the Police Force, the Miltary, Police Intevention Unit and the NIA now State Intelligence Service. The victims on the other hand are more or less left to fend for themselves -economically and medically. A criminal everywhere belongs to a jail after having proven guilty by the courts. Then genuine reconciliation can be chartered. That is better than reconciliation through a commission. It just doesn’t make sense. This is exactly what happens in post-Hitler Germany through the Nuremberg trial of former Nazi leaders. Even today Nazi criminals are being hunted, detained and put to trial for their crimes against humanity. What is different in the Gambian context? I am very mindful of the fact that some may have opposite views or even justify the setting up of a TRRC for the victims of APRC and Yaya Jammeh. I believe the living victims and the families of those killed will welcome actions of arresting and detaining the people who committed the worst crimes The Gambia has ever witnessed. The agony of waiting for justice by the victims is unbearable to the extent that they ask whether justice ever be served for them? It is going up to two years since the new despensation and the TRRC with its snail speed will not sit before the end of this year. Remember, what is in the offer is Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission. Justice, which is very essential here in my view, has been left behind. Hopefully it will not be neglected. What comes to mind again is the case of Yankuba Badjie, former NIA Chief under Yahya Jammeh and the nine others. This case, for some unexplained reason, has been dragging on for almost two years and we are very far from the end. When justice will be served for the late Solo Sandeng? How is the Solo Sandeng trial going to effect the upcoming TRRC? For sure the matter must be heard at the TRRC, because those accused (because they have not been found guilty yet) of torturing and killing Solo Sandeng have to answer to other atrocities at the commission. Do you see the complexity I see in a future TRRC hearings? There is no blame game here. I have confidence in the people leading the TRRC, and without an iota of doubt they are men of impeccable character and integrity. They are up to the job if we indeed need TRRC. Ours (the Gambian context) should have been the State visus a criminal gang, where the members of the gang who committed heinous crimes are persecuted and detained by the State for their crimes. Let’s bear in mind that a long TRRC process dragging on for years and costing millions of both taxpayers’ and donors’ money will only add more agony on the victims and their families.
In conclusion, I am not advocating that we do not need TRRC. I am posing a question if in fact in the Gambian context whether we need a Truth Reconciliation and Reparation Commission to know what transpired under the brutal regime of Yaya Jammeh? I believe we already know who did what, where and why. The evidence and the witnesses are out there. The perpetrators are nothing but criminals who should not be treated otherwise at any TRRC. These criminals must not be allowed to use the venue as a theater room.
Let’s advocate for justice for the untold victims of the APRC and Yaya Jammeh and expose the criminals who are yet to apologize or say sorry to their victims.