By Abdoulie John
The first witness to testify before The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) Tuesday ended his testimony with an emotional closing argument that left the audience in tears.
Former Police Chief Ismaila Chongan had overcome a long-held grievance to preach forgiveness.
“I am happy to wear the badge of honour after having been tortured, abused, victimised for defending the constitution of my motherland,” Mr. Chongan said. Chongan delivered the emotional statement after the Commission’s lead counsel, Ensa Faal, accorded him the chance to give his final argument.
The much-awaited Inquiry Panel started its sittings on January 7 with a former top officer of the country’s security forces detailing the circumstances that led to the overthrow in July 1994 of President Dawda Jawara’s three-decade long democratic rule. Chongan gave an insightful account of the tribulations he had gone through for standing up against illegality.
He expressed hope that government and Gambians in their entirety would learn some lessons from his testimony and avoid committing the same mistakes from the past.
While making it very clear that he is not solliciting pity from his fellow citizens, Chongan said his primary objective was to show the “callous nature of the Yahya Jammeh regime and how sticking to the thruth will eventually prevail.”
The Gambia is still recovering from 22 years of the Jammeh dictatorship marked by arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings.
Mr. Chongan seized made a submission, requesting the government to retire him honourably.
“I have no interest in putting up uniform anymore, but I believe I should be retired honourably and paid my dues,” he disclosed while indicating that most of his colleagues who abdicated their responsibility to follow illegality have been paid their dues.
Chongan urged Gambians to be honest, and have honest discussion to know the type of citizens and The Gambia we have.
“We should fight tribalism, nepotism, corruption and mediocrity,” he said. “We should hold people accountable and not encourage impunity in our society.”
Chongan has decided to voluntary embark on the path to forgiveness, which is why he is displaying a great ability to move on and clear his emotional space.
He said he was not angry about what happened, but remains proud of decision to defend a democratically elected government.
Chongan’s preaching of forgiveness is borne out of an inspiration he had inherited from his great grand father, the venerable Hadimmu Rassul (Serign Touba).
“Serign Touba came back from exile after seven years and forgave everybody. I have forgiven everybody,” he voiced out. But he was quick to add that it is important for the truth to be told about what appeared to be a dramatic episode of Gambia’s political history.
In re-echoing TRRC’s Never Again Campaign, Chongan warned Gambians against allowing hypocrisy to continue taking shape in the country. “It can only succeed if we are not honest to ourselves,” he remarked.