By Mamadou Dem
Mr. James Davis, representative of the Christian Community through the Christian Council, said it is prudent to establish the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) in order to know what actually transpired under Jammeh. He said this at the TRRC’s consultation meeting in Banjul yesterday.
“The setting up of the commission is a welcome move because Gambians at home and abroad are anticipating,” said James. However, he was quick to appeal to Gambians to desist from hearsay evidence.
“Some reports of atrocities by Jammeh have been substantiated but some remain unclear. Therefore, it is important and necessary for the truth commission to be setup to enable us get to the bottom of the truth,” he recommended.
“The commission should consist of Muslims, Christian, Solicitors and Accountants respectively,” opined Davis. “I will however emphasise that people testifying before the Commission should only speak the truth but not to be based on hearsay evidence,” he advised.
He finally implored on the people to come out and be bold enough to speak the truth and not to feel shy or ashamed.
Earlier, Mr. Kebba Saidykhan an English teacher in his contribution on the proposed TRRC said “It’s quite important to setup this commission because …from 1994 to 2016, Gambia was the worst country on human rights, essentially, the commission has come at the right time,” said Saidykhan. However, he adduced that evidencing and witnesses are challenges in some of the cases before the court. He therefore appealed to the Minister of justice for measures to be put in place regarding evidence and witnesses as enshrined in the Evidence Act.
Mr. Issacka Sowe suggested that hence the intention of the commission is to settle conflicts, then independent and impartial personalities should be hired in the commission; adding that truthful people such as religious leaders should also be included. “I am also appealing for the commission to be decentralized as others might not be in position to travel to the Greater Banjul Area,” he solicited.
Ansu Jackson said “I want to encourage all of you to come forward because we are in conflict resolutions. We cannot deny the fact that so many atrocities occurred. However, we need to repeal our societies and reunite as one family,” he emphasised.
“People with backgrounds in Psychology, Sociology, Community and religious leaders should be considered in the commission because these people play pivotal roles in re-building society,” said the gentleman.
Honourable Ousman Sillah of Banjul North expressed that the formation of the commission is a good initiative because it will enlighten and educate the future generation about the Gambia. “Everybody was a victim and perpetrator in this country because of the culture of silence,” said the former editor/ politician.
According to Hon. Sillah, there were both direct and indirect victims; adding that the direct victims were those that were physically arrested, abducted and tortured while the indirect victims were those that were psychologically maltreated due to the loss of a family member, friends or loved ones.
He said everybody was an “enabler” because some people were silent and even refused to say the truth to the media in relation to abductions and torture meted against their people by the former regime.
Way forward: He said there shouldn’t be witch hunting in the commission and those supposed to be members of the commission should be impartial. There should be no more detention without trial but institutional reparation.
“Mr. Mustapha Ngum was of the view that the truth must be unearthed before there could be any reconciliation. “If not for anything, this has been done for a legacy especially those who lost their lives because their lives shouldn’t be in vain,” said the retired Civil Servant. “At the end of the inquiry, the commission should recommend reparations for victims’ families,” he concluded.
Binta Jaiteh, a young lady applauded the ministry of justice for the good initiative; adding that reparation is important as it will ease the pain perpetrated on victims of the former regime. She said the quality of a human being can’t be compared with money.
Mr. Mbuguma Jeng said the creation of a commission is very important as it is part of Democracy. “On the 22nd July 1998 early in the morning, soldiers came to my house and whisked me away. While on the way going, they battered me and took me to the Arch where I was battered again and later kept me at ‘Bambadingka.’
“I was arrested because I did not recognize 22nd July as a Public or National Day. The commission should not only focus on reconciliation and reparation but should ensure that those types of atrocities are not repeated again.”
“Any President that takes over this country shouldn’t serve for more than two terms,” he emphasised. He added that members from the security apparatus should respect the rights of the citizenry and know that they are supposed to serve and protect them.
Momodou Lamin Bah, a youth activist in Banjul said “If the Commission is setup, I will urge the commission to investigate the defunct NIA files as Jammeh was not the only abuser. I will also suggest for only Gambians to constitute TRRC.”