By Tabora Bojang
The Gambia government yesterday tabled the Victims Reparations Bill before lawmakers with a certificate of urgency. The bill will establish a commission which will among other things identify and pay reparations of victims of exiled former president Yahya Jammeh.
The bill divided opinion among NAMs with independent Foñi Kansala NAM Almameh Gibba calling it a “witch-hunt” exercise. NAM Gibba questioned the objectivity of the truth commission and accused it of snubbing cases such as the Farafenni attack.
However, in his response, Attorney General Dawda Jalllow said relatives of the victims who died in the fatal armed attack on soldiers in Farafenni in 1996 will receive compensation under a government scheme. Several soldiers died in the attack on the barracks.
“Yes this [Farafenni attack] happened within the period under consideration [1994-2017]. The TRRC did not treat that subject exhaustively and we have accepted almost all the recommendations but there are few areas where we either disagreed with the commission or partially accepted and expanded and one of those instances is the Farafenni attack,” Minister Jallow said.
According to Minister Jallow, quoting the government whitepaper on the TRRC recommendations, it is the government’s position that Corporal Saihou Sidibeh, Corporal Essa Keita, Private Ebrima Manneh, Staff Sergeant Lamin Badjie, Private Bakary Saidy and Private Ebrima Bojang died defending the territorial integrity of The Gambia and shall be given due posthumous honors by the Gambia Armed Forces and their survivors shall equally be classified as victims and shall be eligible to receive reparations.
However, the TRRC lead counsel Essa Faal had told The Standard in 2020 that the TRRC mandate does not transcend the probe of Jammeh atrocities and those associated with state institutions.
According to Counsel Faal, the Farafenni attack was done and dusted since the perpetrators were pursued, apprehended, arraigned and convicted with their sentences executed, adding that it was the responsibility of the Jammeh regime to address the sufferings of the families of soldiers killed in the attack.
“When we talk about human rights violations generally, we are referring to the failings of the state that resulted in particular protections having been violated and there is a fundamental difference between human rights violations and crimes. So our mandate is to investigate human rights violations and not necessarily to investigate crimes especially crimes committed by individuals. The Farafenni attack was a crime against the state. The killing of the soldiers was criminal and the state has investigated it and the criminals who committed the terrible act have been sent to jail or executed. If the TRRC is to look into it, it would not look into it in the context of those who were killed in legitimate self defence of the state but the unlawful treatment meted out on those criminals who were arrested. Even as criminals they have rights but they were beaten and paraded to confess on TV and that act of the state using its power to torture them to confess is a human rights violation,” Essa Faal had said at the time.