By Omar Bah
A prominent human rights advocate and social commentator has urged the National Assembly to prioritise drafting the needed laws to prosecute Jammeh-era crimes.
Addressing an NHRC conference on accelerating the effective implementation and monitoring of the government White Paper on the TRRC Recommendation, Jeggan Grey Johnson said: “There is need for a clear articulation of the legislative agenda and role of the NA, in drafting laws needed to enable successful prosecutions, by way to aligning our justice sector to cater for the complex prerequisites needed to meet the challenge of the TRRC report implementation.”
Grey-Johnson further noted that parliament should also ensure the availability of the budget needed to respond to the demand for justice, and the resource envelope needed to cater for those earmarked for reparations.
“And finally, the political currency needed to pursue our reconciliation ambitions. This is the collective responsibility of the NA to see through,” he added.
He said the Sixth Assembly is not seemingly prioritising the TRRC debate and deliberations.
“These are fundamental questions we must ask because the natural progression of this journey must point towards policy and practice. We cannot rely on the margins on promises. There must be visibility in the fog of uncertainty I spoke about, in order to inspire confidence and hope, that victims will be put first, and justice will not only be done, but be seen to be done,” he said.
He said the level of the National Assembly is the next pitstop in this journey.
“We must ensure that they too make their mark, with honour and dignity or otherwise, but their voice must be heard, their intentions just be known, and their actions must be seen, as key actors that light the spark needed to propel us forward in this journey
to justice,” he noted.
However, Jeggan argued that the journey “cannot be led by just the arms of the government mentioned, but also the victims, and all those citizens that support and speak with them”.
“We must take ownership of this process. We cannot work at cross purposes. We must endeavour to work together towards one common objective: That is to attain justice for all victims- the ownership element. Afterall, this process is about us – Gambians, and West Africans,” he said.
Jeggan further argued that the country has reached a stage where all uncertainties around the implementation of the TRRC recommendations must be lifted.
“And let me say to the minister of justice, that yes, we have made progress in this journey to justice- your predecessor laid a foundation and gave us direction towards a noble aspiration in truth seeking, ventilation, narration and amplification of the voices of victims; admission of complicity and guilt, as well as collective and individual contrition. You have now come in, Sir, and been the recipient of a historical document, which encapsulates the evidence of an era whose country’s dark chapter was recorded and poised for corrective action. Let me also tell you Mr Minster, that yes, some of the milestones and pit stops in the journey to justice have been met,” he added.
He said the fact that the atrocities that were committed went beyond the borders of “this tiny country” is an advantageous tool that must be wielded to the hilt.
“Why? Because it broadens the options to the doors of opportunity that we can knock upon. It gives us leverage to be creative. It gives us room to maneuver. But we cannot be effective if we do not take collective ownership and responsibility and work together, in a systematic, strategic, and consistent manner to amplify our voices and let the clarion call for justice be heard, loudly, and clearly, by those that are mandated to act.
He said the journey to justice is long and difficult but “it is a journey we must continue.”