By Mafugi Ceesay
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission recently undertook a comprehensive review of the remaining themes in its work programme covering public hearings and investigations. These themes include the following:
(a) the killing of an estimated 56 West African migrants in 2005,
(b) the enforced disappearances of journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh and others,
(c) the creation of instruments of oppression and the debasement of the Gambian constitution,
(d) the April 14, 2016 protest leading to the arrest and torture of many persons and the alleged killing of Solo Sandeng,
(e) sexual and gender-based violence (part two), and
(f) Junglers (part two).
The Commission, in compliance with the COVID-19 related health regulations issued by the Government, scaled down its activities. In view of the interruptions in its work programme, the Commission concluded that in order to complete its work in a timely manner, it needed more time beyond the two years provided for under the TRRC Act, 2017. Accordingly, the Commission, on 18 November 2020, recommended to the president of the Republic to extend the time granted to TRRC until 30 June 2021. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice informed the Commission that the president, pursuant to Section (3), (2) of the TRRC Act, 2017, has approved the said recommendation.
The Commission will, therefore, conclude its public hearings during the first week of May 2021, and prepare during the rest of May and June the final report containing its findings and recommendations. That report will be submitted to the president in early July.
In view of the urgency of finishing its work under the revised schedule, and in a departure from tradition, the Commission will not suspend its public hearings during the month of Ramadan (12 April-11 May 2021).]
Meanwhile lead counsel, Essa Faal has reacted to the 2005 massacred Ghanaian migrants’ families’ suggestions that the Commission prioritizes Gambian victims over the West African migrants.
“The TRRC takes the massacre of the 56 West Africans very seriously. We take very seriously any single loss of life, let alone the senseless massacre of 56 West Africans.
I think it is known to everyone that as a result of the TRRC investigations and public hearings, those who carried out those massacres publicly confessed to having carried out the massacres and explained how it all happened,” Faal told journalists yesterday.
The lone survivor of the migrant massacre, Martin Kyere and Ghanaian activists on Tuesday held a press conference where they accused the TRRC of not doing much to bring Jammeh to Justice over the massacre of 44 Ghanaian migrants in The Gambia in 2005.
Faal stressed that the Commission holds very seriously all violations of rights and it will continue to strive to give all victims the opportunity to come to the TRRC to talk about their own victimizations.
“We have not completed our investigations of the massacre of the West African migrants. We’ve done the first part which is to bring out the evidence of the ‘Junglers’ who carried out the killings and I think that put to rest the question as to whether those migrants died and where they were killed and by whom they were killed,” he said.
The Ghanaian activists also asked TRRC to subpoena Interior Minister Yankuba Sonko, Basse Police Commissioner Ensa Badjie alias Jesus, UN – Ambassador Curtis Ward, who led the UN/ECOWAS fact-finding team to investigate the killings in 2008 and Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas to appear before the commission.
But Faal argued: “The Ghanaians cannot dictate to the TRRC on whom to send subpoena. The TRRC will never dance to the tone of any individual or institution. No one will dictate us on what to do.”
“We would continue doing what we believe is right in discharging our duties under the TRRC Act. We will not succumb to any pressure or direction from anyone as to what to do or how to do it. If we received good ideas from institutions or individuals as to things that can be done, in order to help the investigation be it this one or any other investigation, we would look into it,” he said.
Faal suggested that the Ghanaians are trying to put pressure on the TRRC.
“It will be unfair to say that the TRRC is discriminating against witnesses, when it comes to the killings of West African migrants. In fact, other nationalities seem to have more prominence than the Gambian victims,” he added.
He said the TRRC is in contact with the representative of Jammeh2Justice who are very much interested in the killings of the West African migrants.
“The commission has already notified the Ghanaians that it will call five witnesses to testify. We have also identified the type of witnesses and those we identified on the Gambian side. TRRC has been so successful that we do not need to use our subpoena powers. This is The Gambia, most witness you ask would come and testify, we rarely use our subpoena powers, it’s not necessary in most cases.
“The TRRC will conduct its investigation and on the basis of lead of the investigation, we would decide who to call or not to call. I see names have been mentioned here but the TRRC will see what is available, even if we call on Ensa Badjie and Yankuba Sonko, they would have something to offer, something to say, not because somebody has suggested we call them but we would conduct our investigation and see whether Ensa Badjie and Yankuba Sonko have any evidence or information that would add to the body of information, that is already available. It has to be based on relevant and admissible evidence. If we have that, we call the relevant people who have the relevant information to come to testify, it could be Ensa Badjie and Yankuba Sonko or anyone else.”