By Omar Bah
The chairman of the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations has described as disturbing and disappointing President Barrow’s decision to meet Samsudeen Sarr, a former Gambian military officer and diplomat.
The former Gambia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations under Yahya Jammeh, Samsudeen Sarr, on Monday announced he met President Adama Barrow and reported the president’s willingness to reconcile with former president Yahya Jammeh and ensure his safe return.
However, Sarr has since clarified that the discussion for former president Yahya Jammeh’s return was just a proposal he made to President Barrow during their meeting.
“The issue of Samsudeen Sarr’s visit to the State House is quite disturbing and very disappointing on the side of the presidency. It should not have happened in the first place – we have all heard about the various statements made by Samsudeen Sarr with regard to the entire transitional justice process particularly the TRRC,” Sheriff Kijera told The Standard yesterday.
He alleged that when Jammeh reneged on his decision to accept the election results, Sarr tried at all levels to delegitimise the government of Adama Barrow at the United Nations.
Kijera said the victims’ families are particularly disturbed by the fact that they have attempted to meet Barrow on several occasions without success.
“For the president to go that far, I think is disappointing and it raised a big alarm as far as implementing post-TRRC recommendations is concerned. For a government to entertain such an enabler of Jammeh is dangerous. Sarr has rubbished all the efforts of the Ministry of Justice, the government and the TRRC despite the various testimonies that we have heard from perpetrators,” he said.
He said the recent comments from Defence Minister, Sheikh Omar Faye and those from Mr Sarr have raised serious concerns on the government’s intention towards implementing the TRRC recommendations.
“The Adama Barrow government is now from one scandal to another – I don’t know what is wrong with them – there is so much incompetence at the level of the presidency as far as handling sensitive issues of the transitional justice process is concerned. If the president is reluctant and feels quite sensitive to meet the victims, I don’t see any reason why he should entertain the enablers of Jammeh at the State House,” he said.
Kijera said the president’s actions clearly demonstrate that he has a political agenda to appease the APRC and Jammeh.
“That is the simple fact. We are in an election year and they will do anything to win this election by any means necessary,” an unhappy Kijera said.
Commenting on Sarr’s proposal for Jammeh’s safe return, Kijera contended: “Well, I heard the government spokesperson has categorically rejected the claim and term it as bogus but the return of Yahya Jammeh is a non-negotiation for a start – there is no compromise on that. We have made our point very clear to the president and the government that Jammeh has a right to return to the country as a citizen but not as a free man. He has to face justice for the crimes committed by his government”.
“The government has that responsibility to establish an accountable mechanism to try Yahya Jammeh and all those who bear the greatest responsibility of perpetuating crimes against Gambians,” he said.
Sam Sarr reacts
Reacting to the Victims Centre chairman’s comments, Samsudeen Sarr countered: “For their indication that the president shouldn’t have given me any audience because of my alternative views that are contrary to theirs or for not agreeing with the conventional wisdom goes to illustrate their undemocratic tendencies. The TRRC they are relying on to justify their existence and legitimacy is by my standard outrageously flawed and shouldn’t be used by any sane person as a barometer to judge my moral, political or intellectual obligations. Most of them to me behave and speak like quintessential hustlers who without this job have nothing to offer the poor Gambia. So please convey my message to them that I am entitled to my beliefs in the same way they are to theirs and any attempt to silence me will tantamount to exercising the very dictatorial tendencies they have been hopelessly trying to attribute to former president Yahya Jammeh, Babili Mansa. I rest my case.”