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Ex-unit head at TRRC says Gambia needs peace commission

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By Fatou Saho

The former head of the TRRC Reconciliation Unit has said Gambia needs peace processes at all levels and therefore suggests the establishment of a peace commission to unite, solidify and strengthen the little gains that the TRRC has  established.  

She made this suggestion in an interview during a public lecture on transitional justice organised by the Women’s Association of Victims Empowerment WAVE in Bakau Friday, which attracted participants from victim-led organisations, University of The Gambia, Ministry of Justice, National Human Rights Commission and legal experts.

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The public lectures are aimed at promoting and fostering public participation on TRRC outcomes, government responses, and their implications for peace building, reconciliation, and human rights in the country. 

Tabu Njie Sarr, a prominent civil society actor, argued that:  “We have come from 22 years of destruction, especially within the social fabric of this country. Therefore, that calls for us to establish a peace commission just like other countries who have gone through dictatorship. One can say that Gambia hasn’t gone through a war but were actually divided, mocked against each other families and families, communities and communities. 

“The remnants of this destruction still remain and we need to unearth it again and see the way forward. If you look at the situation now some of the elements that have actually caused this are still in the system and also the vengeance that existed still remained in some people. That’s why we need the peace process, we need to reconcile and we need to establish some of these institutions that can help us to reconcile once again.”

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An advocacy specialist from the Centre for Study of Violence and Reconciliation, Imran Darboe, also argued that Gambia needs peace processes in terms of initiating interpersonal reconciliation, intercommunity reconciliation and nationwide reconciliation processes. 

Darboe, a former staff of the Ministry of Justice added: “We need all of those three, moving and functioning together, not separately. Of course accountability and repreparations have to be initiated in order for victims to have confidence that something is happening and would encourage them towards reconciliation.”

He urged that the government not only have to initiate these processes but also encourage civil societies to initiate them, including communities and universities.

The Special Adviser on Transitional Justice at the Ministry of Justice, Ida Persson, explained the government is looking at ways to carry out the right reforms, training and ensure that people who are not supposed to be in the service are removed, hence most of the rights violations were carried out by servicemen in uniform. 

Ms Persson stated that most people have expressed being tired of commissions and wouldn’t want another commision to be set up but “we try to explain to them that this is a process and cannot be done in one week, two weeks or months. So for peace, I am avoiding commission because I don’t know at the end of the day whether it’s going to be called a peace committee or a peace council. That is what we are trying to do now but mainly with the ministry of interior because they have been mainly spearheading the process.”

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