By Omar Bah
The National Assembly Member for Foñi Kansala, Almameh Gibba has rejected calls for him to apologise to the victims of human rights violations under former president Yahya Jammeh.
Last week, the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations chairman Sheriff Kijera issued an open letter accusing Hon Gibba of disrespecting the victims during a meeting between the victims, NHRC and National Assembly Members.
But speaking to The Standard on Saturday, Honourable Gibba denied disrespecting the victims during his intervention at the meeting, saying his comments were blown out of proportion.
“We were invited by the National Human Rights Commission to discuss the TRRC recommendations and the government White Paper. During the session, all members were given the opportunity to ask questions and make comments on the issues put before us. We had an agreement before we started that there will be no interruption and every opinion will be respected which includes criticisms. During the debate some of the participants including NAMs critiqued the government’s decision to ignore the recommendation against the NIA director Ousman Sowe among others. So, when it was my turn to speak, I started by saying I was very sorry for the victims and that I feel their pain and that every victim’s plight should be respected. Then moving forward, I raised my objections surrounding the composition of the TRRC. I cited the appointment of the Chief Investigator Alagie Barrow who was part of the December 30th coup plotters who came with arms to kill and take over a legitimate government that was elected into office by the people. So I raised the legitimacy of his appointment to investigate the same government he wanted to overthrow,” NAM Gibba told The Standard.
He continued: “The second thing I raised at the meeting was that the likes of Dr Baba Galleh Jallow and others had issues with the Jammeh government and went into exile. So how do you expect them to be objective? I know better than anybody that the life of every Gambian matters including the victims but my position is that due process should be followed.”
He said the issues he raised at the meeting were his concerns about the composition of the commission and not the plights of victims.
“My other contribution was that the commission picked and chose issues they wanted to probe. This is why they ignored the Farafenni attack which led to murder of our soldiers including my own brother Kambaleba of Foñi Jarrol who was butchered with others too but the rebels were invited to TRRC to narrate their ordeals while the victims’ families were ignored. Anything that was against the Jammeh government including the Kartong and December 30th attacks were ignored. Where is the justice?” Gibba asked.
He said one of his uncles was shot in the Kartong attack but he was never called at the TRRC.
“Samsudeen Sarr, Landing Sanneh and others were all rejected by the TRRC so in all fairness we should admit that the TRRC also had its shortcomings which included picking and choosing. We are all victims in this country, so if there was no selective justice there would not have been too many issues,” Honourable Gibba stated.
He said all that was fine but what angered the victims was the queries he raised against the presentation of Aisha Jammeh, who was narrating how people were killed. ”I asked her about the guy who was killed and dumped at the Kanilai forest whose case was never investigated by the TRRC. When I raised that, Aisha Jammeh jumped and asked whether I was present and whether I had evidence. In my response, I too asked her whether she was present at all the killings she mentioned.
This is where Honourable Yaya Sanyang of Latrikunda Sabiji intervened to say I should not say that because the victims would not like that and he was so arrogant. So, I asked him to keep quiet and allow me to finish. That is how the victims also started shouting,” he explained.