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Friday, December 3, 2021

Lessons from Yankuba Touray’s conviction

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Exactly 26 years ago, nearly a year in to the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council’s rule, the remains or (what was left of it) of a 35-year-old economist who was recruited by the junta as finance minister, were found burnt in his official car on the Sukuta Jambur road. His name was Ousman Koro Ceesay and until 2019 when the Gambia’s truth commission heard from a witness who confessed to have taken part in his murder, no one had any idea what happened to him. Of course, giving the apparent lack of any investigation by the state into the matter, there had been suspicion that his death may have been sanctioned by or with the knowledge of the junta.

Yesterday, the High Court convicted former junta member Yankuba Touray for the murder of the minister. Touray had first unsuccessfully sought a constitutional immunity he said protects him and his fellow Junta members from prosecution for whatever happened in the course of their official duties.

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From that point, many people believed yesterday’s verdict was expected because hardly anyone was in doubt that the Junta, of which Touray was an integral part, is implicated in the death of Koro.

But the questions raised by the verdict are numerous and begging for answers. Firstly, what will now happen to the Singhatey brothers who have been said by one of the witnesses to have participated in the murder? Secondly, what should now be the fate of the witness himself who confessed he took part in the murder and yet he is still not arrested or charged? So far, the only difference and perhaps logic between them and Touray was that they testified at the TRRC while Touray refused to do so.

Also, if Yankuba had complied and testified at the the TRRC as his co-suspects in the murder did, would he have been prosecuted? In that case, would anyone at all be held responsible? Granted, we are yet to see the recommendations of the TRRC.

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Yet for those who care about justice, the ruling is a good feeling that someone within the group suspected to have killed Koro has been made to be accountable. But in the interest of justice, his colleagues in the Junta and the one who confessed to have taken part in the murder should be hotly pursued and brought to justice.

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