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City of Banjul
Thursday, March 4, 2021

Letters: TRRC faces serious threat from our political militia forces

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Dear editor,
It could be recalled that the establishment of the TRRC was occasioned by the normalized human rights violations of Gambians and other nationals over the span of 22 grueling years orchestrated by our security forces.

At the tip of the spear leading the systematic brutality of Gambians were the Gambia Armed Forces, the National Intelligence Agency (as it then was) and the Gambia Police Force.

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TRRC seeks, amongst others, to uncover truth surrounding these crimes, identify perpetrators at all levels, establish impartial historical records, ensure justice and reparation for victims and recommend measures that would prevent such violations from ever happening again.

But even before the TRRC is half way into its mandate, it is facing another potentially significant threat that could push the entire process overboard.

At a political rally graced by President Adama Barrow on June 15th, the then Interior Minister Mballow disclosed that the Gambia Police Force is prepared to deploy their recently purchased water cannon in the streets for the purpose of unleashing “hot water” on anyone openly protesting against President Barrow’s leadership.

At the same meeting, it was alleged, one of the President’s Advisers, Henry Gomez, made reference to the student massacre in April 2000, suggesting that the same fate awaits anyone who takes to the streets to demand the resignation of President Barrow in accordance with the agreement Barrow had with his Coalition partners. It should be noted that TRRC is currently focused on that tragic student demonstration that claimed about 14 innocent lives in cold blood.

Appearing in a television series of September 26th, the Commander of Gambia Armed Forces, Gen Mamat Cham, issued a warning to the general public and in particular to the 3 Years Jotna Movement indicating the Army’s readiness to intervene in what is purely a political process.

Gen Cham likened the Movement to a group of soldiers known as the ‘WhatsApp Group’ who were arrested, charged and convicted of a coup plot, saying 3 Years Jotna group would not be treated differently.

Both former Interior Minister Mballow’s and Gen Cham’s public threats are a reminder to all of us that our security forces are notoriously pliable and are willing to serve as Political Militia for the President against unarmed civilians – a disappointing realization that the talks and all the costly investments into the Security Sector Reform appear to be nothing other than a ridiculous sham and an illusion.

If the Gambia Armed Forces decides to make good on its promise and, God forbid, it ends up clashing with members of the 3 Years Jotna Movement leading to loss of lives, TRRC will collapse.

Members of the Commission will resign in protest as the #NeverAgain slogan goes up in smoke!

Let it be clear that I am neither a member nor a supporter of the 3 Years Jotna Movement but I cannot, in good conscience, show indifference to the threatening remarks made by the cowards who didn’t lift a finger as Yahya Jammeh and his thugs in uniform terrorized Gambians unabated for nearly a quarter century.

Thus, I call on the TRRC Secretariat to make a timely intervention in order to avert a replica of what happened in April 2000.

Citizens who want to express themselves should be both allowed and protected to demonstrate free from undue harassment, threat and intimidation and anyone caught breaking the law be arrested to face justice.
We are not looking forward to another TRRC in our country ever!

Zakaria Kemo Conteh
Queens, USA

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