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Thursday, June 24, 2021

On the TRRC: Truth established; love found; will justice be done?

On 7 January 2019, Ebrima Chongan, the former Assistant Inspector General of Police, set the ball rolling for what would become two years of historic and exhaustive public hearings of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission.

The truth commission, which was established by an act of parliament, blazed through an uncharted territory to establish historical records of the numerous rights violations that happened in our country over the span of 22 years under the Yahya Jammeh dictatorship.

Between January 2019 and May 2021, 871 days and 392 witnesses, Gambians — and indeed those watching from afar — have been taken through a rollercoaster of emotions and chills with the height of human depravity recounted and recorded.

Through investigations and testimonies, the commission uncovered at least 214 summary executions. Between 220 to 250 murders occurred in The Gambia during Jammeh’s rule attributable to him. And like lead counsel Essa Faal confidently said, “In a small country like The Gambia, that borders on or smacks of crimes against humanity.”

Dr Lamine Sise, the chairman and his team deserve all the praises for their patriotic efforts in raking through a traumatising past and laying the foundation to build a better Gambia; a country and government that respect human rights, the rule of law and freedom of conscience.  And they did so with pride, conviction and sense of duty while staying the course, shunning the trappings and shenanigans of numerous detractors.

Gambians and those living in the country have seen and heard all in the last two years; from gruesome murders, barbaric tortures, sexual assaults to other human rights violations. The testimonies were revealing, damning and explosive. If some of the star witnesses did not recant and serve as future prosecution witnesses; Sana Sabally, the Junglers and the very last one Saihou Jallow, the eventual desire to try Yahya Jammeh could be realised with weighty evidence against him.

The public hearings have been concluded and so are investigations. The next phase is the much-awaited commission report and recommendations. With the fiasco of the Janneh Commission and CRC recommendations still fresh in minds, the Barrow government will do itself much good if it implements this particular report. Millions of dalasis have been invested in this cause and that cannot go in vain. Not this time. Gambians, especially those who were victimised by the state, deserve justice and reparation. Failure to do so would compromise the reconciliation efforts of the commission with The Gambia more divided now than ever.

It is going to be difficult to correct the past but we can. Collectively. And Essa Faal couldn’t have put any better: “If we do not correct the ills of the past, we will be sowing seeds of disaster for the future.”   

As an epilogue to a long tale of tragedy, it was satisfying to learn that despite the horrific hearings and gashing testimonies, the commission staff fell in love and got married. It was revealed that during the course of the TRRC, 7 marriages were registered and “2 are in the making”. We say, as the commission bows out after a tiring journey, well done. A happy and blissful marriage to them.

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