By Tabora Bojang
Kemesseng Jammeh, a veteran politician and Gambia’s Ambassador to Turkey, yesterday urged the TRRC not to prioritise reconciliation over reparation for victims because that is the only way to help heal their gaping wounds of abuse over two decades.
Jammeh, who joined politics in 1975 with Sheriff Mustapha Dibba’s NCP, is a native of Si-Kunda, Jarra West where he contested numerous times before finally getting elected under the UDP ticket.
In his testimony, he said the TRRC is embarking on a noble task of establishing firsthand accounts of systematic abuse of rights and cruelties under Jammeh but warned that the healing of bruises, restoration of broken relationships and the ‘Never Again’ campaign could be counterproductive if the commission fails to give due prominence to reparations for victims.
“So many atrocities were committed, people lost their loved ones; some disappeared while some were disabled and they have families who still linger with pain. People have great hopes in this commission that it will help us chart a new page moving forward and so therefore we should deal with the victims first before perpetrators and give reparation the due urgency it deserves,” Jammeh suggested.
Struggles against dictatorship
As one of the founding pillars of the United Democratic Party, Kemesseng claimed that he has suffered several arrests under the APRC regime due to his political loyalty in the struggle against dictatorship.
He said prior to the parliamentary election in 1996, he was unlawfully arrested several times and taken to the Janjangbureh prison and later to Farafenni court before he contested the election he won against Baba Jobe of the APRC.
According to Ambassador Jammeh during his time as the minority leader of the parliament, his constituency and village had suffered series of maltreatments and unlawful politically motivated arrests.
He alleged that the spouse of the former Jarra chief Yaya Jarju Sey once reported to Jammeh during his ‘meet the people tour’ that his village is the only township in Jarra that is not paying taxes which led the arrest and a six year jail sentence for several elders of the village.
Jammeh said this had serious effect on his community because it came in the rainy season when people were farming.
He said this was a blatant action orchestrated by the government through the former Jarra chief Yaya Jarju Sey to victimise his constituency.
He said natives of Jarra West villages opposed to the system and working in the Jammeh government, were all dismissed which he said he is still fighting for them to be given back their jobs.
April 2016 demonstrations
Jammeh, who was a member of the UDP executive committee at the time of the April 2016 protests, narrated how the PIU descended upon them, arresting dozens including Ousainu Darboe and Lamin Dibba who were among the three to sustain serious injuries as a result of the beatings.
He also explained how they were arraigned in a court and sentenced to 3-year imprisonment, which only ended in December 2016 when Jammeh was defeated.
He said their detention was a ploy used by the government to gradually get rid of them as they could die if they were to complete their jail terms under horrible prison conditions in Mile 2.
The conditions were very poor and over crowded with poor ventilations, he said.