Statement by the TRRC Chairman, Dr. Lamin J. Sise on opening of fifth session Monday 10 June

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Please allow us to welcome you to the opening of this fifth session of the hearings of the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC).

The session will run from today, Monday, June 10 to Thursday, June 27.

During this session the Commission will continue hearing testimonies from witnesses and victims of the 1996 UDP encounter with security forces at Denton Bridge, the November 11, 1994 incident, and the June 1995 murder of Ousman Koro Ceesay.

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The Commission plans to hold its first institutional hearing on the media during this fifth session.

Our Research and Investigations Unit is working closely with the Gambia Press Union to facilitate this important first institutional hearing during this session.

The unit is also conducting research on certain public institutions as part of preparations for other institutional hearings to be held in subsequent sessions.

As you may have seen in our latest update issued by the office of the Executive Secretary, the only thing that was missing from the Commission’s work during the break was the hearings.

The Secretariat remained open and fully operational, and all units continued work in their various areas of responsibility.

The Victims Support Unit remained engaged with victims, with medical institutions to support victims, and with non-governmental organizations interested in supporting victims.

The Reconciliation Unit in collaboration with the Commission’s Reconciliation Committee conducted several Iftar conversations with Muslim communities in Banjul and the Kanifing and Brikama municipalities.

Plans are in place to make similar visits to some churches in the near future. And all through the break, the Research and Investigations Unit worked hard to gather the relevant evidence and witnesses necessary to support the work of the commission during this 5th session.

Confronting the truth as a people is allowing us to raise the difficult questions that need to be raised and brainstorm on the difficult answers that suggest themselves to us.

And this is making Gambian society increasingly determined to ensure, both morally and legally, that a future Gambia will be a Gambia where it is impossible to violate the rights and dignities of our fellow human beings with impunity.

We hope and pray that we all remain engaged in this national conversation with the confidence and conviction that we can indeed create and bequeath to our children a better Gambia.

We also remain grateful and very highly encouraged by the level of interest and engagement of the international community with the TRRC process. Over the past several months, many delegations of university students and professors, civil society and nongovernmental organizations have visited our premises here at Dunes Resort and held fruitful conversations with Commissioners and staff of the Secretariat.

We are happy to note that their comments on our work are very encouraging and that there exists a rich fund of international goodwill for The Gambia’s transitional justice process and especially for the TRRC.

We are also happy to report that during the break, both the chair and vice chair were privileged to be invited and attend two high level international events on transitional justice in the U.S. and Colombia respectively.

From April 29 – 30, TRRC vice chair Adelaide Sosseh attended the annual meeting of the Board of Directors and International Advisory Council of the Institute for Integrated Transitions (IFIT) in Bogotá, Colombia.

At this meeting, the vice chair had the opportunity to meet several key players in transitional justice and high level experts on victims’ reparations, peace building processes, missing persons searches, and members of the Colombian Truth Commission.

She also visited sustainable community peace initiatives, and gathered much relevant knowledge on, among other things, the geopolitical dimensions of transitions, the interface between peace and justice, challenges of transition in polarized societies, and the importance of popular participation in national processes.

Shortly thereafter on 15th May, 2019, I was privileged to attend an excellent meeting of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission in New York alongside Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou and Gambia’s Ambassador to the UN.

Questions asked to which Minister Tambadou and I replied generally related to progress made regarding The Gambia’s Transitional Programme, the TRRC process and support for the TRRC by the public, as well as regional and international support for the transition in The Gambia.

It was pleasing to note that there was no ambiguity about the goodwill manifested by the friends and partners of The Gambia towards our transitional process in general and the TRRC in particular.

A delegation from the Peacebuilding Commission accompanied by the UN Resident Coordinator and the UNDP Resident Representative visited our offices here at Dunes Resort and had a fruitful meeting with Commissioners and Secretariat staff from Victim Support, Research and Investigations, Reconciliation, Women’s Affairs units and the legal team.

We wish to take this opportunity to thank High Commissioner Sharon Wardle of the British High Commission for handing over to the TRRC an iconic photo exhibition on victims created by and on behalf of British photo journalists Helen and Jason Florio.

The exhibition, “Portraits for Positive Change” seeks, in the words of the British High Commission, “to create awareness and increase knowledge about The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) while creating a platform for public discourse around issues of human rights abuses.”

We are grateful for the gesture.

Finally, as together we embark upon this fifth session, we thank all those members of the general public for their continued support and encourage the Commission in its work.

At the same time, we wish to reassure all those Gambians who are still skeptical that the TRRC is not a witch hunt, will never be a witch hunt, and is dedicated only to its mandate of revealing the truth about human rights violations, and promoting justice, peace, and reconciliation in the interest of all Gambians.

We encourage all who have stories to tell to please come share with us with the full knowledge that their dignity as human beings and their rights as citizens will never be compromised by this Commission.

And as usual, we thank all our partners and seek the continued support and prayers of the general public as together we try to build a better and stronger country for all.
Thank you all for your kind attention.

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