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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

TRRC closing sounds an alarm

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For a small country that cannot even protect itself against foreign and domestic forces, I am concerned that our calls for justice from certain individuals might only destroy the very little we have left. We can act brave today when the facts are out but let us not kid ourselves. We are not in control of this fragile so-called democracy we have. Almost five years after the elections, the question we must ask ourselves is, why is Ecomig still around?

I am not convinced that all the weapons that were in this country were secured, and I sure am not convinced that those talking tough can protect us. We walk around in this small country of ours with no security, and with all the terrible things that happened in our past. We may be one phone call away from seeing darkness forever. I had read an article by Madi Jobarteh which clearly justified the use of force through any means to get rid of a dictatorship, but I have to disagree that it wasn’t elections that got rid of Jammeh.

International norms shouldn’t be distorted by supporting coup d’états. When one plans to overthrow a government, you are actually changing the will of the people which then overthrows the constitution of which they are governed. Without consent from the people or agreement from the chief financier of the coup, on who will be president, goes to show that The Gambia was more of an investment opportunity to collect huge profits once they were successful.

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I didn’t want to talk about the fallen – (may Allah grant them the heavens) – simply because in Modou Njie’s closing statement, he acknowledged that coups were wrong. I must say that I have respect for the brother and all of them for having courage, but I disagree with their approach. Regardless of the circumstances, because a true democrat will never support such a cause. The fact that we heard in the TRRC praises coming from counsel and commissioners, gave me pause as to whether we were praising illegality, or enjoying the moment of someone standing up for his own beliefs of saving the country.

Back to Mr Jobarteh’s point, such force had to be used because Jammeh later said he wasn’t leaving and Ecomig coming to the country was why he left. The reason why we cannot compare what the December 30th attackers did, and what Ecomig did is that the people spoke and declared a new leader. We have set up the UN and other organisations such as Ecowas to ensure that we abide by International norms by giving these organisations legitimacy to enforce the will of the people. What the December 30th folks did was going to be the same thing Jammeh did in 1994, except they didn’t succeed. That was why you had political parties that were condemning them to secure themselves. They were all welcomed; the sitting government did embrace them at the airport when Cherno Njie (chief financier of the group and president-to-be), and the former chief investigator for the TRRC – also part of the December 30th attackers – Alagie Barrow were highly welcomed.

The Gambia has been under attack for a long time and in different fashions. The closing remarks of the TRRC brought on mixed feelings. The person from the lead counsel who called for justice spoke like it was a recommendation. This showed me how easy it is to simply talk, but can we actually do it without prosecuting ourselves.

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We cannot say in lines that “We the Gambians succumbed and enabled Jammeh,” only to now pinpoint who we think committed a crime when those who also committed crimes were actually rewarded by working in the TRRC.  Paraphrasing one of the commissioner’s statements when referring to one of the attackers, he said “Jaliba’s Gaindeh Njie Jambarr nga.”

We cannot call for justice and forget about the very people languishing in Mile 2 Prison who haven’t been charged or arraigned for years. The very Mile 2 Prison that we say is unfit and violates human rights is where we are keeping prisoners. At this very moment, while we go to sleep in our comfortable beds, Mile 2 Prison is still horrible and inhabitable. How many people have died in our hospitals without having basic care or medications? Where are their human rights? We counted over 250 unfortunate murders or disappearances, but how many mothers and maternal deaths have we counted during these five years? How many have died from gunshots at Kanilai or have been stabbed recklessly? I bet you if we were to count the negligence of unfortunate deaths and corruption that has killed people in hospital beds, we would qualify them as crimes against humanity.

Why were the December 30th attackers charged in America and sent to prison, but few people in our country had the same fate because connections and terri kafo (the friends that will not tell each other the truth even when they are wrong) friendships means people turn a blind eye towards justice? Justice doesn’t know friendship, and if that is the conclusion of the TRRC from the lead counsel, then no one should be spared in our small Gambia.

Even the enablers of a dictatorship – who were the majority of people – should pay a price as well. This small country shouldn’t be burnt to hell simply because vengeance has overtaken our psyche. The very people boasting or screaming for justice can easily take a flight to escape to Senegal or America, but the majority can’t bear the brunt of a civil war. This polarised and small nation has been divided into the well-connected, terri kafolu, and the poor that will have to deal with the worst of conditions even when it is their right to basic healthcare.

If there is one place, I am appealing for us to learn from it is Ghana. Ghana went through a dictatorship and found a way to reconcile and live in peace. The worst human rights violations happened there, but they ended up reconciling and having one of the best economies in West Africa. We remain one of the poorest countries in Africa that don’t even have our own security in charge of our State House.

Can we comfortably sit on national TV and on social media boasting that justice must be served with the perpetrators, but have no capability of protecting people from burglars or petty thieves? Even providing vehicles for all our security police forces is difficult, and we want to believe that we are ready to deal with a civil war! I don’t know about you, but I will continue on the path of making sure that the little country we have left will not go up in flames.

I agree with Commissioner Kinteh’s acknowledgment that we need to change our attitudes. We need to find spaces within our hearts to forgive but never to forget. If we don’t have the hearts to forgive, how do we expect to be forgiven by our Creator for our many unspeakable and unknown sins? We can do right by the victims to help them heal and pay reparations. Justice doesn’t bring the victims who have fallen back. It doesn’t close that wound, but it can bring closure knowing that the perpetrator has been caught. I say the greatest and most just is our creator, and the best platform will be on judgment day.

May the perpetrators, especially the greatest one of them all, former president Yahya Jammeh, be remorseful and ask for forgiveness! May Allah soften his heart and change him to be human and save him from the devil that turned him into a monster! May those that are still in denial, still love and pray for him to be remorseful! After all, life shall surely come to an end with all of us but let us stop sowing the seeds of vengeance, and rather be those that spread peace.

If you have followed me long enough, you will see that the truth and reconciliation initiative we have been calling for since 2014 will forever die with me. It is engraved in my heart and no one but God’s grace will ever change that. Even if you believe I am wrong, I strongly believe that we have more to gain as a country than following the route of vengeance. I am glad there was a TRRC, and I will be glad when the end result of, “Never Again” is accomplished, with the help of all Gambians, for us to see it.

We must commend Essa Faal for doing a great job in bringing the truth out from perpetrators while we were all left in the dark. From the painful cries of victims, Faal shed a light on the gruesome human rights violations that occurred. We should also thank the staff of the TRRC, and commissioners for all their questions, time, and for enduring so much physical and mental stress. At this point we should not see The Gambia deteriorate further and may we always be true to our country first. We have an obligation to make sure that peace prevails, and never again with such actions. We must ensure that institutions are strengthened and sensitized to respect our human rights “For The Gambia Ever True”!

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