Bravo to Justice Minister Dawda Jallow and the government of the Gambia for the bold step taken to accept virtually all the recommendations of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). Indeed President Adama Barrow and his administration deserve commendation for the bold move, proving wrong most of those skeptics who were convinced that the government lacked the political will to accept the recommendations let alone express the will to implement them.
Of course, accepting the recommendations is just one thing, but the most important aspect is the implementation, which is definitely going to be a lengthy and laborious process, and some people even question whether the government has the resources and all the wherewithal to carry it out within a reasonable time-frame.
However, to some people, it was not quite a surprise that the TRRC recommendations pertaining to the current Director-General of the State Intelligence Service (SIS), Ousman Sowe, were rejected on the basis that his alleged actions to destroy evidence at the NIA premises happened outside the mandate of the TRRC. “It was foolhardy for anyone to ever think that the White Paper would endorse Mr. Sowe’s removal, who is known to be a very close confidant of President Barrow,” remarked one of the victims of the Jammeh regime.
As regards the rejection of the recommended sanctions against the “Mercenary Judges”, I agree with the Justice Minister that the foreign judges should not be blamed for all the bad things that happened in the judiciary during the Jammeh regime because they had numerous Gambian accomplices. Therefore, it would be unfair to heap all the blame on them for whatever happened while those Gambians who enabled them are let off the hook.
Also, it would be quite interesting to know the reaction of some of President Barrow’s allies, especially the APRC, including the Speaker of the National Assembly, Fabakary Tombong Jatta, who had publicly expressed their total opposition to the TRRC, even urging President Barrow to throw its recommendations into the dustbin.
Now that the long-anticipated White Paper is out of the way, we expect the Ministry of Justice to do everything possible to bring closure to some of the still-outstanding cases of those assumed to have been killed. For instance, Solo Sandeng’s exhumed body is assumed to be among the several dead bodies kept at the mortuary of the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital. Efforts should therefore be made to do whatever is necessary to hand over the body to his family so that they can give him befitting burial rites. It should be the same with those whose body parts were exhumed at the Yundum Army Barracks as well as other areas. If it means that the government engages the services of forensic experts from abroad, that should be done as soon as possible.
Another welcome gesture by the government is the decision to rename Arch 22 to Never Again Memorial, with the names of the victims being engraved on a plaque at the site. It is also expected that the payment of reparations would commence as soon as possible, at least to sustain the momentum created by the release of the White Paper.
D. A. Jawo
Former information minister