By Lamin Cham
As the countdown begins to the end of its mandate the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission has announced it intends to start paying monetary reparations to people recognised by it as victims of human rights violations before the end of June.
The commission which completed its public sittings Friday will finally wrap up its mandate on July 30 by which time its report containing its findings and recommendations would have been ready. However, the commission has the power to give reparations at any time during the course of its work.
Speaking to The Standard yesterday, the deputy head of the TRRC and chairperson of the reparations committee, Ms Adelaide Sosseh, said a policy and guidelines for reparations have been drawn up specifying what category of victims should get what. “These victims have been identified from a very rigorous and thorough process involving investigations, evidence assessment, review by the human rights committee and legal opinions. The commission spent time going through volumes of testimonies meticulously including those who appeared in public sessions and those who testified in writing or in camera. The TRRC takes its entire mandate with utmost seriousness and reparations have been considered to be the most effective tool in enhancing the healing and reconciliation process because it makes the victims to feel that the nation and government have felt their pain and keen to restore their dignity. Of course lives that have been lost cannot be replaced but The Gambia government is keen to ensure that victims feel recognised and compensated one way or the other,” she said.
Asked how much money is required to compensate the many victims, Ms Sosseh said D300 million would be a fair amount but government initially gave the commission D50 million with a promise that another D50 million would follow. “The commission has already started giving interim reparations in the form of medical and other assistance to those victims needing immediate help from debilitating pain or other sufferings from their maltreatment by the state under Jammeh. We are hoping that as matter of urgency, government will release the other D50 million promised last year and remain committed to a meeting the entire reparations budget of the commission. In any case, we would go ahead to pay reparations with what is at hand even if it means a certain percentage of what is due to each person,” she said.
Ms Sosseh said the TRRC has made “a tremendous achievement” by unearthing and giving the nation and the world a gist of the terrible things that happened in The Gambia from 1994 to 2017.
“The Gambia and the world now understand the true picture of this dark chapter and the lesson learnt can only serve the nation going forward. There have been numerous cases, so numerous that the TRRC may not be able to capture all, but our 22 thematic sessions have given enough gist of how things have been in this county,” she said.