By Omar Bah
The Chairman of the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violation has confirmed to The Standard that the much-expected Victims Compensation Bill, expected to be brought to this current session of the National Assembly, will instead be tabled next year. Most victims felt the reparations guideline provided by the TRRC was grossly inadequate and called on the government to review it. The government has since responded by announcing plans to set up the Victims Compensation Fund to take care of reparations.
In July last year, the Attorney General told journalists the government is drafting a bill that would pave way for the establishment of an independent body that will manage compensation funds from the national budget and donations and grants from partners.
The body will be in charge of the process of paying compensation to the victims of human rights violations under the Jammeh regime. The compensation body will be led by the victims and the government has since engaged them during the process of formulating the bill. But it was highly anticipated that the bill will be tabled during the current session.
However, when contacted Monday, Sheriff Kijera said the victims have been informed by the Justice Minister that the bill cannot make it to this current session because it is in the final stage of its drafting and parliament had already planned its calendar for this session.
“We received a letter from the Minister of Justice regarding our proposal. We are supposed to write to the government with regards to the formation of an Interim Victims Reparations Committee. However, during our discussions with the Minister of Justice he informed us that the Reparations bill will not come until next year because parliament had already set up its agenda for this year.
“This is why he asked us to give him a proposal on how to constitute a body that would start paying reparations because they don’t want to wait for the bill that would be late so the interim body will start paying reparations while they continue working on the bill. He said the victims have not yet seen the bill. However, we believe that if they are done with it, they will share it with us before tabling it at the National Assembly,” he said.
Abdoulie Bojang, one of the victims anticipating the compensations, welcomed the government’s idea to set up a committee to commence reparations. “Some of us have been waiting for years now and I think it is high time they started disbursing compensation.”
The government has already put aside D155 million in the 2022 budget for compensation purposes and expected to raise more funds from partners to pay reparations.
However, there has been a major breakthrough in efforts to secure reparations for journalist victims as the government has paid 50% of the compensations to the families of two of the victims, Ebrima Manneh and Deyda Hydara.
The initial 50% payment of the compensations is in fulfilment of commitments made by the Adama Barrow-led government following discussions between the families of the victims, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and the Gambia Press Union (GPU). The government has also given compensation to the families of the Ghanaian nationals killed in the country in 2005.