Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Gambia: a Positive or Negative Move?

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The ex-President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia may have well given up power and went on exile ““ albeit reluctantly, his past activities as president are still so much under scrutiny. The recent decision of the President Adama Barrow`s government to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate abuses committed during ex-President Yahya Jammeh’s rule is therefore not entirely unexpected to those who have been following the Gambian political wagon diligently.

Making the announcement, the justice minister, Abubacarr Tambadou said the commission would be set up within the next six months and public hearings expected to start, latest by the end of the year. According to him, finances of Mr. Yahya Jammeh would not only be investigated, undemocratic acts committed under the former president, including torture and abuse of power, will be looked into. To achieve the objectives of the investigation and bring justice to the victims, Abubacarr Tambadou has, therefore, encouraged victims of atrocities under President Jammeh to come out openly and testify. If proved, the victims would be offered compensation, the justice minister assured.

Interestingly, before he was officially sworn in as the newly elected president of the Gambia, Mr. Adama Barrow promised not to persecute ex-president Jammeh for the crimes committed under his 22 -year rule. That was after Jammeh, whom many see as a dictator,   surprisingly accepted defeat at the hands of his opponent, Barrow and vowed to leave the office peacefully. That move was commended worldwide. Suddenly, Mr. Jammeh changed his mind after a hint that he might be investigated after all. He claimed the election was rigged and vowed never to hand over power until a new election was conducted. It was not until the ECOWAS troops entered the Gambia to force him out of power, that he decided to leave the political arena grudgingly. The rest is history. Now that president Barrow has decided to investigate the activities of   Mr. Jammeh, many questions are still begging for an answer, amidst allegations of deaths, widespread torture, and unaccounted disappearances during ex – President Jammeh`s iron-fist rule.

Apart from well-known cases like the death of opposition member Solo Sandeng, killing of newspaper editor Deyda Hydara, shot in his car, death of ex-army chief of staff Ndure Cham allegedly ordered to dig his grave before being shot, for alleged plotting coup, missing of Journalist Ebrima Manneh, and many other mysterious deaths and disappearances under Jammeh,   there were allegations that Mr. Jammeh made away with more than $11m ( £8.8m) from the State`s coffers, following his departure in January.

In January, Mr. Jammeh`s feared former intelligence chief Yankuba Badjie was arrested for questioning. By arresting Mr. Badjie, the first of Mr. Jammeh’s security officials to be taken into custody, the new government in the Gambia is sending a strong message that it is determined to bring the culprits of the Jammeh’s 22 years despotic rule to book.

Will the probe of the former president Jammeh`s rule bring sanity to the Gambia and prevent impunity in the country or will the move just cause more problems to the fragile democracy?