The Gambia is one of the smallest countries in Africa that with a number of natural resources. Over the years, tourism has been the main source of revenue for the country with about 2 million population. During the times of former President Yahya Jammeh, people were made to experience various abuses that led to death and incarceration in most cases. In 2016, President Jammeh was not returned as elected president. He was ousted through ballots that returned Adama Barrow as the first President under a new political party. At last, Gambians partially free after Yahya Jammeh’s exit, a report stated two years after Jammeh was forced into exile.
In 2019, the country established the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) through an Act to ascertain damages done to the people and democratic governance processes during the 22 years rule of President Jammeh. A few months after the Commission was constituted many developed doubts in the Commission’s ability and capability to unearth the truth and reconcile a number of citizens Jammeh’s administration has denied justice, rights to life and association.
As the Commission continues searching for the right approaches for unearthing and presenting the truth and reconciliation mechanism to the concerned stakeholders, a new report sponsored by the McArthur Foundation says inclusive approach is imperative.
“The Commission should focus on building transparency and accountability in the issuance of reparations; that community reconciliation efforts remain to the fore; and that regular engagement with citizens, media and civil society about its mandate, in local languages across print and social media, is sustained so that Gambians take on the mantle of ensuring its recommendations are adopted by government.
But before it can reach any conclusions the Commission must remain focused on the important work it has been doing, listening to, and documenting, the experience of Gambians. This will ensure that it is able to make recommendations that best reflect those experiences, which most Gambians support and that can be used to help push their country in a new direction.
Awareness not just of the work of the TRRC but its mandate – and the limits of that mandate – is important to communicate to Gambians. Continued sensitisation efforts by the TRRC in partnership with media organisations and civil society groups, in local languages, should focus on explaining to people in advance how the recommendation process will work, so that citizens can work with the Commission to push the government to enact them.
Community level reconciliation efforts should continue to be a key focus of the TRRC’s work in its final few months. Identifying community reconciliation champions who can then support the Commission’s work in other regions of the country will further improve Gambians’ sense of ownership of the process. This could include adapting and drawing lessons from the Palava Hut and Fambul Tok approaches used in Liberia and Sierra Leone.”
The report further hints that “Monetary compensation is important, but the TRRC should also consider restitution of properties including land seized by the former regime. Create a Victims Support Fund tracker that will allow citizens to see how funds are being dispersed in a transparent and accountable way, but that still ensures individuals’ privacy is retained. Privately, the TRRC and development partners should apply pressure on the Ministry of Justice to release more funds to support the payment of reparations. The TRRC should establish and communicate clear guidance on how the reparations fund will operate.”