Senior lawyer and former Janneh Commission’s special counsel, Amie Bensouda, testified before the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission. TRRC Counsel Sagar Jahateh quizzed Amie Bensouda on the circumstances that dictated some decrees she drafted for the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC), the soldiers who forcefully ruled. The Gambia from July 1994 to 1996 before they formed the APRC, a civilian political party.
Though Amie Bensouda was Acting Attorney General when the soldiers ruled by imposing their decrees, she told the TRRC that she never considered Yahya Jammeh a boss.
About the working relationship between the chairman of the AFRPC, Yahya Jammeh, and Amie Bensouda in her capacity as Acting Attorney General, TRRC Counsel Sagar Jahateh reminded Amie Bensouda that she “Reported directly to chairman Yahya Jammeh at the time.”
“The chairman was not the president. The chairman was the person who usurped the authority of the president,” Amie Bensouda replied.
TRRC counsel Jahateh followed up with the question, “As acting attorney general, my question was whether you did not report to him?”
Bensouda replied: “If by reporting, I take instructions from him? Yes, I did take instructions from him.”
“Where you also answerable to him?” Jahateh then asked. Bensouda replied: “Yes, I was answerable to him. He made me answerable to him.”
Asked what sort of decree Yahya Jammeh and soldiers asked Amie Bensouda to draft, the witness replied, “They asked us to provide a draft. They would, eventually, have gotten somebody else to draft something, I believe so. But we were the ones there, they asked us to draft it, and we did,” Amie Bensouda told the TRRC on Tuesday.
“The fact of the matter is that this is not a hypothetical situation. You were the one on the ground, and you were there. You were attorney general at the time. And therefore, you would have only been the one to do the job at that time, and you did it,” Counsel Sagar Jahateh reminded Amie Bensouda.
The former Janneh Commission’s special counsel then conceded that she was indeed the drafter of six decrees. “And that is what I wanted you to take responsibility for,” TRRC counsel Jahateh told Amie Bensouda.
“I could have said no probably, but what weighed on me was the public interest as far as I was concerned. Could we contain the excesses of the military? Certainly, decrees were needed. Not for the benefit of the military but for the benefit of the people.” Amie Bensouda explained to the truth-seeking commission.
“Are you saying, Mrs. Bensouda, that these military decrees benefitted the public and, especially considering all the evidence that we have received that this was a tool by Yahya Jammeh to entrench himself in power in this country?” TRRC Counsel Jahateh then asked her.
The witness replied: “The decrees that I drafted were in the interest of the public…, they incorporated them in the 1997 constitution. That is the choice of the Gambian people, not the solicitor general or Mrs. Bensouda.”