More than 150 victims who have registered with the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) are expecting an individual compensation of nothing-less than 1 million dalasi, the Chairperson of Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violation tells The Chronicle.
The TRRC Secretariat had announced last week the restart of the public hearings on June 8th following the suspension on March 18th due to the coronavirus pandemic and Muslims’ holy month of Ramadan. Upon resumption, the commission assured that social distancing rules will be observed.
Its mandate is due at the end of the year when it’s expected to submit its recommendations to the government regarding the contentious issues of the nature of the reparation to the victims, prosecutions and amnesty for perpetrators.
On October 7th 2019, the government contributed an initial payment of D50 million to the TRRC’s Victim Support Fund meant for reparation. But Sheriff Kijera, chairman of the victims’ centre, is not satisfied with the effectiveness of the resource mobilization to cater for a fair compensation to all victims.
“Currently, there is a resource mobilization effort but am not sure how robust that is because we need to hear more from both the government and the TRRC regarding the progress that has been registered so far as far as the resource mobilization is concerned,” he tells The Chronicle.
He said the government’s initial contribution of D50 million is expected to continue this year but said they should do more, as they’ve promised from proceeds from sale of the assets belonging to the former president.
“We understand that more of these assets have been sold so we need transparency and accountability as far as that effort is concerned.”
“In reparation, you’re talking about hundreds of victims that are currently registered with the TRRC and most of these victims are liable for reparation and D50 million is not even enough for 50 victims.”
“You know that a precedent has been set with the Faraba Banta Commission and those that lost their loved ones were compensated with D1 million. So, at least you are expecting that a victim plus their loved ones that took part in the TRRC to be at least compensated with nothing less than D1 million,” he tells The Chronicle.
Kijera added: “So, with D50 million you’re talking about 50 victims and you have more than 150 victims who lost their lives during the Yahya Jammeh’s brutality. So, you are talking about D400 to D500 million to be earmarked for the reparations.”
He stresses that resource mobilization efforts be looked into and be inclusive including the Victims’ Centre to have a more robust resource mobilization campaign across the country.
Prosecutions and amnesty
Many victims had already expressed their desire to have their perpetrators prosecuted and not be granted amnesty. The government has released four jungulars in August to encourage the perpetrators to confess to their crimes in providing useful evidence to the TRRC. However, it was not meant for amnesty.
Kijera welcomes the government’s justification, noting that the crimes the jungulars have committed were exclusively done within themselves and there is no material or circumstantial evidence that can be used to establish justice.
“I understand that it’s not an amnesty so at the end of the day it’s all inching up with the recommendation that will come from the TRRC at the end of their mandate.”
He said some crimes that were committed will be prosecuted despite open confessions by the committers.
“Some crimes committed are international crimes so they cannot benefit from the amnesty because killing somebody is an international crime.”
Without pre-empting the recommendations of the TRRC, Kijera holds that all jungulars should be prosecuted because of their conduct of killings.
However, he called on the TRRC to communicate to the public as to who is to be prosecuted as the commission’s mandate is nearing an end.
“The reparation also needs more sensitization because the TRRC is coming to a close very soon so we need at least the TRRC to start sensitizing the public and also other mechanisms that are in place for the prosecutions and amnesties.”
Expansion of community hearings
Calling for more testimonies from the victims all over the country, Kijera urged the truth commission to also continue with its community hearing to give opportunities to everyone to share their stories across the country. He believes that transport and accommodation refund allocation to travelling witnesses are not enough for certain situations.
“We expect more of the victims to come forward to give their testimonies. Am sure many of the victims also did not have the chance to give their testimonies due to the fact that a lot of them were living far from where the testimonies are being given at the TRRC headquarters,” he tells The Chronicle.
On December 5th, the Commission completed its 3-weeks community hearing in the West Coast and the North Bank regions during the witch-craft victims’ session. Kijera believes this should be replicated across all regions of the country.
“…we’re expecting the TRRC to expand their visibility through engaging victims from the other regions that did not benefit from other regional hearings that have been done previously. I will expect them to reach the URR, CRR and the other regions also so that some of these victims can also participate in the truth-seeking process.”
The executive secretary of the TRRC DR. Baba Galleh Jallow promised to react to the expectations raised by Mr. Kijera later.