TRRC’s Essa Faal Denies Discrimination Against West African Migrant Victims
The lead counsel of the Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), Essa Faal has reacted to the suggestions from beyond the borders that the Commission prioritizes Gambian victims over the West African migrants who were massacred in Gambia in 2005 by the former administration.
In a recently article published by The Chronicle, the lone survivor of the massacre, a Ghanaian, has expressed dissatisfaction to temporal freeing of the “Junglers” who killed his colleagues and also called on the TRRC to subpoena some former security chiefs during the incident to testify, prompting the reaction of the truth-telling commission.
Faal said at a presser on Wednesday, the recent articles coming from Ghana have alleged that the TRRC has ignored their several letters of concerns. He says such claims are simply ‘unfounded’.
“The TRRC takes the massacre of the 56 West Africans very seriously. We take very seriously any single loss of live let alone the senseless massacre of 56 West Africans. I think it’s known to everyone that [it is] as a result of the TRRC investigations and public hearings, those who carried out those massacres have publicly confessed to having carried out the massacre and explained how it all happened. This goes to further buttress the seriousness in which the TRRC holds the particular issue,” he told journalists at the Commission’s headquarters.
Faal asserts that the Commission holds very seriously all violations of rights and it will continue to strive to give all victims the opportunity to come to the TRRC to talk about their own victimizations.
“We have not completed our investigations of the massacre of the West African migrants. We’ve done the first part which is to bring out the evidence of the ‘Junglers’ who carried out the killings and I think that put to rest the question as to whether those migrants died and where they were killed and by whom they were killed.”
He clarified that still need to do more work in order to finish the investigation, informing that, the TRRC has been in contact with the representative of the JammehtoJustice, a movement that is compiling evidence to ensure they Jammeh is brought book, just to bring them up-to-date on the status of the Commission’s work-plan.
“We have informed them. I have personally informed them that we will call about five witnesses from Ghana and we have told them the type of witnesses we expect to call including [Martin] Kyere himself to be a witness. We have also informed them on the Gambian side the additional witnesses that we envisage to call. They have also made suggestions to us as to other witnesses who the Commission can call and those suggestions are taken very seriously and are under consideration. I expected that perhaps those communications would have been extended to others in Ghana who may be interested in this but it appears that has not happened due one reason or another. But in any case, the TRRC has a very detailed plan as to what it expects to do and that plan is being implemented, the investigations are ongoing,” he said.
However, lead counsel Faal emphasizes that the TRRC would not dance to the tune of any individual or institutions, and it will not be directed to or be dictated by anyone as to what to do and how to do the work. “We will do it to the best of our ability, we will do what we believe is right, we will do what we should do in order to discharge our responsibility under the Act. And we will do it diligently, professionally and to the best of our abilities but we will not succumb to any pressure or direction from anyone as to what to do and how to do it.”
But he assures that there will be no discrimination in terms of victims as to whether they are Gambians or non-Gambian, adding that, such a suggestion from anywhere will be unfair to the Commission. He welcomes goods ideas from any person that will make their work successful.
The TRRC is currently conducting an institutional investigation of the National Intelligence Agency, NIA, which has been used to inflict torture on people during the course of the 22-year rule of Yahya Jammeh. Several people have confirmed to have died in their custody as well. Due to the complexity of investigation with many several victims to testify, Faal could not give a concrete time they will continue their investigation into the killings of the West African migrants. However, he disclosed that it will be in December.
Ghanaians also suggested that the TRRC should subpoena the current Gambia’s Interior Minister and the former Inspector General of Police Yankuba Sonko and Ensa Badjie respectively to testify due to their various roles during the massacre in 2005. But Faal said subpoena is not necessary as the witnesses will comply by a mere invitation.
“The TRRC has been so successful that in fact we need not use of subpoena power. This is The Gambia and most witnesses you call them to come they come and testify. We rarely use our subpoena power. It’s not necessary in most occasions.”
He adds that the TRRC would conduct its investigations and on the basis of the leads that are available, they would decide who to call and who not to call, and not just be being merely mentioned by some people. “But we will conduct our investigation and see whether these people have any evidence or information that would add to the body of information that is already available. It has to be based in relevant evidence and admissible evidence. If we have that we will call people who possess the relevant information and come to testify. It can be Yankuba Sonko, it can be Ensa Badjie and it could be anybody else.”
Martin Kyere has also stated his dissatisfaction to the fact that “Junglers” who killed his colleagues and confessed to their crimes are still freely walking in Gambian streets. Faal said this is done to ensure smooth collection of evidence from witnesses. He previously clarified that the temporal freeing of those “Jungulers” does not mean that they are awarded an amnesty.