The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission set up by President Adama Barrow to investigate human rights violations during the 22-year reign of former Head of State, Yahya Jammeh began its work recently. The aim is to ensure that such violations never occur again. Will it succeed? Desmond Davies reports.
One of the 180-odd properties that have been seized from the former Gambian president is now being used as the headquarters for the commission interrogating alleged atrocities during his 22 years in power.
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that was established by the government of President Adama Barrow in The Gambia a year ago, to investigate human rights violations during the 22-year rule of former President Yahya Jammeh, looks set to finally begin its hearings.
With over 70 members of staff and 11 Commissioners in place, everything is ready for witnesses to start recounting their experiences.
It is an ironic twist that the TRRC will be sitting at the Dunes Resort in Banjul, a former luxury beach hotel said to be among the 188 properties that were owned by Jammeh that have now been confiscated. The Executive Secretary of the TRRC, Dr Baba Galleh Jallow, a journalist and academic, is overseeing an exercise that is likely to be an emotional roller-coaster.
For instance, there are mixed feelings over the Jammeh era. There are many Gambians who believe that he should not be held accountable for excesses by over-exuberant members of the police force, and which might not have been sanctioned by him.
In another twist of irony, Jammeh's supporters point to the incident in June 2018 at Faraba Banta when the Gambian police used live ammunition on civilians protesting against mining activities. Three were killed. Should Barrow himself be held responsible for these killings, Jammeh's supporters ask?
But in Barrow's case, he visited the hospital where the injured were being cared for, and ordered an inquiry into the incident.
Five members of the police were arrested. Jammeh never made such visits, the ex-President's opponents argue.
The main goal of the TRRC is to ensure that Gambians do not suffer the human rights abuses allegedly conducted under Jammeh, in future. In this regard the Commission is running a Never Again campaign to change the political culture to make it "hard for gross human rights violations and impossible for dictatorship to prevail" in the country again.
To show that he takes the TRRC seriously...