Justice delayed but not denied.

Author:Davies, Desmond
Position:Around Africa: Gambia

As the Commission investigating alleged rights abuses began its second session of hearings last month, Gambians were confused by the way the process has been progressing. Desmond Davies reports.

After a month-long hearing of testimonies from 13 witnesses--most of them serving or retired officers of the Gambian security forces, the country's Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) announced at the end of January that it had finished its first session of-hearings.

The focus had been on the 22 July 1994 coup that brought the then Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh to power and the removal from office of the avuncular Sir Dawda Jawara, who led the country to independence in February 1965.

Gambians, who had been yearning for justice ever since Jammeh, who was then President, departed in January 2017 after 22 years in office, were bemused. They soon took to social media to ask why those accused of human rights violations during the hearings, which began on 7 January, had not been called to account.

In the midst of growing online agitation, Baba Gallehja now, the Executive Secretary of the TRRC, had to intervene to calm frayed tempers. "We note that our announcement of the end of [the] first session of hearings has generated some interesting questions and concerns from the general public, especially in Gambian social media circles," he said in a statement.

"Some people wonder how on earth we could end the first session without having some of the alleged perpetrators named by witnesses appear before the commission. We wish to assure the general public that moving on to another session does not mean the TRRC will never deal with what happened during and immediately after July 22 July 1994 again," Jallow said.

'"We may have passed the first session, but every individual who has testified or has been adversely mentioned remains part of the TRRC process. It should also be noted that some of these alleged perpetrators will inevitably be mentioned in at least a few more future testimonies.

"The public can rest assured that at some point during this process, some of those who have been or will in future be adversely mentioned will be invited, summoned, or subpoenaed to appear before the commission. We do not rule out the possibility that some may voluntarily come forward to testify," Jallow added.

For the TRRC Chairman, Dr Lamin J. Sise, though, the first session of hearings helped to point the way for the Commission. "The evidence that came from...

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