Probing Atrocities of The Past – The Pursuit of Public Justice For The Many or A Cash Cow For A Supine Few?

By Pa Louis Sambou     Thursday 4th April 2019

The democratic verdict was delivered and, on landed the lethal blow which would end the long bitter 22 years of pain, horror and heist. The final batch of rodents either fled, abandoned ship or switched allegiances one after the other and eventually the AFPRC / APRC regime crumbled with Yaya Jammeh finally capitulating, reluctantly acknowledging that the end of his “one billion” years rule has come. It was the birth of a new Era, a new Republic and, the dawn of a better, more sensible and rational approach to issues of national importance under a democratic government which shall govern with impeccable care and skill and in the public interest. Well, let’s say this was the expectation anyway, perhaps an expectation too high some may argue with the benefit of hindsight.

Over 2 years on, Millions of taxpayers’ money has been (and continues to be) spent in the name of “righting the wrongs” of the past 22 years. With absolutely nothing worthwhile to show for it, this spending (or perhaps wastage) continues. It is surely not in the public interest to be spending public money without any public return to justify such. The fact that this trend continues should raise eyebrows. But does it really? The Public / State is the obvious net loser, however the beneficiaries appear to not be as obvious. Who is actually benefiting from what appears to be a ‘scheme’ disguised as a moral drive for justice does warrant being given some serious thought and examination.

The Outsourcing of Public Prosecutions

The arrest of Yankuba Badjie, former NIA director and other NIA officials followed their charge and suddenly a rather strange outsourcing of their prosecution to private practice. Without any public tender mechanism or any semblance of it, this public prosecution would be contracted to a legal team in private practice of whom ‘coincidentally’ is the brother of the Minister of Justice. Whilst there appears to be no concrete fact upon which to allege any wrongdoing such arrangement / transaction is void of transparency and deserves close independent scrutiny.

There still remains serious unanswered questions as to the justification for outsourcing such public prosecution to private practice at eye-watering sums when such could be prosecuted in the normal manner by State employed Public Prosecutors. If the argument against is ‘lack of capacity’ then surely those millions being bunged to private practice should be utilised to build such capacity.

Now that a second person (in the person of JCB Mendy) has been arrested and charged in connection with the ongoing Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRRC) never-mind the adverse effects and implications such arrest may have on the TRRC’s difficult task of finding a needle in a haystack – this is not something which informs the calculus of the Justice Minister; it’s potentially another ‘job for the boys’ (public prosecution which could be outsourced to chums in private practice) and that’s all that matters.

May I point out that arrest and charge of JCB is a serious miscalculation and abuse of process which may dent if not inhibit further evidence gathering by the TRRC (it’s the rookiest of rookie manoeuvres) and whosoever’s idea it was is seriously prejudicing the TRRC’s work. However, this is perhaps a discussion for another day.

The Janneh ‘Commission’ For Nothing

Over 50 Million dalasis of Public money spent to probe the financial dealings of a subject (Yaya Jammeh) who at the material time and to date enjoys Constitutional immunity under s.69 (for acts and omissions while in Office) from all forms of  judicial inquiry whether criminal or civil, quasi or otherwise. It can certainly not be an acceptable proposition that this fact is unknown to the Government of The Gambia (GoTG) which commissioned the Inquiry in the first place. Bearing in mind the GoTG’s detached relationship with Constitutionality I think we can safely take the view that this is another one of those cock-ups. We need not even bother probing the source of the legal advice upon which such blunder may have originated – it’s obvious.

The Gambian State having spent Millions to remunerate the services of the Janneh ‘Commission’ team etc. is no better off after the findings of such ‘Commission’ are published and delivered to the GoTG, possibility to enrich the archives and gather dust – it is highly unlikely that evidence gathered by virtue of such quasi judicial exercise will contribute to any meaningful recovery of anything Yaya Jammeh and his cabal deprived the Gambian State. 

It is not difficult to notice that in all these questionable public policy manoeuvres it is the Gambian State footing the bill with barely any scrutiny by Parliament or any meaningful Public oversight. The beneficiaries, mostly legal practitioners in private practice are laughing all the way to the bank at the expense of the public purse.

The Gambian State cannot afford this model of justice administration and it’s about time the Minister is confronted with the bitter truth: he needs to work on and invest in building and growing the capacity  of the State lawyers at the Attorney General’s Chambers to take on cases and handle the GoTG’s legal affairs rather than spaffing money elsewhere at no benefit to the State and for no value for money in return.

Here is the thing, in a country of ‘blind’ folks wolves are often mistaken for guide dogs. Most of us thought the rescue had arrived when we booted Jammeh out, but as it happens it seems we’ve boarded a pirate ship and must now countenance the prospect of being fleeced to the very last rusty butut.

One thing must be clear though: the Public purse is not a cash cow to be milked at the behest of those in public office and it must not be treated likewise.

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