The dilemma of our transitional justice
18 April 2018
Capt. Ebou Jallow
During the AFPRC transitional government, The Gambia was in a state of exception, a juridical condition without a constitutional foundation and the repeal of the rule of law by the force of martial law. And Essa Faal, the lead counsel of the TRRC understands this distinction since he himself was a foot soldier at AG Chambers who once allegedly contributed to the malevolent prosecution and incarceration of both Sanna Sabally and Sadibu Hydara based on trumped charges. Similarly, the TTRC had a missed opportunity of hearing from Col. Babucar Jatta why the AFPRC removed Lt Bassiru Barrow from command at Yundum Barracks; and the subsequent violent threats that Barrow made before his arrest and tragic execution. November 11, 1994 executions was a anomie that manifests the in-operativity of the law and the illegitimacy of authority during the transition period as demonstrated by Colonel Babucarr Jatta’s testimony today at the TRRC. The actions of the Junta at both Fajara and Yundum were field summary “court-martials” as long as they had the slightest evidence of a coup plot- this is the common practice of most military governments around the world. What happened during that day was beyond depravity by any measure and Col. Jatta was inept in stopping the executions but he was not responsible for the massacre.
The current TRRC has opened up a space for political action that has been sealed in a Pandora’s box by the Transitional and Consequential provisions of the Gambia Constitution. The main purpose of the TRRC is to seek “transitional justice” an elusive concept which is now being consumed by pervasive sentimentality, raw emotions and unreasonable expectations from the rambunctious mob on social media. Hence the lowered standards for testimonies, allegations and counter-allegations. It is hard for a casual observer of the Commission to distinguish between facts, fictions and factoids watching the proceedings- testimonies are subject to the whims of the lead counsel unchallenged, unquestioned and unexamined.
Choreographed solicitations of fabricated statements followed by an unhinged inquisition in public is not a sufficient method to achieving the truth nor justice. The TRRC is now effectively reduced to a battle of narratives subject to the hegemony of one man asking dubious leading questions that panders to his fan club. The language games of justice are incommensurable. No one should be lured to the TRRC to perjure oneself without the availability of appropriate legal representation nor should the Commission be abused by the subterfuge and malevolence of insincere witnesses trying to re-write history. Gambians must learn to hold every one accountable; no sacred cows and never again.