TRRC vs THE MILITARY JUNTA
Although, at this stage it may not be wise to pre-empt the findings of the TRRC report, most Gambians will reach to their own conclusions when it is appropriate to do so.Whether that would be writing a book, or to organise workshops and seminars in order to enlighten the people perhaps only time will tell. However, since the commission has received the testimoniesfromover 60% of potential witnesses thus, I think for now it’s possible to make a sensible assessment.
First, let me take this opportunity to commend the patienceand understanding that victims and their familieshave exercised; they have shown enormous restraint during this difficult period taking in to account the emotional pain and psychological trauma which they had to endure for many years. Despite that they allow the due process to take place without interruption or discontent. Even in Western societieswhere people are quite familiar with public enquiries when high profile witnesses make appearances to give evidence, there would often be haggles and utterance from the public towards them. But ours has been good so far. Sanna Saballyand Edward Singhateh gave their testimonies at the commission in a calm and cool environment without any hiccups which is really commendable. It has demonstrated that Gambians can show maturity in their internal affairswhen they have been given the opportunityto do so.
Second, human affairs are not meant to be perfect though, but members of thecommission from top to the bottom are professional men and women who are profoundly dedicated to serving their country at this pivotal time. There is no doubt that the monumental task they face could be quite challenging. Hence,in such an intense atmosphere there is a slight chance that occasionally the manner in which they approach the witnesses may fall short of our expectations but notwithstanding, they are doing a great job. I am sure Gambians are grateful for their efforts and history will judge them kindly.
In addition, I think the commissioners will take into consideration that in a society where people are not accustomed to keeping records and usually they would even forget to remember their own child’s date of birth – asking them to remember the sequence of events which took place many years ago with impunity would be much harder than most people can imagine. It wouldn’t necessarily imply that they are liars or they are not willing to cooperate. However, I don’t dismiss entirely the fact that when people have beengiven the chance to tell the truth nothing but truth with the option to not incriminate themselves, naturally there would be a tendency for deception.
Third, people commit heinous crimes across the world.Those who have being accused of committing such crimes whohave been given the chance to come forward and share their side ofthe story affords the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.In that regard, I am sure most Gambians willagree with me that after the admissions by Mr. Edward Singhateh and Mr. Sanna Sabally to crimes which they have alleged to have committed and subsequently asking for forgiveness with genuine remorse, will go a long way to nurturing the nationwide healing process. Before their appearance the duo was never spoken of in favourable termsin our vocabularies.However, their cooperation with the commission suggests that reconciliation with the families might be inevitable. I am sure even Mr. Yankuba Touray who initially refused to comply with the commission may now regret that decision. I hope when another opportunity is offered to him, he will embrace it and come forward so that we can turn the page and start working together to build our nation.
Forth, during Mr. Singhateh’stestimony he suggested thatdetails concerning the initial planning stage of the 1994 coupmay still be sensitive and consequently for security reasons, it may not be suitable for public consumption (taking into account the current security climate in our region).I think that was wise because it was a long-held concern for me. I am not sure if opportunities were missed by previous witnesses who appeared before him. I could still recall that in 2009 when the UK government established the Chilcot Inquiry to investigate the build up to the Iraq War, certain individuals with security backgrounds were not allowed to give testimony until they could be given the assurances that sensitive information in relation to national security would not be disclosed. Thisreinforces my argument that in the interest of fair hearings, people with military backgrounds from the GNA should be included in the main panel to ensure that vital opportunities are not missed.
Finally, I think we should be alarmed that ministers from the first republic with the wealth of experience were labelled by the military junta as corrupted and crooked. Again,formerministries belonging to the second republic with vastexperience were also libelled as killers and criminals. Right now, despite Barrow’s government best efforts for economic growth and good governance most people in the country are not hugely optimistic with the current dispensations. My question is this:
Where are we going to find role models for our children? And what does NEVER AGAIN truly mean to average Gambians?
I am not entirely sure if Commissions of Inquiries are the solutions to our challenges.Perhaps that would be a debate for another day.But for now: May God blesses everyone.
One Gambia one people