The Gambian Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has denied claims suggesting that the case of the over 50 West African migrants, who were massacred in The Gambia in July of 2005, is not being given the attention it deserved by the Commission. This followed complaints made by some Ghanaians, alleging that the commission has been paying more attention to Gambian cases than the massacre of their nationals. The Ghanaian witnesses are yet to be availed with the opportunity to give evidence before the TRRC. As Pa Nderry M’Bai reports, the TRRC lead counsel Essa Faal has debunked what he called reports emerging from Ghana, accusing the TRRC of discrimination.
“We deem it necessary to really provide information on this and dispel fears that people may have and to make it clear in no certain uncertain terms that some of the claims are simply unfounded,” Faal told journalists at a press conference on Wednesday.
The lone survivor of the 2005 incident Martin Kyree has been calling for justice in the case of the the murdered migrants. But Faal has assured him that the TRCC would execute its constitutional mandate as required.
“The TRRC takes the massacre of the 56 West Africans very, very seriously. We take very seriously any single loss of life, let alone the senseless massacre of the 56 West Africans,” Faal asserted.
The West African migrants were mistaken as rebels. They were murdered in cold blood by Jammeh’s guards. Some of those guards, widely known as the jungullars, have since confessed before the TRRC about their involvement in the killing of the West African nationals.
“I think it is known to everyone that as a result of the TRRC investigations and public hearings, those who carried out those massacres have publicly confessed to having carried out the massacre and explained… this goes to further buttress the seriousness to which the TRRC holds this particular issue,” Faal remarked.
Some of the confessed jungullars have been granted a temporary release by The Gambian government, pending the outcome of the TRRC report. Faal says the decision to release the jungullars came from The Gambian government. He, however, noted that arresting witnesses would not help the work of the Commission.
Faal has also dismissed claims suggesting that the TRRC has prioritized cases of Gambian victims. He says the commission has been in touch with Ghana, so that Ghanaian witnesses could testify.
“We have informed them, I have personally informed them that we would call about five witnesses from Ghana, and we told them the type of witnesses we expect to call, including Kyree himself to be a witness,” he said.
The Ghanaians have been calling on the TRRC to subpoena the current Gambian Interior Minister Yankuba Sonko and the former Inspector General of police Essa Badjie to testify before the TRRC.
Mr. Badjie has been reinstated into the police. He was jailed during Jammeh’s regime on robbery, drug related peddling charges. He is the current officer commanding the Upper River Region.
“I see names have been mentioned here, but the TRRC would look at what is available and decides who to call and who not to call. Even if we call these people, it is just because they have something to offer, something to say, and not because somebody has suggested that we call them,” said Faal.
Faal also noted that the TRRC generally doesn’t issue subpoenas. He said Gambians often comply with the commission’s request to testify.
Faal says the TRRC would not be dictated or influenced by any outside pressure.
“But I would say it quite clearly that the TRRC would not dance to the tune of any individual or institution. We will not be directed to or dictated by anyone as to what to do or how to do our work,” Faal stated.
Faal says the TRRC has been tasked to investigate rights violations during Jammeh’s rule and it would make its recommendations to the Barrow government once the Commission finishes its work. The Commission is expected to submit its report in July of 2021.