“The Decrees Saved The Gambia From Anarchy” – Mrs. Bensouda!
I have to apologise to Mrs. Bensouda in advance, because the last time I summarise her speech (after the Legal Year in January 2008) she rang my office and said I did not convey her message. We published her full speech the next day! You don’t mess with Mrs. Bensouda – and I am sure that Pa Nderry Mbai too will publish her full response to this my summary.
Like Lawyer Fafa Mbai, Lawyer Bensouda came to set the record straight – because she was Jammeh’s first Acting Attorney General (and I have no doubt that she was labelled a“Jammeh Enabler”). But unlike Fafa Mbai, she was not grilled by the combative Lead Counsel Essa Faal, but the more gentle Lawyer Sagar Jahateh (Pa Ndery Mbai’s editorial this morning says that Counsel Faal is/was Bensouda’s mentee and he work under her at the time of the Jammeh coup – so there could be a conflict of interest there).
Jammeh’s Decrees 1 – 6 (“meant to save The Gambia from anarchy” – Mrs. Bensouda)
Mrs. Bensouda’s office, which included as she stated Justice Cherno Jallow of the CRC, drafted these draconian decrees for Jammeh. But Mrs. Bensouda believes, with good reason, that the decrees filled the void created by the suspension of the Constitution – and thus provided a semblance of legality. Thus, argues Mrs. Bensouda, “the decrees saved The Gambia from anarchy”.
“Jammeh was a Monster”, argued Mrs. Bensouda … and as my daughter argues in her English Essay onFrankenstein, “the Monster turned into a killer because he was abandoned and isolated”: similarly, Gambian professionals working with Jammeh may have saved The Gambia from a worse fate by preventing Jammeh from turning into an isolated Frankenstein Monster. In Amadou Samba’s famous words Jammeh had to be “managed”.
“No to Responsibilty” – Mrs. Bensouda
But, the TRRC’s mandate is to find out how Jammeh entrenched himself as a dictator – and more importantly, how to ensure that The Gambia “Never Again” falls into a dictatorship.Lawyer Sagar Jahateh’s gentleness was deceptive: she hid a mean punch under a velvet glove as Mrs. Bensouda soon found out. This was good “fireworks” stuff – and great display of intellectual prowess between two strong ladies. It is difficult not to admire both.
“You should accept responsibility”, said Counsel Jahateh after some impressive exchanges with her Senior.
From the wonderful Commissioner Kinteh came an apt analogy: “You were Jammeh’s Masoner’s?”
Mrs. Bensouda continued with the analogy, as one would expect from the intellectual powerhouse that she is: “They had an architectural drawing … the Junta had looked at Jerry Rawling’s house already and knew what they wanted … at the Ministry of Justice we were just Masoner working to their plan”.
Where does the TRRC go from here?
The soldieries/torturers were “obeying orders” from above. The civilian professionals were “serving their nation” and “saving the country from anarchy”. And others were simply doing their jobs – or putting food on the table for their family.
Mrs. Bensouda’s view is that “she has absolutely no apology to make” and has no need to “accept responsibility” in the sense that the TRRC wants from its witnesses: as an apology.
Blame Jammeh, Sabally, Singhateh, Touray, etc – Mrs. Bensouda
For those of us with reservations about the whole idea of a TRRC in the first place, Mrs. Bensouda’s conclusion that the country’s criminal law should simply have been enforced against those who broke the law makes perfect sense. Just as Yankuba Touray and the NiA 9 are facing the law in the courts, all those who tortured people and robbed the nation in broad delight should have been subjected to the full force of the law.
It is ridiculous that actually killers of many people are at home and walking the streets free, as are those who robbed The Gambia Central Bank of billions in broad daylight. And yet here we are asking upstanding citizens like Fafa Edrissa Mbai and Mrs. Bensouda to accept “responsibility” or guilt? Doesn’t make sense to me.
But I loved Mrs. Bensouda’s testimony: more so Counsel Sagar C T Jahateh … she is very smart, and that cool natural afro is … very smart!
Notting Hill, London.
Editor Mbai, I will not pass any comment on Mrs. Bensouda’s “Jawara’s Gambia had plans to be a Singapore” bit. Jammeh too came up with this nonsense and his former Information Minister, Sheriff Bojang, put it to me in a Bnataba Interview in 2001. My answer? “Gambians will settle for a guaranteed plate of fish and Benechin”. Twenty years later the majority of Gambians are struggling on the fish and Benechin front and our Elite are dreaming of … turning The Gambia into a Singapore!