The Government of The Gambia on Thursday, July 13 launched a Commission of Inquiry to look into the Assets & Financial Activities of Former President Yahya Jammeh.
The commission members are Mr Surahata S. Janneh – Chairman of the Commission; Bai Mass Saine – member; Mrs Aboisseh George – member; Alhagie Mamadi Kurang – Commission Secretary and Mrs Amie Bensouda – Commission Counsel.
The Commission is established by the President in line with Section (200), Sub-Section (1) of the 1997 Constitution of the Republic of The Gambia to investigate allegations of abuse of office, mismanagement of public funds, and willful violations of the Constitution by former President Jammeh.
Mr Jammeh ruled the small West African nation for 22 years of absolute brutal dictatorship and corruption. He now lives in exile in Equatorial Guinea after been defeated during the December 2016 president election. He initially accepted defeat but later turned back which warrant a sub-regional deployment to oust him but was later averted.
Meanwhile, President Adama Barrow later on Thursday presided over the swearing-in of the new members of the Commission of Inquiry at a ceremony held at the State House.
President Barrow implored on the members to execute their duties accordingly without favor for the interest of the country. He further thanked them for accepting such a big task and express hope that they will not fail the Gambian people.
President Barrow asserted that the swearing-in of the chairperson and members of this special and long awaited commission of inquiry that he established was in line with section 200 (1) of the 1997 Constitution of The Gambia. He noted that the move is another significant milestone in the journey towards consolidation of democracy, good governance, human rights and national development.
He thanked the newly sworn-in commission members for accepting the appointment, saying the appointments were not based on partisan consideration but have been carefully vetted and guided with competence, integrity and qualification.
“The task before you as commission members is enormous. However, given your profile and experience, I have full confidence that you will in your impartial deliberation set light on the allegations against the former President and associates,” he pointed out.
He added: “You will also provide references to the state to help address issues relating to alleged mass misappropriation of public funds.”
However, President Barrow encouraged all commission members based on the sensitive nature of the matter at hand together high public expectations to deliver efficiently and effectively with high hope of discipline and honesty. He said the trust placed on the commission members should serve as the highest form of motivation to bring out the best recommendations in line with their terms of references without prejudice against anybody.
“It is important to note that this commission is not established to witch hunt anybody but it is rather set up to investigate the numerous allegations of the abuse of office, mismanagement of public funds and willful violation of the constitution,” he pointed out.
He added:”My government will stand firm for truth and justice, no matter who it is for or against. We are committed to the restoration of human rights, fair play and justice for all.”
Barrow assured the commission members of his government’s commitment to create the enable environment of transparency and independence for them to effectively execute their assignments without any interference. He said the provision of credible information by the public is essential for the success of any commission. He called on the public to support and collaborate with the commission to effectively execute the difficult task assigned to them.
The Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Tambadou on his part said the establishment of the commission is a important day for the new Gambia.
“This exercise is no witch hunt against anyone,” Attorney General Abubakar Tambadou asserted.
Minister Tambadou commended the newly appointed and sworn-in commission members as distinguished professionals with utmost integrity and experience in different but relevant areas of work. He said the commission members include a lawyer in the person of Surahata S Janneh who is the chairperson, banker and an accountant who have the requisite experience and expertise to perform the functions of the commission. He said the process that they seek to engage in is as important as the results they expect to achieve from it.
“It is an independent commission. You will be assured of independence. There will not be attempts from the government to influence your decisions in anyway or whatsoever,” he said.
Minister Tambadou reassured the commission members that they would look forward in receiving their recommendations which would be hopefully submitted to the President at the conclusion of the exercise.
The Attorney General also commended lawyer Amie Bensouda who is serving as lead counsel in the commission. He said lawyer Bensouda has a wealth of experience and the commission will benefit from her previous experience as the former Solicitor General of the Ministry of Justice. He assured that she will be assisted by the staff of the Ministry.
Lawyer Surahata Janneh, Chairperson of the newly established Commission of Inquiry said the new Gambia yearns for contributions from able Gambians towards the reconstruction of the proud nation. He said they are grateful for the opportunity to visibly per take in the business for transforming the Gambia into a body politics where peace, justice and mercy constantly prevail and immunity is hopefully banish forever. He said the Constitution and the Commission of Inquiry Act forms the bedrock of their terms of reference.
“The Commission of Inquiry into the assets of former President Yahya Jammeh and into the activities and properties of his family and close associates so far as they are connected is in no court and has no jurisdiction to hold a criminal trial,” Chairperson Surahata Janneh asserted.
Chairperson Janneh said the commission is empowered by law to make orders adverse findings and recommendations that might impinge individual rights and previleges. Therefore, he said certain characteristics of the commission cannot be overemphasis.
“We are independent and totally refuse to be holding to any person or institution in performing our work,” he pointed out.
The doyen lawyer went further to say the attitude of the commission will be one devoid of bias and prejudice, every subject of inquiry shall have the right to instruct counsel to protect their interest before the commission including the cross examination of witnesses. He said they will firmly adhere to the principle of fair hearings, rule of natural justice and equality before the law. He added that the attitude or procedure or rulings of the commission shall be shape or affected by any disparity in wealth, power, status or influence.
“Your Excellency, in order to achieve what the commission of inquiry seek to perform we need to have before us concrete truthful evidence be it testimony, documentary or real to this end everyone whether citizen or alien who has knowledge of solid truthful facts is invited to contact our Secretariat in writing,” he said.
Meanwhile, Chairperson Janneh said as private professionals the commission is a perfect match comprises of a private lawyer, banker and an accountant with the age differences and ethnicity who are ready to embark on this peculiar task.
Lamin Sanyang also contributed in this story.