By Alagi Yorro Jallow
The Gambia appears to be a litter bin of big and small dictators and aspiring dictators. Even the pro-democracy heroes and heroines, the survivors/victims of Yahya Jammeh’s dictatorship, are so used to the perfidy around them that they see no reason to hate evil and its high priests. Twenty-two years ago, when pro-democracy war raged, and protesters were falling (GTTI April 2010, Westfield April, 2016 in the Gambia) and in Washington DC, at the United Nations in New York, and in other parts of Europe; when pro-democracy activists protested human rights violations and suffering then people gladly embraced pain, could the combatants have imagined a privatized Gambia would be their lot at the end of that tunnel?
Nothing has changed — except that things have deteriorated beyond the awfulness of December1,2016. ‘#The Gambia Has Decided’: The Gambia is itself a corporate oxymoron — a paragon of paradoxes. It chooses and eats what nauseates it — and does so calmly without throwing up. A justice for survivors/ victims of the past government campaign drew attention to the rights of the victims of Yahya Jammeh to reparations, justice and accountability, which have continued to be neglected. Victims have largely remained in the background of hopelessness and melancholy. It’s a shame that Nogoi Njie, a torture survivor to come out publicly begging for assistance and medical treatment. “As a mother, your world comes crashing down when you think the words and beatings at the torture chambers echoed, the various pain and emotions, that pierce your being, are unimaginable…feelings one wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. As a mother, you hope, pray, beg, and plead that your children beat this vicious hopelessness. You fight, with everything you have, to survive…watching your children suffer through the unimaginable, treatment-wise, to save life”. Nogoi tells her daily struggle.
The Gambia government must commit thorough into the plight of the survivors and victims and give them proper medical treatment that required rehabilitation to those who now acquired some form of disabilities because of torture and to repeal the Indemnity law; compensate families of survivors and apply rule of law by bringing the perpetuators to justice or sought forgiveness at TRRC.
These pro-democracy activists during dictatorship all sacrificed their personal resources, their comfort and most of all, they put their lives on the line to move this country forward. In character, they are different from the other cleptomaniacs whose actions and activities were at best, self-serving. Gambians can cry all they want, point all your abusive words and fingers at them, call them all sort of bad names, they will ever remain the true heroes and heroines of the new Gambia, for without their intellectual and financial contributions, our doom would have been sealed in the midst of those who looted public funds for themselves and their families alone. These great men and women of pro-democracy activists to this end they should be applauded, celebrated, compensated and honored.
How does it feel to live in a country owned by the privileged? There is no better way to feel it than to accept living in a dictatorship when thieves take charge of Saints: Just wondering how many of those political leaders, elected and appointed, across the executive, legislative and judicial branches and at the state and local government levels would be able to pass the screening if Gambians must match their entire legitimate income with the wealth they hold today. By this referring to civil servants and political office holders who have held position in public service since the advent of the January19 2017 alternative power class in the political stage of The Gambia. And yet, these are the same people and those in charge of governance and human rights affairs as a people and as a country today. Which way the Gambia? Where are the true heroes and heroines of the pro-democracy activists?
This tactical alliance government of President Adam Barrow has confirmed politics as the odium forest of the daredevil. It is a forest where the one with two children is left with one, and the mother with only one child is ruined, left empty handed. In new Gambia that only victims who are godfathers (or who have godfathers) came back with their heads uncrushed. The ones who naively thought they are in a democracy are broken, in debts and in ruins. They have felt what it means to be eaten up- gobbled by victims or heroes who are godfathers’ insatiable termites of destruction.
President Adama Barrow and his government need to urgently redefine politics and power and the linkage between the two with money. In addition, faith, beliefs and action require two-pronged approach: Counter narratives in terms of beliefs, and guidance and role models in terms of action without politics.
President Barrow must transform the hands that kill, maim and destroy, into hands that can save and rebuild new Gambia. Adama must do away with all the jargons in terms of peace-keeping, peace-making, peace-building, conflict transformation, etc. and come up with innovative sustainable framework for crises/conflict prevention and mitigation at local and national level. For the Gambia, continuous political restructuring with emphasis on subsidiarity is important.
The rights of the victims of the previous administration to reparations, justice and accountability have continued to be neglected. Victims have largely remained neglected: Nogoi Njie, Kafu Bayo, Modou Ngum are examples of torture survivors/victims of the past government and in urgent need of medical treatment. President Adam Barrow, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Justice ministry should work closely together to initiate and develop a comprehensive legal and policy framework on reparations for victims of the APRC government. This framework should strive to combine individual and collective, symbolic and material forms of compensation for victims, and other means of reparations that are suited to restore victims’ dignity and humanity. The proposed legal and policy framework should be adequately resourced by the authorities and through international assistance and cooperation. The process for developing the framework should not wait until peace and justice is achieved.
In the meantime, the Justice ministry and the Victims Center should initiate and create a national registry of victims of the APRC government to facilitate their access to free legal aid, psychological and medical care, support, and reparations.
Evidence has noted that most of the victims are the economically and socially vulnerable including men, women and young and elderly and those that have been tortured, who continue to suffer stigma, social exclusion, and re-victimization because of the lack of reparations, medical treatment and assistance to overcome the impact of trauma and pain from the government. For these victims, the absence of reparations has continued to impede their ability to resume their lives and move beyond the trauma they have endured and continue to suffer. The Gambia is a state party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which affirms the rights of victims of torture to reparations and in fact creates a Trust Fund for Survivors/ Victims.
Since a legal framework for reparations for victims of the previous government will serve as the beginning of a process of compensation and dignification for victims. Also, that reparations have profound ethical and political implications and is an important component of the process of justice and accountability. Reparations for victims can also generate civic trust, re-establish the damaged relationship between citizens and the State, and ultimately help to consolidate the country’s democratic experience and the rule of law.
For the purpose of the framework and the national register victims should be defined to include persons who individually or collectively suffer harm, including physical or mental injury, emotional suffering, economic loss or substantial impairment of their fundamental rights, including the immediate family or dependents of the direct victims and persons who have suffered harm in intervening to assist victims in distress or to prevent victimization.