Dr. Ousman Gajigo
Given Edward Singhateh’s recent performance in front of the TRRC, any reconciliation event or process that involves him asking for forgiveness is a farce. It does not matter that such event was not initiated by the TRRC. As long as the TRRC participates in it and gives the event its official blessing, it is part and parcel of it. We all know that reconciliation is definitely part of the TRRC mandate but the process must be credible.
The credibility of the process is contingent upon truth. Over several days of testimony in front of the TRRC, Edward Singhateh made a mockery of the Commission. He took an oath to appear before the Commission and to tell truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Instead of honouring that promise, he proceeded to lie repeatedly and evade questions. His strategy was clear. He decided that he would not cooperate or tell the truth where he could be linked directly and personally with a crime. He only “accepted responsibility” as long as it is collective, meaning that there was little potential legal jeopardy. In order, he wanted to get all the benefits from appearing before the Commission without taking the risks that come with telling the truth.
That is his prerogative. He certainly has the right not to self-incriminate. But by exercising that right, he naturally forfeits the benefits that comes from reconciliation. For reconciliation requires a complete and truthful accounting of the wrongs perpetrated by the abuser against the abused. In this regards, Edward Singhateh has fallen woefully short.
With regards to Sanna Sabally, let’s recall that Edward Singhateh refused to be completely truthful about his role in working with Yahya Jammeh to have Sanna Sabally and Sabidibou Hydara arrested and jailed, which lead to the torture of Sabally and the death of Hydara. Edward Singhateh wanted us to believe that he went along with Jammeh on the basis of just Sabally and Hydara making a phone calls before appearing before Jammeh. We know that Edward is not stupid – so he must be expecting to make a fool of the TRRC and The Gambia if he expects us to believe that fiction.
The most egregious part of Edward Singhateh’s refusal to be truthful before the Commisson happened with regards to the circumstances surrounding Ousman Koro Ceesay’s death. Even with overwhelming corroborating evidence, Edward Singhateh refused to be truthful about being present in Yankuba Touray’s house and taking part in the killing of Koro Ceesay. For Edward Singhateh’s story to be believable, it must be the case that all the other witnesses have been lying. There is no plausible reason why all the other soldiers who testified under oath would lie just to implicate Edward Singhateh, and in the process implicate themselves in a capital offense.
Not only did Edward Singhateh refused to be truthful, he decided to muddy the waters by attempting to slander the late Minister of Finance. This was when Edward Singhateh brought up the issue of the funding of the Casamance rebels and appeared to suggested that Koro Ceesay was on Jammeh side in terms of helping that group. At no point later did Singhateh demonstrate how this particular allegation was germane to the issue of why and how Koro Ceesay was murdered. He simply threw out that information to potentially sully the reputation of a man whose murder he is already implicated in.
Focusing on only the above issues is enough to show that there cannot be genuine reconciliation involving Edward Singhateh and any party. If Sanna Sabally wants to forgive Edwared Singhateh for his role in his personal ordeal, that is his right. And it should be a private matter between Sabally and Singhateh. But it should not have the blessing of the TRRC because Singhateh has demonstrated that he has little respect or regard for the body and what it stands for by refusing to be truthful when he had ample opportunity to do so.
What is also remarkable is how tone death the TRRC is with regards to the effects on other victims in having Edward Singhateh appear in such a ceremony. Imagine what the family of Ousman Koro Ceesay must be feeling right now in watching the man who is universally understood to have taken the lead role in the killing of their family member by giving a blessing in a TRRC-sanctioned reconciliation event.
Edward Singhateh may one day be the recipient of genuine reconciliation and forgiveness. But that day must only come after he is completely truthful about all his actions during the Jammeh dictatorship. He must not be allowed to be economical with the truth while expecting complete forgiveness. If we allow that to happen, the phrase “Never Again” will become nothing but an empty slogan. And we would have demonstrated to all that there are no consequences in carrying out gross human rights violations against Gambians if you can just put on a pitiful expression and say “sorry”.
Ousman Gajigo is an economist. He has held positions with the African Development Bank, the UN, the World Bank and Columbia University. He holds a PhD in development economics. He is currently an international consultant and also runs a farm in The Gambia.