As an adversely mentioned perpetrator in the 1995 gruesome murder of Ousman Koro Ceesay; the then Finance Minister, Yankuba Touray was availed of the opportunity to give his side of the story to prove his innocence or accept culpability. The former Local Government Minister was ill-advised and continued to be under the illusion that the so-called constitutional immunity was enough to barricade him from testifying at the TRRC and any subsequent prosecution for the wanton act that snuffed the life out of Koro. He resorted to a contemptuous behavior that left the Chairman of the TRRC with no choice but to order for his arrest. This contemptuous behavior ignited a chain of events that emanated from the TRRC, rippled around the metropolitan area, and ultimately changed his life.
Two years from his arrest, Yankuba Touray would be convicted of murder and sentenced to death. The strong reactions from his family, friends, and loved ones clearly show that they are struggling to come to terms with a conviction they see as unfair and outrageous. That kind of reaction from the groups of people mentioned above is to be expected and understandable. However, it is important for all and sundry to exercise restraint and allow the justice system to address such issues that have legal ramifications. There is another option at Yankuba’s disposal, and his lawyer did say that they are going to file an appeal. That is an alternate legal route they can take, the outcome of which again will be determined by the courts. The truth be told, Yankuba did not get engulfed in this sticky situation by accident. Therefore, he cannot be absolved of responsibility because his disobedience or disrespect towards the Commission in the form of behavior that opposes or defies the authority of the TRRC expedited his prosecution even before other adversely mentioned perpetrators would learn their fate nested in the TRRC recommendations which are in the offing.
Many people argued that the conviction of Yankuba is unfair to him because he is not the only adversely mentioned perpetrator in that gruesome murder, or that he did not act alone. Well, an opportunity was given to most if not all of them to prove their innocence or accept culpability, but he is the only one that chose the constitutional immunity route, even when offered unsolicited legal advice from the lead counsel as to how his contemptuous behavior could boomerang on him. He was determined to stand his grounds, again under the illusion that the constitutional immunity barricade was enough fortification against all possible legal actions. It is often said that a house built on a weak foundation will always crumble.
What the families, friends, and loved ones of adversely mentioned perpetrators ought to understand though is that those they are trying to defend are alleged to have participated in wanton acts that snuffed the lives out of others or ravaged them beyond repairs. So, there have been irretrievable losses and irreparable damages and the sad reality is that many grieving families still do not get closure. Pronouncements or actions that are uncompassionate and inconsiderate are not recipes for reconciliation and will not heal the wounds either. A lot of heinous crimes and gross human rights violations have occurred in The Gambia between 1994 and 2016, and the perpetrators are our very own people. While your family member, friend, colleague or loved one may be your hero, they are some other family’s worst nightmare because their ferocious predatory actions irreversibly changed that family’s life. We cannot change the past unfortunately, but we can certainly right the wrongs of the past and most importantly, learn from it. Getting closure for grieving family and serving justice are pivotal in this arduous journey. No judgement or ruling will be seen by all and sundry as justice served because our expectations and preferences are different.
By Dibba Chaku, United States