Mamudu: Following the submission of the final report of the Truth, Reconciliation, Reparations Commission (TRRC) to President Adama Barrow. Now is time for members of this 6th Legislature of the National Assembly to enact and pass the Human Rights Victims Reparations and Recognition Act and create an independent Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board to administer a compensation fund for the human rights victims of former President Yahya Jammeh. This proposal fundamental legislative policy shall be intrinsic to our laws, such as a mandate of the Presidential Commission on Good Governance and Human Rights to go after the ill-gotten wealth of Yahya Jammeh and the National Assembly to enact an Act providing for the reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during Yahya Jammeh’s twenty-two years regime.
The sacrifices of the great stalwarts of democracy, who fought in the most adverse circumstances against despot Yahya Jammeh, a traitor to the Constitution and the republic, must be recognized and cherished by all generations of freedom-loving Gambians. The government of President Adama Barrow shall acknowledge its moral, legal, and political obligation to recognize and compensate all victims and families for the deaths, injuries, sufferings, deprivations, and damages they suffered under Yahya Jammeh’s malevolent dictatorship.
Mamudu: What is the price tag for all those lost years and agonizing suffering? Moreover, what is a fair price for the life of a mother, father, spouse, daughter, son, friend, cousin, or loved one? The biggest atrocity of Yahya Jammeh’s rule was the separation of wives from husbands, mothers from children, and the tearing apart of societies by killing and exiling worthy sons and daughters of the Gambia. What is the price of the empty chair waiting for the beloved to sit at the table once again? What is fair compensation for a broken nation? What is reasonable compensation for generational poverty and wholesale corruption in government, the twin legacies of this despicable dictator? What is enough reward for families torn apart, this heartbreaking diaspora to which we see no end?
However, really, how can we compensate for interrupted lives? For water torture, electrocution of testicles and genitals, rape, nocturnal arsons, dismemberment, solitary confinement, and years of imprisonment with no charges filed against you? For torturing you to within an inch of your life? The State and government of President Adama Barrow should have a compassionate, humane policy to recognize the heroism and sacrifice of all Gambians who were victims of summary execution, torture survivors, enforced or involuntary disappearance. Other gross human rights violations were committed during the regime of Yahya Jammeh, covering the period from July 22, 1994, to January 19, 2017, and restoring the victims’ honor and dignity. The State shall acknowledge its moral and legal obligation to recognize and provide reparation to all victims and/or their families for the deaths, injuries, sufferings, deprivations, and damages under Yahya Jammeh’s brutal rule.
Mamudu: There is no price tag, no words to describe the misery, anguish, and suffering of the thousands of Gambians who suffered from physical torture, incarceration, homelessness, economic deprivation, and loss of life. Yahya Jammeh’s rule is synonymous with a divided and plundered nation, in which people became deaf, blind, and mute, with low aspirations in life, in comparison with a segment of selfish Gambians and supporters of Yahya Jammeh’s kleptocratic rule and their cohorts, who flourished and lived flamboyantly with chilly silenced to injustice and oppression and never say a word to the sufferings of the Gambia people.
The assertions that Yahya Jammeh plundered the nation and violated the most basic rights of its citizens are not mere claims made on social media or over dinner conversations. Under the law of evidence, they are legislative facts. The TRRC public hearings unearthed gross human rights violations and economic atrocities meted on Gambians by the Jammeh regime. Courts of law must be accepted as accurate, regardless of politics or even one’s preferred version of history. This means that given the status of our laws, with respect to Yahya Jammeh, there can be no debate that he plundered the nation and violated human rights on a scale that required remedial action from the State.
Mamudu: There is nothing inspirational or worthy of imitation with respect to the dictatorship of Yahya Jammeh, which can best be described as one of the darkest periods in Gambian history. This sixth legislature of the National Assembly should expedite and enact the Presidential Commission on Good Governance and Human Rights and set up an administrative and judicial mechanism for recovering the money stolen by Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts. The fact that millions of dollars and other immovable assets have been discovered here and abroad proves the decades-long embezzlement.
Furthermore, the Supreme Court should decide and recognize the thievery of Yahya Jammeh’s regime, characterizing it as a ‘well-entrenched plundering regime of twenty-two years.’Following the TRRC report, the Justice Ministry, its judicial committee, and the National Assembly shall add to the Act providing for equitable and fair reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the regime of Yahya Jammeh.
In recognition of the horrors of the dictatorship, the government should enact a policy of using public funds to pay for Jammeh’s use of state machinery to inflict violence on Gambian citizens and their properties. In addition, the Gambian people must complain about the human rights abuses with respect to Jammeh’s regime and force the government to own up to the scale and intensity of the abuses inflicted during that period by offering fair reparations to victims and torture survivors.
Mamudu: The Gambia is a Charter State of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is, therefore, duty-bound to protect and uphold the fundamental rights of all its peoples. Accordingly, the Gambian government should value the dignity of every human person and guarantee full respect for human rights, pursuant to a declared policy and the Constitution that prohibits the use of torture, force, violence, threat, intimidation, or any other means that vitiates free will and mandates the compensation and rehabilitation of victims of torture (or similar practices) and their families. We owe the new Gambia the valor and determination for the resumption of democracy and restoring human rights and human dignity.