A Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission in the West African nation of The Gambia has wrapped up a sweeping three year public inquiry into the rule of former president Yahya Jammeh, an ex-military man who held the nation in his grip with torture, killings and lootings while holding office.
Some 500 victims and witnesses gave statements to the Commission of the “reign of terror” that characterized life under Jammeh’s despotic rule. In their final report, the Commission said it found that abuses resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Gambians and non-Gambians at the hands of the State or its agents.
“This report begins the countdown to the day Yahya Jammeh will have to face his victims,” said Reed Brody of the International Commission of Jurists, who works with Jammeh’s victims. “Whether it’s in The Gambia or before an international court, it will be very difficult now for him to escape justice.”
The Commission’s 17 volume report was delivered to the president last week. It buoyed victims who, after hearing nearly three years of harrowing witness testimonies, feared the twice-delayed report could be shelved with a change of power.
The report calls for the prosecution of those most responsible for the murder of political opponents and a massacre of over 50 West African migrants in 2005 blamed on “rogue” elements of Gambia’s security services.
“The results are in,” said Baba Hydara, whose father, the newspaper editor Deyda Hydara, was assassinated in 2004. “We have the truth. Now we need justice, justice for my father, justice for all of Jammeh’s victims, and justice for Gambian society as a whole.”
Jammeh and his family have been living in political exile in nearby Equatorial Guinea where the president of that nation said he would “protect” Jammeh from prosecution so that other heads of state would not fear harassment when they leave office.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, Dec. 4, some 860,000 voters or 53% of the vote total re-elected President Barrow with a comfortable margin. The results, however, have already been contested by four opposition leaders who on Sunday held a press briefing questioning an “inordinate delay” in the announcement of results. Barrow’s recent alliance with Jammeh’s old party has also raised fears of a possible return of the despot.