The debate on accountability in The New Gambia
By Justice Hub
At the weekend Gambia partied. It’s been a time for celebration as the new president Adama Barrow formally took power and everyone – or at least many many thousands – came to the inauguration.
And his gesture – releasing all political prisoners – was celebrated.
But at the same time, there are new discoveries every day about what happened under the 22 year regime of former president Yayha Jammeh.
There was a look inside the infamous Mile two prison by this Al Jazeera reporter. Jammeh was reputed to have called the prison “my personal hotel” and guards told the reporter that Jammeh “would call in during torture asking to hear the prisoners cry”.
It was a day later that the prisoners they’d met insider were released
The new Interior Minister Mai Fatty – previously a big critic of the human rights record of the last regime – is making promises.
“a body will be set up to look into forced disappearances and to investigate "black sites" that may still be holding victims”
It’s even possible that a commission of enquiry or a truth commission may be set up, as hinted at by the new president.
Some arrests are also reported to have begun.
“Suwandi Camara, a former fighter for Liberian warlord Charles Taylor, and accomplice Bubacarr Jarju have been charged with abducting a Gambian lawmaker and a businessman in Senegal with intent to murder them. General Bora Colley, former head of the country's notorious prison system, was arrested in Senegal last month, though later released without charge. The biggest fish so far, former interior minister Ousman Sonko, was arrested in Switzerland in late January.”
The pressure group TRIAL says the authorities should be investigating torture and crimes against humanity
“As the head of detention centers, M. Sonko could not have ignored the large-scale torture that political opponents, journalists and human rights defenders suffered there”
But our community on Justice Hub is still hotly debating the issues. Last month we asked you specifically whether Yaha Jammeh himself would ever be brought to account.
This comment came into our Facebook page by Edriss Ramatoulie Deby:
"if Allah want to killed him thousand times, he can. let Is forgive and forget and give him breathing ground. Now Gambia has decided for a new regime and a brighter future let us wrap the wounds and past ugly scenarios in the astray of history.
let us focus on the socio-economic development and try hard and harder to transform your beloved country into highly develop model country..."
Many people liked it but Abdoulie M Sanyang disagreed:
“I can assure you that dictator Jammeh will someday be prosecuted not by ICC but by a competent Gambia court. That's when most Gambians can have the opportunity to testify against his evil crimes.”
and Nuhu Othman supported that view – Jammeh won’t always be holed up in Equatorial Guinea where he’s been given exile by president Teodoro Obiang Nguema.
“Well Africa is fast democratising. Obiang will someday leave, certainly. And Jammeh will have to face justice. In as much as people think the ICC is set out to bring down African leaders as soon as they leave power, I always beg to differ on this because it's about complementarity. If we have a robust justice system, we may not necessarily have to refer our cases to the ICC. Strengthening our transitional justice mechanisms is another way to go.”
Much of the debate focused on whether a trial at the Hague-based court - the ICC itself - would be the right venue for him.
MC Chri strongly disagreed
“They should prosecute other leaders in the WORLD!!”
But Momodoulamin Manneh had a different focus
“People talk about the west not taking their leaders to ICC, but did the western leaders kill, rape, torture, detain their own people without trial? Hell no, but Africa leaders commits all these crimes against their own people. So we need justice for their victims."
Maybe as the stories of individual victims in The Gambia emerge, there will be a bigger movement to hold Jammeh accountable. This piece is about how even those close to the former dictator fell foul of him, and it ends with the hope from the victims that “justice will finally come”.
Is this going to be a process like that of Hissene Habre – a many decades long wait and then an African solution? Let us know your views now that peace has returned to The Gambia.
Image - Twitter @barrowofficial1