Adama Barrow was declared this week the winner of The Gambia’s carefully watched presidential election, securing a second five-year time period in workplace.
The vote was seen as a take a look at of democratic stability for the small nation, 5 years after a regional peacekeeping mission compelled longtime ruler Yahya Jammeh out of The Gambia after he refused to concede defeat to Barrow.
However the incumbent’s new mandate additionally comes with a renewed responsibility to the victims of human rights violations dedicated throughout his predecessor’s 22 years in workplace. The election befell simply days earlier than a extremely anticipated report recommended the federal government prosecute quite a lot of officers for crimes allegedly dedicated throughout Jammeh’s period.
“One factor we wish to guarantee, there shall be justice and reconciliation, reparation – it should all occur however now we have to be affected person,” Barrow mentioned in his first information convention after Saturday’s election.
In 2017, Barrow had established the Reality, Reconciliation and Reparations Fee (TRRC) for that objective. Within the years that adopted, the TRRC heard harrowing testimonies from a whole lot of witnesses, together with former officers of the Jammeh administration in addition to victims and their family.
The fee mentioned as much as 250 folks had died in state-sanctioned abuse, whereas using dying squads, rape and torture as punishment was rampant.
In late November, the TRRC’s report was delivered to Barrow, who now has six months to determine whether or not to behave on it. Neither the 14,000-page doc, nor the names of the alleged perpetrators, have been made public.
To “forgive and neglect with impunity the violations and abuses … wouldn’t solely undermine reconciliation however would additionally represent a large and egregious cover-up of the crimes dedicated,” the fee mentioned in an announcement.
International rights watchdog Amnesty Worldwide has additionally known as for “an unequivocal dedication from the Gambian authorities that justice and reparations will lastly be delivered” to the victims of Jammeh’s period. The previous president, who’s in exile in Equatorial Guinea, has beforehand denied allegations of wrongdoing.
For the reason that fee’s inception, a debate has begun on the presence of political willpower to implement the report’s suggestions. Issues amongst victims and rights campaigners grew earlier this 12 months after Barrow shaped a coalition alliance with Jammeh’s outdated occasion – the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Development (APRC) to assist him safe a second time period.
Specialists additionally warn that apart from the lengthy and complex means of handing over the report back to parliament and publishing a white paper, a number of different limitations might make sure that it is a lengthy stroll to justice.
“Do now we have the cash?” requested Gaye Sowe, the chief director of Banjul-based Institute for Human Rights and Improvement in Africa (IHRDA).
“Such prosecutions are costly. Do now we have sufficient educated prosecutors and judges? How protected is it to prosecute Jammeh even when that’s beneficial by the TRRC? He nonetheless has important help [within The Gambia].”
Past the price of authorized prosecutions, there are considerations that The Gambia, one of many world’s poorest international locations, could not be capable to afford reparations and rehabilitation for the victims regardless of reportedly allocating 150 million Gambian dalasi ($2.8m) for that objective within the 2022 funds.
Jeggan Johnson, of the Open Society Basis’s Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Venture, mentioned the organisation has submitted a set of suggestions to the African Fee on Human and Folks’s Rights, asking it, amongst others, to induce The Gambia to introduce witness safety.
“The people who testified in opposition to the Jammeh regime are literally being threatened by sure members of the APRC, which is his former occasion,” mentioned Jeggan. “This was confirmed by the TRRC secretariat in a gathering I had with them about two weeks earlier than the discharge of the report back to Barrow.”
There are additionally considerations about problems with privateness and dignity at any time when the data turns into public. The Jammeh authorities reportedly used rape as a weapon of torture and intimidation, on each women and men, in addition to kids. On condition that the nation stays a comparatively conservative society with strict anti-LGBTQ legal guidelines, there could possibly be an accompanying stigma, Johnson mentioned.
“There are ladies that at the moment are married and don’t wish to make that public … and the fellows which are household heads and have gotten kids, so how will we shield their integrity?” he mentioned. “How will we shield their disgrace? These are very delicate issues that I consider we’re gonna grapple with for some time to come back … How will we archive these testimonies and who would be the custodian of that knowledge?”
In a rustic of solely an estimated 2.5 million folks, the traces have additionally been blurred at instances between victims and perpetrators of crimes dedicated throughout totally different durations of the Jammeh period – and that has more and more led to declining public sympathy.
That change in notion might make an already tense scenario much more delicate for the Gambian authorities and additional complicate the trail to justice and therapeutic.
“Something can occur and nothing can occur,” mentioned Johnson.