Banjul – Around 400 Gambians demonstrated in Banjul on Saturday, calling for justice for crimes committed under former dictator Yahya Jammeh, an AFP journalist saw.
As the protest got underway, The Gambia’s justice ministry issued a statement saying the government was “fully committed… in the best interest of the Gambian people” to implementing any recommendations by the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission which has been investigating the crimes.
That had been one of the main demands of the protesters, who sported T-shirts and banners with slogans such as “No to impunity” and “Never Again”.
The TRRC’s findings have been delayed twice and President Adama Barrow has formed an electoral pact with Jammeh’s party.
Jammeh seized power in the former British colony in 1994 as part of a bloodless military coup. He was then repeatedly re-elected in disputed circumstances until he was defeated in December 2016 by Barrow, then a relative unknown.
After a six-week crisis that led to military intervention by other West African states, Jammeh was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea.
The 56-year-old retains considerable political support in the nation of two million people.
Rights activists have accused Jammeh of committing a litany of crimes during his 22-year rule: from using death squads, to raping a beauty queen and sponsoring witch hunts, among others.
Barrow established the TRRC to probe these accusations in 2017, which heard chilling testimony about torture and murder from nearly 400 people until it ended in May.
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The organisers of the demonstration, a federation of NGOs called TANGO, urged Barrow and the government to “make sure that the TRRC’s work hasn’t been in vain.
“We’re calling for the rapid, transparent and fair implementation of the TRRC’s recommendations,” it said.
While the truth commission has no power to convict, its report is highly anticipated by rights groups to see whether it will recommend pursuing criminal charges against Jammeh.
“It would be unfortunate if you, the political class, sacrifice the well-being of victims on the altar of political opportunity,” said TANGO’s chairperson, John C. Njie.
In its statement, the justice ministry reiterated “its continuous support for all victims of human rights violations and its commitment to the course of the TRRC and justice”.
Picture: Getty Images