Gambia’s unity government by all indications will be nothing like the military junta that quickly instituted a commission of inquiry and went on an all out witch hunt against former officials of the PPP regime.
When President Yahya Jammeh came to power as a junior lieutenant of The Gambian army, many had their assets frozen and left homeless. They were accused of corruption, but for most of them, Jammeh said they neglected their duties and abused their office.
In Jammeh’s 22-year rule of The Gambia, more than 150 people served in his cabinet, some for as short as three days. Dozens of his former cabinet members were sent to prison for neglecting their duties and abusing their office. Jammeh thought Gambians were pleased with him having charged officials with this crime and his use of the law against civil servants became widespread.
Corruption and extravagant lifestyle are not hidden in Jammeh’s government. Jammeh himself is the chief “executhief” and spender. He owns fleets of Rolls Royce Phantoms, stretched armored H2 limousines, two private jets, multi-million dollar mansions in the U.S. and Europe and worth more than a billion dollars.
Junior officers in his government own seaside mansions and villas in affluent suburbs.
But Jammeh and his associates were not just corrupt, they were brutal. On the orders of the president, political opponents, human rights activists, pro-democracy campaigners, and journalists were killed, tortured, kidnapped, detained incommunicado, persecuted and maimed.
The question is: will Jammeh and his henchmen be prosecuted and will there be a commission of inquiry?
“We don’t have personal grievances against anybody but we will look into everything that had happened in the past 22 years. Based on the reports we will act, but we assure that we will follow due process.” President-elect Barrow
Gambia’s president-elect has stirred away from invoking any believe that Mr. Jammeh and his associates will be prosecuted or that a commission of inquiry like the Alkali commission will be constituted. One thing that President-elect Barrow made clear is that The Gambia is no longer a dictatorship and that due process will have to be followed.
Barrow said a truth and reconciliation commission will be established and based on the outcome of the commission, a decision will be made on how to proceed.
The UN said it will support the truth and reconciliation process to heal the nation after 22-years of Jammeh’s brutal regime orchestrating some of the worse rights abuses and forms of torture on Gambians.
Following due process will strengthen Gambia’s democracy and bring about reconciliation. The nation is divided and witch hunting will force thousands into exile. It will shift the minds of the people from retribution to restorative justice. Whiles justice will be done, the truth that will bring closure to victims and their families will not only be established, it will foster forgiveness.
And this is what Yahya Jammeh failed to do when he came to power, leaving many deeply scared.