Former dictator, Yahya Jammeh may be gone but for generations to come, Gambia will have to pay the oppressive ruler’s transgressions, mostly human rights abuses and economic disruptions that will be long felt.
This is unsurprisingly starting with the Barrow administration, which so far negotiated a $4 million out of court wrongful contract termination and dealing with a $26 million arbitration against the country by Carnegie Minerals.
The country’s Justice Department is now negotiating with the families of three journalists that have suffered rights abuses and civil rights violations under Mr. Jammeh after a regional court ordered the country to pay compensation.
The ECOWAS court ruled that The Gambia pays compensation to the families of $50,000 to Deyda Hydara, $100,000 to Chief Ebrima Manneh’s, and $200,000 to Musa Saidykhan.
Hydara was shot and killed for writing editorial critical of Jammeh, Manneh was arrested by secret agents and tortured death, and Saidykhan was arrested, severely tortured and later fled the country.
Jammeh’s government had refused to respect the court’s ruling. It ignored decisions ordering it to end impunity for past crimes against journalists but now there is somewhat good news for the families of the three journalists.
Hussein Thomasi, a senior advisor to the country’s attorney general, Aboubacarr Ba Tambadou said the Gambia the Justice Department has “commenced negotiations for the fulfillment of the judgments.”
Hydara’s former colleague and now Minister of Information, Demba Ali Jawo said the Barrow Administration will discuss with the families and see how best to work out the modalities of settling the claims.
Under Jammeh, Gambian authorities stifle media freedom through a combination of criminal prosecutions, physical intimidation, censorship, and the promotion of government views in state-run or friendly private outlets.
Journalists are frequently arrested and detained, or threatened with arrest, on dubious criminal charges. Many are held without charge for longer than the 72 hours prescribed by the constitution.
The courts provide little remedy to government abuses, as they lack independence from the executive branch. Jammeh dismissed or forced out three Supreme Court judges during 2015, including the chief justice.
But new President Adama Barrow says these days of impunity are over. His coming to power ushers in a new era of freedom and hope for citizens.
His government has already conceded that the sedition law used by Jammeh to jail journalists contravenes the Constitution and agrees it should be axed out.
Barrow promised wide-ranging reforms to overturn many of the authoritarian policies of Jammeh, who is also accused of imprisoning, torturing and killing his political opponents.
Gambians want increased accountability of their leaders and are increasingly challenging them, and newsrooms are adjusting to keep an eye on the government without fear of reprisal or being pushed into self-censorship.