Jambur, the Gambia — ‘Those perpetrators are nonetheless shifting round.’

Last May, the Gambia’s govt vowed to put in force the suggestions of a reconciliation fee arrange to cope with human rights abuses dedicated by way of the regime of dictatorial former president Yahya Jammeh.

For sufferers of Jammeh’s 22-year reign, and many different Gambians, it was once a big milestone. Yet because the 12 months attracts to a detailed, sufferers’ associations are involved the federal government is stalling on key suggestions and hanging politics ahead of justice.

Many Gambians who’re owed reparations – together with the ones forcibly exiled or focused in “witch-hunts” – stay empty passed, whilst the presence of Jammeh allies within the govt of President Adama Barrow has dampened hopes for prison duty.

“It is an insult to the Gambian people, a slap in the face of every Gambian,” stated Fatoumata Jallow Tambajang, Barrow’s former vice chairman and a distinguished opposition activist throughout the Jammeh technology, which lasted from 1994 to 2017.

Jammeh was once compelled out of energy by way of a West African army intervention after refusing to settle for electoral defeat to Barrow in 2016. The Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations Commission (TRRC) was once introduced in 2018 and commenced a sequence of gripping however painful public hearings the next 12 months.

A last record detailing grim abuses was once made public in overdue 2021, and the federal government then approved nearly the entire TRRC’s 265 suggestions – from bringing Jammeh and his associates to justice, to providing monetary reparations to sufferers.

Kimbeng Tah, a justice ministry legitimate, rejected claims that the reconciliation procedure is shifting too slowly. He stated the federal government is determining the precise prison framework for prosecutions, and added that sufferers who have not been compensated can be subsequent 12 months.

“There is an urgency, but if we bow to pressure and rush things, we might not do things perfectly,” stated Tah, who’s the deputy director of the ministry’s division of civil litigation and global legislation.

Enduring stigma

Still, religion within the govt’s skill to put in force the fee’s suggestions was once dressed in skinny amongst sufferers, civil society teams, and native analysts who spoke to The New Humanitarian in October in several cities and villages.

Trust was once particularly low within the small western the town of Jambur. Residents there stated they’ve no longer gained reparations and clinical invoice bills regardless of struggling badly underneath Jammeh – who’s now in exile in autocratic Equatorial Guinea.

In 2008, after Jammeh blamed the dying of his aunt on witchcraft, he ordered a “witch-hunt” in Jambur. Residents had been made to drink a poisonous potion and 20 died throughout the episode, which Jammeh used to goal opposition individuals and non-public enemies.

Over a decade later, the TRRC arrange camp on a large, sandy box in entrance of Jambur’s central mosque. Victims got here ahead and equipped the fee with accounts of the violence, and described the stigma, well being problems, and financial hurt they’ve since suffered.

But the camp has now been dismantled and Jambur citizens really feel their truth-telling hasn’t translated into the rest concrete. Youth left in droves throughout the Jammeh technology – some to the capital, Banjul, others to Europe – and few have returned.

“We, the youth, are finding it very difficult,” stated Ousman Bojang, the treasurer of a neighborhood adolescence and construction crew. “The stigma attached to our elders has a lot of effect on us. When you introduce yourself as being from Jambur, people target you as a witch.”

Bojang informed The New Humanitarian that his crew is setting up dialogues for reconciliation functions. But he stated those efforts don’t seem to be neatly funded and have not helped fight the rising mistrust native adolescence have in government.

“We hope that the government will come and empower [youth], creating incentives so they can make a small earning.” stated Bojang, as a choice to prayer resonated thru sand-blown alleys. “But for now we have not seen any of this happen.”

Reparations and new sufferers

There has been some growth on reparations. A fund arrange by way of the TRRC in 2019 distributed cash for urgent cases. And a invoice calling for an unbiased frame to keep an eye on reparation bills is recently under consideration, in accordance to media stories.

Still, out of the 205 million Gambian dalasis (kind of $3.3 million) asked from the federal government by way of the TRRC, simply 50 million (round $800,000) has been distributed to date.

Given that some sufferers have no longer but come ahead due to worry and social stigma, extra price range would possibly want to be asked. Survivors of gender-based violence are particularly reluctant to testify and sign in for reparations, even though native teams say they’re combatting this.

“We conduct regional outreach activities across the country to encourage them to come forward to document their cases,” stated Sheriff Kijera of the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations. “Even last week, we had new victims who came to register.”

Priscilla Yagu Ciesay, head of WAVE, a neighborhood NGO that is helping ladies who suffered violence throughout the Jammeh technology, stated males continuously make a decision if ladies will have to request reparations, and select how ladies will have to use the cash in the event that they do take it.

“Even in 2022, you still have the men [making] those decisions for women [and] about women, being the spokesperson, not letting women breathe, and talk, and share,” Ciesay informed The New Humanitarian.

Jobs for Jammeh loyalists

A former lieutenant, Jammeh took energy in a coup and started abusing folks quickly after. Dissenters had been murdered; sham remedies had been imposed on folks with HIV; migrants were killed; and the dictator is accused of rape and sexual attack.

The TRRC documented no less than 240 deaths by way of the regime, and there have already been penalties: Sentences have been handed down in the Gambia and there are investigations and trials ongoing in another country underneath the principle of universal jurisdiction.

Last month, Gambia’s justice minister, Dawda Jallow, said the federal government would “definitely” search Jammeh’s extradition. Jallow stated this may occur as soon as a hybrid courtroom is established with the assistance of the Economic Community of West African States.

Still, some Gambians doubt the federal government will observe thru in this for the reason that Barrow – hailed as a hero in 2016 – has entered a political pact with a faction of Jammeh’s birthday celebration, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC).

“They are playing on the minds of the people,” Jaw stated. “This whole idea of reconciliation within our context is so convoluted; it means different things to different people.”

The surprise of seeing former Jammeh allies in positions of energy “re-traumatised” some survivors, stated Tida Baba Jobe, the spouse of a former Jammeh affiliate who got here to be noticed as a danger by way of the dictator and was once performed greater than a decade in the past.

“My children are still not going to school, and those perpetrators are still moving around – that is the worst trauma,” she informed The New Humanitarian from a location outdoor the Gambia, the place her circle of relatives stays in hiding.

Community tensions

Reconciliation is not handiest sophisticated by way of nationwide politicians. The Jammeh technology additionally led to polarisation between native communities that has been left unaddressed for a few years.

The fee’s suggestions come with setting up peace committees and putting in place native dialogues. But sources for those mechanisms were gradual to arrive, and the processes that experience commenced recommend conflicts can be exhausting to get to the bottom of.

One instance may also be discovered within the plight of the Ndigal, a non secular sect from the village of Kerr Mot Ali, in central Gambia. They fled to Senegal in 2009 after police and paramilitary officials arrested, beat, and raped dozens of neighborhood individuals.

During contemporary peace talks attended by way of officers from the federal government and the nationwide human rights fee, individuals of the Ndigal crew met citizens from a number of Gambian cities that had up to now been opposed in opposition to them.