Gambia: TRRC Vice Chair Says Govt D50m Reparations Payment 'Drop in the Ocean'

The vice chairperson of the Truth Commission of The Gambia (TRRC), Adelaide Sosseh, said on Monday that the 50 million dalasis the Gambia Government disbursed to the TRRC Trust Fund in October is 'a drop in the ocean.'

Commissioner Sosseh said the money sounds big but considering the numerous victims with different rights violations meted out to them, the amount is not close to adequate, while adding that the expectations are high.

"{It} sounds like a huge figure but in the face of existing gross human rights violations that have been carried out during the 22 years of Jammeh's regime and the number of victims that have suffered these violations, including death, torture, force disappearances, unlawful detentions, extra-judicial killings, sexual and gender based violence, witch-hunts, fake HIV/AIDS treatment, reparation of press freedom, to name a few; the amount is just a drop in the ocean," she said at a local hotel on the ongoing 2-day experts meeting on TRRC's Reparations regulations.

The money the Government gave to the TRRC, which is close to 1 million dollars, was payment to the victims of human rights violations of the 22-year-rule of ex-Gambian president Yahya Jammeh, who is currently in exile in Equatorial Guinea.

The fund was raised from the sale of assets of ex-president Jammeh, said the Attorney General and Minister of Justice Aboubacarr Tambadou in a press conference in October 2019.

Madam Sosseh said after the government announced the payment it became clear to them that the already high expectations of the victims would intensify.

"It became apparent that urgent action needed to be taken to address the issue of reparation as with the announcement of the fund, expectations on the part of the victims and their families would be heightened," she said.

Meanwhile, the government said the amount is an initial sum and another equal amount would be disbursed to the TRRC to make it 100 million dalasis.

Commissioner Sosseh said the TRRC has identified 26 themes that need to be investigated and they have not even reached half way.

"It is good that this is just an initial sum because the honorable minister has promised another 50 million and we will try to push for even more because even that is most inadequate. But one good thing is the money went straight into the victims' support fund that was set up. At least this was not just a promise it was money in the bank," she said.

Speaking further, Madam Sosseh assured the experts from within and outside the country that TRRC's intention is for the reparation to be carried out in a just and equitable manner.

She said they have a clear guideline of who a victim is and who's not and that they are clear on steps to take to be a beneficiary.

Notwithstanding, she said some questions came up from people on what would happen to a victim who did not tell his/her story to the commission after they finished their mandate.

She said they must work on timelines and they cannot wait for people if they fail to come forward and tell their stories, they would not go and get the information from the victims.

She added: "This weekend, one of the witch hunting victims said to me 'I heard to tell my story. It was painful but I had to tell my story. But there are several people within my community who do not want to tell their stories because of issues of loyalty and they are keeping quiet. And I know them; they are there but would not come forward'. If somebody does not want to come forward, who bares the responsibility of them not getting reparation? Is it the TRRC or is it the person who says I don't want to tell my story."

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