KHULUMANI PARTICIPATES IN THE HOSTING OF A DELEGATION FROM THE NEW DISPENSATION OF THE GAMBIA under PRESIDENT BARROW’s ONE-TERM RULE to discuss the setting up of a Commission to secure Truth and Justice in the Gambia, 3 & 4 September 2017
On 3 and 4 September, 2017 Khulumani participated in a programme organised by the Foundation for Human Rights to host a delegation from the Gambia to discuss and learn from South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The delegation was composed of Attorney General and Minister of Justice, the Honourable Abubacarr Tambadou; the Special Adviser to the Attorney General, Mr Hussein Thomasi; a Communications Strategist from the Ministry of Justice, Ms Jainaba Nyang-Njie; Senior State Counsel, Ms Kanni Touray; State Counsel, Ms Mam Ndeban Jobe; Vice Chairperson of the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, Mr Sheriff M Kijera and Independent Consultant to the proceee, Mr Ibrahim J Wani.
Mr Thomasi introduced the purpose as being to visit the source of what had been perceived as a successful process that had helped to facilitate South Africa’s transition from repression to democracy through gaining understanding of the TRC’s successes and challenges towards the setting up of a Truth Commission for the Gambia. This follows the 22 year autocratic reign of former President Yahya Jammeh who finally conceded power to President Adama Barrow in December 2016.
When President Jammeh refused to leave power, after losing the election, a joint ECOWAS-AU-UN mediation team comprising the Presidents of Senegal, Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Mauritania and Guinea had been dispatched to Banjul to ensure that the legal framework for the peaceful transfer of power was successfully and scrupulously respected. This has been an impressive example of a successful regional preventive diplomacy efforts to own both problems and solutions in the region towards safeguarding peace and stability.
The regime of former President Jammeh had been characterised especially by massive crackdowns on journalists who were killed, disappeared, arrested, detained without trial or imprisoned for what they had written or said, forced into exile, tortured and harassed with many media houses or the homes of media practitioners being set alight or arbitrarily closed down. New President Adama Barrow has set up a transition team composed of members of both the former and the new administration with the support of Mr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel. Under President Barrow’s watch, legislative elections were held on 6 April 2017 and plans are now well-advanced for the establishing of a Truth Commission by December 2017, one year after a significant transition from autocratic to democratic rule.
President Barrow’s promise to his people has been to eliminate the environment of fear in the country and to create a conducive environment for development for The Gambia’s 2 million people, 60% of whom live in poverty. A feature of the extent of poverty is the fact that Gambians represent the fourth largest group of migrant arrivals in Italy, who risk their lives in the treacherous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea to an imagined better future in Europe. President Barrow has committed to the writing of a new Constitution to provide for the protection of the rights of all people as equal before the law, based on his party manifesto that provided for:
- Guarantees of Liberty, Dignity and Prosperity for All
- A New Constitution for a New Republic and Beginning
- A One-Term Transitional Presidency, to be followed by a constitutional amendment to introduce a two four-year term limit for the President.
- Gender Parity, Security of Tenure and Proportional Representation
- A Special Service Commission for the Appointment of Judges
- Decentralisation and the Separation of Party and State, to provide for the separation between party, business and state by requiring Presidents to surrender party leadership positions, to entrust their businesses to trustees and to concentrate on being everybody’s President at all times. Governors are to be replaced by Regional Permanent Secretaries representing the Ministry for Regional Administration with elected councils administering villages, districts and regions.
- Customary Law and Administration that allows for Chiefs who preside over district tribunals, to have no executive functions and instead to administer codified customary law based on their competence to serve as presidents of district tribunals.
The meeting was characterised by a rich exchange of experience and the building of relationships of solidarity and support that can only augur well for the future. Participants expressed the wish to meet at sittings of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights that take place each October in Banjul, the capital of the Gambia. Khulumani is profoundly grateful for having had the opportunity of participating in this learning exchange.