FEATURE: TRRC Embarks on Community Dialogue

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), recently held a four days community sensitisations in the interior of the country.

The event was funded by United Nations Transitional Justice (UNTJ). During the course of the exercise, the Reconciliation Unit in collaboration with Research and Investigations, Communications and Women Affairs respectively deliberated on the Mandates of the TRRC, Reconciliation and the ‘Never Again’ Campaign.

The team also held Community Dialogues and Radio programmes in Bwiam, Foni Kansala, West Coast Region, Soma and Kwenila in the Lower River Region, as well as Farafenni, North Bank Region.

During the meetings, participants were enlighten and also asked to share their thoughts on how to operationalize the “Never Again Campaign”, promote reconciliation and empower communities to actively take part in the process.

Prior to that, there were presentations on the mandate of the TRRC, roles of the Reconciliation, Communications, Research and Investigations (Statement Takers) and Women Affairs Units respectively.

Members from the community in Bwiam, were not happy with some of the presentations made by the TRRC, and advised that there should be proper preparations before presentations are made.

Despite they were not happy with some of the things said, they were of the view that partisan politics and tribalism would not move the country forward and urged participants to come together for the betterment of the country. Proper relaying of information to the public was also a concern to them.

Among the challenges they raised were the presence of the Senegalese Soldiers in Bwiam, they alleged that the said force is killing their cattle illegally and has also instigated fear into the community, as some of their children expressed fear of not going to the bush to fetch firewood or get their animals back home.

They said given that the TRRC is mandated to make Institutional reform, it is important to take note of the intervention of external forces because their presence at times trigger misunderstanding in a country. Therefore they use this opportunity to urge the government to revisit the presence of the Senegalese troops.

Furthermore, members in this community are concern with the protected witnesses, because to them, if someone is speaking the truth, he/she need not to hide. Therefore it is important for the Communication Unit in collaboration with other units to come up with a strategy to persuade members from this community not only on protected witnesses but the whole idea of the TRRC.

Dwelling on the way forward, some of them suggested that, people that were sacked unlawfully under the former regime should be reinstated lawfully but prior to that they should be vetted properly.

The way Newspapers are reviewed on the radio stations should be look into to avoid chaos in society. 

On reconciliation, majority of them, religious leaders in particular advocated for people to put aside their differences and forgive each other as Muslims and Christians.

The same presentations were made in Soma and Kwenilla respectively, and among their recommendations was that there should be rigid laws to avoid brutality, and the Judiciary should be independent and impartial.

There should be a Committee from the National Assembly to promote the ideas of the TRRC, especially on the ‘Never Again Campaign,’ TRRC should recommend that no one should be allowed to overstay in power.

National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) should be empowered to enlighten citizens to know their rights and responsibilities. They therefore recommended for this office to be decentralized.

Religious leaders should constantly preach for peace and remind the people about the teachings of Islam and Christianity, they believed that if some of these things are applied, it would make people to fear god and avoid being wicket to each other.

People alleged to have committed heinous crimes, should be forgiven because of the believed that some of them unwillingly committed these crimes. However, victims should be compensated.

Given that we are all one people, it is important for us to reconcile but before that, the Truth must be known, forgiveness should not be so simple that a perpetrator would just go scot free. “No harsh sentence should be imposed on the person but it shouldn’t be too light as well.”

There should be a proper understanding of Democracy because of the way young people perceived it.  Presidents should see themselves as servants and not as bosses.

Citizens should monitor Gambian media to enable them know what’s happening around them rather than concentrating only on the foreign media.

The gravity of atrocities in other countries like Rwanda and Sierra Leone did not happen here, therefore, looking at the nature of our country, everyone is interrelated, after knowing the truth and reparations granted to victims, we should reconcile and move forward.

Others are of the view that the type of government we had from 1994-2017 was never the type Gambia had before. Military government is never easy but there would be no trust without establishing the truth.

The youth folk should have respect for elders and avoid abusing democracy, stop the witch-hunt and embrace each other. Revenge is not good and should be avoided. Citizens should always put the interest of the country before anything else.

Women should be empowered to enable them actively participate in decision making. There should be interparty committees dialogue to promote political reconciliation in all the regions.

NCCE should sub-contracts community associations to promote reconciliation in their communities. The commission should recommend for zero tolerance to nepotism and corruption.

There should be salary increment for workers to avoid corruption. Others went further to say that alleged perpetrators committed heinous crimes because they were paid.  Citizens should also change their attitudes towards their country and should encourage each other during social occasions.

Alternative Dispute Resolutions Councils (ADRC) should be adopted in communities to promote reconciliation.

For the Never Again to become a reality, tribalism should be eradicated in the country. Interparty Dialogue should be used to reconcile the people.

There should be capacity building training for women to enable them participate effectively and efficiently in all decisions processes. Traditional Communicators (Kanyelengs) should be engage to promote reconciliation and the never again slogan.

The Alternative Dispute Resolutions Council (ADRC) is already existing in Kiang Central, and according to their Chief, Demba Sanyang, since then he had not presided over dispute cases for the past 15 years except on divorce matters.

Perpetrators should be dealt with while victims should be compensated because without that, the same thing might happen again. People should use the social media with professionalism.

The TRRC should include joking relations in their activities, especially during presentations, as it makes people to feel relax and comfortable to hear messages from them.

Communications Unit

Observations:

I’ve observed that majority of the people heard about the TRRC but did not actually know what’s the functions of the commission while a few did not hear it at all.

Communities like Jarra and Kiang are willing to put aside their differences and reconcile after knowing the truth and reparations granted to victims.

These communities were so happy that the TRRC went to the ground to talk to them. For that being the case, there is high hope that the TRRC would address their problems.

I have also observed that certain communities in Foni still don’t understand the purpose of the TRRC and are seeing it as a witch-hunt.

Presentations and the fire exercise from the TRRC team was very educative and interactive.

Recommendations:

The TRRC, communications unit in particular should come up with a strategy to convince or persuade communities like Bwiam and its satellite villages to get a clear understanding of the TRRC.

It is also important for any TRRC team going out for outreach activities to brainstorm on the agenda before departing. During discussions, places to be visited should also be disclose to enable us prepare ourselves on our presentations.

The community radios in those areas should be engage on TRRC activities. This would rapidly help widening the understanding of the TRRC.