By: Almamo Kamasso
Dr. Baba Galleh Jallow, Gambia’s Truth Commission Chief, has called on the government to quickly investigate and bring to book those responsible for the killing of two men at the village of Faraba Banta on Monday in a dispute over sand winning.
Dr. Jallow, the Executive Secretary of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC), made the call in an open letter to President Adama Barrow following Monday killings of the two men.
Bakary Kujabi and Ebrima Bah were confirmed dead and many others seriously injured, including personnel of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU), following a sand mining dispute in Faraba Banta, in West Coast Region, on Monday.
“When you appointed me Executive Secretary of the TRRC back in late January 2018, my understanding was that your government was fully and genuinely invested in addressing past human rights violations and preventing the recurrence of future human rights violations,” Jallow reminds Barrow.
“I believed that under your watch, no Gambian blood will ever be shed by Gambian security forces and that with your support, the TRRC will help bring justice to the victims and the families of victims of people who lost their lives or otherwise suffered gross human rights violations under the former regime.”
“I am writing to you because today, I begin to feel that my conviction as stated above has been badly shaken and that ultimately, it will be hard for me to pretend to address the issue of gross human rights violations in an environment in which the very same violations are being repeated as evidenced by the tragic killing of protesters in Faraba Banta on Monday, June 18, 2018.”
“How can we purport to right the wrongs of the past when we are seeing a repeat of those very same wrongs in the present?” the former US university lecturer questioned.
“How can we purport to seek justice for past violations when exactly the same violations are being committed in here and now? How can we honestly say “Never Again” to gross human rights violations in The Gambia when gross human rights violations are being committed right before our eyes?”
“Surely, it would be grossly dishonest and hypocritical of me personally to head an institution that claims to be investigating extra judicial killings of the past regime when extra judicial killings are being committed – as in the Faraba case, right under my eyes?”
Dr Jallow argues that it is never right for police to open fire on unarmed civilians, however tense and volatile the situation, questioning as to why the police could not use tear gas or rubber bullets or even batons to disperse protesters, rather than use life bullets to kill them.
“We can’t have that in the New Gambia. We cannot tolerate that in the New Gambia,” he emphasized.
“Surely Mr. President, you do understand the very difficult situation in which the Faraba killings have put me and the entire mandate of the TRRC. You understand how difficult it will be for me and my colleagues to go about the country talking about the injustice of killing unarmed protesters by the former regime while police officers have opened fire and killed unarmed protesters in the here and now.”
“I cannot just emphasize strongly enough in what an impossible situation the Faraba killings have put the mandate of the TRRC. Suffice it to say that the Faraba incident has just made the mandate of the TRRC a million times more complicated and difficult than it already is.”
He reiterated that his purpose of writing to Barrow was to both express his personal outrage at what happened at Faraba and to show how it had made his work and position much more difficult and untenable and to ask that the government does something NOW to salvage the situation.
“I am writing to ask that those responsible for killing the victims of the Faraba shootings be identified, arrested and brought before a court of law NOW.”
“The job you have entrusted me with is a job I love and a job I believe can help us all build a truly just, democratic and enlightened Gambia. But it is a job I cannot do when the very things we are condemning in the past are being repeated in the present. So please do something now – and I do not mean the usual lengthy investigations,” Dr Jallow concluded.