By Tabora Bojang
The victims’ Centre chairperson Sheriff Kijera has said the newly-signed agreement between the centre and the truth and reconciliation commission aims to serve the needs of victims to access justice, accountability, healing and reconciliation in achieving sustaainble peace.
Speaking at the signing ceremony at the centre in Kololi, Kijera said the agreement is part of ongoing advocacy activities to facilitate justice for the victims in uncovering the truth and supporting the rights of victims.
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, TRRC, which is expected to commence work in earnest on October 15, is tasked with investigating all gross human rights violations committed in The Gambia between July 1994 to January 2017 during the rule of President Yahya Jammeh.
The commission’s mandate includes investigations of violations such as extra-judicial killings, torture, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and sexual violence and rape.
According to Kijera, a victim-centred TRRC can serve as a common platform for trust building and the development of new social contract for the future.
“This is a clear demonstration that we are committed to walking on a path of partnership with the TRRC. The MoU appreciates the instrumental role of victims to access justice, accountability, reconciliation and healing in achieving sustainable peace in the country,” he outlined.
Kijera added that the MoU seeks to ensure transparent and fair interactions between the centre and the TRRC to ensure that victims are treated with dignity and honour in all interactions with the commission and its staff.
“Now The Gambia is working to step up to the challenge of unpacking the past and building a brighter future and ensuring that it never relapses into repression, violence and exclusion. The Victims’ Centre calls upon all victims to commit to the commission’s process to enable an environment that is conducive for a truth-telling and reparations process and subsequent national dialogue to flourish,” he added.
The deputy executive secretary of TRRC, Musu Bakoto Sawo, hailed the Victims’ Centre for their willingness in collaborating with the commission, which she said, can represent a realistic hope for victims who have mostly despaired due to the dictatorship and judicial voids.
“The work of the TRRC,” she elucidated, “cannot be done without the victims. They are the heart of the work that we do and it is on this basis that we thought there was need for us to synergise our efforts and speak with one voice not to duplicate things especially on the Never-Again advocacy programmes.”
Sawo who won the Verwa Chirwa Award last year from the University of Pretoria Centre for Human Rights in recognition of her role in the fight against FGM said,
“We think there is a lot of work that needs to be done to change the political culture of the country after 22 years of dictatorship.”