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Your Excellency, the Vice President,
My Lordship, the Chief Justice,
Honourable Cabinet Ministers,
TRRC Chairman, Commissioners,
Legal Counsel Team and Staff of the Secretariat,
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the previous speakers have explained, we are here today to receive the Report of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission, TRRC. This event highlights another milestone in the implementation process of our transition programme, and it marks a great achievement for the Gambian nation.
On reflection, it is a source of pride that, in 2017, my government took the wise decision to establish the TRRC through an Act of the National Assembly. As contained in its mandate, the Commission was to investigate human rights and other abuses committed from 1994 to 2016 in order to bring about justice and accountability, healing and reconciliation among Gambians, and to effect reparations for deserving victims.
Like the National Human Rights Commission, the Constitutional Review Commission, the Security Sector Reform and Civil Service Reform, the setting up of this Commission is an essential but unique aspect of The Gambia’s Transitional Justice Programme, hence the importance of its work.
Many African countries have established Truth Commissions, in one form or another, to provide a platform for victims of human rights abuses to relay their stories, hold perpetrators accountable and determine reparation packages, where necessary.
The Gacaca Courts of Rwanda is an example. Despite the genocide, the people have reconciled their differences, and are now working together to develop their country.
Realising that they could not undo the past, the Rwandese factions that killed and maimed one another’s families knew that the right thing to do was to bury the hatchet and work together to build a better future as one people. We have a lot to learn from that experience.
Here in The Gambia, the Commission was mandated to get to the bottom of human rights abuses, uncover the truth to guarantee a clear historical record of what transpired in our beloved country and submit recommendations on reparations for deserving victims.
Through the TRRC, Gambians now know what happened on Gambian soil in the past. Although we have decided as a country to unearth the truth, our desire is to create a path for healing and reconciliation, with the goal of co-existing peacefully as Gambians.
I am certain that, if we choose to do so, we can live together in peace and harmony, without any form of injustice, and nurture our young democracy in a stable nation where the rule of law prevails in the best interest of all.
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,
Under the leadership of the Chairman, Dr. Lamin Ceesay, I commend all the Commissioners, the Legal team, the Secretariat and the whole TRRC team for running the Commission’s affairs during its months of work. I thank you all for carrying out this national task successfully.
I must seize this opportunity to express profound thanks and gratitude to the United Nations, the Peace Building Support Office in New York, UNDP and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for providing the initial grant to sustain the Commission.
Their support made it possible to establish a credible transitional justice process and devise suitable mechanisms that would promote reconciliation and sustainable peace in The Gambia. Building the capacity of the Government and national stakeholders, through the Peace Building Fund, has contributed to the successes realised in pursuit of our reform agenda.
Other partners, such as the International IDEA, the International Centre for Transitional Justice, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, and Justice Rapid Response, as well as a host of other local civil society organisations, such as FLAG, TANGO and the Bar Association, also deserve commendation. We are thankful to all of them.
In a special way, I thank the witnesses and their families for their fortitude and courageous testimonies. I assure them that my government will ensure that justice is done, but I urge them to be patient and allow the legal process to take its course. That way, justice will prevail, and we will be able to heal as a country and move forward united and stronger, with greater determination.
Ladies and gentlemen, I reassure you that my government will study the Report carefully for appropriate action. Thereafter, Government will inform the general public of its position in a White Paper that will be published within six months from today. In the interim, I advise all Gambians to exercise restraint.
Finally, Mr Chairman, distinguished Commissioners, the learned legal team and the staff of the Secretariat and other units of the TRRC, we acknowledge our obligation to you for accepting to undertake this important national assignment and carrying it out diligently and successfully.
I thank you all for your attention.
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