Measured Optimism in The Gambia as Stakeholders Consider the TRRC’s Final Report 

Head of Program, The Gambia

12/22/2021

Since its inception in 2019, The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has captured the world’s attention. Quickly held up as a model, it raised high expectations in the country with victims and their families eager to take part in it and speak about the violations they suffered and demand justice. The commission was innovative in important respects, particularly in its expansive public outreach which engaged all constituencies of Gambian society, including young people, persons living with disabilities, and members of the diaspora. However, it also faced several programmatic challenges, including getting women to participate, distributing reparations, and completing the final report. 

On November 25, 2021, the TRRC presented its 17-volume final report and recommendations to President Adama Barrow, after a one-year extension and several additional postponements. These delays may have been due to poor planning during the drafting of the commission’s strategic plan. Nevertheless, they undermined the TRRC’s work and the public’s confidence in the commission, especially with the mixed results of other transitional justice processes including the constitution review and the enquiry on the financial activities of former president Yahya Jammeh’s administration. 

The final report includes a record of serious human rights violations committed under Jammeh’s repressive regime and recommendations for pursuing justice. Now all eyes are on the government for the proper implementation of these recommendations, notably those regarding the prosecution of crimes, the provision of full reparations, the vetting of security sector personnel including the removal of some individuals, and necessary institutional reforms. 

The act establishing TRRC mandates that the president make the report public 30 days after its submission and within six months provide a plan for implementing the recommendations, which will likely take the form of a government white paper. The main challenges going forward are the following: (1) maintaining the political will and the momentum among national and international stakeholders to implement the recommendations, (2) ensuring the implementation process is transparent, victim centered, and gender sensitive, (3) establishing a body that will deliver full reparations, (4) creating a mechanism that addresses The Gambia’s specific criminal justice-related challenges, such as the judiciary’s lack of expertise, investigative skills, and capacity, and gaps or incongruences in domestic law related some relevant international instruments, and (5) providing ongoing financial and technical support to civil society organizations, which are lobbying for and monitoring the implementation of the recommendations. 

Despite these challenges, steps have already been taken that offer hope that the TRRC’s recommendations will take effect. These include the creation in 2017 of the National Human Rights Commission, which works closely with civil society organizations to advocate for the implementation of the recommendations. Moreover, international human rights bodies have provided critical interventions in support of the TRRC and the country’s transitional justice process. For instance, the UN Special Rapporteur on Truth visited the country in 2019 and offered recommendations for stakeholders after the TRRC’s closure, and the Human Rights Council recently concluded The Gambia’s Universal Periodic Review in which it presented recommendations touching on the country’s transitional justice process. National and international organizations have also begun discussing a criminal accountability mechanism and other modalities, most notably at an international conference organized by the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa, International Commission of Jurists, The Gambia Bar Association, and ICTJ on November 16 and 17. Now, all stakeholders, including ICTJ, must build on the momentum to ensure the TRRC’s recommendations are fully implemented and the country’s transitional justice process meaningfully advances. Only then can The Gambia guarantee a more peaceful, just, and democratic future.


PHOTO: A woman enters the Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparation Commission in Banjul, The Gambia, on December 10, 2019. (U.S. Department of State/Flickr)