‘Government Should Establish Peace, Reconciliation Commission With Clear Mandate To Promote Peace, Reconciliation’

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TRRC

The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission, TRRC in its Investive Report and Recommendations to the Government of the Gambia stated there the said Government should established a  Peace and Reconciliation Commission to promote  healing and foster Social Cohesion.

It further stated that the said Commission if established, should have structures at the decentralised level to ensure that all parts of the country are involved.

The Government of the Gambia in accepting the recommendation said: The government is aware that the legacy of violence and oppression does not go away unless it is addressed. It also recognises that national reconciliation is a multi-dimensional and a long-term process that requires dedicated structures and procedures across the country for sustaining peace, especially for communities that were alienated by sustained and widespread violence. The Government in collaboration with stakeholders will develop a comprehensive national reconciliation strategy to guide the national reconciliation process. In setting up the Peace and Reconciliation Commission the Government will ensure that it is gender sensitive and has decentralised structures for effective engagement at the grassroots level.

Continue reading below on the Commission recommendations and Government’s position on Reconciliation as stated in the ‘White Paper.’

Reconciliation

Background

Section 13 (a), (i) of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission Act 2017 mandates the Commission to “promote healing and reconciliation.” The Commission is also mandated by Section 13 (a) (iv) to “prevent a repeat of the violations and abuses suffered by making recommendations for the establishment of appropriate preventive mechanisms including institutional and legal reforms.” In line with its mandate, a Reconciliation Committee consisting of 6 commissioners was established to foster social cohesion and national healing in order to achieve reconciliation. A Reconciliation Unit provided technical support and backstopping to the Reconciliation Committee to lay a foundation for development, peace, and security through a transitional justice framework.

The Commission developed a framework to guide its work in this area by:

Ensuring a nationwide understanding of reconciliation within the TRRC’s reconciliation process for public ownership.

Engaging with different stakeholders and amplifying the “Never Again” Campaign.

Raising public awareness about the mandate of the TRRC to promote social cohesion and healing as well as to clear misconceptions about the reconciliation process.

Disseminating the aims and objectives of the work of the Commission on reconciliation to a wide audience.

The Reconciliation Committee with technical support of the Reconciliation Unit carried out the following activities in furtherance of its objectives:

Interpersonal reconciliation between victims and perpetrators.

Community reconciliation initiatives in communities that were divided as a result of the human rights violations that took place in those communities.

Engaging with Faith-Based Organisations to promote reconciliation.

A Politics and Reconciliation meeting between the leadership of political parties.

Capacity building of the Commissioners and staff on peace building and social cohesion.

Social cohesion interventions for national unity and peace- building.

Partnerships and networking.

Key stakeholders for the Reconciliation Committee were victims and perpetrators, Government and non-governmental organisations, political, religious, and traditional leaders, influential individuals, victims’ groups, civil society organisations (CSOs), community-based organisations (CBOs), children, youth and women’s groups, Gambians in the Diaspora and international organisations.

The Commission found that there were misconceptions about the concept of reconciliation by many Gambians including victims. For many, reconciliation was seen as synonymous with forgiveness – that perpetrators seek forgiveness from victims after committing atrocities. The Commission however noted that even if an apology is offered and accepted the state still has an obligation to fulfil its obligations. The Commission held that reconciliation is both a process and an outcome. It applies not just to victims and perpetrators but to everyone and requires multiple interventions. No single intervention is likely to solve all problems but collectively diverse approaches could help build reconciliation.

The Commission also found that the truth-seeking processes contributed to the national reconciliation agenda by acknowledging the wrongs of the past and the

suffering of victims, and through its Never Again agenda prevent past human rights violation from recurring.

The Commission also found that ethnicity, religion, family, and gender considerations influenced many witnesses not to participate in the TRRC processes. Misplaced loyalty, fear of reprisals, stigmatisation and discrimination as well as perceived family honour also prevented both men and women from testifying before the TRRC even though systems were in place to protect their identities.

The Commission found that the decline of social networks in rural Gambia is a challenge to promoting national reconciliation and social cohesion. Rural communities which were previously bound together by shared values and identities and a sense of belonging have to a greater extent been broken down into separate units. Consequently, building relationships in such spaces will be a daunting task but not insurmountable. The Commission however found that positive traditional practices can promote reconciliation. Joking relationships for example, still play an important role in averting conflict and maintaining peace and can promote reconciliation. The power of joking relationships emerged during the public hearings and in the banters, that went on between Commissioners, staff, legal team and witnesses and perpetrators. This mechanism is understood by Gambians and is an important tool that can be used in reconciliation initiatives.

The Commission noted with concern that only men participated in the individual reconciliation activities facilitated by the TRRC. There were no reconciliation activities between perpetrators and women or children although these two groups make up a large number of victims that suffered from numerous human rights violations.

Finally, the Commission noted that lustration can be an alternative or supplement to retributive justice by disqualifying agents or officials of the former regime responsible for the human rights violations by excluding them from public service and disqualifying them from holding political office.

Recommendations from the TRRC and the position of the Government:

Commission made the following recommendations:

The Government should establish a Peace and Reconciliation Commission with a clear mandate to promote peace, reconciliation and healing and foster social cohesion. The Commission should have structures at the decentralised level to ensure that all parts of the country are involved.

The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. The government is aware that the legacy of violence and oppression does not go away unless it is addressed. It also recognises that national reconciliation is a multi-dimensional and a long-term process that requires dedicated structures and procedures across the country for sustaining peace, especially for communities that were alienated by sustained and widespread violence. The Government in collaboration with stakeholders will develop a comprehensive national reconciliation strategy to guide the national reconciliation process. In setting up the Peace and Reconciliation Commission the Government will ensure that it is gender sensitive and has decentralised structures for effective engagement at the grassroots level.

The institutional reforms proposed by the TRRC should be implemented as they are an important component in the reconciliation processes of the country.

The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. As well as the demands for justice from victims, the Government recognizes that one of the main components of national reconciliation is the restoration of trust between the State and society. This trust can only be achieved when the State upholds its legal and institutional obligations. The Government reaffirms its commitment to prioritising the institutional reform process in

line with the overall findings of the Commission and ending impunity through justice and accountability mechanisms.

The National Center for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) should work together to revitalise the joking relationships culture to enhance indigenous knowledge of shared norms and values that are central to peace making and to averting conflict.

The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. The Government is of the view that achieving national reconciliation is a deep and long-term process that demands institutional changes as well as changes in our norms, values, attitudes, beliefs, aspirations and sentiments. The National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) are strategic institutions that respectively preserve, promote and develop Gambian culture and create and sustain awareness of constitutional democracy for the achievement of political, economic and social stability through civic education. These two institutions are therefore well positioned to play an important role in national reconciliation through social reconstruction whilst keeping alive our collective resolve of Never Again.

The faith-based organisations should play a frontline role in promoting healing and reconciliation in The Gambia.

The Government accepts the recommendation of the Commission. The effects of decades of violence and abuse still remain alive in the lives of victims and communities. For sustainable peace to be achieved, the government recognises that a broad range of actors needs to continue to come together to develop holistic strategies to support individuals and communities that experienced grievous human rights violations. Gambians recognize that traditional and faith-based organisations offer wisdom and inspire healing and renewing relationships. Similarly, women in The Gambia

To be continued