TRRC Recommends Banning Interior Minister From Holding Public Offices for 10 Years

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My Nelson Manneh

The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) has in its final report recommended the banning of Yankuba Sonko and Malamin Ceesay from holding public office with the Gambia government for ten (10) years for their roles in covering up the killings of the West African migrants.

Yankuba Sonko, the current Minister of Interior, is alleged of having a role in covering up the killings of the West African Migrants in July 2005.

The Commission underscored the need for accountability and the importance of bringing to justice those who bear responsibility for the crimes committed against the West African migrants who landed on the shores of The Gambia on July 22, 2005.

The commission also stated that to ensure Yahya Jammeh, his enablers and accomplices ought to be prosecuted for their roles in the unlawful killings of the West African Migrants and the cover-up of these killings.

These enablers and accomplices include Yahya Jammeh, Ousman Sonko, Solo Bojang, Malick Jatta (Alfidie), Sanna Manjang, Kawsu Camara (Bombardier), Tumbul Tamba, Bai Lowe, Nuha Badjie, Landing Tamba, Alieu Jeng, Omar A. Jallow (Oya), Buboucarr Jallow, Lamin Sillah.

The commission suggested the establishment of an international joint investigation team (Joint Forensic Investigation Team) based in The Gambia, which will comprise forensic investigators and scientists from The Gambia, Ghana, Senegal, and Nigeria, with the relevant skills, training, and background to carry out the following tasks: “To without delay identify the exact locations where the victims were buried, including the wells and graves mentioned by the witnesses that are located in both The Gambia and also in Casamance, Senegal.”

The commission recommended that all reasonable steps be taken to ensure the security and full protection of all the sites where the remains were buried and yet to be exhumed for the purposes of protecting the human remains therein and from tampering with the evidence. The commission recommended for the investigators to be given the mandate to exhume and conserve the remains of the victims that may be found in those wells or graves.

“Be given the full cooperation of the Gambian authorities, including full access to all documentary, testimonial and physical information and evidence in their possession that the Joint Forensic Investigation Team deems relevant to the inquiry; Be given the full cooperation of the Gambian authorities, including full access to all documentary, testimonial, and physical information and evidence in their possession that the Joint Forensic Investigation Team deems relevant to the inquiry; The Government of The Gambia to undertake without delay the steps, measures, and arrangements necessary for the speedy establishment and full functioning of the Joint Forensic Investigation Team, including recruiting impartial and experienced staff with relevant skills and expertise,” the report stated.

The commission suggested for the Government of The Gambia to establish procedures for carrying out the activities of the Joint Forensic Investigation Team, considering the Gambia’s relevant laws and judicial procedures.

“Provide training to the members of the security forces on the relevance of ECOWAS human rights instruments and their applicability. Put in place modern mechanisms, procedures, and facilities for all security institutions to ensure that all vital data and information collected by the police in the course of investigations are properly maintained and preserved. Put in place modern mechanisms, procedures and facilities for all security institutions to ensure that all vital data and information collected by the police in the course of investigations are properly maintained and preserved,” it stated.

The Truth Commission in laying the foundation of the recommendations stated that on July 22, 2005, about 67 economic migrants from West Africa – a large proportion from Ghana – started their journey with the hope of getting to Europe through the Mediterranean Sea. They were told that they had to come to The Gambia to board a boat that would take them to Europe. Unfortunately, when they arrived, they were abandoned by their agent in The Gambia.

The commission said Eric Nana Yao Owusu Ansah, a Ghanaian national who was among the West African migrants who arrived in The Gambia, recalled in detail the events leading to the massacre of his ill-fated companions. In 2003, this witness left Ghana and went to Senegal to find a route to Europe hoping for a better life.

“In May or June 2005, Mark Essien and Daniel Amankwa, both Ghanaians – told the witness that they knew an American man named “Taylor” who would arrange for them to be transported to Europe. Through further intermediaries, the witness met Lamin Tunkara who told him that he could arrange a boat and sponsor their journey to Europe.

“Under this arrangement, the commission said the witness and two of his companions first needed to take a boat to The Gambia where they would connect to the boat which would take them to Europe.

“According to the witness’s recollection of the events, it was on 15 July 2005 that their boat departed from Mbour in Senegal and reached a place near Banjul port in the morning of 15 July 2005. Once the boat left Mbour, the witness, as instructed by the captain, counted a total of 67 passengers on board,” the commission indicated in their report.

According to the witness, amongst them were more than 50 Ghanaians, seven Nigerians, two Senegalese, three Ivoirians, and two Togolese.

The witness recalled the names of some of the passengers, namely: Robert Essien, Daniel Osei Amankwa, Martin Kyere Kojo, Yaw Teacher, a man nicknamed Primo, Kwame, Victor Oduro, and Kwabena.