By Nelson Manneh
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) endorsed the Government of The Gambia to establish a Peace and Reconciliation Commission with a clear mandate to promote peace, reconciliation, and healing and foster social cohesion.
The commission in its report states that the Peace and Reconciliation Commission should be established by the Government which should have structures at the decentralized level to ensure that all parts of the country are involved.
“The institutional reforms proposed by the TRRC should be implemented as they are an important component in the reconciliation processes of the country. The National Council for Arts and Culture (NCAC) and the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) should work together to revitalize the culture of the joking relationship to enhance indigenous knowledge of shared norms and values that are central to peace making and to averting conflict. The faith-based organizations should play a frontline role in promoting healing and reconciliation in The Gambia,” the commission stated.
The commission further suggested for partners who have signed MoUs with the TRRC to respect the agreements in their respective MoU to ensure that the gains made are not lost and that the country heals and reconciles. The National Youth Council (NYC) should promote national healing and reconciliation through its peace organizations and networks.
“Gambian organizations in the Diaspora need to follow-up on agreements and recommendations emanating out of the 2019 Diaspora engagement. The United Nations system in the country and the international community who have invested so much in the TRRC processes have an important monitoring role to ensure that post TRRC agreements and mechanisms are implemented,” the commission further stated.
Section 13 (a), (i) of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), Act 2017 mandates the Commission to “promote healing and reconciliation.” The TRRC is also mandated 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.” (Section 13 (a), (iv).
In line with its mandate, a Reconciliation Committee was established by the commission to foster social cohesion and national healing in order to achieve reconciliation.
According to the truth commission, the concept of reconciliation is not understood by many Gambians. For many, reconciliation is synonymous with forgiveness – that perpetrators seek forgiveness after committing atrocities to victims. For those working to promote forgiveness and reconciliation like the TRRC, it is important to remember that a person can choose to forgive but not to reconcile
The Reconciliation Unit (the Unit) provided technical support and backstopping to the Reconciliation Committee to lay a foundation for development, peace, and security through a transitional justice framework 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 and disseminating the aims and objectives of the work of the Unit to a wide audience.
The key stakeholders for the Reconciliation Committee were the victims and perpetrators, government and non-governmental organizations, political/religious and traditional leaders, influential individuals, victims’ groups, civil society organizations (CSOs), community-based organizations (CBOs), children, youth, and women’s groups, Gambians in the Diaspora and international organizations.
Section 18 (5) of the TRRC Act stipulates that: “A Reconciliation Committee shall make recommendations to the Commission for approval which is drawn from engagements with various stakeholders especially victims and perpetrators.”
In essence, this means that after giving their testimonies at the TRRC, perpetrators can request that the TRRC facilitate reconciliation with their victims or between themselves. The TRRC’s approach to interpersonal reconciliation focused on the relationship between victims and perpetrators and perpetrators turned victims and the offenders of the rights violations.