Should Families of 44 Ghanaians Murdered in Gambia Testify at TRRC or Sue Gambia at ECOWAS Court?

BY: Michael Asomani
The lone survivor, Martin Kyere
The lone survivor, Martin Kyere

This week, "shots" were fired between Ghana and the Gambia when Martin Kyere, a survivor of the gruesome murder of about 44 Ghanaians in the Gambia accused the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) of the Gambia of allegedly discriminating against Ghanaian victims.

He said the TRRC also did not provide the needed information about when the victims would have their case heard at the TRRC.

TRRC Executive Secretary, Baba Galleh Jallow reacted angrily to the accusation on a Gambian radio station, denying the accusation and accusing Martin Kyere and William Nyarko; Coordinator of the Jammeh2Justice Ghana Coalition of dishonesty.

The coalition was formed to seek justice for the Ghanaian victims.

Before the dust could settle on the accusations and counter accusation, the Lead Counsel of the TRRC, Essal Faal, waded into the matter claiming that the assertion by the Ghanaians were "unfounded".

As things stand now, the claims and counter claims could continue well into December if cool heads do not prevail.

Insiders say Jallow and Faal's denials and counter accusations were face saving gimmicks as the information requested by the Ghanaian victims had not been provided to them and that their case had not been prioritised.

However, even if things fester or the maters are resolved, an enduring question that remains to be answered is whether it will be in the best interest of the Ghanaian victims to testify at the Gambia TRRC or sue the Gambia directly at the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice for compensation.

It is recalled that the TRRC was established in January 2017 to investigate human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by the 'vanquished' Yahya Jammeh during his time as president from 1994 until he fled into self-imposed exile in Equatorial Guinea in January 2017.

Until the TRRC was established and began its hearings, Gambia had made no attempt to bring the perpetrators of the unlawful killing of more than 44 Ghanaians and other West African nationals to justice.

Jammeh had denied responsibility for the killings. It was during the TRRC hearings in July 2019 that we heard three soldiers testify publicly that they killed the Ghanaians and other West African nationals allegedly on the orders of Yahya Jammeh.

The fact that it was Jammeh who ordered the killing of the Ghanaians and other nationals was known, but had never been made public.

From the TRRC proceedings so far and the recommendations it would make when its hearings are over, one thing can be expected: Yahya Jammeh will never be brought to trial even if the TRRC recommends his prosecution because as a former head of State of the Gambia he has immunity from prosecution provided by the Gambian Constitution.

Knowing the truth and not getting justice is not enough. Perhaps compensation for the victims of Yahya Jammeh's egregious human rights violations including adequate compensation for the Ghanaian victims' families could assuage years of pain and torture.

From an assessment of likely awards by the TRRC, a victim whose family member was killed will get no more than $20,000. By contrast, the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice can award a victim $100,000 for an unlawful killing and additional awards.

Since the Ghanaian victims will not get justice at the TRRC and monetary awards will be as low as $20,000 it would not make sense for the victims to participate in the Gambia TRRC.

They should sue the Gambia directly at the ECOWAS Community of Justice and not participate in the charade parading as truth telling for justice at the Gambia TRRC.