Our TRRC: Witness (alleged perpetrator) testimonies and my main issues of concern

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By Njundu Drammeh

A dangerous mindset: I have heard some of the soldiers who have testified before the TRRC vociferously defending the belief that it is the duty of the army, nay their obligation, to overthrow an elected government whenever it is not ‘fulfilling’ the functions for which it was elected into office.

While I understand that such a mindset was nurtured in post-independence Africa, with endless coups by the military, it is intolerable and unacceptable in this age and time. Our army cannot arrogate to itself such an obligation and such a belief must be debunked at all cost. To actualise the aphorism ‘Never Again’, we must make the army unlearn, nay disabuse their minds, this notion or belief, even if it requires a ‘re-education’ of the role of the army in a democratic dispensation.

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It is only the almighty people, the civil population, who have the sovereign right to change their government, whether through the ballot box or other means, revolutionary or otherwise. The Security Sector Reform must not only be anchored on human rights based approach to security but also entail strategies to make our security personnel human rights defenders. Alas, recent utterances by our Security Chiefs, and their covert meddling in the political space as ‘guardian angels’ of civil and political rights, is both dangerous and frightening.

Resignation is honourable too: ‘I have never considered resigning from my position’ is an oft repeated refrain from (former) senior government officials before the TRRC. It has never been an option; we would rather play along and play dead, either for self preservation or out of indifference. But I think we should all know that resigning from our positions in Government is an option we can always exercise when we think that our values and principles are out of sync with that of the institution or its head or when there is a train of human rights abuses and violations, corruption, mismanagement and our voices have stifled. There is never a cul-de-sac; we can either choose the high road or the straight and narrow. It only has to take a troubled conscience to reach such a decision, a small pang of remorse to move away.

One does not have to be directly affected by the wrong, illegality or immorality to take action. For instance, we know that uncle Sidat Jobe resigned from his ministerial position when he disagreed with the decision of Jammeh to declare a British diplomat persona non grata. What happened to him? I know men and women who Jammeh dismissed from their posts but gracefully declined to return when they were reinstated. Theirs was a show of dignity. Yes, and we know that with all his braggadocio and huffing and puffing, Jammeh was afraid of men and women with conscience and without a price tag. Resignation is an option and men and women with conscience have always used it, to take responsibility for an individual or collective act of commission or omission.

The child is the father of the man: Histories of men who brutalised the world showed that most of them had bad, abusive, violent, unpleasant, childhood. A bad childhood provides repressed anger and it is society that suffers the brunt. When such a child, in his or her adulthood, gets the opportunity to revenge on society, the outcome is often brutish, violent and dangerous. He or she grows up to believe that society was responsible for his or her status, especially when he grew up around affluence but lived in an island of poverty, deprivation, neglect, abandonment. Check their childhood and behind you will see that repressed anger which can explain their violence and brutality. Thus, we should support children in their childhood, ensuring every child has that childhood he or she can be proud of; one that is full of love, warmth, protection and dignity. It must be a social obligation that we identify dysfunctional, disadvantaged, marginalised, struggling single-parent families, or those in which abuse and violence are prevalent, and support them.

Neutrality or apathy is never an option: Dantes states that the ‘hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality’. However, for self preservation or total indifference and unconcern, we turned a blind eye to the suffering, torture, rights violations, humiliation and privation of fellow citizens. We anaesthetised ourselves to the sufferings of others, hoping we would remain happy, solitary beings. Little did we know that by our silence or apathy, we were putting life and blood into a Frankenstein Monster. Ultimately, he came to devour most of us. Co-conspirators and co-perpetrators became victims of their own treachery. Thus, the culture of standing up for others whose rights are being violated or taken advantaged of should be nurtured. One does not have to know or be connected to the victim; what is required is to accept that humankind would suffer by your inaction.

Higher premium should be on human rights and human security, not so-called ‘National Security’: In the name of protection and preservation of ‘National security’, young lives were brutally cut short; children orphaned, wives widowed, dreams truncated, untold suffering heaped on the people. And behind this pretext of ‘national security will never be compromised’, was not just the protection of only one man and his ‘government’. It is evident that where human rights and human security are not protected, security cannot be maintained and development cannot be achieved. Poverty, unemployment, diseases, crimes, rights violations and non-fulfillment, are supposed to be ‘national security’ concerns, not the purchasing of arms and ammunition and riots gears and vehicles. These are the issues that the Security Sector Reforms must address and have at its core, human rights, the rule of law and good governance.

‘Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law…’ Preamble, UDHR
As we navigate through the process, may justice prevail for the victims. May alleged perpetrators say the full, unvarnished truth for reconciliation to happen in full.

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