In the third installment of our four-part series of interviews stories on Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission’s (TRRC) reparation programme, we meet Ali Nget, Haddy Secka, Kumba Secka, and Modou Secka, all from Kerr Mot Hali.
While these victims shared mixed reactions on how the reparations were implemented, their collective voice calls on The Gambian government to consider more than just monetary compensation.
I did not benefit from the reparations programme, although I gave my statement to the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC)
I’m a victim of what happened in Kerr Mot Hali. I was sitting in my house when they (the paramilitary) came to the village and started chasing people out. I heard a commotion and when I looked over the fence, I saw them manhandling and escorting out my neighbour. Other villagers shouted that we should run away. I advised my family to run while I locked our doors. The paramilitary pursued us to the Senegal border and when they caught up with me, they seized my bicycle. The bike was later returned to me. I refused to pay a bribe to get it back.
I have no problem with the way the reparation programme was implemented. After all, I was not compensated. However, we really need assistance to recover our properties. Personally, that is the kind of compensation we will appreciate the most. I have eight children and two brothers who are all under my care.
When the TRRC came here, they said those who were arrested and detained at different police stations in Kaur, McCarthy, and other places were the victims. My wife was among those arrested but she was later released at the border after some friends appealed to the paramilitary on her behalf.
The reason for our victimisation was not due to anything other than the fact that we practised an unorthodox version of Islam.
In the next phase of the programme, we want first and foremost the return of our properties (farmlands and homes). We feel that no amount of reparation will come close to what we have lost. What we all want is to be allowed to return to our homes and work to feed our families. Where we are right now, we don’t even have a small space to cultivate a backyard garden. We appreciate the fact that our hosts have been very kind to us. If any issues or problems arise the government (Senegalese Government) will come and see to it that it is addressed. However, that’s all they can do for us. They do not bring us any benefits or anything of that nature. Their responsibility is Senegalese nationals.
If I was to rate the TRRC on the way it implemented the reparation programme, I would give it three out of 10.
We are shunned by all the communities that surround us simply because of our religious beliefs. I thank you for coming here to talk and listen to us. This gives us validity and a great sense of relief. There was a time when it was near-impossible for anyone to even come here to try to hold a meeting with us. I lot of our elders died due to the traumatic experience of our victimisation.
My name is Haddy Secka. My parents are victims from Kerr Mot Hali
Both my parents were compensated, which I am grateful for. The money was spent on medical treatment and feeding the family.
The TRRC met with the villagers before the compensation was paid. I was not present during the meeting, so I do not know if the victims were consulted about the reparation to be paid. If I had been present, and as the leader of the women in the village, I would have suggested other ways to implement the reparation programme.
In the next phase of the programme, they should consider helping people to strengthen their livelihoods. I am a tailor. I would invest any compensation money in my tailoring business.
I would say the TRRC has done a good job. I say this because it created income-generating opportunities for many victims who did not have a source of livelihood before. The compensation money was used to renovate houses and to buy food for families.
I would like to ask the government to assist us return to our village in The Gambia. We are Gambian nationals, all my children were born in The Gambia and I have their birth certificates. I urge the authorities to allow us to return to our village and build a hospital and vocational training centre were our children can learn a trade.
My name is Kumba Secka, a victim from Kerr Mot Hali
We are grateful for the compensation we were granted. At that time most of us needed medical care, so the money was timely in addressing that need. I was among the first victims to get the reparation. At the time I had an ear infection and I used the money for treatment. I was grateful for that. However, we all know that apart from health, other important needs include shelter. This is why everybody in the village would prefer, above any other form of reparation, to be given our properties back, to be allowed to return to our homes. Since 2009, I have been living in someone else’s home with my seven children. That is very difficult. When we were first displaced, we expected that we would spend just a few days here, not years. We are very grateful to our Senegalese hosts because if it were not for their kindness and hospitality we would have found ourselves in a lot of trouble.
No one has come here to talk to us about the balances that were promised. We would appreciate it if government representatives came to talk to us. As instructed by the TRRC, I am holding on to the document that indicates the balance I am owed. I am waiting for the government to tell us when the money will be available.
I spent the money I received on medical treatment and I am grateful for that. My health was badly affected as a result of the mistreatment I was subjected to during my victimisation. These people (paramilitary) did not care if one is a man or a woman; they just beat you and subjected you to severe torture. Those beatings caused a lot of health complications for me. I started having pain on my sides, stomach, and ears.
I would like to talk a little about our children’s education. They have not been allowed to go to school since 2009. Due to our forced exile and the beatings we were subjected to, we all feared taking our children to schools in the neighbouring village of Njau. We are very grateful for the intervention of the Women’s Association for Victims’ Empowerment (WAVE), which facilitated our children to return to school.
There are schools our children can attend but we are Gambians. We do not see ourselves as Senegalese, therefore, we want our children to receive Gambian education.
All we want right now is to be allowed to return to our homes. Where we are presently is not our home, we are only lodgers here.
My rating for TRRC’s running of the programme would be three out of 10
When incidents of violence occur, it is the women who suffer the most because we are the ones who are left at home with the children. Though our priority need is a place to live, we would still appreciate monetary reparations because some of us still need medical treatment. We need to finance our children’s education and plenty of other needs that can only be solved with money.
The only issue between us and the other side is our difference in religious beliefs. Everybody has a right to believe what they want and I think it is only right for them to be allowed to believe whatever they choose and us, too, to be allowed to believe in what we want. This is the only way we can achieve a peaceful coexistence.
My name is Modou Secka, a victim of what happened in Kerr Mot Hali.
I gave a statement to the TRRC when its officials visited us, but I have not received any compensation.
I can think of two reasons why I was not compensated. The first is that maybe they have not yet reached my name on the list. Second, maybe there was an error or mistake during the documentation process resulting in them omitting the names of some victims.
The TRRC did not inform me that I would not receive any compensation. I was not aware of the first time they visited the village to confirm the names of those who would be compensated. I became aware about the compensation payments when some of my neighbours hired me to drive them to Farafenni to collect their money. Then later news broke out in the village that some victims had been called aside and given their reparation.
I have a problem with how the reparation was implemented because I was a victim, I gave my statement to the TRRC, and I have been participating in all the activities they have conducted in the village. I asked the representatives of the village why come some victims were compensated and others not. They said the TRRC asked them to supply a certain number of names. They said that at the time they did not know that the list they were providing would determine who got compensation. I told them the elderly victims had suffered the most. Some were made to lie on the ground and were beaten severely in front of their children. They were later taken to the police station in the neighbouring village, where they were detained for three days. I, for one, was put in handcuffs and taken to Njau police station where I was beaten mercilessly and forced to sing praises about Yahya Jammeh. I don’t think it is fair that others got compensation and I did not. I told them that the way the reparation was implemented was not right.
They came back to the village and obtained the statements and contact details of other victims they said they had left out. I was one of these victims. The important issue here is that some of us suffered way more than those that were compensated.
I am not happy that I did not receive any monetary reparation because my rights were violated just like everyone else, so I do not think it is right that they got compensated and I did not. To add insult to injury, I suffered more than some of my fellow victims who were compensated.
I have never had any benefit from the TRRC, not even the so-called interim payment. My only interaction with them is they would come, document interviews with me, and then leave.
I feel that they did not do their job well. They have visited the village and spoke to us many times. They should have weighted the statements they collected and been able to tell where the truth lies.
The government should endeavour to identify the victims who suffered the most and were not compensated and pay them their reparation.
We the victims have the same aspirations and beliefs. On top of that, we all have the same wish, which is to be allowed to return to our homes and farmlands.
In terms of compensation, I would have preferred to be provided with assistance to build a decent home for my family.
In my opinion, TRRC scores four out of 10 in its performance. I pray that we all achieve success in this endeavour.
The Victims’ Bantaba is a virtual platform that will serve as a memorial site of record to events and experiences from The Gambia’s difficult years during the dictatorship of Yahya Jammeh.
It seeks to document the impact of the violations of human rights and atrocity crimes over the 22 years of that regime, particularly on the victims, and explore their continuing significance on the society.