Ansumana Drammeh, Mama Cham, and Sarata Ceesay are all residents of Jarra Soma village. They are all related to victims of unlawful arrest and detention. In the third part of our series, they narrate their experiences with the reparation programme to JFJ researcher BABA GALLEH JALLOW.
My name is Ansumana Drammeh, a son of a victim of unlawful arrest and detention
In life, if someone offers you something, regardless of how insignificant it may be, you should appreciate it. The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) paid us GMD16,000 ($262) in compensation. This amount was inadequate to take care of my family’s basic needs. My father, who was a civil servant, was the victim. He was arrested and imprisoned for more than a month, and then dismissed from his job. Our crops failed because his detention coincided with the farming season that year. We were young then and had to rely on the benevolence of family and friends for our sustenance. I am urging the government to pay us the balance owed to us.
I do not really understand how the reparation programme works. I was not aware that there were interim reparations where victims’ immediate needs like medical care and school and livelihood support were provided for some victims and their families. Neither did I know that the TRRC was paying final repatriations in the form of cash payments. I just know that victims were being paid some money.
Right now, my siblings and I are beyond school-going age. I was in school at the time of my father’s victimisation but I had to drop out. What we need right now is assistance with our daily sustenance.
We shared the money equally among the nine of us. We each got less than GMD2,000 ($33), which was just enough to buy a bag of rice. The money lasted less than two weeks.
I hope the government will soon pay us the balance, as promised by the TRRC.
I do not rate the performance of the TRRC highly – just 1 out of 10. This is because they did not honour their promise to us – they should have paid us the whole amount that was awarded and not in instalments. That would have made reconciliation much easier.
In 1999, my late father, Ansu Jabou Drammeh was unlawfully dismissed from his government job. This was after being unlawfully arrested alongside other villagers for failing to recognize the Alikalo (village head) imposed on them by the APRC. This means he did not get his pension. This would have greatly helped the family. I ask the government to look into the issue and provide us with answers.
My name is Mama Cham. I am the sister of the late Lamin Cham, one of the victims of unlawful arrest and detention. He was arrested detained and tortured after he provided bail to his brother in-law who jumped bail and absconded to Senegal for fear of his life. He died from the harsh treatment he received while in detention. Since then, we have never been the same. The family was thrown into poverty and his children’s education was disrupted. He was survived by two young daughters who are currently attending school in Greater Banjul.
Although various forms of reparations have been proposed, I prefer cash payment because of my brother’s two daughters. We were given D50,000 and most of the money was spent on the children’s education and feeding. While the money helped, it was not enough to address most of their basic needs.
The whole family was present when the reparation money was distributed, so we had no problems. However, I have heard that the payments caused disunity in some families here in Jarra Soma. In the case of one polygamous family, the money was given to only one widow, who kept it for herself and her children. When the other children heard about it, there was great disharmony.
The TRRC has done a fairly good job and I would award it five points out of 10.
I appeal to the government to expedite the payment of the balance owed to victims. Our children’s education is at a crucial stage and they need these funds to complete school.
My name is Sarata Ceesay, the wife of a victim.
I am not happy with the way the reparation programme was implemented. Considering the suffering we endured, the money we were awarded was inadequate. My husband’s business, which was our main source of livelihood, was destroyed during his detention. Our children’s education was adversely affected. People would point fingers at us when we went out, so we only ventured out when it was absolutely necessary. We were hoping we would be awarded enough money to address our needs but what we were given was not even sufficient for my own needs, let alone the others.
For a successful reparation programme, they should have engaged with us first to seek our opinion. We would have told them which forms of reparation would benefit us. My husband was a businessman and his business was ruined during his detention. He had to resort to driving a taxi for our survival. If they had asked us, we would have suggested that they help re-establish the affected businesses. But they did not ask any of that and what we were given as reparation was not even enough to sustain us for a month. The compensation did not benefit us at all.
They can rectify this during the second phase of the programme. My advice to them is to award sufficient amounts to victims to enable them to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. This, I believe, would make forgiveness and reconciliation much easier.
My husband has three wives. When he received the money, he sat us all down and sought our advice as to how it should be distributed. We told him that since he is the head of the household, he should distribute the money in any way he deemed fit. There were no issues, no disagreement over the distribution of the reparation money.
I do not think the TRRC distributed the reparation funds fairly among the victims. Not at all. I am saying this because the GMD15,000 ($245) we were awarded is not comparable to the losses and hardships we suffered during the victimisation.
About their performance in terms of reparation, I do not think the TRRC has done well at all. If I was to grade it, I would award it one mark out of 10. They have not helped me or made a difference in my life. I am still enduring the hardships that resulted from my husband’s unlawful detention. A respectable amount in compensation would have gone a long way in helping the victims and their families.
Many victims gave their statements to the TRRC, yet they did not receive any reparation. I wish the government and the TRRC would explain why.
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.