Gambia’s public life has dramatically changed since the departure of former President Yahya Jammeh. He was forced out of office after losing the December elections and refusing to relinquish power.
He now leave lives in Equatorial Guinea after the regional bloc Ecowas pushed him to leave the country.
The capital Banjul is experiencing a new vibe, with ordinary people now finding their voices on a range of issues affecting the country including politics.
This would have never happened under Jammeh. During his reign, his opponents including politicians, activists, journalists and ordinary people were constantly harassed and jailed without trial for speaking their mind publicly.
Many were tortured and others died in detention and their bodies buried in secret locations. The new government has recently unearthed the atrocities.
Three men are arguing about where Jammeh should be tried. But Gambia is buckling under a backlog of dozens of unsolved cases from the Jammeh era.
A prominent activist and member of one of Gambia’s opposition parties, Solo Sandeng was arrested during a peaceful demonstration in April last year.
He died in detention and his body was exhumed and returned to his family just last month.
The nine members of the notorious National Intelligence Agency, who arrested him, were charged for their involvement in Solo Sandeng’s death and jailed.
The country’s Finance Minister is optimistic that the new democratic values adopted by the country are finding favour even with international donors.
He says they are assisting Gambia to deal with all the court case arrears, finding lawyers and judges. Gambia is also expected to set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission within six months.
President Adama Barrow’s government is hoping that the commission will help in healing the country. But it is saddled with over 1 billion dollar in debt and is struggling to function.
“That is where the challenge is. If you have 50 victims whose families have lodged complaints to the police and investigations have to be conducted simultaneously, where you are going to get the resources from.”
An association of victims and their relatives is demanding reparations and Jammeh’s assets be frozen. But for the moment it is Gambia’s own state funding that is frozen.
– By TV Desk