For Isatou Ceesay and Tombong Njie, the time period “witch hunt” isn’t metaphorical. Beneath the regime of former dictator Yahya Jammeh, they had been each actually condemned as witches.
“He held individuals in custody, tortured them, and that was the top of them,” says Ms. Ceesay. “We had been so embarrassed to exit. We’re not witches,” provides Ms. Njie.
Throughout his 22 years in energy, former President Jammeh severely weakened the nation’s establishments and safety equipment. The regime was characterised by harassment; torture; the homicide of political figures, journalists, activists, and college students; and vital sexual and gender-based violence in opposition to ladies and youngsters.
Ms. Ceesay, Ms. Njie, and plenty of different Gambians nonetheless carry the scars of the abuses of the witch hunt marketing campaign, which started in 2009 and lasted a number of years. Victims struggled to flee the stigma related to witches.
Supporting a troublesome transition
In 2016, the Gambians voted out President Jammeh, and the brand new President, Adama Barrow, was sworn into workplace in February 2017. Nonetheless, the nation of two million individuals confronted a extreme political and social disaster with the absence of unbiased or efficient justice establishments and rampant human rights abuses.
The political transition required pressing reforms to overtake the nation’s establishments, promote democratic governance, handle previous human rights abuses and set up respect for the rule of regulation.
One of many ways in which the UN has helped to assist this transition is thru the UN Secretary-Basic’s Peacebuilding Fund, which supplied funds aimed toward vital areas, corresponding to safety sector and justice reform.
The UN’s shut collaboration with the authorities, below President Barrow, laid the foundations for 2 main establishments in December 2017: The Nationwide Human Rights Fee and the Reality, Reconciliation and Reparations Fee (TRRC), which is made up of 11 individuals, and designed to replicate the various ethnic, spiritual, and gender make-up of the nation.
Bringing again hope to The Gambia
In January 2019, public fact and reconciliation hearings started, with victims and perpetrators giving their private testimonies. The hearings and outreach actions generated nice public curiosity and broad fashionable participation, together with youth and civil society.
“The TRRC is essential. I’ve seen the way it has helped individuals empathize with us, figuring out that we had been intentionally and wrongfully accused,” stated Pa Demba Bojang, a sufferer of the witch hunt marketing campaign.
“Individuals now aspire to dwell in peace on this nation. Victims’ lives have develop into higher due to the assistance they acquired from the undertaking. The undertaking has introduced again hope in The Gambia,” stated one other sufferer.
The hearings had been broadcast dwell to on tv, radio, and on-line platforms corresponding to YouTube and Fb. They’d not have made for straightforward viewing, protecting incidents of human rights violations, together with torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary arrests, illegal detention/killings, and sexual and gender-based violence.
UNDP The Gambia
Supporting the victims
The UN Peacebuilding Fund performed a key function in enabling the hearings to happen. It enabled the Fee’s workplace to open, supplied key gear, technical assist to the Commissioners and the workers, and helped guarantee victims entry to the TRRC proceedings, which concerned reaching out to these in essentially the most distant areas of the nation.
Some 2,000 individuals benefitted from the Sufferer Participation Help Fund, which supplied psychosocial assist and important medical interventions. As well as, 30 individuals had been supplied with complete witness safety.
Past the hearings, over 34,000 Gambians have concerned in outreach missions on the transitional justice course of, and brought half in workshops, held in shut partnership with civil society organizations, spiritual and conventional leaders.
Because it started holding hearings, the Fee’ participatory and accessible course of has helped to foster nationwide reconciliation. “We had been wrongfully accused. Some pointed fingers at us, however TRRC helped us overcome this disgrace,” stated one other sufferer of the witch hunt marketing campaign.