By Alhagie Jobe
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for West Africa and the Sahel has called for a Truth & Reconciliation Commission in The Gambia after the fall of the long time ruler Yahya Jammeh.
Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas was speaking on Saturday in the country as the first foreign dignitary to visit since the historic election which unseated the country’s strong man who has ruled the small West African nation for the past 22 years.
During his visit, Mr Chambas held discussions with President-elect Adama Barrow and representatives of the Gambian Opposition for Electoral Reform (GOFER) as well as those of the Alliance for Patriotic Re-Orientation and Construction (APRC), the CSO-Coalition on Election/Situation Room and members of the Diplomatic Corps but could not meet the outgoing President Yahya Jammeh.
These interactions offered him the opportunity to discuss with the various stakeholders the way forward following the declarations of the results of the just ended presidential election, which will cause the Gambia to experience for the first time an alternation of political power through peaceful democratic means.
He called for accountability but quickly made it clear that it should not be characterized by witch-hunting, calling on the coalition opposition parties to be magnanimous in victory, to be moderate in their celebrations and to appeal to its cadres to eschew all acts of violence directed at APRC supporters.
“Likewise, it is expected state security institutions to play their roles by adhering to all the principles and practices of the civilian control of the armed forces in accordance with both the national and international conventions” he said.
This is the third visit of the UN envoy in the country this year. In May, he visited The Gambia as a member of the ECOWAS-AU-UN Joint High Level Mission and another visit in November. The main objective for those missions was to reiterate the support of the United Nations and indeed the international community at large to the people of The Gambia during the election process.
They have been urging all political stakeholders including the institutions and political parties to play their respective role in ensuring the delivery of peaceful and credible elections as well as the resolution of electoral dispute through legal and constitutional channels in a pacific manner.
“The United Nations reiterates its commitment to accompany the people of the Gambia in its uncharted first journey to peaceful transfer of political power through elections. What happened has ushered in a democratic alternation of political power and therefore the spirit and practice of democratic conduct should govern every consideration of all Gambian political stakeholders. Accordingly, I would insist that the way forward should be characterized by the ideal of national reconciliation, the quest for harmony and the respect for the rule of law in accordance with the Gambian Constitution and the international laws” he said.
He congratulated the Gambian people for organizing a peaceful, transparent and credible election and President-elect Adama Barrow and team for the victory. He also commended outgoing President Yahya Jammeh for the gracious manner in which he conceded defeat and for his pledge to work for a smooth transfer of power to his successor.
According to Chambas, political parties should continue to have a responsibility to defend not only the interests of their own party and supporters but also to safeguard the unity of the whole nation. He called on the Gambia Civil Society Organisations to stay actively involved with the people of The Gambia and to contribute to safeguarding the principles of good governance and acting to continually enhance the conscience of society.
For the UN diplomat, the results of the elections and the change in government will not alter the appeal of the United Nations for the respect of human rights and rule of law in The Gambia. According to him, for only the respect of rule of law can strengthen national unity and ensure a solid foundation for the challenges ahead.
He then reiterated his call for incoming authorities to exercise their responsibilities in full adherence to the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy, Election and Governance, among other international instruments that uphold basic freedoms and civil liberties for all.
The top UN diplomat reminded his continued called for the Gambia government to commit to the respect for human rights and request that the government conduct an independent investigation into the deaths of Ebrima Solo Kurumah and Solo Sandeng while they were in police custody. He also called on the government to reconsider the sentencing of the thirty protesters involved in the demonstrations of April 2016 as well as the continuing detention of fourteen people who are still awaiting trial in relations to the demonstration in May 2016.
Mr Chambas concluded by calling on Gambians to forge ahead in unity, conciliation, peace and harmony for the development of the great country.