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Inclusive Justice in the Gambia

Almost all Gambians are victims in some way of the 1994-2016 authoritarian regime and the pervasiveness of torture and detention that has had far-reaching trauma effects at both an individual and community level. As Gambia embarks on a process of dealing with the dictatorship’s legacy, the GIJTR is helping to address a need for a more sustained approach to ensure that victims’ voices are at the forefront of the transitional justice process.

Project Overview

Context

From 1994-2016, the Yahya Jammeh regime in the Gambia was characterized by gross human rights violations, including torture, enforced disappearances, detention without trial, and extrajudicial killings. During this time, and with the assistance of his security forces, Jammeh aimed to silence all dissident voices, particularly journalists, human rights defenders, student and religious leaders, political opposition members, judiciary officials, and security force personnel. Many eventually fled the country out of fear. In addition to the human rights violations, Jammeh’s regime created a deep chasm between different ethnic groups, fueling underlying rivalry between the minority Jola people and the majority Mandinka. Many Gambians perceived Jammeh to have favored his own ethnic group, the Jola, over the Mandinka and Fula. Adama Barrow’s electoral win in 2016 set in motion a break with the Jammeh regime and an opportunity for Gambians to identify ways in which they could come to terms with the past and promote truth, justice and reconciliation. In December 2017, the Government of Gambia enacted the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) Act, a first step in guiding the country’s transitional justice process.

Project Details

Initial assessments conducted by project partners in 2019 found that civil society organizations require ongoing capacity-building and support to ensure that they are able to engage with the transitional justice mechanisms, efficiently monitor the transitional justice process, and establish themselves as independent from the state. To address these needs, the GIJTR’s focus is on awareness-raising and providing support for local CSOs to ensure there is a well-trained, coordinated cohort of civil society actors, who are able to engage at both the state and community level to ensure that victims’ and local communities’ needs are addressed and that their voices are included in Gambia’s Transitional Justice process. Furthermore, in ensuring that CSOs have the necessary tools to monitor the transitional justice process, the project promotes transparency of a predominantly government-led initiative, which is necessary to rebuild trust in a society that has been fractured by decades of authoritarian rule.

Context

From 1994-2016, the Yahya Jammeh regime in the Gambia was characterized by gross human rights violations, including torture, enforced disappearances, detention without trial, and extrajudicial killings. During this time, and with the assistance of his security forces, Jammeh aimed to silence all dissident voices, particularly journalists, human rights defenders, student and religious leaders, political opposition members, judiciary officials, and security force personnel. Many eventually fled the country out of fear. In addition to the human rights violations, Jammeh’s regime created a deep chasm between different ethnic groups, fueling underlying rivalry between the minority Jola people and the majority Mandinka. Many Gambians perceived Jammeh to have favored his own ethnic group, the Jola, over the Mandinka and Fula. Adama Barrow’s electoral win in 2016 set in motion a break with the Jammeh regime and an opportunity for Gambians to identify ways in which they could come to terms with the past and promote truth, justice and reconciliation. In December 2017, the Government of Gambia enacted the Truth Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) Act, a first step in guiding the country’s transitional justice process.

Project Details

Initial assessments conducted by project partners in 2019 found that civil society organizations require ongoing capacity-building and support to ensure that they are able to engage with the transitional justice mechanisms, efficiently monitor the transitional justice process, and establish themselves as independent from the state. To address these needs, the GIJTR’s focus is on awareness-raising and providing support for local CSOs to ensure there is a well-trained, coordinated cohort of civil society actors, who are able to engage at both the state and community level to ensure that victims’ and local communities’ needs are addressed and that their voices are included in Gambia’s Transitional Justice process. Furthermore, in ensuring that CSOs have the necessary tools to monitor the transitional justice process, the project promotes transparency of a predominantly government-led initiative, which is necessary to rebuild trust in a society that has been fractured by decades of authoritarian rule.

Project Objectives

Create opportunities for women and other marginalized Gambians to document and share their narratives of human rights violations beyond the close of the TRRC

Through arts-based documentation and community-led dialogues,  facilitate ways for women and marginalized members of Gambian society to share their experiences and voice their expectations of the transitional justice process in a safe and confidential setting.

Build the capacities of local civil society organizations to engage in transitional justice processes and awareness raising

Increase the capacities of local CSOs by providing targeted training, monitoring and support, as well as support a group of local CSOs and media to raise awareness and provide information about the transitional justice process to all Gambians inside the country as well as to the Diaspora community.

Strengthen psychosocial support for survivors

Build the capacity of local CSOs and Truth Commission staff to provide psychosocial support for survivors and strengthen current referral mechanisms for survivors of gross human rights violations.

Enable survivors to more directly engage with the transitional justice processes in the country

Provide support for all survivors to access and engage with the transitional justice processes, supporting healing, reintegration and community reconciliation.

Amplifying Women's Voices

This project offers safe and confidential spaces to victims and survivors of sexual violence during Jammeh’s era through community dialogues and the provision of psycho-social support that allows women to share their stories in a confidential and non-judgmental space.

Fatou Baldeh

Founder and CEO of Women In Liberation and Leadership – WILL, one of GIJTR's local partners in the Gambia
A statue that says “Never Again!” at the dock to depart for Kunta Kinteh Island, which was a departure point for thousands of enslaved people from the 1400s to the 1700s as part of the transatlantic slave trade.
A GIJTR workshop on participatory awareness-raising techniques.
A representative from the TRRC speaks to GIJTR project participants in February 2020.
The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission in the Gambia sharing news about truth commission hearings that focus on sexual and gender-based violence in 2019.
The African Network Against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances (ANEKED), a civil society organization in The Gambia, created an exhibition called The Duty to Remember, one of the first memorialization initiatives in the country, with support from the GIJTR.

Awareness and Advocacy

This video - created by the Gambian organization, Power of Freedom, with support from the GIJTR - seeks to raise awareness about truth and justice initiatives among the country's two million citizens. Instrumental by: @khalibeatz for @chambaiimusic

In partnership with a local Gambian organization, Women in Liberation and Leadership, GIJTR developed a flip-book to help everyday citizens better understand the current transitional justice process in the Gambia.