Gambia president receives report on ex-dictator Jammeh crimes

Investigators on Thursday handed a long-awaited report on crimes committed under ex-dictator Yahya Jammeh to Gambia’s president, in a move that victims hope will pave the way to prosecution.

The final report of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) was originally scheduled for release in July but has been delayed several times. 

Publishing the report is politically sensitive in the tiny West African country, where Jammeh retains significant support.

The nation of two million people is also in the middle of a presidential campaign in which the return of the former dictator from exile has been a central theme. 

TRRC officials handed President Adama Barrow their findings in a ceremony in the capital Banjul, an AFP journalist saw.

The report comes after more than two years of truth hearings into Jammeh-era crimes. 

Witnesses gave chilling evidence to the TRRC about state-sanctioned torture, death squads, rape and witch hunts, often at the hands of the “Junglers”, as Jammeh’s death squads were known.

The TRRC has not been empowered to prosecute those responsible for crimes.

But its report has been eagerly awaited by rights groups and victims, who hope it will recommend pursuing criminal charges against Jammeh. 

The contents of the report will not immediately be made public. 

Barrow is expected to release a white paper within six months on how to implement its recommendations, according to the TRRC. 

Jammeh seized power in 1994 as part of a bloodless military coup in The Gambia — the smallest country in mainland Africa.

He was then repeatedly re-elected in disputed circumstances until Barrow, who was then a relative unknown, defeated him at the ballot box in December 2016.

After a six-week crisis that led to military intervention by other West African states, Jammeh was forced into exile in Equatorial Guinea.

– Presidential race –

Despite the magnitude of abuse allegations facing Jammeh, the 56-year-old retains a considerable following in The Gambia.  

Many supporters are pushing for his return from exile.

His influence has been a key issue in the run-up to a presidential election on December 4 — the first since the ex-dictator’s departure.

Jammeh addressed a campaign rally remotely this month, arguing that Barrow had “rigged” the 2016 elections. 

Barrow, for his part, sought an alliance with Jammeh’s APRC party in September —  a move viewed by some as an electoral ploy. 

Rights activists denounced the alliance, which also stirred fears that it could lead to Jammeh’s return.

But Jammeh subsequently disavowed the electoral pact, which he said was taken without his knowledge, and his supporters have formed a rival party.