Dr. Omar Janneh (PhD)

Dr. Omar Janneh responds to Mr Matarr S Baldeh’s claim that Ms Adelaide Sosseh-Gaye is not conflicted and should be appointed Deputy Chairperson of the TRRC

Dear Mr Baldeh and all Concerned Readers,

Thank you so much for your reaction to my piece that Ms Adelaide Sosseh Gaye is not conflicted and that you endorse her nomination as Commissioner of the TRRC.

Most of the readers may need to know that you and I had this conversation in our closed forum, the Community of Gambianist Scholars, which we have to work and make accessible to all. Below is a slightly expanded version of my response to the 3 items raised in your piece:

a) She has been a vocal critic of Dictator Jammeh.

Could you please point me to any literature that suggests that there were objections, due to conflict of interest, to Nelson Mandela appointing Archbishop Desmond Tutu as chairperson and of Dr. Boraine as Archbishop Tutu’s deputy for the South African TRC set up in 1995?

Just for sake of some completeness, could the same be said for the Kenya’s TJRC in regards to the appointment of Mr. Bethuel Kiplagat as Chairman by President Mwai Kibaki? Remember, Mr. Bethuel Kiplagat had to be replaced by Ms. Tecia Namachanja Wanjala because of conflict of interest.

By the way, I am not in any way suggesting that Ms Adelaide Sosseh Gaye is as conflicted as Mr. Kiplagat – the allegations against Mr. Kiplagat were far more severe. But it is my view that once there is an element of conflict of interest, it plants doubt into the minds of objective individuals in regards to whether justice can be seen to be served if such conflicted individuals preside over proceedings. It is for this reason that when conflict of interest is identified, it must not be ignored but addressed.

It is perhaps disingenuous to think that if one has not heard someone speak out in public against Jammeh that that individual hadn’t contributed to Jammeh’s removal as much as others who spoke out. I think the point recently made by Njundu Drammeh may be adequate here:  “… if you think “small” is insignificant to be counted, you have never been in a dark room with a mosquito.” I prefer to encourage everyone to continue to do what they can and how they can – in private or in public. I think if the contribution of anyone has emboldened more people, including myself, to have a voice now that is something to celebrate.

b) Her daughter Ndey Tapha Sosseh has been a solid critic of Jammeh and until recently was living in exile. 

It is clear to me that you hold a different view, which is fine. I must thank you for shedding some light on some of Ms Adelaide Sosseh Gaye’s other works with the APRC. I found this to be interesting. I wonder what the victims may be now thinking. Anyhow, I have not doubted Ms Adelaide SossehGaye’s capacity to be able to listen to the cases, but I do doubt her capacity to be objective given that she is conflicted. I hope you are not confusing competence with objectivity.

I am merely trying, hard as it may be, to look at the picture objectively from the other person’s view – the perpetrator(s) of the rights abuses – which is probably not you. In my view, it is the perpetrator(s) of the rights abuses who are best placed to decide if someone has been objective or not. I know that sounds absurd. But consider this: If the recommendations to prosecute those who committed the greatest of the abuses are to come from conflicted Commissioner(s), I think that makes the legal route to prosecute such individuals a difficult one.

A half-decent Lawyer can make the government’s position very difficult. To do a reasonable job of this, you must distance yourself from the person and allow yourself, just for a moment, to look at the matter objectively. I can understand that that can probably be difficult if you have known someone since 1965.

And by the way, the capacity to be able to carefully analyse the evidence (of the rights abuses) requires skills and practical experiences which have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the uprightness of one’s moral character, especially if that individual is conflicted. I think there is something about Law training and working as a Lawyer for some years that develop those skills and experiences in individuals.

c) We may also be able to say with certainty that Mrs. Sosseh is a UDP supporter

My response to the rest of your reaction to my piece including on the above point:

Thank you for expressing, as you see it, an alternative view of Ms Adelaide Sosseh Gaye’s affiliation to the UDP. I read with interest the line: “She does not belong to any political party and has always encouraged those working with her to desist from such practices as she believes that it may interfere with her principles of inclusion, impartiality and objectivity.

How do you reconcile this statement with her work with the APRC supporters? You said: “I can state here that the mother- daughter relationship that you refer to does not in any way constitute “conflict” for her, for even when her daughter was in exile she was working with the APRC in various platforms through her networking and advocacy campaigns and never once did she exclude any of them from her work because they were APRC.” I cannot get my head around the fact that you see no conflict of interest associated with mother-daughter relationship. Are you talking from practical experience of your involvement in other truth commissions?

I know you know her well, but imagine for a moment if you are the perpetrator of the rights abuses, do you think Ms Adelaide Sosseh Gaye would be an objective Commissioner? And do you also think that the international community would see her as an objective Commissioner?

 I do not find her work with Jammeh’s party supporters enough grounds to justify that she is not conflicted; quite the contrary, it makes my head spin. [It is like telling me that this government is not conflicted when they are in bed with some Executive members from the previous brutal regime that presided over rights abuses and financial blunders the Surahata Janneh and the TRRC are/will be looking into. It is all a joke: Huge money-wasting exercise for the state and money-making assignment for anyone involved in them. The most expensive exercises to get to the truth even when the truths are staring us in the face.]

I have not said that the Commission is a judicial body. My position is that since the Commission would look into human rights abuses, which is a matter of Law, that it is only proper that a Commissioner who has the relevant experience in human rights Law for some considerable period be included as Commissioner – just as has been the case in a number of Commissions before ours. I have stated reasonably clearly, in the piece, why I think this is important.

Again, it is very clear to me that you have known Ms Adelaide Sosseh Gaye for some considerable period of time, because of which you seem to be in support of her inclusion from that seemingly biased view point. I wonder if your knowing her for long would be much comfort to the perpetrator(s) who committed the rights abuses. I do get it that most find this position – of appearing to be fighting for the rights of perpetrators(s) – hard to swallow, but justice has to be seen to be done. I do not think we have to stage this to get to the truth. If we do, it makes the path to justice very tricky; there is no need to compromise our positions, so Mr. Baldeh, no need for “maslaha.

I am aware that the nominees didn’t nominate themselves. In my view, there are excesses; this is the product of the very problematic TRRC Act, 2017. For example, why two Imams when we do not have a Lawyer? What has religion got to do with the Commission? Were the rights abuses religious in nature?

Overall, I do get it very clearly that we are going to do this TRRC the Gambian way. Most people understand what that means: the appointment of individuals based on personal connections instead of merit or talent. I hold the view that until we change our clan-based way of doing things, we will not transform The Gambia.

Thank you very much!