Alagi Yorro Jallow

The Janneh Commission of Inquiry created to examine into the economic and finances liabilities, marauding and plunder of  state owned resources of former president Yahya Jammeh during his  twenty-two years of rule and/ or  prosecuting of the NIA 9 alleged killers of pro-democracy activists Solo Sandeng is being funded through mandatory spending, which essentially means it is set up to be free of executive and legislative branch influence.

 However, Justice Department officials do have a degree of oversight to make sure that money isn’t wasted, as with any other department office. The Gambia government according to the Attorney General reported to the National Assembly that over fifty million Gambian dalasi has been spent on the Janneh Commission of Inquiry probing into the financial dealings of Yahya Jammeh. Similarly, an estimated number of millions of dalasis has been spent on prosecutorial duties for the NIA 9 trial, a budget determined by the Attorney General has yet to be disclosed publicly.

Surviving life in the Gambia is about gradual desensitization to all things which ordinarily would make most people in any other country scream. “Magus humor” becomes our refuge and our immediate defense mechanism, a quick and easy way to make sure we don’t all lose our minds when faced with the avalanche of crazy allegations and revelations plaguing our national life.

 Without the element of greed, the promise of receiving a percentage of any recovered funds, very few people would readily speak out against corruption. “Whistle-blowing” is a short-term enticement which fundamentally will not change the moral fabric of our society. Unfortunately, too many things would have to happen for such a consequence to occur. After all, despite all the talk in living rooms or in social media, where are the successful convictions?

Momentous significance the system is resilient, the accused protect each other, calling on the rest of the society to make excuses for them based on ethnicity, professional ties or religion. So, each new scandal raises the stakes, kills a bit more of our already blackened souls and deadens any real belief (or desire) for change. How many millions has been allocated and paid to private prosecutors outsourced to prosecute the Nine NIA’s alleged to have killed Mr. Solo Sandeng case? Can you imagine how many of million dalasi paid to private prosecutors? What happened to the pool of lawyers at the Ministry of Justice? How many millions have been paid to the Janneh Commission probing into the Finances and properties of former president Yahya Jammeh?

Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou reported to National Assembly members on Tuesday that the Government has spent over fifty million Gambian dalasi on the Janneh Commission of Inquiry into the financial dealings of Yahya Jammeh.

The Janneh Commission began Inquiry into Jammeh’s financial activities in July 2017.  Since then, justice minister said it spent 50, 951, 261 Dalasis on its activities, wages and operational cost, among others. The Attorney General said, the Commission was able to generate monies from its activities including 67, 894, 170 Dalasis from the sale of recovered tractors and other items as well as monies in bank accounts hidden and other landed properties discovered by the Commission.

It is hard to be patriotic when as a public the citizens feel that their tax money is not getting value. Extravagance seems to be part of governance in a society where corruption is not only a fact of life but a way of living. They always must find ways of spending public funds. This   unjustified outsourcing of the justice system expenditure to private lawyers, given our debt crisis and the very high poverty levels in our country is unreasonable.

Can you imagine the Justice Minister outsourced the commission to private legal practioners? We treat these events with levity without seeming to realize their momentous significance. We don’t have a country. What we have is an ATM where only a few rogues know the PIN number. The rest of us are simply slaves who applaud or excuse their malfeasance on demand. They make us all look like fools. Why work, why get an education? The amounts that have left the coffers of this country are greater than this year’s budget. Yet, we will accept indebtedness and foreign loans rather than insist the proceeds of corruption are recovered, accounted for and put to good use. We make a lot of noise about democracy and the rule of law, only when it serves to protect our enemies, people who hate Gambia and don’t want to see its people prosper.

The enemies of Gambia are laughing at us while we tweet and pass on jokes about the matter on social media (Facebook WhatsApp). They are laughing at us while we too laugh at each other. So, who is really the fool here? We are trapped and by our own doing. Does the government really want to fight corruption? Do the courts? Virtually every institution which should protect Gambians from grand larceny is compromised. Who do we turn to?

The Bill for Anti- Corruption Act is allegedly languishing somewhere either at the Justice department or at the National Assembly, along with our dreams of a better country. Think about it. Why would a lawbreaker assist the hangman in preparing the noose to condemn it? Why would judges and lawyers who have connived with these same lawbreakers, made millions and lived large by protecting their interests, suddenly want to preside over a fair process which ultimately could lead them straight to jail?

How do you deal with people, consider their so-called “human rights” (which in truth amounts to a laissez-faire attitude to injustice) when these individuals have no qualms about watching the rest of Gambians die? A “fall guy” is yet to be designated for most of the current scams and scandals.

As the story usually goes in Gambia, someone low on the pecking order, someone the real owners of the money can do without, is designated to take the fall for the others, the trial is mediatized; we all pat ourselves on the back, then repeat from step one which is to brazenly steal and deprive the rest of the society from even the most basic rights.

It is ironic, as I have written many times, that the corrupt partners   plan their heist together, irrespective of religion or ethnicity. Yet, their defense always features one if not both of those two arguments: tricking Gambians into hating each other or arguing about “restructuring” the country (which would still amount to giving more power and freedom to loot to corrupt elements of society) rather than banding together.

 We are being held hostage. Outsourcing of justice system Perhaps the best the President should have done was to hand over all the cases to the International Criminal Court where both the funds and the know-how are available to prosecute and obtain convictions using the evidence available both locally and internationally. The ICC won’t be compromised, unlike our local agencies where everyone owes someone something and greed is common currency.

 Outsourcing justice is far from ideal, but it might just be the only way forward, because truly, how much more can we take? How much more money can leave the system without this country collapsing? How much more trauma can the Gambian psyche take before we are completely reduced to the rank of animals, a grade lower than the savagery and inhumanity already exhibited?

After all, former Presidents, CEOs, etc. are investigated in other climes and the heavens don’t fall. The fear in The Gambia is that too many people are involved in illicit activities and that investigating or prosecuting one person could mean the collapse of the entire system. It’s a ridiculous excuse, prepared and promoted by those with something to hide. What about all those who have died, been murdered, displaced, or simply disappeared?

Why is it sentimental to seek justice for them, or to seek reparation for people whose lives have been cut short by corruption, but “unfair” to question the actions of those who might have supervised or ignored what was happening under their watch? How much more can Gambians take? The poor, downtrodden, those who starve day in, day out, whether Gambia is in a recession or not, those for whom times are always bad, how long do we believe they will be content with their lot in life?

The International Criminal Court, any other global agency untainted by our local politics and primitive greed should be given the green light to fully uncover the dirt and prosecute all human rights violations. Then, we as a people must not welcome these individuals back into our midst when they have completed their jail time, allowing them to pretend that nothing happened. This second part of the equation is the hardest.