Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate Jammeh’s assets

By Kebba Jeffang

Gambian President, Adama Barrow, has presided over the swearing in ceremony of members of the Commission of Inquiry, mandated to investigate the assets and properties of the former president, Yahya Jammeh, and his closed associates. The event took place at the president’s office in Fajara.

The members of the Commission are Mr Surahata S Janneh, Chairman, Madam Abiosseh George and Mr Bai Mass Saine. The Commission Secretary is Mamadi Kurang and the Commission Counsel is Mrs Amie Bensouda.

Speaking after taking his oath, Surahata Semega Janneh said the Constitution and the Commission of Inquiry Act, formed the bedrock in their terms of reference as their mandate to investigate the assets of the former leader.

“It must be clearly understood that the commission of inquiry into the assets of the ex-president Yahya Jammeh, and into the activities and properties of his family and closed associates, is not a law court and it has no jurisdiction to hold a criminal trial,” he said.

However, Janneh said, they are empowered by law to make orders, adverse findings and recommendations that may infringe on individual rights and privileges. He said certain characteristics of the commission cannot be over emphasized. “We are independent and we totally refuse to be holding to any person or institution in performing our work,” he said. He emphasized that their attitude towards the inquiry is without bias or prejudice.

“We shall firmly adhere to the principles of fair hearing, the rules of natural justice and equality before the law. Neither our attitude nor our procedure or our ruling, shall be shaped or affected by any disparity in wealth, power, status or influence,” Janneh said; that in order to succeed, what the Commission of Inquiry seeks to perform, is to have truthful evidence, testimony, documentary or real.

“To this end, everyone, whether citizen or alien who has knowledge of solid, truthful facts regarding for the Commission, is invited to contact our secretariat by writing. You must all bear in mind that truth is always commendable but deliberate untruth is risking the wrath of the law,” he said.

Aboubacarr Tambedou, Attorney General and Minister of Justice said, the exercise is not a witch-hunt on anyone. Hence the choice of the members of this commission, who are distinguished professionals with utmost integrity and experience in different but relevant areas of work.

“It includes a lawyer, a banker and an accountant who we believe have the requisite experience and expertise to perform the functions of this commission. The process that we seek to engage in is as important as the result we seek to achieve from it,’’ he said.

It is an Independent Commission and you will be assured of it’s independence. There will not be any attempt by this government to influence your decision in anyway whatsoever and we look forward to receiving your recommendations which will be hopefully submitted to the President at the conclusion of the exercise,” said Justice Minister.

Minister Tambedou said the time frame for the conclusion of the inquiry is 3 months and all hearings will be in public.

Amie Bensouda, the lead counsel to the Commission said they have the mandate to summon any person to hear his or her testimony. She said their TOR also empower them to investigate anything associated to the former president.

President Adama Barrow, on his part, said setting up a Commission of Inquiry is another milestone by his government towards the consolidation of democracy, good governance, human rights and national development.

“This Commission is established in line with Section 200 (1) of the 1997 Constitution of the Gambia. The Commission is mandated to look into the management of some public enterprises as well as the assets and financial transactions of the former president, Yahya Jammeh and some of his associates. Your appointments are not based on partisan consideration but rather careful vetting, guided by competence, integrity and qualification. I am confident that you will conclude with an impartial deliberation, to shed light on the allegation against the former president and his associates,” said Mr. Barrow.

He said the Commission will also consider the misappropriation of public funds. He urged the Commission members to deliver with a high sense of discipline and honesty. He also called on the members to do their job with impartiality and without prejudice against anybody, as this is not a witch-hunt move.