|President Barrow with Commission members|
Over four months of eye-popping deliberations to date, the Commission of Inquiry into the illicit wealth of ex-dictator Yaya Jammeh has conducted itself - individually and collectively - with dignity and decorum reflecting the high moral and intellectual caliber of its members.
Under the Chairmanship of Mr. Surahata Janneh, it is our view - one shared by many - that the proceedings have been fairly conducted, up to this point, with a degree of professionalism and decorum that holds great promise for a country emerging from 22 years of one of Africa's most brutal, incompetent and corrupt dictatorship.
The three members of the Commission have been competently served with equal professionalism and unmatched dignity by Mrs. Amie Bensouda in her capacity as lead counsel. Despite this or in spite of it, as should be expected, there are criticisms, legitimate as well as unfounded ones, recently, including accusations that the lead counsel is conflicted in the case of the sale of the Kairaba Beach Hotel. It has also been implied during the course of the deliberations that she may also be a potential witness in other cases that may come before the Commission.
As a result of these criticisms and despite Mrs. Bensouda's public assurances that she has never acted on behalf of the former president or any of his close business associates, and if there is any appearance of a conflict, she will be the first to bring it to the attention of the Commission members and Gambians and to recuse herself.
In anticipation of further use of this strategy as a means of discrediting or intimidating the Commission, as implied by Mrs. Bensouda's statement that she will not be intimidated, in response to the witness counsel's accusations, we reached out to a State House source who in response to our inquiry assured Gambians and the general public that "the Commission of Inquiry members and the lead counsel, Mrs. Bensouda, enjoy the full confidence and support of the government of President Adama Barrow."
The State House official went further to suggest that if any person has objections to anyone sitting on the Commission or serving as counsel, the proper and prudent measure to take is through court action; let them challenge any individual's fitness to serve in a court of law. Character assassination and any form of peddling false accusations will not wash and can only strengthen our collective resolve to hold accountable those responsible for squandering the nation's meager resources that brought the Gambian economy to its knees over the 22 years of Jammeh's dictatorship.
Similar appointments to previous Commissions, the source continued, have been challenged in the past before the courts. It was none other than Mr. Fafa E. Mbai who challenged the appointment of Justice Aboagyi to a Commission by Sir Dawda at the Supreme Court. Hon. Hamat Bah, leader of the NRP also challenged the appointment of Justice M. A. Paul to preside in their sedition case. His took place at the Court of Appeals. It is not for lack of precedent to resort to the courts for redress. Amadou Samba or any other witness before the Commission can do likewise.
Conversely, this may have been the reason why the Chairman had the cause to remind witnesses before him that the Commission is not a court of law but a fact finding inquiry into the financial dealings of the ex-president where normal court procedures do not necessarily apply.
The task before Commission members, though challenging, is not insurmountable if the public continues to provide the necessary input and support by refusing to be party to a concerted effort orchestrated by vested interests - from within and without - whose main aim is to muddy the waters and to deflect the attention of the public away from the evidence being generated by the probing questions of Commission members and Mrs. Amie Bensouda. The important work of the Commission must neither be impeded nor derailed.