Nearly two years after the exile of former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh, the West African country has sworn in an 11-member truth, reconciliation and reparations commission that will unravel the abuses perpetrated by the dictator.

Jammeh is accused of summary executions, disappearances, torture, rape and other crimes during his 22-year rule and the victims are seeking some closure, justice and possible prosecution of those responsible including the former president who flew into exile in Equatorial Guinea in early 2017.

“Let us stand together to say: ‘Never again shall a few people oppress us as a nation. Never again shall the beautiful Smiling Coast experience a tyranny of the minority against the majority’,” says Gambian President Adama Barrow who swore in the commission.

He added that any decision to bring Jammeh to justice would wait until the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) created under an act of parliament completed its work.

Selected from all the major regions, ethnic groups and two religions, the commission which is led by a retired UN diplomat, Lamin Sise, will sit for two years and use openness and a court-like approach to investigate how the abuses began and became systemic and the impacts it had, reports AFP.

The commission will also be empowered to advise prosecution of perpetrators and recommend financial compensation to victims.

“Gambians who were tortured or raped in prison, who were shot for peacefully demonstrating, who were forced into Jammeh’s phony HIV ‘treatment’ programmes, whose family members were killed or who were targeted in literal witch hunts will all be able to come forward,” Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch (HRW) told AFP.

“We know so much more today about the crimes of Jammeh’s government than we did a year ago — and when the truth commission is finished hearing from all the victims we should have a complete picture,” he added.

Gambia’s Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations says it has documented hundreds of cases. Its president, Sheriff Kijera, alleged that some perpetrators continue to hold positions in the government and security forces, reports AP.

A possible Yahya Jammeh extradition is unlikely as the president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema has stated clearly early this year that: “Jammeh must be protected… (as) a guarantee for other African leaders that they will not be harassed after they leave power.”

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