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Essa Mbye Faal. Photo Credit: @The Gambia Times
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DP Ruto’s former lawyer to run for president in The Gambia

14 September 2021 - 18:09

By Janet Sankale

A lawyer who represented Deputy President William Ruto at the International Criminal Court in The Hague is running for the presidency in The Gambia.

The political ambitions of Essa Faal, who joined Ruto’s defence team on August 7, 2013, seem to match those of his former client, who is already campaigning to succeed President Uhuru Kenyatta after the general election in August 2022.

“I am the best candidate for The Gambia. I believe I am second to none. I have a track record of success in everything I do,” Faal said as he announced his presidential bid at a press conference at the American International University in Kanifing, The  Gambia. The presidential elections are scheduled for December 4, 2021.

Ruto’s lead counsel at the ICC, Karim Khan, appointed Faal as co-counsel to fight the charges of three crimes against humanity – namely murder; deportation or forcible transfer of population; and persecution – allegedly committed during the 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya in which more than 1,000 people were killed and thousands of others displaced. Khan is the current Prosecutor at the ICC.

The case against Ruto and Joshua arap Sang was terminated on April 5, 2016, due to witness interference. This means it can be opened afresh in the future.

The Ruto case at the ICC later spawned the suit against lawyer Paul Gicheru, who has been accused of witness tampering. The case has brought much attention in the country after the ICC confirmed the charges of offences against the administration of justice consisting in corruptly influencing witnesses regarding cases from the situation in Kenya.

Gicheru is set to attend his first status conference on September 24, 2021 via video technology. Trial Chamber III Judge Miatta Maria Samba granted Gicheru’s lawyer’s request after he claimed that his client would not be able to leave Kenya and travel to the Netherlands due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

In 2018, Faal became the lead counsel at The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), which was mandated to investigate the human rights violations committed during the 22-year dictatorial rule of former President Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a military coup in 1994. The commission is expected to submit its report to the country’s president, the United Nations Secretary General, and regional and international organisations at the end of September 2021.

Faal’s long years of experience in international criminal law and international human rights law landed him the job to assist in guiding investigations and leading witnesses appearing before the TRRC on behalf of the commissioners.

The lawyer is well known for his active role in investigating, prosecuting, and defending cases at international criminal tribunals. He led the investigations of the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in the situation in Darfur, Sudan, which led to the issuance of arrest warrants against several people, including then President Omar Al Bashir. He was later appointed senior trial lawyer and lead prosecuting counsel for the Darfur cases.

 The Gambian lawyer served as counsel for former Liberian President Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone. Alongside Khan, Faal represented Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, a son of former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi, whose case remains in the pre-trial stage at the ICC pending his transfer to The Hague.

Faal’s interest in his country’s presidential race comes in the wake of concerns about the commitment of the current administration, headed by President Adama Barrow, to implement the recommendations in the expected TRRC report against the former president and his close allies for serious human rights violations. Barrow has been criticised for his rapprochement with Jammeh’s political party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction, as he fights to retain his seat

Faal launched his campaign on the promise that he would bring Jammeh back to The Gambia to face the law and ensure justice for the victims of the former regime. The former president fled into exile in Equitorial Guinea in January 2017 after he lost in the previous year’s presidential election.

The lawyer has decried poor leadership in the country, complaining that The Gambia was regressing and that the people were suffering as the cost of living skyrocketed. He has promised to restore sanity and end corruption in the management of state and public affairs, and pledged to be a leader who unifies the country and brings development to Gambians.

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