On the 11th anniversary of the callous and cowardly killing of a daring and fearless journalist, who never gave in to threats or intimidation and stood steadfast for his ideals, I wish to pay my respects. DEYDA knew exactly what his job entailed as he did it objectively without fear or favour. All that he did was for the good of the country. He was a true reformer and a real patriot.
To a lot of people DEYDA HYDARA was just another victimized African journalists who just made the statistics but to us he was the world and a huge part of what used to be a close-knit and perfect family which makes writing this tribute not only with a heavy heart but brings back the numbness of that fateful night.
When 3 bullets were launched into him on December 16, 2004, a lot was killed with him, including his 30 years career. He had great tenacity, passion and conviction for journalism, which never let him off the hook to be a loving granddad, a good husband and an excellent dad who listened and always defended the truth.
Thinking back brings anger, frustration and it is totally hard to grasp with the pain it brings after all this time is excruciating, as no one can explain it unless you have been through exactly the same thing you won’t be able to comprehend such agony.
Journalism is one of the noblest of professions and journalists are respected for the sacrifice they undergo to get information through to the masses, while risking their lives. This is the case everywhere in the world except in Africa, where all that our leaders know is to incarcerate, harass, torture, intimate and even kill those who dare criticize them.
African journalists are over-worked and under-paid, endure long tiring hours whilst generating more enemies and are treated as second class citizens, when tyranny and abuse of office is exposed. They remain the voice of the voiceless and the oppressed, with ethics and steadfastness without fear or favour, they are the masses’ eyes and ears.
That is what DEYDA was.
After 11 dastardly years it’s pointless to dwell on the Gambia Government’s flagrant disregard of the case, as well as its inhuman and degrading treatment of the whole circumstances surrounding this tragedy from the very onset. Their incompetence and inability to diligently carry out proper investigations which the Ecowas court also highlighted and concluded that the NIA was not an impartial body to carry out the investigations. How can they be, when the then head of the investigation Captain Lamin Saine admitted that he was supposed to be in that very car in which Deyda was killed, on that night as he had been doing a couple of months prior to the incident.
We have seen the bad, the worst and the ugliest sides of some Gambians, who had been transformed over-night and became monstrous like vultures after a prey. When all he was to them was generous and selfless through and through. At the same time we have come to realise who DEYDA’s real friends were and what was real and fake in them.
With time we had to bear the pain of admitting the reality that some people are born scroungers and will always be. So when people say “we are in this together” we can now tell who really means this and the ones who don’t. We thank the Almighty Allah for blessing us with a very few people who are honest and full of integrity and have been with us in our plight for justice for the last 11 trying years.
We have been calling on the International Community, including International Human Rights Organisations such as Amnesty International, The United Nations, Ecowas, The European Union and The African Union to take up their responsibilities on the matter.
On this occasion and from the perspective of a victim’s family I thought it would be useful to reinforce once again our plight from a different dimension. We welcome all your efforts but can’t help but think whether recommendations, fact finding missions, bilateral sanctions, or condemnations are the way forward and whether this is enough for victim’s families, when the government of the Gambia continues to blatantly ignore and disregard all these decisions and findings. Such sanctions would only make it worst for the masses who have to suffer more and or these might further cause more reprisals.
We commend and with utmost gratitude the efforts that your Organisations have gone through, but we cannot help but wonder if more could be done. We appreciate the fact that it is not an easy task when the world today is filled with atrocities from all around, which may be seen as more gruesome than our plight but “nipping it in the bud” would surely prevent it from getting to the level of atrocities you can’t ignore. Also, we would like to acknowledge your dilemma of having to deal with such cases day in day out, but it is heartbreaking to know that the only thing that made my dad sacrifice his life for his ideals was the believe and trust he had in The UN system, Human Rights Organisations and The International Community.
As I said before if there was anything more than gratitude, I will send it your way as we do know how much you are owed for all your efforts, especially when there is so much that you can do,but just thought it is an insult to the Gambian people when the African Union Human Rights office is based in Banjul. That I believe to be a mockery of the very fundamental principles your Organisation is known for.
It could be argued that more strenuous measures should be put in place to eradicate the endless cycle of human rights abuses and violations which are being meted on the people.
I am pleading that you are able to understand my frustration and the horrific ordeal my family and many other families have gone through in the past couple of years.
With some families not knowing whether their sons, fathers, husbands, brothers and sisters are alive or dead, when some families are left to fend for themselves in the absence of the breadwinner, when some families are still waiting for justice which is denied for so long.
It would seem to me that probably a review of the principles or mechanisms put in place to run some of these institutions are well overdue.
Take for instance since the inception of the Ecowas court how many different cases regarding Gambian journalists have been heard at the said court, how many judgments against the Gambia government were given, and yet still over 10 years now none have been complied with. When certain other African governments have also argued why they should abide by the court’s judgments when the Gambia government does not show any respect for the court and nothing comes out of it.
How many more have to die, leaving so many more families in destitute, how many journalists have disappeared, how many more are languishing in high security prisons (when criminals and the killers of these journalists are roaming the streets of the Gambia in search of a morality check). Without any proper safeguards in place to investigate such cases, or even make any attempt to arrest or try the culprits.
As the night falls with so many enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, torture, intimidation, bogus charges and false imprisonment of journalists have become routine.
We have seen more journalists forced into self-exile where more journalists are now in the diaspora than on the ground with some of them being sentenced in absentia. Leaving the few on the ground some of whom are left with a very tiny number who will dare to report stories without any fear of reprisals and the rest are left to carry out self -censorship or transformed into mouth-pieces of the government to avoid harassment.
In the absence of any basic human rights and any fundamental freedoms or rule of law, the Gambia continues to silently slip into another Rwanda. When people’s silence and fear have been misconstrued as satisfaction and content to a catalogue of abuses and violation of so many fundamental human rights protocols which the Gambia has ratified.
People’s rights are abused on a daily basis without any proper intervention. We can’t help but wonder if the AU Human Rights Institutions are honoring their obligations to those Conventions or are Gambians ignored or forgotten and left to perish in the hands of a Government whose main aim and objectives are to force its people into “Utopia” where no wrong can be seen, heard, uttered or tolerated as in oblivion? Ultimately the so called Utopia promised though fictional seems real or safer to some instead of the alternative, who therefore bury their heads in the sand long enough and pray their promises would be fulfilled or they will be saved. But that then is the problem as the more they wait the worst it would be for the masses and the few who want to stand up for their rights and sensitize the masses to the reality that utopia is a figment of their imagination and can only lead to more repression and impunity making them stand out as enemies of the state.
Let us try to save our Smiling Coast before it becomes a bloody river with blood of patriots flowing on the banks of the River Gambia our motherland.
Our heartfelt gratitude and endless commendation to Article 19, and all their partners and sponsors (especially Fatou Jagne Senghore), Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Uncle D. A. Jawo, Tonton Njagga Sylla, Tonton Alioune Tine, the Senegalese media, Radho, Amnesty International and the UN in Dakar. GPU, OSIWA, TAEF, WAJA, FAJ, IFJ, PEN, NUJ, AFP, RSF, CNN and Multi-Choice. Also our gratitude goes to all human rights activists, especially journalists, NGOs and to all who believe in good governance, free speech, democracy and justice and press freedom.
Special thanks and prayers go to all Gambian online newspapers and urge them to remain in harmony and work as one team as only collectively will we achieve our objectives. Starting first and foremost, Freedom newspaper and to Pa Nderry Mbai for your untiring support, lengths and efforts, Hello Gambia, Kibaaro, Mafanta, Gainako, FatuRadio and all other online radios that use their platform to promote justice, freedom and democracy for all especially journalists in the Gambia
I wish to take this opportunity to also wish a Happy 24th Anniversary to The Point newspaper.
We thank you all for the continued support and hard work.
Thanks to the entire staffs, publishers, friends and advertisers especially Uncle Pap Saine and Mr Philip Kotey for continuing to keep the candle alight.
At the risk of repeating myself a dad like you is hard to forget, you will always remain the only constant thing in our lives, as it will take more than 3 bullets to forget you.
Until we meet again you will forever be the best man in my life.
Pa has left you in charge of his grand kids and they need you more now than ever, so please stay strong and remember what they said “Enjoy your Birthday granny that is what Papa would have wanted.” We love you, admire your courage and always thank Pa for choosing you.
Happy Birthday Aja Mariam Hydara.
Written By Marie Pierre Hydara