Deyda Hydara: The man who refused to die


By Baba Galleh Jallow

How does one begin to write a fitting tribute to Deyda Hydara?

How does one begin to understand the brutal murder of a kind and gentle man whose only intention was to help save his murderer from failure and defeat? How does one make sense of the fact that as American journalist and historian Herbert Agar puts it, “the truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear”?


 Deyda was not out to oppose or harm Yahya Jammeh in any way. He was out to save Yahya Jammeh, to help Yahya Jammeh see where he was going wrong so he could make amends and therefore succeed as the president of our dear country. But the ignorant mind that chooses to remain ignorant is always hostile to the enlightened mind that would lift it out of ignorance.

Deyda Hydara knew that the Jammeh period was a period of universal deceit.

 He knew that only the deceitful and the cowardly stood any chance of shining under the dark regime of Yahya Jammeh.

 He knew that those who stood up for the truth, those who stood up for justice, those who stood up for honesty and integrity in the conduct of our national affairs were considered enemies of the state and callously struck down by the forces of darkness. He knew, as George Orwell puts it, that “in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” And yes, Deyda Hydara knew that any revolutionary act under a callous dictatorship was potentially an act of self-sacrifice. He knew that telling the truth to power, telling the truth that could heal both the power and the powerful and in the process heal the nation was a revolutionary act that could cost him his life. Yet, he did not let the fear of death stand in the way of telling just that truth to just that power and just that powerful because in the end, the truth will prevail.

And Deyda did not speak the truth to power in a spirit of meekness. Knowing that God, history and the nation were on his side and will forever be on the side of truth, he may well have said with Patrick Henry “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.” Deyda was a soldier for the freedom of Gambians – including Yahya Jammeh himself – from the clutches of tyranny and injustice. Often, people in power with a tendency to be tyrants do not realize that they are in fact the first victims of the tyranny they inflict upon others. Tyranny is not something people pick up from somewhere outside of themselves to inflict on others.

 Tyranny comes from within the tyrant; it is a mass of negative energy that dwells within the tyrant, and that the tyrant then inflicts on other people. Tyranny is a cancer in the body and the spirit of the tyrant that, left unchecked, will eventually decimate the body and the spirit of the tyrant. Deyda knew this, and he was desirous of saving the tyrant from himself. And he was killed for his pains.

But of course Deyda Hydara refused to die. And the Gambian people refused to let him die. That he is being celebrated today is ample testimony to the fact that his spirit continues to live on and inspire a universal love for truth and justice, while those who decided to take his life suffer the hell of eternal infamy in the stinking dustbin of history – precisely the fate that Deyda was trying to save them from. Yes, Deyda is gone in person. But he lives on in the heavens of Gambian history while those who callously took his life will forever live in the hell of Gambian history.

What better reward than an eternal good name in the collective memory of the nation mind? What worse punishment than eternal infamy in the collective memory of the nation mind?

Deyda had the choice to choose between freedom from the danger of the assassin’s bullet and freedom to live his life in truth and for truth. He chose freedom to live his life in truth and for truth. He chose freedom for the full expression of his personality as a man of principles who would rather lose his mortal life than lose his dignity or remain quiet in the face of tyranny and injustice. And while he is physically no longer with us, Deyda’s spirit has never left us. In fact, he has always and will continue to inspire in us the love of truth and justice, and a hatred of injustice especially when it comes to the administration of our national affairs.

Long after we all are gone to join him, Deyda’s name will be honored by future generations of Gambians while the names of those who took his life will forever live in ignominy. That is the ultimate victory. May God continue to bless his soul and his memory.

Originally written for and first published by The Point newspaper, December 12, 2017 (Deyda Hydara commemorative issue).