By Taibeh Hydara
The former director of press and public relations at State House, Mam Sait Ceesay, has said that Chief Manneh’s disappearance was not only because of a BBC article critical of former President Jammeh which he intended to publish on the Daily Observer.
Speaking to The Standard yesterday, Mr Ceesay, who served as Editor-In-Chief of Observer at the same time press officer at State House, revealed that Chief Manneh’s sufficient knowledge and obsession with the story of the alleged killing of Ghanaian citizens in The Gambia, might have also unsettled the former president.
“Chief was an expert in that alleged mass killing of Ghanaians in July 2005. He had spent nearly a year in Ghana on a short study trip prior to the incident and had kept contact with his people in Ghana throughout, including when the Ghanaian killings occurred. He knew far too much about the incident than the average Gambian journalist and this must have troubled the former President. That incident about his intention to publish a critical article was just a cover-up. I think he knew too much about the Ghanaian incident and that attracted a lot of grudges around him too,” Ceesay said.
“The BBC article in question was not even entirely critical as it was only in the last paragraph it mentioned that Jammeh came to power through a coup which was not a problem because it is a fact and we published worse things before,” he added in explicit terms.
Mr Ceesay continued to say that State House was under so much pressure to release Chief Manneh and when he, Ceesay, advised Jammeh to solve Chief’s problem by “telling the truth”, he too got his share of Jammeh’s wrath.
He said: “About a year after Chief’s disappearance, the Office of the President was inundated with petitions and requests from Media Foundation for West Africa, Article 19, Committee for Protection of Journalists and other journalist federations for his release.
“While I was at State House as the Director of Press, there was a letter addressed to the President in connection with Chief’s disappearance. The secretary general minuted that letter to me so that I could take action and forward it to the president. I told the president that we have had enough of these requests about Chief Manneh so why didn’t we put a stop to it by telling people the truth. If we keep saying that we don’t have him, then we should put an end to it. The president sent me a reply and in it he said I should tell him what I know about Chief’s disappearance. I then sent him a brief explanation of how Chief was arrested but he replied with his green pen calling me a bloody spy and I should be picked up. A week later, I was picked up and kept at Banjul Police Station for five days without anyone knowing before I was eventually taken to court,” Ceesay said.
He concluded that Chief was actually released the very day he was taken but the police detained him when he returned to report to them the following morning.
Ebrima Chief Manneh was picked up from the Daily Observer office on July 7 2006 and has since not been found.
Many eye-witnesses said he was reported to the paper’s management by his jealous colleagues for allegedly trying to publish an international feature story from the BBC website critical of the Jammeh regime. The management and board then handed him to the authorities who detained him at various locations before his disappearance.
Former President Jammeh once suggested he might have gone by the ‘back-way’ while a police chief once suggested he could have been in the United States. Neither the family nor the Gambian public believed either of them.