By Mustapha Darboe
Gambian journalists and civil society activists gathered Saturday in commemoration of the killing of Deyda Hydara for the first time at the infamous Sankung Sillah road where he was shot dead in 2004.
In an emotional testimony Nyang Jobe, the lady who was shot in her knee during the killing of Deyda Hydara, said the memory of the day still haunts her as she gave a brief speech at the site of the shooting on Saturday.
“Coming to this site makes me feel like the incident is happening now. We want justice to be done and we are appealing to the new government to bring the culprits to book,” Jobe said.
Deyda, a popular Gambian journalist who was critical ofthe former ruler Yahya Jammeh, was killed on his orders by two members of his ‘junglers’, a hit squad created by him to intimidate and kill his opponents.
Since his death, no one has been brought to book and Gambia Press Union members who have attempted to gather at the site of his murder on its one-year anniversary were dispersed by paramilitary on orders of the state.
Meanwhile, the Gambian police have issued an arrest warrant for half a dozen soldiers who were reportedly involved in his killing led by former ‘jungler’ Colonel Sanna Manjang and Colonel Kawsu Camara, all out of jurisdiction.
Baba Hydara, the son of the veteran journalist, said the fact that the former government never allowed them to visit the site where his father was killed shows “they are guilty”.
“It is a sad day for us. I lost a good friend and companion who fought for press freedom and the voiceless. He was killed for two reasons: he was critical of former government and he has also filed a lawsuit against the draconian media laws in the country,” Pap Saine, a former editor who established the Point newspaper with Deyda, said.
The regional ECOWAS court in Nigeria delivered judgment in favour of Hydara ordering Gambia government to pay the family of Hydara a sum of $100, 000 for not doing enough in investigating his murder.
The government never honored the verdict but new president Adama Barrow has since announced his willingness to honour the payment.
The country’s finance minister in the National Assembly last week revealed that the government is in negotiation with the families of Hydara and two other journalists who have also won case against the state to find a negotiable settlement.
“This year, the Gambia government has agreed to implement the ECOWAS court decision on the killing of Deyda Hydara, disappearance of ‘Chief’ Ebrima Manneh and torture of Musa Saidykhan,” Ndey Tapha Sosseh, adviser to country’s communication minister Demba Jawo, said.
Emil Touray, president of the Gambia Press Union, said the fact that Gambian journalists were allowed to make the procession from the site of Hydara’s murder is victory for media freedom and human rights.
“The fact that we have gathered here today is victory for press freedom and human rights in The Gambia.
“This is signaling that the days of tyranny are over and there is no way this country is going back to it…”