Deyda Hydara, turning tragedy into triumph Dear editor, It was the least of the worries to occupy the minds of his family and friends, and when it happened, it took a whole nation by surprise. Even today, the murder of Deyda Hydara is making headlines all across the world of journalism years after his tragic and brutal death. Everyone who knew Deyda Hyrada knew him as a soft-spoken, affectionate and kind person with a deep passion for journalism embedded in the depth of his soul. His was a love affair with a profession for which there were no adjectives to characterize the dimension of his commitment to a free Gambian press. Deida was not naïve, by any stretch of the imagination, but his relentless efforts to help develop a media that is not intimidated by the regime’s brutality, and his willingness to resist any effort by the regime to muzzle the press, eventually cost him his life. In the end, the loss of Deyda Hydara, became the loss of a whole nation, for with him, went a part of the soul of our nation. Fourteen years after that fateful night of his senseless assassination, one can only wonder which direction he would have helped steered the Gambian media, in particular, Gambia Press Union, which he and so many others sacrificed so much to build. Deyda Hydara’s legacy is an inspiration to a whole new generation of Gambians. For, from the woodwork has emerged a new generation of Gambian writers committed to the ideals of a free, fair and independent press. And with the founding of The Point Newspaper, Deyda Hydara captured the imagination of a nation hungry for the empowerment of an independent press. Today, years after his assassination, that hunger for knowledge still burns bright in the hearts and minds of his fellow citizens. And even today, Gambians’ craving knowledge and empowerment through the public media, still remains undiminished by the passage of time; kept alive by a sense of urgency to vanquish the evil demons of Yahya Jammeh. Make no mistake about it, Deida Hydara’s murder has only aggravated Gambian’s sense of national crisis, and provoked the remembrance of a timeless Chinese proverb; “those who live by the gun will die by the gun.” When Deyda Hydara became the causality of his beliefs, he left behind a vacuum that turned the clock back for the Gambian media, yet the greatest damage caused by his demise, is the stain that his untimely and brutal death left on the image of our country; a stain that will never go away. In death, the regime has created a larger than life persona in Deyda Hydara; a martyr, who, for us, symbolizes the struggles to free our country from the clutches of a military tyranny that has remained unbelievably fearful of its citizens. Everything about the life of Deyda Hydara was iconic, his ability to transcend our tribal divides, his inspirational examples of dignity and the motivational spirit with which helped develop one of Africa’s most vibrant national media. Unlike some of us, Deyda Hydara did not arouse any professional jealousy in the hearts of his peers and acquaintances, because his presence did not instigate narrow tribal sentiments, nor did he exhibit a superior intellectual acumen. His mellow attitude, however, was given to silent indignation, especially when it came to the abuses of the rights of our people. Ironically, he had faith in the ability of our new political system to bring about change, and needless to say, his efforts to convince me were met with stubborn pessimism. I do not profess to know Deyda Hydara the way many others do, but we go way back to the mid to late 70’s when we both worked for his friend and my nemesis, Swedish born, Mrs. Britt Wadner. It has been fourteen years since Deyda Hydara’s gruesome assassination, and the time has come for us to celebrate his life, but the pain of not knowing why he had to die, prevents us solemnizing his marvelous achievements. After so many years, we are still as far from knowing the facts surrounding his murder, as we were on the day he was killed, many years ago, however, from what we can surmised, every known fact implicates Yahya Jammeh and his thugs. As we reminisce the life of Deyda Hydara, we must come to terms with the fact that he is long gone and never to return, but we will remain comforted by the fact his spirit lives on in our work, as we remain relentless in our search for answers. The mere fact that we refuse to succumb to the tyranny of Yahya Jammeh’s regime, is testament to the anger of our resistance, and the power of our hunger for answers. Deyda is in our hearts, yet so far away, that we can now only imagine him in a place of peace far beyond the limits of our imagination. But, here on earth, we still must obligate Yahya Jammeh and his cohorts to reveal why Deyda had to die, but above all, who killed our brother, friend, husband and father. If Yahya Jammeh thinks that the death of Deyda Hydara is a nuisance that he and his regime hope will just go away, he is in for a rude surprise. The memory of Deyda’s martyrdom for the cause of press freedom will never vanish from our memories, but more importantly, each year that passes adds to our veneration of his name, and the intrigue surrounding his murder. For what is yet to happen, we can only speculate, but one thing we can be sure of is that Deyda has earned his place in our history, and judging from the chorus of outraged voices from around the world, history will judge him kindly. Perhaps someday, a monument to his name may prominently adorn a piece of choice real estate in the heart of our cities and towns. History has taught us time and again that dictators may take lives, but the spirit that lives in the people, can never be decimated. Even when we are dead and long gone, or are old and senile, the spirit of Deyda will continue to live in the hearts of so many generations yet to be born. Deyda’s selfless sacrifice was our sacrifice too, for he died so we could retain our liberties, and as he would want, continue to fight to regain the freedoms we lost. Now that he is gone, Gambians still have an obligation to resist further erosions of our civil liberties. For, nothing compares to the delight of a free people, uninhibited by the burdensomeness of tyranny. As a nation, Gambians have a collective opportunity to turn the tragedy of Deyda Hydara’s death, into the triumph of freedom for ourselves and posterity. In life, that is what Deyda Hydara lived for, and in death, he will want nothing less of us. Mathew K. Jallow USA]]>
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