By D. A. Jawo
When the results of the presidential elections were released and Adama Barrow of the opposition coalition was declared winner, there was high hope amongst most Gambians that justice was quite imminent for people like the late Deyda Hydara who was assassinated 12 years ago today in circumstances still to be investigated.
Therefore, it was a big disappointment to many people when President Yahya Jammeh decided to reject the election results because as long as he remains in office, the Deyda case and several similar cases will never be resolved as the regime has shown no resolve to investigate them. With the Jammeh regime always showing complete indifference to the case, everyone had harboured the hope that with a change of regime, the days of impunity will soon be over.
We can recall that Deyda, who was managing editor and co-proprietor of The Point newspaper, was killed on 16 December 2004 while driving home from The Point’s office on Garba Jahumpa Road in Bakau late in the evening, accompanied by two female staff of The Point; Ida Jagne and Nyangsara Jobe.
Apparently, the assassins were trailing his car and immediately it curved on Sankung Sillah Road in the Kanifing Industrial Estate, just by the perimeter fence of the Police Intervention Unit barracks on the Serekunda-Banjul highway, they struck, pumping several bullets on the driver’s side, and he was said to have been killed on the spot while his two female companions sustained various degrees of injuries. With assistance from the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the two ladies, who were virtually left untreated at the Royal Victoria Teaching Hospital for several days, were later evacuated to Dakar by the Gambia Press Union (GPU) for specialist treatment.
However, from the very onset, the attitude of the Gambian authorities towards the case was quite bizarre. Not only was the family not invited to the postmortem but the autopsy report was also never made available to them, even when they requested for it. Up to this very day, neither the family nor the GPU, who are an interested party, know what has happened to the autopsy report or even the bullets that were removed from his body. Therefore, something is definitely quite fishy with the attitude of the Gambian authorities towards Deyda’s assassination.
While there is no hard evidence that the Gambia government or its agents are involved in Deyda’s killing, but it is quite hard for any reasonable person to explain the government’s complete lack of interest in investigating the case as if they are not interested in knowing who killed him and why or that they have something to hide from people knowing the truth.
Instead of putting in all necessary efforts to investigate who killed Deyda and why, the authorities have continued to demonstrate their complete indifference to the case. In fact we have seen that every time President Jammeh commented on the case, he made some ambiguous remarks which tended to confuse rather than clarify his government’s stand point on the issue. A case in point was an interview he had with the BBC in November 2011 in which he compared Deyda’s brutal murder to the deaths of other Gambians in road accidents, asking why anyone should be more concerned about Deyda’s death than those Gambians who have died in other circumstances, thus further dashing any hopes that his government had any intentions of investigating the murder.
We can also recall the only official report so far released on the case, dubbed ‘Confidential Report’ that was issued by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in June 2005 in which instead of displaying any seriousness in investigating the case, they chose to subject Deyda’s personal character to all sorts of disparaging comments, even to the extent of blaming his death on his ‘wayward behavior’. And since then, there has not been any other report on the case, as if the authorities are not interested in getting to the bottom of the case.
While there is as yet no iota of evidence to link the regime or anyone else in Deyda’s murder, but the least anyone expected from the authorities was to show commitment in thoroughly investigating the case with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice. Therefore, there is a general consensus amongst those who cherish justice that the failure of the responsible authorities to do so tantamount to shirking their responsibilities to a bona fide Gambian citizen.
From the very beginning, the GPU and other civil society groups had called on the authorities to invite more competent investigators from abroad to help the Gambian security forces to unravel the case, but they always turned down such a request, insisting that the security forces had the capacity and competence to carry out the investigation, and yet so far, they have failed to show any commitment and resolve to carry out any serious investigation. There is no doubt that if the government had agreed to such a proposal then, by now the truth may have been known as to who killed Deyda and why.
Therefore, even the failure of the authorities to carry out a forensic analysis of the bullets recovered from Deyda’s body, which are some of the most basic things anyone would expect from any responsible authority, can easily be interpreted to mean an apparent attempt of a cover up.
It could be recalled that during events commemorating the first anniversary of his death when the GPU and its invited guests from the sub-region and abroad attempted to visit the site where he was killed, they were met by a large contingent of heavily armed para-military forces who said they were given instructions not to allow anyone on the site. That of course was yet another clear indication that the authorities had something to hide.
The failure of the authorities to accord the case the seriousness that it deserved has not only dented the Gambia’s image as a respecter of the rule of law and provider of justice for all its citizens, but it has also strengthened any speculations that the regime or its agents may have been accomplices to the killing. Therefore, in view of the obvious reluctance on the part of the Gambian authorities to show any commitment to investigate this heinous crime, it is incumbent upon regional bodies like ECOWAS and the African Union, or even the United Nations and the rest of the international community to assume their responsibilities and ensure that justice is done in the case.
There is no doubt that all those who knew Deyda and what he stood for, and indeed all people of conscience, will never rest until justice is seen to be done in this case. There is no doubt however that no matter how long it may take, the truth will come out one fine day and the perpetrators of such a heinous crime will be apprehended and punished. However, there is hope that if the new regime takes over in January, it will be one of the cases that would be given priority, therefore, getting justice for Deyda’s family and friends could be quite imminent.