A Gambian soldier who worked as a member of the hit-squad of former President Yahya Jammeh, on July 22, 2019, confessed that he was involved in the killing of Deyda Hydara, and confirmed that the murder was carried out on the orders of the exiled ex-President.
Lieutenant Malick Jatta told Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that the former dictator rewarded him and his co-assassins with cash after they carried out his order to murder Deyda Hydara on December 16, 2004.
Hydara, Editor of The Point newspaper and passionate press freedom activist, was shot and killed by drive-by shooters on the night of December 16, 2004. Two of his staff, who were with him in the vehicle as he drove home from work, however survived the attack after sustaining gunshot wounds.
A rushed 22-day inquiry by the government failed to find the killers but only blamed Hydara for his death. In an interview on the state-owned Gambian Radio and Television Stations (GRTS) on June 9, 2009, ex-president Yahya Jammeh said the murder was as a “result of personal revenge by a jealous husband, whose wife committed adultery with Hydara.”
In November 2011, Hydara’s family brought a case against the state, arguing that the state failed to properly investigate the murder and offer redress. On June 10, 2014, the ECOWAS Court of Justice ruled in their favour and indicted the state for failing to conduct a proper investigation into his murder, thereby allowing a climate of impunity to thrive and stifling freedom of expression in the country.
The court also awarded US$50,000 in compensation to Hydara’s family and US$ 10,000 as legal costs. The Jammeh administration failed to comply with the Court’s judgement.
Following a successful transfer of power to the current administration headed by President Adama Barrow, the MFWA undertook a mission to The Gambia and held discussions with government officials, including the President himself on the cases of Hydara, Ebrima Manneh, Musa Saidykhan and other journalists who had suffered brutalities during the Jammeh regime. The MFWA urged President Barrow to end impunity for crimes against journalists and to protect freedom of expression in The Gambia. President Barrow indicated that he was committed to protect freedom of expression.
In May 2017, a Magistrates’ court issued an arrest warrant for Former Army Commander, Kawsu Camara, and Major Sanna Manjang, an alleged assassin (popularly referred to as jungler) of former dictator Yahya Jammeh on suspicion of murdering the journalist. The case is on-going.
Following discussions by MFWA and the Gambia Press Union with the government through the Ministry of Justice, the government in 2018 paid the compensation to Hydara’s family.
The MFWA, as a key stakeholder in the process of redressing Hydara’s murder, therefore, finds the confessions of one of the journalist’s killers as a great opportunity for his family and the media community to know the true circumstances of the murder of their relative and colleague.
“The confession by the military officer involved in the assassination is extremely significant and a major boost for efforts to bring closure to one of the most enduring cases of impunity for crimes against journalists in West Africa,” said Vivian Affoah, MFWA’s Programme Manager for Freedom of Expression.
The MFWA urges the government of Gambia to ensure that Lieutenant Malick Jatta and all those implicated in the murder of Deyda Hydara are brought to justice.