Today, December 16, 2019, marks exactly fifteen years since Deyda Hydara, former editor of the Point newspaper in The Gambia, was killed by suspected state-sponsored assassins.
On this solemn occasion, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) commiserates with Hydara’s family and the media fraternity in The Gambia and calls on The Gambian authorities to ensure that justice is served.
Hydara, co-founder and Editor of The Point newspaper and ardent press freedom advocate, was fatally shot by drive-by shooters on the night of December 16, 2004, as he drove home from work.
After a hurried inquiry lasting 22 days, the State failed to find the killers, with then President Jammeh suggesting that Hydara himself was to blame for his death. In an interview on the state-owned Gambian Radio and Television Stations (GRTS) on June 9, 2009, Yahya Jammeh said the journalist was murdered by “a jealous husband, whose wife committed adultery with Hydara.”
Jammeh’s regime thus rejected all responsibility for Hydara’s killing despite widespread public suspicion that the crime was state-sponsored.
Fortunately, a former henchman of Yahya Jammeh, Lieutenant Malick Jatta, on July 22, 2019, confessed at The Gambia’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) that he (Jatta) participated in the killing of the journalist and that the ex-dictator gave the order for the assassination.
The MFWA believes that this confession will bring a new perspective to investigations into the murder and facilitate the prosecution of the perpetrators in order to end impunity over the incident.
We recognize the important steps that the new Gambian administration headed by President Adama Barrow has taken towards redressing the killing of Hydara, including the ongoing trial of former Army Commander, Kawsu Camara, and former member of Yahya Jammeh’s hit squad, Major Sanna Manjang.
The government also paid compensation to Hydara’s the family in 2018, in compliance with the ECOWAS Court of Justice ruling of June 10, 2014.
While the MFWA celebrates the payment of compensation to Hydara’s family as an important breakthrough, we believe that the gesture still does not address the liability of the killers who have so far paid no price for their crime. The compensation may bring some relief to the bereaved family, but if the killers suffer no consequences, they and future perpetrators will not be dissuaded.
We, therefore, seize this occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of Hydara’s killing to reiterate our call on the Gambian authorities to ensure that justice is served and end the impunity over the incident.