By Demba A. Jawo, former communications and information minister
It is 14 years since the brutal murder of Deyda Hydara by yet unknown assassins, and we are still not much wiser as to who may have been responsible for the heinous crime and why. The government of Yahya Jammeh never showed any commitment to getting to the bottom of the case and completely shunned all calls for thorough investigation of the matter.
In fact from the very beginning, the Gambia Press Union and other civil society groups had called on the authorities to invite more competent investigating bodies from abroad to help our security forces to unravel the case, but the regime had always turned down the call, saying that our security forces had the competence to carry out the investigation, and yet they woefully failed to carry out any serious investigation. There is no doubt that if they had agreed to such a proposal then, by now the truth would have been known as to who killed Deyda and why. Therefore, the failure to investigate the case for all these years was yet another big dent on the Jammeh regime’s image as a respecter of the rule of law and provider of justice for its citizens.
No doubt, in view of the time lapse since the assassination, it would be much harder to lay hands on the relevant evidence, especially when all the vital evidence such as the bullets and the autopsy report may been tampered with or destroyed.
While there is yet not enough tangible evidence to point a finger at anyone for the killing, but all indications seem to point to the former regime or its agents. Even the very fact that former President Jammeh was never comfortable with any mention of the case and every time he was asked about it, he made some ambiguous remarks which tended to confuse rather than clarify his regime’s stand point on the issue, indicated an apparent guilt. We can recall that during one of his interviews with GRTS, he was alleged to have asked anyone who wanted to know who Deyda’s killers were to “go and ask him”.
Also, during an interview with BBC’s Umaru Fofana shortly after the presidential elections in November 2011, President Jammeh compared Deyda’s brutal murder to the deaths of other Gambians in road accidents, thus further dashing any hopes that his regime had any genuine intentions of investigating the case.
We can also recall that the only report ever produced by the authorities entitled ‘Confidential Report’, was released by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) in 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.
Even the failure of the authorities to make the autopsy report available to the Hydara family or to even carry out a forensic analysis of the bullets recovered from his body, which are some of the most basic things anyone would expect from any responsible authority, could easily be interpreted to mean an apparent attempt at a cover-up.
However, with the advent of the New Gambia, there is now high hope that the case will be handled with the utmost seriousness it deserves and that it will be one of the cases to be given priority by the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC). We also hope that people with first-hand knowledge of the case would not hesitate to come forward and give evidence to the TRRC so that we would all know what happened and who was responsible for such a dastardly act.