Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Deyda Hydara, a martyr for the cause of justice
A Memorial by Yusupha Cham:
December 16th, 2009, marks five solid years since so far ‘unidentified’ gunmen stalked my former boss, Deyda Hydara, on a dark and lonely street of Kanifing, and rained three bullets into his skull before taking off in a taxi, delighted that they had completed their diabolic mission.
My apologies if I arouse anyone feeling of grief with my recollections of what happened that fateful night. I, too, hate to remember this day; certainly not because of lack of love for my former boss, but because the thought of the manner those cowards of murderers took him out brings me incalculable feeling of sorrow blended with anger. What makes it even more agonizing for me is the thought that I could possibly have been one of the beleaguered passengers who witnessed Deyda’s tragic killing if, by what I can only attribute to sheer luck, I had not turned down an offer of a ride in his car on that fateful night of our anniversary. I had asked for permission to leave for home early, and it followed that Deyda had insisted that no staff member should go home until the party was definitely over, promising to give everyone a ride home in his car if need be, no matter how late in the night it might have been.
I was however determined to get home early and in the middle of the laughter and celebration, I sneaked my way out. If I had waited and failed to get the normal transports to my Wellingara home, Deyda would certainly have made good his promise and took me home, just as he had done in previous times. Imagine how I would have felt witnessing that horrific act; that is if I was lucky enough to have escaped it unhurt.
The shocking effect of that dastardly and criminal act on the faces of journalists on the day following Deyda’s assassination was visibly distressing. For the first time I saw elderly members of the Gambian society weeping uncontrollably in public.
As his sports reporter, I spent well over four years working with Deyda, meeting him every morning and sharing his great experience of work and life in Gambia. I always found his stories about life in Gambia very interesting and informative. To my greatest delight, he, alongside Pap Saine, happened to be well endowed with knowledge in Gambian sports and I was always their devoted audience whenever our lunch time conversations got underway.
Throughout those years I discovered a uniquely strong and resolute stance in the public life of the man who was apparently destined to leave an everlasting mark on the global crusade for justice; and his records explicate this very well, as he really fought for the cause of peace, justice and fair play, and in doing this he never for once got deterred by a single grain of fear.
For legal reasons, we consider the killers of Deyda as unidentified. However, the cruel irony is that if you knew the man and his work, which goes with his fearless stance against oppression, you are miles into finding the clues as to who actually his killers are.
Firstly, I have read in dozens of crime books, from James Hardly Chase to Robert Ludlum, that the quickest way to find a killer is to first look for the motivating factor. Who would have motivation, meaning a good reason, for good or bad cause, to kill a person? In doing this one might have to start with the style of life and work of the victim to glean out a reason why he made enemies and with whom. Even (as it is in the minds of all decent men and women), the greatest suspect in Deyda’s murder, Yahya Jammeh, knew this formula because when he attempted to fool the world by pretending that he was investigating the puzzle, he came out with a report that suggested Deyda's private life could have something to do with his death.
But come to think of it, Deyda Hydara commented critically on all matters of government he deemed bad, a government which is headed by a ruler who is on recording, threatening to bury his critics 6ft deep and closing and burning press houses?
Which group of people in Gambia is armed and freely roams the streets, trigger happy, and drunken in convoys? Which group of persons is capable of killing innocent and unarmed children, only to coin a big lie, claiming that the children were armed? My country men, the question as to who has the motivation and wherewithal to kill Deyda is rhetorical in light of the above.
The trial of the famous six Gambian journalists over the famous GPU press release, presented an underlying reality in that it offered the wider world the opportunity to get an insight into what operates in this small and besieged nation within the claws of a defiant dictator. The press release that provoked that unwarranted response from Yahya Jammeh and his mercenary-infested judicial institution is right in all ways to say that Jammeh killed Deyda Jammeh because whether they said it in public or in their bedrooms, all genuine and right thinking minds in the Gambia; soldiers, school children, market women, farmers, etc., will all agreed that only Yahya Jammeh and his criminal thugs have the guns and carry out all the killings and disappearances in the country, in utter disregard for the country’s constitution.
If there existed any armed group in the Gambia other than Jammeh's cruel and murderous thugs, we would have known that from the paranoid and lousy heavy handed reaction of his troops as we have seen in the Kartong and Farrafenie attacks.
As I remember Deyda Hydara, therefore, I pray and hope that the lies that Jammeh is peddling about the existence of another armed group becomes true and chase him and his thuggish group from our good country.
Rest in peace, Deyda; and be rest assured that good people in Gambia and the world will continue to pursue Jammeh to his grave to avenge your death. It is just a matter of time.