Eight years have passed since Chief Ebrima Manneh [reporter with the Daily Observer newspaper in the Gambia] was picked UP by plainclothes officers of the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Journalist Abdoulie John caught up with the West Africa Director of Article XI. In this interview, Fatou Jagne-Senghore seized the opportunity to raise concerns about the enforced disappearance of journalist Ebrima Manneh, Gambia government’s failure to investigate the matter properly, and reiterate her organization campaign to end impunity in Gambia, among others.
Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh was arrested by the Gambian National Intelligence Agency on July 7, 2006, and has since been ‘disappeared’. Do you think there is a chance that Chief Ebrima Manneh is still alive?
Fatou Jagne-Senghore: The enforced disappearance of Ebrima Manneh continues to be a major preoccupation for ARTICLE 19. We are really disturbed that no investigation has been conducted to ascertain his whereabouts. As a result of the lack of adequate information surrounding this case, it is very difficult to know what really happen to him, where he is…
Among the Satanic trio that masterminded Chief Ebrima Manneh’s arrest, two have died (Momodou Sanyang and Dr Saja Taal), one (Pa Malick Faye) who entered US territory with a valid visa is seeking asylum. What is preventing Article 19 from launching a campaign so that any identified culprits can face the full wrath of the law?
Fatou Jagne Senghore: ARTICLE 19 believes that the Gambia Government has the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute the authors of such heinous act. It has failed to do so and to respect its obligations to protect Manneh. We have denounced in many instances before human rights bodies at the continental and international levels the enforced disappearance of Manneh. Our campaign to end impunity and crime crimes against freedom of expression in the Gambia has been ongoing for some time now and we will continue to work with the media, other human rights groups and free expression organizations until justice is done in this case and the others. Our thoughts are also with the family who has been going through very difficult times with the uncertainly about Manneh situation.
Justice Minister Edu Gomez, the Gambia government have deliberately tried to spread false information about Ebrima Manneh being in the United States. Could these actions be considered as obstruction of justice?
Fatou Jagne Senghore: The obligation of the government to protect and investigate the crimes remain intact, a mere declaration by a minister without any serious proof can’t be taken seriously as a pretext to waive the government of its responsibility and should not be used as an excuse to stop the investigation to ascertain the whereabouts of Manneh.
The ECOWAS Community Court ruled in favour of Ebrima Manneh’s family, but Gambia is yet to comply with the decision. Is there any other avenue that could help the family to get redress?
Fatou Jagne Senghore: Gambia has failed to implement the ECOWAS Court decision on Manneh and other critical decisions; it has been difficult for the family to get redress at the national level due to the lack of independence of the judiciary and also the climate of repression across the country. But we should continue to further explore working with ECOWAS and other African human rights mechanisms such as the African Commission on Human Rights (ACHPR) to support the family to get the decision implemented. Beyond the decision of the ECOWAS court. There have been resolutions and reports of the ACHPR on the case, and it is time that the government be obliged by the AU to act upon them.