Deyda Hydara, the Gambia’s leading journalist whose December 16th, 2004 assassination remains unsolved, meant a lot to me, especially during my formative years in journalism. Here is a man who taught many of us to be who we are. He also brought Alhaji Saramadi Kabbah (nephew of the late Ahmed Tijan Kabbah) to beef up our potentials and inject journalism spirit in us. Kabbah is a genius in journalism who had positively impacted my life and many others, including Lamin Conteh. He is among the many noble journalists (Ebrima Sillah, Baboucarr Gaye, Sheriff Bojang snr, Deyda Hydara, Paschal Eze, Demba Jawo, etc) I had the opportunity to drink from their sea of knowledge and wealth of experience. I will always remain grateful to these kind-hearted people.
Yes, the cowards can destroy an innocent and worthy life like that of Deyda Hydara, the man who ate in the same basin with his employees, but they can never wipe away his beliefs and legacy. Rest in Eternal Peace our Journalist Lion. We will always fight youthey just as you did for voiceless Gambians when you were living. Your life was well spent.
Hydara took the fatal bullet for the oppressed people. He even saw the danger coming but he would not blink insisting that nothing would stand on his road to educate and inform the people.
Until I had gone abroad with Deyda’s gruesome murder campaign, I was living a peaceful journalistic life; I was not a direct threat to the government, although some eyebrows would be raised toward me here and there, especially among APRC bigwigs who complained about what they called “your annoying Jarra stories”. At one point I almost lost my job at the Daily Observer where the Chief Editor had to choose between maintaining me or resigning.
But fighting for the man who called me my talibe would later cause my arbitrary arrest, detention and brutal tortures. And to nail the cofin forced me to abandon the land of my ancestors without completing my mission. What crime did I commit other than using my keyboard and mouth to tell truth to power in a bid to correct the many injustices in the Gambia? Deyda died doing exactly the same fight. It’s a fight that must not be left in the hands of a selected few. This is a fight I have chosen to continue until Allah’s will comes.
Thanks Foday Samateh for the soul-touching masterpiece. You’re a real Foday, a respected title reserved for only highly educated and acclaimed scholars. If the title-hungry Kanilai Monster knows the value of Foday, he would have added it to his long list of undeserved titles long since. As Mandinkas put it: fali mang kuru long (the donkey doesn’t know the value of kola nut).
Thanks for not only immortalising our hero journalist, humanist, freedom fighter, generous man and teacher editor but also bringing back those long gone memories of life at The Point in the hands of a man who believed in whatever he had said and written. The man who admired my native Jarra people for their high level of democratic culture. As a member of the National Consultative Committee, Deyda respected Jarrankas for their unanimous stance against junta rule. “Your people are the only ones who wanted the soldiers to go to the barracks within six months,” Hydara kept telling me.
His ssassination was meant to bury the spirit of journalists so there would not be anyone like Deyda. How wrong was the coward government that remains haunted by Deyda’s spirits. Ten years on, the Jammeh government cannot still muster the courage to investigate, let alone bring the killers to justice. How can that be when the drummer hides the beater stick?