The Gambia’s leading journalist whose December 16th, 2004 assassination remains unsolved, meant a lot to me, especially during my formative years in journalism. Deyda Hydara was 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 of Sierra Leone) to beef up our potentials and inject journalism spirit in us. Kabbah is a journalism genius who had positively impacted my life and many others. 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 and saw himself in them, but they can never wipe away his beliefs and good legacy. Rest in Eternal Peace our Journalist Lion. We will always fight for you just as you did for the voiceless Gambians. Your life was well spent.
Hydara took the fatal bullet for the oppressed people. He even saw the danger coming but would not blink, insisting that nothing would stand on his road to educate and inform the masses.
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 result to 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. And it’s a fight as Nelson Mandela put it “I prepare to die for.”
Deyda Hydara was not only a journalist hero but also a humanist, freedom fighter, generous man and teacher editor. He believed in whatever he had said and written. The man who admired my native Jarra people for what he called “Jarrankas 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. “They didn’t trust them from day one.”
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 lacks the muscle and courage to investigate, let alone bring the killers to justice. Gambians don’t expect that to happen as long as Yahya Jammeh remains the President. It’s too painful for the Hydara family to wait for justice that is nowhere to found simply because the government is doing all it can to bury the evidence. But all those who connect the dots know President Jammeh ordered the assassination. He blows up anytime he talks about it. You can see guilt written all over his face. At one point, he even told Gambians to “ask Deyda Hydara who killed him.”
December 16th brings back the memory of pain, injustice and sorrow. But we will not rest until Deyda Hydara’s family deserves justice. It’s our firm belief that we will ride on road to justice, no matter how long it takes. We join the Hydara family to celebrate the 11th anniversary of life a legend.