Many dates in a year will come and go without many people noticing. December 16 is not one of the days that comes and goes unnoticed. It was on December 16 2004 when the Gambia’s leading journalist was assassinated just 100 meters away from police intervention unit headquarters in Kanifing. Deyda Hydra 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 Sierra Leone President Ahmed Tijan Kabbah) 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) who accorded me 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 my crisis-laden country? 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 most of us 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; he was 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.” The rest is left for historians to write about.
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 lacked 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 was the President. It’s too painful for the Hydara family to wait for justice that is nowhere to found simply because the government was doing all it can to bury the evidence. But all those who connect the dots knew President Jammeh ordered the assassination. He blew up anytime he talked 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.” Now that details have started emerging, Gambians will soon know the mystery surrounding Deyda’s callous murder.
December 16th brings back the memory of pain, injustice and sorrow. But we will not rest until Deyda Hydara’s family deserves justice, especially now that the monster regime no longer holds power. The road to justice is just at the corner. We join the Hydara family to celebrate the 13th anniversary of a legend’s life. Rest in Jannah Deyda Hydra until you see your heartless killers being punished and humiliated by Allah’s Angels.
The above edited article was first published on December 16 2015.