Friday, July 12, 2013

Elaborate and confusing comments over whereabouts of missing journalist raises fears he is dead

Just as the search continues – one can only hope that if it comes to an end – Chief will tell the world his tale of woe (the story about all the horrible things that have happened to him) since his disappearance into thin air on July 7, 2006.
If only disappeared Gambian journalist “Chief” Ebrima B. Manneh is still alive then he may have the chance to tell the world his tale of woe.

But with elaborate and stumped comments over his whereabouts ever since his disappearance on July 7, 2006, it is now feared that the young lad has a slim chance of telling the story about all the horrible things he must have been through seven years on.

The most widely held belief is that he was whisked away from his work place, the Daily Observer newspaper in Bakau by State security agents in mufti (ordinary clothes) – allegations The Gambia Government denies in local and international platforms.

Death or alive have been the subject of debate among top government officials who have to deal with the continuing pressure on the quest to establish the fate of the missing journalist.

The most recent came from the country’s current top cop, the Inspector General of Police Mr. Yankuba Sonko who told The Standard Newspaper last year that Chief Manneh “was seen in the United States of America.”

“As far as we are concerned, the latest information we received from Interpol is that he was seen in America, and that is it,” Sonko was quoted as saying. 

Prompting an immediate reaction from the Manneh family, whose father, Mr. Sarjo Fofana told JollofNews: “My son cannot be in U.S. He was arrested by state security personnel, and that happened in broad daylight at his workplace.” 

The 80-year-old was also quoted by The Point to have said: “What I would like to make clear is that my son Chief Manneh is not in the United States. Our belief is that he is in state custody.”

In March 2011, the Gambian leader, President Yahya Jammeh told media chiefs in an “impromptu” meeting that his government does not have a hand in “Manneh’s death”, a comment countered by the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) asking the president to clarify comment.

Late 2011, Gambia’s Justice Minister at the time, Mr. Edward Gomez told The Daily News that Chief Manneh is “alive” and “somewhere”, but failed to provide proofs and fall short of bowing to widespread international demands for him to do so.


In April 2009, then Gambia’s Minister of Justice Marie Saine-Firdaus told the National Assembly during a Question and Answer session that the Gambia Government was aggrieved by the decision of the ECOWAS Court, and has since set the political process in motion to take the matter to the next level and get the decision set aside.

Her comments followed the most drastic of efforts to unveil Chief’s whereabouts, when West Africa’s leading press and free expression watchdog, the Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) filed and won a lawsuit against the Government of The Gambia at the Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria. 

The court ordered that Chief Manneh be released immediately, and be paid US$100,000 in compensation by the Gambia Government in 2008, a ruling yet to be adhered to.
 
In April 2009, a French news agency, AFP, quoted an unnamed police source citing that Chief Ebrima Manneh might have died while in prison.

His whereabouts remains one of grave mysteries surrounding press freedom and the safety and security of Gambian journalists after the earlier killing of veteran journalist Deyda Hydara in 2004. 

Having continuously exhorted Gambia Government to properly investigate Chief’s case, in 2012, the Gambia Press Union urged the governments of the United States of America and The Gambia and the United Nations to join forces to unearth the truth about Chief’s whereabouts. 

In a July 8, 2012 statement, the local journalists’ body also urged the International Police Organisation, Interpol to clarify if indeed Chief Manneh did arrive in the U.S. and to provide details of his whereabouts.

“Members of the Manneh family have over the past seven years endured pain and frustration, they need to know the whereabouts of their loved one,” the GPU said.

With all the contradicting comments coming out and the continuous local and international push to unveil Chief Manneh’s fate, some multimillion Dollar question must be answered first:

“Will Interpol as a respectable international organisation has knowledge about Chief’s whereabouts and tried to cover up?

“Will Chief himself sit somewhere in America as alleged and keep mute when his family are really suffering in agony?

“Will the police chief and former justice minister really misinform Gambians and the World about Chief Manneh being in America?”

However, just as the search continues – one can only hope that if it comes to an end – Chief will tell the world his tale of woe (the story about all the horrible things that have happened to him) since his disappearance into thin air on July 7, 2006. 

A VERSION OF THIS STORY FIRST APPEARED HERE ON FPI on July 9
Written by Modou S. Joof
 
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