Today marks nine years since Ebrima Chief Manneh, a senior reporter with the Daily Observer newspaper disappeared.
The Ghana-based Media Foundation for West Africa has since instituted a civil action against the Gambia Government at the Ecowas Court of Justice in Abuja, Nigeria.
During the trial, a former staff of the Observer newspaper, Pa Ousman Darboe, who testified as a plaintiff witness, adduced that the journalist was picked up at his work place on July 7, 2006, by plainclothes state security agents. The Court also heard the testimony of Mr Yaya Damfa, journalist formerly with Foroyaa newspaper. He told the panel of judges that he saw Manneh at Fatoto Police station.
In 2008, the Abuja-based Ecowas Court of Justice held that the government of The Gambia is responsible for the disappearance of Ebrima Chief Manneh.
The sub-regional court ordered The Gambia government to immediately release the journalist from custody and pay US$100, 000.00 as compensation to his family. The Gambia government however refused to honour the court’s order even though the country is a signatory to the statute that established the court.
On Monday April 6, 2009, the then minister for Justice and Attorney General, Marie Saine-Firdaus, told the National Assembly of The Gambia that Chief Manneh was not in the custody of the government. She denied any knowledge on the part of the government regarding Mr Manneh’s whereabouts.
In March 2011, the president of the republic, His Excellency Yahya AJJ Jammeh, in his maiden dialogue with media chiefs, did say that his ‘government has nothing to do with the death of Chief Manneh.’
On October 2011, the then Justice Minister Edu Gomez, Monday, told Daily News newspaper he knew ‘with a high degree of certainty’ that Chief Manneh was ‘alive somewhere’, but he refused to disclose his whereabouts. He later told the president of Federation of African Journalists, Omar Faruk, that Manneh was in the US. The GPU had written to the minister to seek for an audience with him, but he never granted it.
In 2012, Yankuba Sonko, Inspector General of Police at the time, told The Standard newspaper that Interpol had indicated to them that Chief Ebrima Manneh arrived in the United States of America, but he also did not give details of his trip. However, the family had denied that Ebrima is in the US.
In June 2011, the UK Foreign Office revealed that the Gambia government has informally agreed to calls for independent investigations by the UN into the disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh.
In September 2012, the US embassy in Banjul, also announced that President Jammeh has ‘reaffirmed his commitment to... allowing the United Nations to investigate the disappearance of Chief Ebrima Manneh.
This year, for the first time in its history, the Gambia Press Union will commemorate the anniversary of the disappearance this young and promising journalist.
On Friday July 10, the GPU will hold a day’s seminar on the disappearance of Manneh at the Gambia Pastoral Institute, along Kairaba Avenue, starting 4pm. All are invited to attend – Iftar will be provided.
On this event, we will renew our call for the government to facilitate investigations into Manneh’s disappearance by independent United Nations investigators.