Chief Ebrima Manneh’s Disappearance: From Denial to Conflicting Disclosures from the Same Gov’t
Friday, July 06, 2012
Journalist Manneh’s whereabouts have been unknown – at least to his fellow journalists and family – ever since he was allegedly whisked way from the Daily Observer offices by plain clothes state security agents
The government of The Gambia, who is alleged to have taken him under custody for an article deemed critical of the government, was sued by a Ghana-based media rights association, Media Foundation for West Africa. At the Abuja-based sub-regional court, Ecowas Court of Justice, The Gambia government faced charges of illegal detention of Chief Manneh.
Several sittings passed without a representation of the government. Eventually, after hearing the testimonies of two plaintiff witnesses, the court found The Gambia guilty. The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice ordered that the government release the journalist and pay 100, 000 US dollar compensation to the journalist.
Infact, one of the witnesses, a former staff reporter of the Daily Observer newspaper, confirmed to the court that Chief Manneh was arrested by State Security Agents at his place of work, while the other testified that he saw Manneh in a Police Station in Fatoto.
Yet, six years on tomorrow, the government of The Gambia refused to comply with the judgement of the court, despite being a signatory to the framework that established the court. According to a former Gambian Justice Minister, Edu Gomez, the judgement in favour of Chief Manneh was default; and that The Gambia government has appealed against it.
However, what is confusing in the search for Chief Ebrima Manneh is that The Gambia Government has been making conflicting statements over the disappearance of Chief Manneh. When the ECOWAS Court delivered judgment in the case, the then Honourable Minister of Justice and Attorney -General, Marie Saine-Firdaus, told lawmakers that Manneh is not in State custody and that the State did not know anything about his whereabouts.
However, during a meeting with media chiefs on March 16, 2011, the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, said: “My Government has nothing to do with the death of Chief Manneh”. Jammeh later suggested, in an interview with state-owned GRTS, that Chief Manneh probably died while on a risky journey to Europe via the high seas. A similar suggestion was attributed to Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy, who reportedly said the journalist probably died at the desert.
Last October, the former Minister of Justice and Attorney- General, Mr Edward Anthony Gomez, indicated in an interview with this paper that Manneh is alive, but he refused to disclose the whereabouts of the missing journalist.
He later told the chairman of the International Federation for Journalists that Manneh was in the US – a view shared by the current Inspector General of Police, YankubaSonko, who told The Standard newspaper that his organization had received information from Interpol that the missing Gambian journalist, Chief Ebrima Manneh, is in the United States of America.
This is what has so far been said. We hope the public would read between the lines, analyse the conflicting statements from the same government that had denied knowledge of the whereabouts of Chief Manneh and make a better judgement.