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Justice for the 44 Ghanaians; Initiate Efforts To Bring Yahya Jammeh To Trial

They were cut down in the prime of their lives; shot in cold blood by ex Gambian dictator Yahaya Jammeh’s death squad. Their bodies were then dumped in a well.

I am referring, of course, to the 44 Ghanaians who were brutally mowed down in tiny Gambia in 2005. Together, 50 young West Africans were killed including 10 Nigerians, Ivorians and Senegalese in that night of unbridled violence.

The killing was a sad chapter in Africa’s tortured history of dictatorship, brutality and repression.

According to the confessions of a former member of Jammeh’s presidential guard, the order to carry out the ghastly crime was given by the repugnant former Gambian strongman who feared the victims were mercenaries sent by his enemies to get him, to overthrow his illegal regime.  Jammeh it should be recalled had come to power through a coup d’etat years earlier.

When it came to light, the crime was swiftly condemned by the then Ghanaian administration of President John Kufuor, international and domestic human rights organizations and families of the victims who called for an immediate investigation. Ghanaians, incensed by the horrific crime were furious and wanted answers, immediately.

In response, Mr. Kufuor dispatched a delegation led by the then foreign minister and current president, Mr. Nana Akuffo Addo, to Gambia to get to the bottom of the issue. But there was no break-through. Gambian authorities stonewalled Addo and the Ghanaian delegation.

It was later revealed that Jammeh had ordered Gambian officials with direct knowledge of the crime not to cooperate with the Ghanaians. No amount of diplomatic maneuvers could get Gambia to admit to the crime.

So, in 2009, our government, apparently frustrated and disgusted with the recalcitrant Gambians, sadly capitulated and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Gambian government.

To be honest, the Kufour administration was brow-beaten by the Gambians. The terms of the Memorandum were so outrageous, they would have made you tear your hair out in uncontrollable anger.

In it, Gambia denied complicity in the gruesome murder of our citizens and gave a paltry, a meagre, an insignificant amount of 500,000 dollars to be distributed among the families of the victims.

To be fair, the NDC administrations of John Arthur Mills and John Mahama failed to exert enough pressure on Jammeh to account for his crime. They just did not do enough to hold the despicable Jammeh responsible and that is regrettable. I would assume that Mr. Mills and Mr. Mahama apparently thought the case was closed with the agreement that was signed by the Kufuor administration.

Well, the time has come for Ghanaian authorities to revisit the case. The confession of the former member of the death squad is enough reason to reopen the horrendous crime committed against our young men by Jammeh’s trigger-happy goons.

Before a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Banjul, the capital of Gambia last week, the young man directly implicated Jammeh. The moment has arrived for Ghana in cooperation with ECOWAS to initiate efforts to extradite Jammeh from his hideout in Equatorial Guinea to stand trial for the murder of 44 of our young men.

The international community will gladly go along with any attempt to bring Jammeh to justice. The man was a coward, intolerable, repressive and corrupt, not to mention a stain on the African continents.

The Addo administration should not succumb to arguments that extraditing Jammeh from Equatorial Guinea would be impossible. My counter argument is that it is possible to compel Jammeh to face the music. Examples abound of cruel dictators being brought back from their hideouts and  put on trial for gruesome crimes against humanity. Jammeh is no different.

Getting justice for the families of the 44 young Ghanaians whose only sin was trying to escape grinding poverty in their homeland, would be a lasting legacy of the Addo administration.


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