Despite his disappearance for over five years now, Journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh’s exact situation remained a subject of complete speculation until last Wednesday, when President Yahya Jammeh indicated for the first time that he was dead.
“Let me make it very clear that my government has nothing to do with the death of Deyda Hydara and Chief Ebrima Manneh,” Jammeh said at State House in Banjul as he met with heads of the country’s media, the first-ever such meeting.
And now, questions are being asked about the exact circumstances of Manneh death.
In a letter dated March 21, 2011, and signed by Executive Director Joel Simon, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has requested for clarification from President Yahya Jammeh his comments suggesting that Manneh had died.
The letter is reproduced below:
March 21, 2011
H.E. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh
President of the Republic of The Gambia
Banjul, The Gambia
Via facsimile +220 4227 034
Dear President Jammeh:
We request clarification of your March 16 comments suggesting “Chief” Ebrima Manneh, a reporter for the Daily Observer, may have died. Manneh disappeared after witnesses saw him being arrested by state security agents in the offices of the Daily Observer on July 7, 2007. The government has previously denied any knowledge of Manneh’s fate.
“Let me make it very clear that the government has nothing to do with the death of Chief Manneh or Deyda Hydara or the disappearances of so many people,” you said in a meeting with representatives of Gambian media that was broadcast on state television. You also suggested Manneh might have disappeared after attempting to illegally migrate to Europe or the United States.
Your statement implies knowledge of Manneh’s fate that has not been conveyed to the journalist’s family or disclosed publicly. In all previous public comments, administration officials have consistently denied any knowledge of Manneh’s detention, whereabouts, or legal status. Those comments were made despite sightings of Manneh in government custody after his 2007 arrest. Government denials were also issued in response to a June 2008 ruling by the Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States, which found sufficient evidence to conclude Gambian authorities had improperly detained Manneh.
In the interest of transparency and to relieve the anguish of Manneh’s family, which deserves to know his fate, we call on you to fully disclose your knowledge of Manneh’s fate and to order all appropriate investigations into his case.
We look forward to your response.