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08.11.2008 International

AU institutes probe into Gambian killings

By Ghanaian Times

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration and NEPAD, Akwasi Osei-Adjei has said that severing relations with the Gambia over the killing of some Ghanaians in that country in July 2005 was not the best option.

He explained that the best option was to continue to use the diplomatic channel in the spirit of African unity, to get the Gambia authorities to do the right thing.

Mr Osei-Adjei was responding to a series of supplementary questions regarding the death of some Ghanaian nationals allegedly in the hands of the Gambian security forces.

The urgent question which stood in the name of Mr John Mahama (NDC-Bole Bamboi) and Minority Spokesman on Foreign Affairs sought to know the finding of the Ghana investigative team into the killing of Ghanaians and other West African Nationals in the Gambia.

He also wanted to know when the Minister would make this report available to Parliament.

Mr Osei-Adjei said pieces of evidence gathered by the investigative team showed that the Ghanaians were murdered allegedly with cutlasses and machetes.

He said the Gambia authorities were intransigent and had rejected the findings claiming that the bodies might have been washed ashore to the coast of the Gambia from elsewhere.

He said Ghana was using diplomatic efforts to get to the root of the matter and have the bodies brought home for burial. Ghana would also demand compensation from the culprits he said, addition that 'severing ties will not solve the problem.”

Mr Osei-Adjei said the recourse to an independent investigation under the aegis of ECOWAS and the United Nations provided a diplomatic way forward that brought the Gambian on board the process “to surrounding the unfortunate deaths of our compatriots in that country.”

He said Ambassador Viga Makhan of Mauritius, one time Assistant-Secretary General of the OAU (1995-2002) was awaiting finalisation of his appointment to head a team of independent investigators to deal with the problem.

The Minister said the process of putting together the independent investigators was expected to be completed by November 9.

“Thereafter, Ambassador Makhan would travel to Accra for discussions and then proceed

to Abuja to join other members of the panel to commence work, which is expected to last approximately one-and a-half months.

“Government eagerly awaits the findings of the independent panel and wishes to reassure the families of the victims that it remains committed to ensuring that this matter is brought to a just and satisfactory conclusion,” he said.

In July 2005, it was reported that a group of about 56 persons comprising Ghanaians and nationals of other West African countries, attempting to travel to Europe by boat were arrested and handed over to the Gambian security service.

Subsequently, eleven bodies nine of which were identified by the Ghana Mission in Dakar as Ghanaians were found in the Tanji Forest in Banjul.

The whereabouts of the others members of the group remain unknown to date.

One Martin Kyere, a Ghanaian who claimed to be among the group that was arrested but managed to escape, was brought down to Ghana to assist in the investigation.

Source: Ghanaian Times

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