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21.03.2009 Politics

Government resolves to unravel deaths of Ghanaians in Gambia

By gna

Vice President John Dramani Mahama on Friday re-echoed the commitment of government to work towards unravelling the circumstances that led to the death of 44 Ghanaians in the Gambia.

Meeting with a joint United Nations – ECOWAS Commission Mission which is investigating the incident at the Osu Castle, Vice President Mahama stated that in as much as Ghana would like to improve her relation with its West African neighbour, it would, nonetheless, not gloss over alleged killing of her citizens.

A known advocate for the victims, dating back to his days as a Member of Parliament, Vice President Mahama reiterated the desire to work towards ascertaining the reasons that led to the death of the victims so as to assuage the pain of the distraught family members.

Ghanaians woke up to the unpleasant news on July 23, 2005, of the alleged killing of 44 of their compatriots and nine other West African nationals in the Gambia.

The news generated a national furore against The Gambia, compelling the then government to press the ECOWAS Commission and the United Nations to conduct an independent investigation into the case, so as establish the complicity or otherwise of the Gambian security apparatus in the melee.

Subsequently, the two institutions did set up a joint mission on August 15, 2008, tasked with investigating the issue under the chairmanship of eminent Jamaican diplomat, Ambassador Curtis Ward.

The presence of the mission in the country was to enable the team interview some surviving victims and collate additional information from other sources that might help to shed some light on the incident.

Vice President Mahama expressed government's confidence in the expertise of the team, assuring them that Ghana would respect their verdict, although he also conveyed the anxiety of the generality of the Ghanaian populace over the issue.

He said Ghana wants the “unfortunate” incident investigated so that those found culpable for the dastardly act would be brought to book and also allow for a thawing in the relationship between the two countries.

Vice President Mahama also expressed delight about the cooperation received from Gambia, which he said, would enable a successful closure of what he described as a “sad chapter” in the relation between the two countries.

Ambassador Curtis Ward told the Vice President that some headway had been made in forming some conclusions as to what happened, although he conceded that it would still take some time before a definite report would be issued.

Ambassador Ward said the team had received cooperation from the two countries and has received similar support from surviving persons, and families of some of the victims.

Other members of the mission included Justice Ariranga Pillay, President of the South African Development Community Tribunal, Justice Albert Redhead, a retired Appeal Court Judge and Mr Morie Lengor, a security expert with the ECOWAS Commission.