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24.06.2010 General News

$500K compensation for victims of Gambia killings

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After five years of the controversy over the deaths of some Ghanaian nationals in The Gambia,which nearly sparked a cold war between Accra and Banjul, has finally been laid to rest, following the findings and recommendations of a joint United Nations/Economic Community of West African States (UN/ECOWAS) report.

'Madam Speaker, although the report did not fully address the concerns of both sides, the Governments of Ghana and The Gambia agreed to accept the findings and recommendations of the panel, and work together to bring a closure to that unfortunate tragedy, and strive to restore normalcy to their bilateral relations,' noted the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Alhaji Mohammad Mumuni, when he appeared in Parliament yesterday, to respond to questions pertaining to his ministry.

His response was in connection to a question posed by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Jaman South, Yaw Maama Afful, who wanted to know from the Minister whether compensation, in respect of the Ghanaians killed in The Gambia in 2005, had been received by the government, and if so, whether the beneficiaries had been paid.

Though the report did not fault The Gambian government as having a hand in the deaths of the Ghanaian nationals, the Minister said The Gambian Government, as custom demands in the African continent, agreed to make a donation of US$500,000 in cash to the families of the deceaseds, towards their burial and funeral rites.

'The Government of The Gambia could not therefore be held to pay compensation. Nonetheless, The Gambia Government agreed to make contributions to the families of the Ghanaians found dead on Gambian territory, in conformity with African traditional values, shared by both countries,' he added.

Alhaji Mohammad Mumuni said the contribution made by The Gambian government was received on January 7, 2010, and had since been lodged in a government account at the Bank of Ghana (BoG), adding, 'No portion of this amount has been disbursed to any individual or families.'

In July, 2005, a number of Ghanaian nationals lost their lives, and others unaccounted for, in rather tragic and strange circumstances in The Gambia.

The issue was first reported by the only survivor of the incident, Mr. Martin Kyere, who alerted the security agencies of the Government of Ghana.

At the initial stages, the number was reported to be forty-four (44), but investigations into the said incident revealed that six (6) people rather lost their lives, while others were unaccounted for.

The mortal remains of the six bodies, together with an additional two bodies, have, however, been exhumed and returned to Ghana.

The remains, according to the Minister, were presently in the morgue at the Police Hospital in Accra, pending DNA tests for identification and subsequent removal by their families.

On the contrary, the two additional mortal remains attracted more questions from the MPs, but the Minister, in his answers, noted that since the incident happened in a suburb called Ghana community in The Gambia, The Gambian authorities assumed the bodies were also that of Ghanaians, hence their being included among the exhumation, and subsequent return to Ghana.

According to the Minister, with regards to the findings and recommendations by the joint UN/ECOWAS report that was presented at the ECOWAS Commission headquarters in Abuja on May 11, 2009, the two governments agreed to cooperate in the exhumation and repatriation of the bodies to their families in Ghana, so that they would be given befitting traditional burials.

Furthermore, the Minister said both governments, in conformity with the findings and recommendations of the report, pledged to pursue, through all available means, the arrest and prosecution of all those involved in the deaths and disappearances of the Ghanaians concerned, adding, 'They also agreed to follow up on any future leads in the case of those suspected to be missing.' However, the Minister noted that in the event that other bodies are found, the two parties had agreed to re-open the issue, and deal by backing it up with DNA tests.

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