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12.08.2005 General News

Gambia At War With Ghana?

Public Agenda
Gambia At War With Ghana?

...10 Ghanaians deported to Senegal ... 8 confirmed dead Latest information from The Gambia say ten Ghanaians have been arrested by the para military of The Gambia and dumped at a border village –Amdalai near Senegal. The immigration officers who led them to the border town allegedly threatened and warned them never to return to The Gambia.

The 10 were residents of one house in Brufut near Ghanatown where the 8 bodies of Ghanaians alleged to have been killed by The Gambian police were discovered. The ten were allegedly tortured and made to work on farms for a week by the para military.

Reports reaching Public Agenda quote well meaning Gambians as saying that during the police raid, only the Ghanaians were picked up for allegedly spreading information that the police were responsible for the death of the 8 Ghanaians on July 25.

The deported Ghanaians have since arrived in Senegal leaving their belongings in The Gambia. In a related development, the immigration department in the past few days arrested a number of Ghanaians in Serrekunda for alleged migration offences and have been kept at the mile II (2) prisons near Banjul for several days without being charged at court. As a result of the deaths and targeted arrests, Ghanaians are reported to be living in fear.

Last week, Public Agenda gathered that, desperate to make it to Europe through the backdoor, some Ghanaians on transit in The Gambia met their untimely death. The reports say eight out of the ten West Africans, who were killed under mysterious circumstances on July 25, have been identified as Ghanaians.

One Ghanaian eyewitness who sent distressing emails to Ghanaians all over the world said on the day of the killing, two Ghanaians, one from the Brong/Ahafo Region and the other from Apam in the Central Region approached him for refuge, saying there were 53 other Ghanaians and West Africans looking for a place to hide. He said the two Senegalese, two Togolese, two Nigerians and 47 Ghanaians were seeking a ship connection to Europe.

The eyewitness said the area where the deaths took place is about 400 meters from the newly built Brufut Police Station, at 'Ghana Town' at the outskirts of the village. The bodies were found at different spots within the vicinity with assorted foreign currencies splashed all over the area. Eleven more bodies were found hours later, bringing the total to 19 so far discovered.

The eyewitness suspects that after paying huge sums of foreign currency to a self-styled connection man, he failed to transport them to Europe and instead, arranged for some thugs to arrest all 53 who were kept at a secret camp and executed in batches of 10. On that fateful Sunday, July 25, when another batch of 10 was herded to the firing squad, two escaped and are currently in police custody. The unfortunate eight who were killed included five Ghanaians. Following the discovery of the dead bodies at Tanji-Bird Watching site, a number of Ghanaians in 'Ghana Town' in the Gambia were arrested by The Gambian authorities. Some human rights organisations have raised concerns that the style and method of the arrests could hamper independent investigations. Reports say the deaths and subsequent arrests have driven the remaining Ghanaians in Brufut underground and restricted their movement. While others speculated that the men might have been killed elsewhere and dumped at Brufut, others suggested they might have drowned in the nearby Atlantic Ocean. But this theory has been dismissed by the police considering the battered nature of some of the victims who were all mature men.

Police Crime Coordinator, Pa- Amdy Jallow, is quoted as saying that the identities of the men were not yet known. But he said the nature of the bodies indicated there was foul play. “We do not know the cause of their death yet, as the Police investigators are on the ground gathering more facts. I am hopeful that we will be able to make a breakthrough,” he said.

Ghana's Deputy Foreign Minister, Akwasi Osei Agyei said a representative of the Ghanaian Mission in Senegal has been sent to the tiny West Africa country to investigate the scale of Ghanaians' involvement in the deaths. The deputy minister admitted on Peace FM last Wednesday that, there was a large population of Ghanaians in “Ghana Town” in The Gambia, some of whom arrived there with the hope of making it to Europe.

He said during his recent visit to The Gambia in the company of the Vice President, Alhaji Aliu Mahama, they advised the Ghanaians to be wary of human traffickers who were extorting huge sums of foreign currencies from their victims and promising to take them to Europe.

Another email received from Banjul wondered why The Gambian press had blackout the mysterious deaths. The email says since July 25 when the dead bodies were discovered, all media houses in The Gambia have failed to publish updates for the benefit of the public. “The reason for this silence is not known, but it will surely include the state of fear in the population and the censorship of the press”, said a worried Ghanaian.

“The lack of update smells a rat and raises eyebrows and authenticates the rumours that the government wants to kill the story for reasons best known to it.”

Since Yahya Jammeh swept onto the political scene in 1992 his government has promulgated inimical press laws that have virtually silenced critical private media. The famous Deyda Hydara, co-founder of and editor-in-chief of “The Point”, an independent newspaper was allegedly killed by government agents (Green Boys) because of his criticism of the inimical press laws and Yahya Jammeh's dictatorial rule.

Gambia is fast becoming a hotbed for human rights abuses. According to the United States Embassy 2004 Human Rights Report on Ghana, Gambia is the destination for most women and children trafficked from Ghana. In 2002, 50 children being trafficked to The Gambia were intercepted and returned to Ghana. Earlier in 2001 a woman caught trafficking eight boys and three girls to The Gambia was arrested and charged.

The report said in April 2004, 12 girls who had been trafficked to The Gambia for prostitution were rescued and brought back to Ghana.