10th October 2005
Dear Mr. Salam Mahama, REJOINDER “AKUFO-ADDO SHOULD PROVE THE VALUE OF CITIZENSHIP TO US: DEATH OF GHANAIANS IN THE GAMBIA” The Ministry's attention has been drawn to an open letter you addressed on ghanaweb on 1st October 2005 to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nana Akufo-Addo, MP, entitled “Akufo-Addo should prove the value of Citizenship to us: Death of Ghanaians in The Gambia”, which has been picked up and published by several Ghanaian newspapers. The letter creates the unfortunate impression that Government, or more specifically the Minister for Foreign Affairs, has not done much about the mysterious deaths of Ghanaians in The Gambia. The contents are, unfortunately, wholly misleading.
Government has been seized with this issue ever since news broke out about the deaths of our compatriots on 23rd July 2005. On hearing the news from our Mission in Dakar, which has responsibility for our affairs in The Gambia, the Foreign Minister wrote on 2nd August 2005 to his Gambian counterpart, Secretary of State Hon. Bala Gaye, expressing his profound disquiet about the events and asking for the assistance of the Gambian authorities in unearthing the truth of this matter and in dealing with those responsible, if any wrong-doing was established.
Subsequent to this letter, on the directives of the President of the Republic, the Foreign Minister led a high-powered delegation to The Gambia, from Sunday, August 7th to 9th, 2005. He was accompanied by Mr. Kwabena Baah-Duodu, Director for Africa and African Union Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. David Asante-Apeatu, Commissioner of Police, CID, Mr. Odoi-Anim, Acting Director, Legal and Consular Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Supt. Frank S. Kwofie, Deputy Head of the Ghana Unit of Interpol, Mrs. Sena Siaw-Boateng, Assistant Director I and Mr. A. Adu-Mante, Assistant Director II of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The delegation was joined in Banjul by H.E. Mr. Frederick A. Laryea, Ghana's Ambassador to Senegal, who is concurrently accredited to The Gambia, Mr. Mawutor, Minister-Counsellor of Ghana's Mission in Senegal and Mr. George Christensen, Ghana's Honorary Consul in Banjul.
The delegation held a series of meetings, beginning with a briefing session by officials of Ghana's Mission in Dakar, Ghana's Honorary Consul in Banjul and representatives of the local Ghanaian community, including its chairman, Mr. Kogyan Owusu, Mr. Kofi Sintim, Past Chair, Messrs George Anku and Offei, the Alkalo (Chief) and the Imam of Ghana Town (a Ghanaian settlement in Brufut).
The delegation then met the Gambian President, His Excellency Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, Hon. Moussa Girbril Bala Gaye, Gambia's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and other Gambian officials, including Mr. Mamburay Njie, Secretary-General of the Office of the President, Ambassador Ebou Tall, Permanent Secretary of the Department of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Daba Marena, Director-General of the Gambian National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and Mr. B. Njie, Deputy Inspector-General of Police of The Gambia.
The delegation also paid visits to police stations in Banjul at Bundung and Brufut where some Ghanaians were allegedly being held, during which it met Gambian police officers and three Ghanaians then under police custody. The delegation, after this meeting, obtained their release from police custody.
From these meetings, visits and a statement, which was later obtained from one Martin Kyere, a Ghanaian on the canoe who managed to escape to Senegal and was later brought down by the Ministry to Ghana, the delegation came to certain conclusions, which were made public in the Foreign Minister's press conference held on Tuesday, August 16th, 2005 after the return of the delegation to Accra. These conclusions, which were conveyed by memo by the Foreign Minister to the President of the Republic on 22nd August 2005, were also communicated by the Foreign Minister to his Gambian counterpart in another letter dated 25th August 2005.
It may be recalled that during the delegation's meeting with the Gambian President, the latter promised to institute a full-scale investigation into the circumstances of the mysterious deaths of our compatriots and the whereabouts of those unaccounted for.
The Minister had occasion after the meetings in Banjul to brief the Ghanaian community and their elders in The Gambia about the various initiatives Government was and would be pursuing on this sad development. He assured them that no matter how long it takes, Government is determined to get to the bottom of this matter, an assurance that was warmly welcomed by the community.
The Minister has also written on 2nd September 2005 to his counterparts in the countries whose nationals too allegedly boarded the canoe in The Gambia, i.e. the Foreign Ministers of Nigeria, Togo, Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire, so that their relevant authorities could also pursue this matter as far as their nationals were concerned. It is the information provided by the Foreign Minister which alerted the Governments of these countries to this tragic development.
Further to that, the Foreign Ministry has also received the autopsy reports of those who were found dead in The Gambia. The Minister has since communicated with his Gambian counterpart, seeking further clarifications about certain aspects of the reports.
It needs also to be mentioned that on the sidelines of the 60th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the President of the Republic, His Excellency Mr. J.A. Kufuor, met his Gambian counterpart on 17th September 2005 to discuss matters of mutual concern, including the deaths and disappearances of the Ghanaian nationals in The Gambia. During that meeting, the Gambian President agreed to allow Ghanaian investigators to join the Gambian team investigating the matter. This has been the subject of yet another letter, dated 29th September 2005, from the Foreign Minister to his Gambian counterpart. Ghanaian investigators will very soon leave for The Gambia for this purpose. In the meanwhile, the Dakar Mission, which is in touch with the Ghanaian community in Banjul, is carefully compiling an accurate list of those Ghanaians who undertook the ill-fated journey.
As you can see, Government is quietly but vigorously pressing for answers to the questions posed by this tragedy. It will not, however, play to the gallery as it considers Ghanaian citizenship too precious a commodity to be the object of demagoguery or opportunism. Government intends to go about this delicate situation, involving the activities of law enforcement agencies of a sovereign sister ECOWAS country, systematically and purposefully so that the truth of this affair will be laid bare and its logical consequences realised.
The Foreign Minister, Nana Akufo-Addo, shares fully the vision of Government that Ghanaian citizenship has a value which cannot be quantified, but the defence of which is the most fundamental obligation of any responsible and self-respecting government.
AMBASSADOR KOBINA WUDU
ACTING CHIEF DIRECTOR