Pap Saine Recalls Deyda Hydara’s Last Moments Before His Murder
The assassination of veteran journalist Deyda Hydara in the late hours of December 16, 2004 sent shock waves across The Gambia and drew global condemnation. A few minutes before he met his end, Deyda left his office where he and his staff had gathered to celebrate the 13th anniversary of The Point, a private bi-weekly newspaper he co-founded. He was dropping of two of his employees when he was gunned down. The two staff sustained severe injuries and were flown to Senegal for treatment.
He was killed just days after the Parliament endorsed significantly tighter and more restrictive media laws, an attempt Deyda fought through his popular newspaper column ‘Good Morning Mr. President’.
Almost 15 years after Deyda’s murder, the killers have not yet been brought to book.
On Thursday, Pap Saine, his longtime friend and work partner testified at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission about the veteran editor’s last moments before he was killed.
“On the morning of our 13th anniversary I had a meeting with Deyda but he wasn’t as normal as he used to be,” Saine told the commission. “He told me that 13 is an odd number and I think he had been contemplating whether we can celebrate or not. He said we would discuss later as he was to have a discussion with the U.S Ambassador on matters of the National Media Commission Bill.”
When Deyda was shot, Saine received a call from his secretary. “When the secretary rang and told me Deyda was shot, I fainted,” he recalled.
He later went to the then Royal Victoria Hospital to see the body. He told the commission that he was not aware of any direct threat on Deyda’s life, but said other veteran journalists such as Swaebou Conateh used to go to Deyda’s office to appeal to him to be careful with what he was writing.
He also explained his ordeals in the hands of the security agents who subjected him to series of interrogations both at the police headquarters and at the NIA, disclosing that on multiple occasions he told the police that he knew nothing about the circumstances leading to Deyda’s death.
He added, “I suspect Deyda was killed by Jammeh and his Junglars based on two reasons. One because of his Good Morning Mr. President column and because of his stance in demystifying the National Media Commission Bill that Jammeh was adamant to see enacted,” he testified.
Saine discontinued The Point briefly after Deyda’s death but reopened it after consultation with friends and family.