By Adama Tine
The Secretary General and party leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), Ousainou Darboe on a visit to the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations on Tuesday revealed that he first became a victim in October 1995 when he was not even a politician but pursuing his legal practice, helping and defending people. He said it was the pursue of his legal practice that landed him in tension which he had to accept in a very philosophical way.
Speaking at the Victim Centre, Darboe added that seeing Baba Hydara, son of the late Deyda Hydra at the Centre made him recollect the depth of his father’s commitment and patriotism.
“Deyda Hydara used the ‘Good Morning Mr. President’ column that The Point newspaper featured on a daily basis since its existence to talk about things that people shied away from. His death was very painful and even if nothing happens, the revelations at the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) should be an absolute comfort that there was a man who spent his life trying to fight injustice, pursuing the cause of justice and shaping the rule for a better democratic system,” he stated.
Darboe added; “The Victim Centre for Human Rights is not political but rather humanitarian and also an institution that is complementing government’s efforts in combating impunity, ensuring that those that took away the lives of their fellow Gambians are brought to justice.”
According to the UDP leader, some people may think the Centre is pursuing a political agenda but that is not the case, saying: “this institution is humanitarian that cares for those people who could not stand up and speak for themselves and for that reason I think the Centre should not only be supported by Gambians but by any person concerned and weather in government or not.” He said UDP as a party will give absolute support to the Centre because that is a mission he had embarked upon.”
In his turn, Sheriff Mohammed Kijera, chairperson of the Gambia Centre for Victims of Human Rights Violations revealed that the Centre has registered more than1200 victims across the country and also established regional focal points that assists in registering and taking statements of victims that are not in the urban area.
He added that they have also assisted the TRRC and other government agencies reach out to victims in rural areas.
“I have been accused of being a member of UDP many times but I have no party affiliations and I think part of development is to be self-critical which is why we sometimes criticize activities of government especially when they are not responding to some of our challenges and needs as a Victim Centre in the ongoing transitional process,” he said.
Deyda Hydara was an advocate of press freedom and a fierce critic of the government of former President Yahya Jammeh, who was openly hostile to Gambian journalists and the media. On December 14, 2004, the Gambia passed into law two new media bills. One, the Criminal Code (Amendment) Bill 2004, allowed prison terms for defamation and sedition; the other, the Newspaper (Amendment) Bill 2004, required newspaper owners to sign expensive operating licenses, registering their homes as security. Hydara announced his intention to challenge those laws, but on December 16, he was assassinated by an unknown gunman while driving home from work.
He was a co-founder and primary editor of The Point newspaper, a major independent Gambian newspaper. He was also a correspondent for both AFP News Agency and Reporters Without Borders for more than 30 years. Hydara also worked as manager of Radio Syd during his early years as a journalist.