This Article is From Feb 20, 2017

Despite Regime Change, Gambian Pensioner Still Waits For His Missing Journalist Son

Despite Regime Change, Gambian Pensioner Still Waits For His Missing Journalist Son

Yahya Jammeh was President of Gambia from 1994 to 2017.

Banjul: Pensioner Sarjo Manneh celebrated more joyfully than most when former leader Yahya Jammeh agreed to leave Gambia in January. After a decade, he believed he might see his son again. But nearly a month later, he is still waiting.

His son Chief Ebrima Manneh, a journalist for a pro-government newspaper, went missing in 2006 during a summit held in the tiny west African country.

Agents of the feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA), which reported directly to Mr Jammeh, appeared at the offices of the Daily Observer and took him away. His colleagues and family have never seen him again.

In 2009, Gambia's then attorney-general Marie Saine-Firdaus told parliament that Mr Manneh was not in state custody, while others including the current chief of police claimed he was living in the United States.

Mr Jammeh's stunning electoral defeat in December - after 22 years in power - triggered the release of many political prisoners - but not the journalist.
"My hope is shattered," his father told AFP.

'Criminal action in court'

Despite the crushing sorrow he feels, Sarjo Manneh is shaking off the fear that kept him from fighting a symbiotic system of secret police and trained killers that took an unknown number of lives.

"I want to institute criminal action in court against Yahya Jammeh and those responsible for the disappearance of my son," Mr Sarjo said.

Gambian diaspora media regularly published lists of the unsolved crimes concerning the missing, appealing for details and circulating years' worth of rumours about the most high-profile cases.

There are nascent signs the new government of President Adama Barrow is determined to bring closure for families like the Mannehs, even while mired in a financial crisis and faced with reforming a state that Mr Jammeh's critics say catered to the interests of one man.

Interior Minister Mai Fatty, one of the most vocal Jammeh opponents within the new administration, has said a body will be set up to look into forced disappearances and to investigate "black sites" that may still be holding victims.

"The responsibility lies on us to give an explanation to our people," he told AFP.

Pro-regime figures may still be holding Gambians incommunicado.

"Some people may still be held and are not known because the previous government has so many detention centres that were not disclosed to the public," Mr Fatty said.