- Investigations into the alleged attempted kidnapping of an exiled Gambian journalist has opened in the Senegalese capital Dakar.
Three plainclothes Gambian security officers on Monday stormed the house of Yaya Dampha, attempting to abduct or harm him. The agents have been blamed for using the current Islamic conference in Dakar to launch attacks on some Gambians.
Yaya Dampha had worked for the thrice weekly independent 'Foroyaa' newspaper until he fled into exile some weeks after he was released from detention in October last year. He was arrested alongside two senior researchers of Amnesty International, Tania Bernath and Ayodele Ameen while investigating the whereabouts of some political activists secretly detained by the government upcountry.
Gambian authorities accused the detainees of spying, but were forced to release them unconditionally after they had been bombarded with stiff international pressures.
"It all started when I received anonymous calls on my cell phone at noon," Dampha recounted to afrol News. "Within minutes plainclothes agents visited my house and knocked at my door, but I did not answer them. My neighbours also refused to disclose my whereabouts to them."
Dampha later emerged from his house only to be invited to board a tinted glass pickup vehicle. "I refused and raised alarm when they wanted to advance towards me," he said.
"I have been receiving death threats on my cell phone from Gambian numbers, threatening to finish me."
Concerned Gambians joined Dampha to report the life threatening attempt to police.
Human and media rights bodies feared the forceful abduction of Dampha to face indefinite detention without charge, torture or killing.
“We are very concerned by these serious allegations that Gambian agents are targeting Yahya and we fear for his safety,” said Gabriel Baglo, the Director of IFJ Africa Office.
“The Senegalese government should investigate this matter and the activities of foreign agents quickly and, in the meantime, ensure our colleague’s safety.”
"We cannot accept Gambian security to disrespect our sovereignty rights because they are not cross our borders to threaten or harm Gambian citizens resident in Senegal," said a senior Senegalese security offer said, assuring that they would reach to the bottom of the matter.
Senegalese authorities had earlier assured that his country would continue to respect international instruments that protect refugees, and would not therefore hand over any refugee to The Gambia. Equally, Senegal would not allow anybody to use the country as a springboard to destabilise the neighbouring Gambia.
Senegalese media urged President Abdoulaye Wade to put truth on the face of his Gambian counterpart to "understand that unlike his country, Senegal is governed by laws."
Meanwhile, Gambian officials again refused to appear before the ECOWAS Community Court of Justice in Nigeria in the ongoing trial of a "disappeared" Gambian journalist, Chief Ebrima Manneh.
The five security officials, including the Minister for Interior, Ousman Badjie, had been summoned by the regional court to clear themselves of their alleged involvement in the arrest and subsequent detention of the former pro-government 'Daily Observer' reporter.
The court was left with no option than to fix 5 June, 2008 as the day it will deliver judgment on the case by the Media Foundation for West Africa.
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