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Diasporian News Mon, 19 Jun 2006

Ghanaians in Gambia split over Kufour's visit

Ghanaians living in The Gambia are divided over preparations to receive the Ghanaian delegation, led by President John Agyekum Kufuor to the AU summit in Banjul.

A section of the Ghanaian community holds the view that the Ghanaian Government should boycott the summit in protest against the poor human rights record of The Gambian government.

Those calling for the boycott cited the alleged cold blooded murder of a group of 44 Ghanaians travelling through The Gambia in July 2005, an issue which is still being investigated as well as the arrest of journalists and subscribers to an internet based newspaper critical of The Gambian Government.

At a poorly attended meeting of the Ghanaian Association in The Gambia last week, the members decided to dress in national colours to meet the Ghanaian delegation and to organise a durbar in Ghana Town (Ghanaian fishing community), where over 5000 Ghanaians reside.

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Those who failed to attend this meeting cited fear as the main reason for not attending because The Gambia state security agents could easily have attended the meeting and reported their position to the Gambian authorities. Speaking anonymously, a member of the association stated that although the leadership of the Ghanaian community has worked hard to organise Ghanaians in The Gambia and that a number of highly placed Ghanaians have kept their distance from the association. Some have also formed their own association with loose links to the main group.

On the issue of urging the government to boycott the summit, the member indicated that it was too late but that attending the meeting could present President Kufuor the platform to question the death of the 44 Ghanaians and to press for transparency on the part of The Gambian government in the investigations. The member, however, cautioned that there was the potential that The Gambian government would become less cooperative in the investigations after the summit.

He further added that there are real human rights abuses by the government including; the beating and torture of Internet users suspected to be informers to the Internet based Freedom newspaper. It is also an open secret that five alleged coup plotters were killed by The Gambian government only for it to later issue an official statement that the victims had escaped from custody. The families of the victims are known to have performed their funerals already. Quite recently too, President Jammeh fired the former Chief Justice of The Gambia who happened to be a Ghanaian and the Speaker of the National Assembly without observing due constitutional procedures. With national elections also due this year, the president also quite recently fired the Electoral Commissioner without recourse to constitutional procedures in what observers see as a flagrant attempt to influence the outcome of the forth-coming elections.

Constant harassment and physical attacks on independent press houses, the wanton detention of journalists without trial , the frequent detention of opposition leaders, and the murder of celebrated human rights journalist Deyda Hydara last year are a few of the human rights abuses in The Gambia that have come to the attention of the international community.

Source: Public Agenda