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Six senators call for Ebrima Manneh's immediate release


Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) leads a group of six senators to call for the immediate release of the former state Daily Observer newspaper, "Chief" Ebrima Manneh today. Colleagues at the newspaper say they witnessed two plainclothes Gambian National Intelligence Agency officers whisk Manneh, right, away in July 2006. He has not been seen since despite repeated calls to the government to disclose his whereabouts. 

"The conflicting information and lack of responsiveness further the perception of a disturbing deterioration of human rights in the Gambia, particularly in regards to basic press freedoms," wrote the six senators, which, in addition to Durbin, include Sens. Russ Feingold, Robert Casey, Patty Murray, Joe Lieberman, and Ted Kennedy.

Their sentiments are supported by a whirlwind of denials and witness accounts. Recently, credible witnesses have reported that Manneh is still alive while an Agence-France Press article published last week quoted an unnamed senior police source who speculated that the journalist was dead. Sightings of Manneh have been reported throughout his disappearance from Mile Two Prison in the capital, Banjul, to the National Intelligence Agency compound in neighboring Serekunda, and all the way to eastern Gambia at Fatoto Prison.

Despite sightings and considerable international pressure, the Gambian government has consistently denied holding Manneh. The former communications secretary and current Gambian Ambassador to the United States, Neneh Macdouall-Gaye, told CPJ in 2007 that Manneh was not in government custody. The same response was echoed this month by Gambian Attorney General and Justice Minister Marie Saine Firdaus.  

Local journalists and the Gambian Press Union have told CPJ that Manneh was abducted for simply trying to republish in the Daily Observer a BBC report that was critical of President Yahya Jammeh. But the former president of the Gambian Press Union, Demba Jawo, believes Manneh was targeted for his investigations into the 2005 killing of Ghanaian immigrants in the Gambia. Jawo is also the co-author of a book on the 2004 murder of the Gambian independent daily Point reporter, Deyda Hydara.

Whatever the motive behind Manneh's disappearance, mounting international pressure on the Gambian government will hopefully induce some answers. A group of prominent lawyers and human rights experts called Freedom Now filed a petition for Manneh with the United Nations Human Rights Council's Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. The petition was filed last November and a ruling is expected soon. Last week, Amnesty International launched a photo campaign urging answers. And exiled Gambians journalists throughout the world continue looking for answers to their former colleague's disappearance.

Sen. Durbin's second call for answers to Manneh's disappearance sends a strong message to President Jammeh that the world will no longer tolerate silence on this tragic case. Read the entire letter here

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I commend the US senators for their letter demanding immediate release of Chief Manneh.It is timely that this issue get such international attention and i hope this may help the young man regain his right to liberty. I further call on all to help provide the Senators with vital informations so they could put more pressure on Jammeh, government.
Yaya Dampha

Thank you senators for giving Chief Ebrima Mannehs case the attention it deserves. We pray that your efforts will yield some results to this unbearable saga of our dear collegue. And thank you Tom and CPJ for your untiring efforts.
Fatou Jaw manneh

Fatou Jaw Manneh April 23, 2009 3:51:31 PM ET

Cheers to Senator Richard Durbin and colleagues. This is what we expect from a country like the United States. Personally, I have always wondered why the US government does not openly criticize if ever it happens behind the scenes, for the numerous attacks on the media in The Gambia and other human rights violations.
Through this action by the six Senators and hopefully with the coming of the new Obama administration, the United States will take a leading role in pressuring the Jammeh government to respect the constitution of the Gambia it swears to defend.
Kudus to the Senators once more.

Surely, every peace loving Gambian and believer of democracy and the rule of law is grateful to the following United States senators: Senator Richard Durbin, senator Russ Feingold, Senator Robert Casey, senator Patty Murray, senator Joe Liberman and Ted Kennedy for calling on the Gambian authorities to immediately release journalist Chief Ebrimas Manneh who was arrested in July 2006 and has not been release todate.

President Yahya Jammeh from the outset of his coup d'detat on July 22nd, 1994, had relied on violence as a strategy to gain power and he has not hesitated to use it as means to stay in power. Today, every Gasmbian knows the core underpinning of the APRC regime's policy is to hold the country and its people hostage and he has susceeded in doing just that.

Gambians have written numerous letters imploring the (UN) and United states, to apply pressure to President Jammeh to stop terrorizing citizens, respect the rights of citizens, release all political opponents and journalists who were arrested just for performing their duties to inform the public. We are hopeful with the involment of your great Organization CPJ, Gambia will pass this test.

Finally, i salute the Committee to Protect Journalist CPJ who have always invested time and energy to help Gambian journalists in their struggle for freedom of the press.

Thank You for giving me the space to comment.

Saihou Mballow
New York City

I once again would like to salute the CPJ for their untiring effort in seeking for the freedom of Chief Ebrima Manneh. I first met Tom Rhode in the Gambia sometime mid 2007 on a fact finding mission. He and the rest of their staff devoted many of their precious time in fighting for the freedom of the journalist, media workers and the press as awhole. Comrades know that all peace loving Gambians are proud of your work.
Yaya Dampha

This is indeed a manifestation of what America stands for in the world. The US Senators moves further emboldened America as the last best hope of mankind. Gambians have for a very long time been silent in rage and looking forward to a bold US government intervention in thwarting the human rights situation of a country that it is not only historically connect to, but one gripped by the shackles of dictatorship and tyranny.

The move by our progressive and liberal minded Senators has brought to light a Gambia of broken times, and a Gambia that has all its soceital fabrics hijacked by criminals and bandits.

May God Bless The United States of America.

Binneh s Minteh April 24, 2009 11:28:56 AM ET

It is good to hear that the US Senate is mindful of the Plight of the Human Rights Climate within the Gambia. So the Question to the Government in Banjul is "Where is Ebrima Mantteh? and What has happened to Him?

Scott Morgan


The plight of Gambia's media practitioners specifically, and the Gambian population in general, is finally taking the center stage it deserves, thanks to the untiring efforts of organizations like CPJ and MFWA among others. The latest action taken by these six courageous humanitarian democratic U. S. senators, who we have all grown to admire so deeply as we like in these United States, is a true vindication of our commitment and attachment to the Democratic party in the U.S. Standing up to the tyranny of cowardly dictators like Yahya Jammeh, is the true color and character of what it means to be a democrat. The demand for the release of our fellow journalist and compatriot, Chief Ebrima Manneh is a timely and deserved effort, and we hope that the murderous Jammeh regime will oblige the international community with an answer as to the whereabouts of Mr. Manneh. CPJ and MFWA have stood by Gambian journalists through our most trying times and we hope these U.S. Senators who we hold in highest esteem, will stand by us to the finish line. Thanks you CPJ, thank you MFWA and thank you U.S. Senators.

Mathew K Jallow April 27, 2009 11:26:27 PM ET

I want to thank Tom and CPJ for tireless campaign for bringing the matter to international attention. Gambian are living under terror and the regime is criminal in character. Yahya Jammeh should explain about the whereabout of Chief Ebrima Manneh and stop been economical with the truth. Since taking over power in 1994 he promised us in the print that we should make critical of his regime and policies if he goes wrong. With few months we began to see erosion of human violation such as arrest, detention without trials, murder and extra-judicail execution. Given that it is the moral and professional responsibility for us to challenge the appalling climate of abosolute intowards many become a victim. The family of Ebrima Manneh and Gambian journalists want his immidiate and unconditional release. Yahya Jammeh does not not hesitate to use the most unscrupulous forms of haraament to silence dissenting views. The world need answers about the cloud surrounding the whereabout of this decent citizen.

abdoukarim sanneh April 28, 2009 4:02:50 AM ET

Tom of CPJ and all the good Senators have done the most that Gambians want at this critical times. President Yahya Jammeh is both naive and cruel. For 15 years now, Jammeh has failed in winning genuine Gambian support and still ready to harm the population in many ways.

He churned a body of people who serve the selfish interest of maiming and killing Gambians as way of instilling fear. This will not last but it goes with painful cost to families and whole Gambian society.

For your kind attention and wholesome concern about what is happening in Gambia, this good gesture is warmly embraced.

Please take the matter up at higher levels of action and lasting remedy.

It is clear that President Jammeh will prefer to set Gambia on fire and migrate where he is able to access his wealth amassed over the years. International cooperation is most crucial for total salvation of Gambians. This move by such high profile US Senators is good starting.

To the family of Chief Ebrima Manneh, your pains are being shared.

Thanks to CPJ and the six senators. At long last, the lunatic Jammeh is getting known to the outside world. That is his true name -tyrant! tyrant! tyrant!!

Those who kill for the sake of staying in power must understand the difference between JUSTICE AND VENGEANCE!!!
Justice is not vengeance. Justice means impartiality where wrong wants to escape fairness! The case of Ebrima Manneh can freeze the nerves of any sane thinker. It is beyond sadness. Ebrima's case is sadness and sorrow at the same time. This is why the rest of his family will always weep in hiding or in the open. I cannot stop myself from imagining how Ebrima's parents endure the peak of excessive sadness and sorrow in their hearts. Sometimes my mind recalls the way his old father was being twisted and turned while searching for his son from office to office.
The saddest part is where he was searching for his son within a system that destroyed the young life of that dear son. Here is a system which uses political ploys to promote propaganda only to mask loss of life. That is why life will judge this system mercilessly!Ebrima's old father could have been my father or the father of any other Gambian.How many more Gambians shall this regime kill again and again?
Ebrima Manneh,Deyda Hydara,Lt.Seye and Ousman Koro Ceesay are ghosts who will ever haunt the callous regime in Banjul. One day! justice will speak for them.

ESSA BOKARR SEY May 5, 2009 12:45:54 AM ET

Those senators who signed the document did so on behalf of every son and daughter of The Gambia. Senator Ted Kennedy and his peers are too experienced to play simplistic political games of chances. They will will never stain a system for no reason. They did their home work before coming to such a conclusion. I am confident that this document will unearth a lot of other hidden dirty tricks. For Yahya Jammeh to start awarding medals to hand picked journalists on the ground, during this period, speaks volumes! What is he masking with those medals? He knows where it is itching on his political image. He knows!
These senators deserve to be commended by the voiceless and the down trodden for ringing the bells so loud, beyond borders.
This is the very path which led justice to the palace of former President Charles Taylor. I am confident that Yahya will be caged and judged God willing. We will see.

Ambassador Essa Bokarr Sey May 5, 2009 12:57:38 AM ET