House Calls for Re-Opening of Investigation into the 2005 Massacre of 44 Ghanaians in the Gambia


Member of Parliament for North Tongu Hon. Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has called on government to, as a matter of urgency, re-open an investigation into the morbid massacre of 44 Ghanaians in the Gambia in 2005.

The MP attributed his call to the confession of Gambian soldiers working for a hit squad controlled by former President Yahya Jammeh who admitted to participating in the 2005 execution of 56 West African migrants, including the 44 Ghanaians on the orders of Jammeh.

He stressed that this unlawful massacre violates the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the Right to Life, prohibition against torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, arbitrary arrest or detention and the right to be given an effective remedy when these rights are violated. 

The former Deputy Education Minister said there is now ample evidence to bring these criminal perpetrators to justice because three Gambian solders in July this year confessed in live broadcast to the Gambian Truth and Reconciliation Committee of their complicity in the heinous assassinations.

The MP recalled that Ghana and the Gambia under the auspices of the UN and ECOWAS in July 2009, in Sirte Libya, pledged to bring the actual perpetrators to justice if new evidence emerges providing a prima facie case against the alleged perpetrators following the failure of ECOWAS and UN Joint Fact-Finding Team established in August 2008 to find the culprits. 

The North Tongu MP who is also the Ranking Member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, in the quest of demanding information about the circumstances that led to the unlawful killings of these innocent Ghanaian citizens on July 23, 2009, was delivering a statement in the House on the commemoration of International Human Rights Day which falls on December 10.

Hon Ablakwa said the august House played a leading role in ensuring that the massacres were kept in the front burner of national discussion with former President John Agyekum Kufuor sending a high powered delegation led by then Foreign Affairs Minister and current President His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa to the Gambia.

He revealed that civil society organisations such as Media Foundation for West Africa, Africa Legal Aid, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and distinguished individuals such as Nana Oye Lithur, Mr. Akoto Ampaw, Professor Kwame Karikari instructively and commendably united in seeking justice and compensation for the victims and their families. 

The Ranking Member further indicated that ECOWAS and UN under the leadership of a UN Advisor Mr. Kurtis Ward on August 14, 2008 established a Joint Fact-Finding to investigate the 2005 killings following the lack of co-operation from the Gambian government for the establishment of a Ghana-Gambia investigation team.

Hon Okudzeto Ablakwa disclosed that the ECOWAS and UN Joint Fact-Finding Team submitted their report on April 3, 2009 to ECOWAS but it was not made public yet snippets reported by the media absolved the Gambian government of blame for the unlawful killings but rather attributed the massacres to rogue elements acting on their own. The MP who has also served as Deputy Information Minister under late President John Evans Atta Mills revealed that the two governments in a Memorandum of Understanding signed on July 2009, agreed to re-open investigation as and when new evidences arise after which the Gambia provided USD 500,000 towards the burial expenses of those who were killed while eight bodies were flown to Ghana for burial at the Osu Cemetery.

He informed the House that through efforts of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) such as Ghana CSO Coalition, Jammeh2Justice, CDD-Ghana, CHRI, Amnesty International and Africa Centre for International Law, it was learnt that the unfortunate murdered Ghanaian citizens were actually killed by uniformed Gambian soldiers on the orders of Mr. Yahyah Jammeh, the former President of the Gambia.

The Ranking Member therefore urged the august House to summon the ECOWAS Commission and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, to release to the House and the families of the victims, the ECOWAS/UN Fact-Founding Report into the massacre of these brothers, fathers and breadwinners especially in the light of the confessions by the soldiers. 

The Member in acknowledging the human rights credentials of the Rt. Hon Speaker respectfully invited him to use his discretion to issue further consequential directives that will assist in seeking justice for the 44 compatriots. 

Hon. Fuseini Bashir Alhassan. MP for Sagnarigu Constituency in the Northern Region contributing in support of the statement grieved that the nation’s conscience cannot take the loss of 44 Ghanaian lives executed by men in uniform from high orders lightly and called for the report of the investigation carried out by the Joint UN/ECOWAS Team.

He stated that the matter could not be allowed to lie but rather a renewal of action to bring perpetrators of this heinous and despicable act to book so that the victims could receive the deserved justice and compensation.

Minister for Works and Housing and MP for Abuakwa South Samuel Atta Kyea explained that rights distinguish humans from animals and called on Parliament to work hard to investigate the perpetrators since respect for the fundamental human rights and freedom enshrined in Constitution is not negotiable.

The Speaker of Parliament Rt. Honourable Professor Aaron Michael Oquaye consequently referred the matter to the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and directed that to report of findings be submitted to the House when the Parliament resumes from the Christmas recess. 

International Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on 10 December every year and was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global enunciation of human rights and one of the first major achievements of the United Nations. 

The formal establishment of Human Rights Day occurred at the 317th Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly on 4 December 1950, when the General Assembly declared Resolution 423(V), inviting all member states and any other interested organizations to celebrate the day as they saw fit.