EULOGY - Deyda HYDARA - A MAN OF SUBSTANCE
by Ebraima Manneh, President, Premier Lions Club of Banjul
The destiny of all beings depends totally and absolutely on the Allah Subhana Watalah. He alone brought us here and He alone will take us from here. If we, minute elements in this wide, unfathomable universe, think that we can do anything behind His back, we have not grasped who and what Allah is. He is the Almighty, the Merciful, and the Benevolent, from Him we have come and to Him we will return.
When I accompanied the remains of Deyda, like the thousands of mourners on that fateful Friday afternoon, to his final resting place, I decided that I will write about what I know and believe about Deyda. Deyda's life spans a period so rich in historical memories, his activities national and international, are so phenomenal, his thoughts were so lucid and clairvoyant that the confines of a mere homage written in a newspaper would hardly do justice to this man that countless numbers of people in The Gambia and overseas have come to love and cherish throughout the years. I will however limit myself to snippets of this man's deeds and achievements, knowing full well that there will in future be a multitude of men and women who could, and for a long time to come would, say and write about other aspects this wonderful human who, in his lifetime has lived and strived to make our country and our continent better.
I have decided to put pen to paper, not only because as a Banjulian who grew up together with him playing street football when I used to visit my late aunty Ramou Manneh at Hagan street, where he was residing, not only because of the various organizations, national and international, that we have served together on, in various capacities - Worldview International of which he was a Board member and I was Chairman; the Paris based African Network on Governance, Decentralisation and Regional Integration, of which he was Coordinator of the Media College and I was Chairman of the Gambia chapter, not even as the Founder President of Banjul Premier Lions Club, of which he was my able Vice President, but as the wonderful human with whom over all these years I have come to work closely with and loved for what he was worth and God knows he was worth a lot!
With the passing away of Deyda, his Senegambian romance that started with Deyda attending the "French School" in Banjul and extending to many other endeavours in the Senegambian context was also closed permanently. One Senegalese sympathizer, a mutual friend, who rang me to extend his condolences, said that it was his voice that we in Senegal will most remember of him on Radio Syd - 329metres, 909 kilocycles in Banjul. Yes he was right for, this was the voice which at the break of day, every day, for decades, would resound in the entire Senegambian region " il est minuit, le temps vient de faire son oeuvre; un jour vient de s'en est alle, un autre jour de naitre, avec ses joies et bien sur avec ses peines. Mais nous chers auditeurs, nous vous souhaitons bon jour ".That legendary voice accompanied by that familiar trumpet tune resounded in all nooks and crannies of the region, with young men with ears glued to the transistor radios, listening to those wonderful music of that pioneering private radio station that was Radio Syd. All up and coming young men and women, I daresay all inhabitants of this region were ardent fans of Deyda and Pap Saine. The radio even became a thorn in the flesh to the official radios of Senegal and The Gambia. So popular was it that listeners hardly bothered to tune in to other stations. Deyda's Radio Syd was emblematic of the age of pop music and reggae. Deyda has always been a pioneer. This, if nothing else, we have to be grateful for.
There was Escaf a Senegalese media organization whose Banjul office he headed which gave birth to the Senegambia Sun newspaper, in collaboration with media colleagues Baboucar Gaye and Pap Saine. This was an expression of the faith and hope that these young men had in the exciting journey that was the Senegambia Confederation that the then leaders of the two countries embarked upon in 1981. Alas this dream came to naught in 1987 when the Confederation was dissolved.
The Point Newspaper was the most successful media venture that Deyda undertook. I recall Deyda and Pap Saine coming to my office in the Ministry of Information and Tourism, where I was then the Permanent Secretary, to register the innovative and ground breaking paper. It is easy for me to recall the enthusiasm and fervor that these two exuded as they explained their mission, their vision to start an independent, nonpartisan newspaper. I was convinced then, as I have confirmed now, that they were going to change the face of the media in this country. With all the tribulations and vicissitudes that came their way, they plodded on their unbeaten track, to make their newspaper one of the leading purveyors of news and information known for its analysis of current and international issues, for its remarkably light hearted approach to the burning issues of the day showing depth and total grasp of their subject matter and for its insight into sports events. The newspaper has become to this day a household name in this country. If nothing else, this we have to be grateful.
Beyond the realms of journalism and the media, Deyda was a man of all seasons. Whatever he did he did with seriousness, dedication and sense of purpose. To those of us who have had the privilege and good fortune to have known and worked with him over the years, he was an epitome of rectitude and forthrightness. He was a man of unbridled principles and exemplary courage. It was his belief in his destiny and the will of the Almighty that spurred him on to the heights that he had reached and kept. This aspect of him which we always found remarkable, can only be attributed to his ardent belief in the Maker and his innate sense as a Cherif of his geniture from the Holy Prophet, Sala lahou Allaihi Wasalam, who brought us the religion that we believe and practice.
Deyda was gifted in overcoming great difficulties. He was born with a serious stutter in his speech, but over the years, he was able to overcome this difficulty and it is only the slow bold staccato delivery that betrayed his stammer to the attentive listener. He was quite at home speaking English or French and this has stood him in good stead in many international forums where mastery of these two languages is not only an advantage but an asset.
I have a vivid recollection of the first time I spoke to him about forming the first Lions Club in The Gambia. The enthusiasm he showed was only matched by his zeal and seriousness in this Club he helped found and it was he who suggested we call our club Lion Premier - first in French. When the elections were held, he accepted to hold the post of Second Vice President, while Ousman Sillah was made First Vice President. With the departure of Ousman for overseas under circumstances that caused us a lot of apprehension been shot himself by unknown assailants, Deyda took on the post of First Vice President. This is why our Lions Club is now saddened to have been afflicted with this kind of tragedy, second in a row and around the same period a year before and both involving a Vice President of the Club. It is therefore our ardent prayer that this be the last in our midst and we pray that God Almighty guide us in our path to serve, as Lions, our community and our fellow men.
Deyda was a leading light in the International Lions movement particularly in the African region. His performance during the last zonal Lions Club meeting which took place in Saly Portudal in Mbour, Senegal on 4th December, 2004 was exemplary. During the discussions on the conference theme: " Lionism, Human Rights and the Culture of Peace", he excelled in his well rounded knowledge of the topic and this led to his selection as one of the rapporteurs of his group. With his impeccable command of the French language, he presented a brilliant expose and won the admiration of his fellow Lions from Senegal, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and the Gambia, who, in the most part, were meeting him for the first time. As fate would have it, it was also the last time. I remember I could hear him, from where I was sitting in the other group, expressing forcefully and with utter conviction his viewpoint on how Lionism can contribute positively in the achievement of human rights and the enhancement of peace in our sub region and beyond. His speech was prophetic and at hindsight, full of foreboding . It was certain that the admiration and appreciation he got from his peers of the region, he was easily heading for the post of District Governor someday. Alas!
The people or the person who killed Deyda do not know what they have done. If only they knew that this man was an asset this country could ill afford to lose in this stage of our development! If he had been snatched from us prematurely as a result of illness, it would have been bad enough, but to have been killed by the dastardly bullet of an assassin is not only cruel but beyond all comprehension. He harmed no man. Meek, gentle and unassuming as we knew him, Deyda was helpful to all and sundry and did a lot of good to a lot of people in his lifetime. All these people and all his friends and family have been permanently deprived of his presence in their midst forever.
He always told me when we attended meetings of the African Civil Society movement, that the organisations's motoo; " Another Africa is possible", should be applied to our country "Another Gambia IS possible", it behoves all Gambians without exception to strive to make it be. He died believing this.
The messages of sympathy that we have received from Lions Clubs in the sub region and other organisations are eloquent testimonies of the immense appreciation of Deyda's persona all over the world. The excerpts below (some translated from the original French) are a sampling of the outpouring of disbelief and utter grief from the people who have known and worked with him outside the Gambia.
May Allah the Almighty bless him and bless our country.
"Awful, awful news about Deyda - I often said and thought what a brave man he was, but never thought it would come to this. I actually emailed him yesterday to wish him well and remember 'old times.' How absolutely horrible - terrible for all his friends too. Who and Why and all that? I know that all these things were always possible, but didn't think it would ever come to this in The Gambia. And what happens now to The Point?"
With great sadness and shock I received this sad news about death of my dearest fellow Lion and Vice President Deyda Hydara. You and all my fellows Lions accept my sympathy and all of us we have to pray for him may God bless him.
2 days ago I heard on one Arab news Channel called Al Jazera that is there was one Journalist working with French press died by gun shot in Gambia . Little did I know it was our Deyda ! Really, I'm so sorry for that. I don't know what has happened in my Dearest Gambia itself? I await more details.
Emad Guber, Lions,Trinidad and Tobago
My dear friend Ebraima and dear friends of BANJUL PREM1ER,
It is with great sadness that we learn of the tragic death of our friend Deyda AIDARA.
In this painful circumstance all the members of Lions Club Dakar Aurore join me to extend to you our heartfelt condolences.
Please extend our sincere sympathy to Deyda's widow and his children.
Our sincere condolences.
President of Lions Club Dakar-Aurore
Dear friend LIONS
The Lions Governor Suzanne BOYER and the regional President Dalla SIDIBE CAMARA have just informed me of the death of LION Deyda HYDARA.
I remember him vividly as well as the pleasant moment spent with him during the discussions we had together on the message of peace in the world that all of us would like to see prevail around us. I was highly impressed by his moral and intellectual rectitude. He has now been snatched from us brutally assassinated for the defense of this moral and humanist value.
My wife Christiane as well as all the LIONS of Mauritania join me to extend the pain we feel and assure you that on this painful occasion our thoughts are with you.
I would like to send you the contribution that Deyda and I, as Rapporteurs of the Mbour meeting prepared for the seminar at Saly Portudal. It is a great souvenir I will keep of this wonderful human being.
Please accept our sincere condolences.
May he rest in Peace.
Joël PICHOT, Lions Nouachott, Mauritania
Dear friend President Ebraima,
I have learned with great sorrow the cowardly assassination of our friend Deyda Aidara. I am choking with pain and shock by such a barbaric act. How primitive can one be in killing those who do not share your ideas? It is an act of cowardice and a total lack of courage to act like this in the dark. If one thinks that in acting this way one is in shelter, one is mistaken, one becomes more vulnerable and less secure.
Aidara was a great man, a defender of human values, human rights and freedom of the press. I have read with great emotion the homage in the Senegalese newspapers including Sud newspaper which devoted a whole page on this great man of conscience. Those who gunned him down will pay sooner or later.
In the name of my family and in the name of all Lions I extend my heartfelt condolences to his wife, his children, and his family and to the members of Banjul Premier Lions club. .May he have eternal peace and may the Almighty grant him a place in paradise.
M Ly, Lions Club Thies, Senegal
It is with the greatest regret that I learn of the untimely death of our dear Aïdara. The entire family join me in extending our most sincere condolences. We pray that his soul rests in perfect peace. Amin !
Fana, Dakar Aurore Lions Club, Senegal
My dear Ebraima
In the name of the CARAVANE Lions Club of Nouakchott and in my own name I extend my most profound condolences to you and the family of Deyda and to all Lions of Gambia following the cowardly assassination of Deyda Hydara, with whom we have had the opportunity to participate in the Lions seminar at Saly .
May his soul rest in peace! Amen
President, Lions club CARAVANE, Nouachott, Mauritania
It is with consternation that we learnt of the death of our friend Lion DEYDA AIDARA.
The club of Thies and I extend to you our sincere condolences.
I assure you of our unflinching support on this sad occasion.
President SIRE H NIANE
Lions Thies, Senegal
My dear President,
It is with great consternation that we have learnt, through the president of the 112/113 Zone (PZ) of the tragic death of our Vice President Aidara.
I remember that Saturday evening before the Charter inauguration of the Cape point Lions Club, I wanted to make a quick purchase, accompanied by the PZ Fatondji and he offered to take us. On the way we went past his newspaper "the Point" which he showed me as we went past. He was such a gentleman and of such unforgettable simplicity. This is indeed a great loss to us all but particularly his club - Banjul Premier in which he occupied a major position and you as his President. We had noted his greatness during our meeting at the Club meeting place and in Saly.
In the name of the Governor, I ask you to transmit to his family and to all the members of your club our most sincere condolences. He will remain for a long time in our hearts.
May his soul rest in peace.
God Bless you.
Secretary of the Lions District, Abidjan
I tried to contact you by cell phone without success. I was dumbfounded and pained to learn about Deyda's assassination. It is so damn unfair. He was such a good man.
Catho, Lions Dakar
My dear friend President
You could not imagine to what extent the Lions of Mauritania were shattered by this sad news of Deyda's death. I still vividly recollect his smile, calm and his wisdom during our discussions in Saly when we were in the same working group.
We do not understand his death but we say that God takes only the good people away.
In any case, I know that Deyda in now Paradise and I know that Lions Club worldwide has lost a very good member.
Please transmit our sincere condolences to all Lions in Banjul as well as his wife who was sick. See you soon.
President, Lions Club Nouakchott Dune des Sables
It is with great consternation that I learnt of the death of Lion Deyda Hydara
I extend my condolences to all our Lions friends of Banjul Premier
May his soul rest in peace
Hawa Sidibé. Lions Baobab, Dakar
Dear friend President of Banjul Premier Lions
It is with the greatest emotion and great sorrow that the Governor Suzanne Boyer and I learnt of the death of our friend Deyda Hydara;
The sad news which reached us when we were on the way to Rosso in Mauritania completely shattered us.
The Lions of Mauritania as well as the Governor and myself, felt this great loss. All Lions in Mauritania feel this great loss which is untimely as it is unjustified, Within the space of one week, the majority of Lions of Region 11 (Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau and Cap Vert) built amicable relations with him in Saly Mbour as well as in Banjul.
Furthermore, he was a valuable input in the drafting of the contribution of his group during the Lions regional seminar in Saly Mbour.
Intelligent, pragmatic and gifted with great expertise, convivial and sympathetic, he was able to skillfully chair the group session and with a lot of tact elicited the participation of all the participants. He was also able to build up friendly relations with everybody. We all cry for him and will always miss him for we had put a lot of hope in him.
Please convey to his family, his friends, and colleagues our heartfelt condolences and sincere sympathy.
We pray that the Almighty accept him in paradise.
Dalla Sidibé Camara
Président Région 11
Dear friend Ebraima, and Lion friends of Banjul Premier,
It will soon be the 8th day of the passing away of our very dear and late friend DEYDA HYDARA. On this occasion Zone 112 & 113 wishes to renew to all the bereaved
Lions as well as the family of the deceased all our sincere sympathy. May his soul rest in peace. He shall always remain in our thoughts for he was a GREAT LIONS.
I remember him and I will always remember him. He has left a great impression on me - always willing and ready to help, courteous, committed, and convinced, he incarnated the the virtues of our international organization that is Lions Club. The last image I have of him was the last weekend of his life which we spent together in Banjul, where up to the last minute he was ready and willing to render service by offering to drive us, District Secretary Roberte AMANY and myself for some last minute shopping On the way, he pointed out his newspaper "The Point" which he was very proud of and which unfortunately was to cost him his life.
Maybe he knew even then that he was telling us goodbye and for ever? For I now see that all the photos I took of him on that weekend, his face was looking somewhere else, distant. Let us pray that his soul rests in perfect peace.
François FATONDJI // President, Lions Zone 112 &113
From the Alliance for the Refoundation of Governance in Africa
Re the Assassination of Deyda Hydara
Facilitator of the College of Journalistes in Gambia.
Editor in Chief of the The Point newspaper.
Correspondent of the French News Agency and Reporters without Borders.
In the name of the Alliance for the re foundation of governance in Africa, I would like to express our profound sorrow following the cowardly assassination of our colleague Deyda Hydara, who was the Coordinator of the the College of Journalists in Gambia within the framework of this African initiative. Deyda Hydara, editor in chief of the Point newspaper and Editor in chief of the Point newspaper and also Gambia correspondent of Agence France Presse and other Agencies was shot down with three bullets if the head on the night of 16 december 2004. On behalf of the Network, I extend to our colleges in Gambia and to his family, our sincere sympathy and solidarity
Deyda Hydara died fighting for liberty. My last and lasting memory that I have of him was in August, 2003 when some forty Africans from diverse backgrounds from several countries, met in Ouagadougou, to discuss proposals and make recommendations for the refoundation of governance in Africa. I was impressed by the strength of his convictions and his frank talk in particular. He was courageous enough to discuss without hesitation, issues that were taboo. It is our duty to ensure that in Africa the Press could express itself freely in the name of freedom. Please convey to the Gambia Chapter our heartfelt condolences.
Minister of State, Mali Coordinator of the Alliance for the re foundation of Gouvernance in Africa