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General News of Friday, 7 January 2011

Source: Ghanaian Times

Gambian killings: 20 families compensated

Twenty bereaved families of the July 2005 killings of Ghanaians and other nationals in the Gambia have received various sums of money as compensation from the government, made available by the Gambian authorities.

The beneficiary families include those of Prince Nkrumah Mensah, Isaac Kwadwo Ampadu, Richmond Addai, Kwaku Agyekum, Eric Kwesi Nketia and Kwabena Kissi whose bodies were recovered and brought to Ghana on October 18, 2009 were given state burial on December 10, 2010.

The only survivor, Martin Kyere, who broke the news of the gruesome killings had also been compensated.

Mrs Audrey Abayena, Assistant Director, Legal and Consular Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, who told the Times on Wednesday about the payment said the bereaved families were paid "fixed sums" but could not disclose the figure because her outfit was not directly involved.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Alhaji Mohammad Mumuni, in an answer to a question in Parliament last year said the Gambian government had made available 500,000 dollars as compensation to the victims of the killings.

It formed part of recommendations made by an ECOWAS and UN team of investigators who probed the incident.

The team recommended the exhumation of the bodies for a befitting burial in line with customary practices to be accompanied by payment of compensation following which Ghana and the Gambia signed a Memorandum of Understanding to begin implementing the recommendations therein.

Eight bodies were exhumed and six were identified as Ghanaians.

Mrs Abayena said a lot of consultations had gone into the determination of the rightful families for the payment of the compensation, adding that the families were engaged in a series of meetings culminating in the state burial, followed by the payment of the compensation.

Asked whether the families were satisfied with what was given them, Mrs Abayena said since the moneys were paid to them in December last year "we have not heard of any complaint. No amount of money could equate the loss of life, the money was not meant to replace the lives lost, it is only a symbolic gesture."

The Ghanaians were among 40 people believed to be nationals of the sub region travelling through the Gambia in July 2005, apparently to Europe in search of greener pastures, when they came up against the Gambian security forces.

They were arrested but some of them, including the Ghanaians were later found killed and dumped in the Tanji forest in The Gambia. The bodies were later buried in a mass grave.

Martin Kyere, who claimed to have escaped the arrest later, broke the news of the killings to the Ghanaian authorities leading to preliminary investigations that established that they were killed by some elements within the Gambia security agency.

The account of the circumstances leading to the arrest and killings was initially disputed by the Gambia authorities necessitating the empanelling of a UN and ECOWAS forensic experts to conduct further investigations.

The UN and ECOWAS team of experts in their findings though did not find the Gambian government culpable but blamed the killing on "some rogues within the Gambia security agency."

It also emerged from the investigations that the aborted trip that resulted in the disappearance and killings of the people was a scam perpetrated by "rogues", Lamine Tunkana and Captain Taylor both of The Gambia.