Tribute: Remembering Deyda Hydara, a veteran journalist, reformer & greatest dad ever

Dec 21, 2020, 1:42 PM

Allahamlillah, as we witness yet another year, we remember our dad, what he represented to us, his profession, his country and what social contributions he can be remembered by. The brutal way he was snatched away from us and its impact after 16 years in pursuit of justice we are still denied. Unfortunately, we simultaneously have to celebrate our dear mum’s birthday as well, which we have not been able to do properly in the last 16 years. Today we want to celebrate our mum, Aja Mariam Hydara.

Firstly, it has been a very tough year globally for everyone. We have all felt the enormous impact of the pandemic. In a little space of time everything was standstill, places of worship all closed, global markets all plummeted, State of the earth Medical services even in the West were brought to their knees. The Impact of this was felt globally, be it the profound loss of lives, we have all lost someone close either family members, friends or neighbours, financial lost, some have lost their savings, mortgages, jobs and even homes. Relationships were also put to the test, let’s just say it has been one of the toughest year most of us had ever seen, some of us had never seen or heard of either the Kaaba or Vatican been shut. Simply put, for a period of time we were tested and The Almighty showed us how hopeless we were, with all our Innovations, Modern Technologies and Science, were not enough to restore what was lost or to regain our freedom.

Deyda Hydara like many others suffered a painful, horrible death, we have made peace with what happened but it doesn’t get any easier, Alhamdulilah won’t call it closure yet, but will get there Insha Allah. That is, if there is anything like ever getting closure. People are different and apprehend grief differently,it’s safe to say not got there yet but Ya Rahman does miracles and we have left all our affairs in His capable hands.

It is a custom or has been in the last 16 challenging years to lament on then Government ineptitude to bring forth a proper investigation, arrest or charge perpetrators of such a heinous crime. Killer thugs were mostly known but there was impunity for their crimes. We would reiterate how Deyda Hydara loved his profession. The undivided attention, passion, tenacity and steadfastness he put into it was rare. His love for his profession didn’t make him fall short in his duties as a family man for he was a great husband, the best dad ever and a doting granddad.

His love for Country, patriotic to the core, no matter how much he hated the situation back home in The Gambia, ask anyone who has ever attended a conference with him abroad, he would sell The Gambia so much so that, one wonders if this was the same guy who constantly criticize The State. Love for country was what brought us here, the need to inform without fear or favour, come rain or shine, no matter who it was and that no body was above the Law. It never bordered him that he was been followed, threatened, or that NIA officers visited The Point, for he shared his food with them and even drove them in his car. As far as he was concerned, he was not breaking the law and was doing what he signed up for, if he was killed in the process, he would die happy, these were principles he lived by. Somehow comforting that he died a champion of Press freedom.

We once again thank Uncle Pap, Mr Philip, Baba, editors, management, staffs, advertisers and friends of Deyda Hydara’s “Pride and Joy”, The Point Newspaper. Happy 29th Anniversary. We pray Allah SWT would reward all staffs past and present for been part of his journey. We commend all your efforts, struggles and respect your loyalty to the paper. You have contributed greatly in keeping Deyda ‘s candle alight, for which we cannot express our gratitude with words. Pray that Allah SWT will reward each and every one of you abundantly. 

Special gratitude to all International Human Rights Organizations like Article 19, Amnesty International, Committee to protect Journalists and all journalist Watch Dogs, International Federation of Journalists, International Penn, Agence France Press (AFP), Reporters without Borders (RSF), Open Society Foundation, NUJ, FAJ, WAJA, TAEF, GPU,CNN and Multi Choice, Foroyaa Newspaper all Gambian journalists in the Gambia and in the diaspora for their immense contributions in getting us here, from Freedom newspaper, Fatu Network, Gainako, Kibaro, Jollof News and to all other online newspapers who rallied behind us in the last 16 horrid years.

We appreciate all the awards and recognitions and cannot believe after 16 years we still getting to be called at events where his work or achievements are been showcased, latest been CPJ’s “The last Column,” where killed journalists’ last written pieces were compiled, some of my favourites there were Marie Colvin and Jamal Khashoggi who reminded me a lot of my dad’s killing. Deyda ‘s last piece was titled “We shall prevail” (The Point, December 2004), which was written before his killing. We could not express our gratitude and appreciation to CPJ and Elisabeth Witchel for including our beloved dad’s work in this masterpiece with such great men and women. This goes along way for young aspiring journalists in fulfilling their responsibilities and duties as ethical and non-fearing journalists, who would be prepared to go beyond what is entailed in journalism and as an encouragement to writers who struggle to be the voice of the voiceless be they oppressed, in war or conflict.

Recognitions like these and that of Uncle DA Jawo and Ahmed Alota’s Living Mirror, Life of Deyda Hydara (2007), Article 19 and Fatou Jagne Senghore in Dakar (2014), or Reporters without borders (2006 Normandy, France (few feet from World War Veterans) TAEF and Ndey Tapha Sosseh, Bamako, Timbuktu (2010), International Penn, New York (2005). Most precious of all are the Academic purposes, highlights of his case before the Ecowas Court in Masters programs in London for Issues of International Human Rights Law and in University Lectures, (Open Society Foundations)

There is no greater joy than these, they are by far more touching and rewarding than any monetary compensation, this is a means of solace, after years of struggling. Whether we get justice or not, we will continue to fight to attain this, no matter how long it takes, we are great believers and know that his killers and their cohorts would pay, if not here in the hereafter.

This year in a slight twist we want to celebrate our dear mother’s birthday, unfortunately the cold and cowardly killing of my dad had over shadowed the greatest woman, one of the most beautiful soul inside out, one of a kind, a devoted and loyal wife, an exemplary mum and the most caring, supportive and compassionate yet very firm when need be, in general a very rare gem. Ma is our rock and the glue that binds us together, we cry together, we laugh together. She constantly reminds us about Allah’s will and how it was tough but we had to accept it.

Pa knew very well what he was doing when he gave her The Point Newspaper as her birthday present 29 years ago. She had been the ink of his pen; she had stuck by him through thick and thin and no matter what she stood by his side. No character assassinations, nor any vilification of my dad was enough to sway her. She remained devoted as she was from day one. Ma’s integrity, resilience, and grace through all the turmoil in the last 16 horrid years is worth emulating.

We usually only drop a line or two wishing her a happy birthday, it took about a decade for anyone of us to say it to her personally. How could we, how can it be a happy one when the dastardly act was perpetrated on that fateful day? That is to change this year as it’s a special one, here is hoping we can achieve our aim of making it a great day when we celebrate Pa’s life and Ma’s birthday and not let his death be greater than the purposeful life he lived or side-line Ma’s special day. Please join me in wishing this great woman whose courage and selflessness I so admire.

Happy 70th Birthday to a very special, loving, kind-hearted and one in a million mum. It won’t be easy but we will try to celebrate today, believed Pa would have approved. You have not only been a perfect wife but you have been the best mum to so many mashallah,we honestly are amazed  and always wonder how you so effortlessly make everyone around you feel better. We pray Allah SWT would continue to grant you great health and prosperity to reap all that you sow, for mothers like you need to be celebrated. May Allah reward you immensely for all your efforts in keeping us whole. I for one felt dead inside as I still do sometimes, but for your love, support, inspiration and motivation, I would not have achieved what I did.

You stood by me even though the challenges were great, you switched off your pain and not only soothed mine away but helped me into channelling my anger and frustration into something more productive. The last couple of years have been spent supporting me through University. This was made possible with Allah and the love of a caring and supporting mum, who pushed me to attain my dreams with her right by my side. She also helped cared for us, our kids and homes.

Her presence here is conducive not only for her immediate family but to extended families and the entire community. Ma became very popular at the school grounds and Weekend Madarasa (Quranic learning) where she helps other parents when she can. The length she goes to for humanity is unbelievable. Highlight of her day is how she enjoys spending it with the kids. Pray that Allah would reward her immensely.

 A lot has happened in the last 16 years, we have been tested to our limits, we were wronged, devastated and broken. Gradually with every passing year we saw people for who they really were. Some treated us like the plague for fear of been arrested, some scared to be seen with us, some even found it necessary to deny knowing Deyda Hydara. There was a point when appointments at PMO seem to come with a “Do not Associate with Deyda’s family”. All through these Ma would gracefully instruct us to be tolerant with everyone and even got upset with me once, for ignoring someone after a long silence. Through it all the only thing that kept us whole apart from Allah SWT is her love and support.

We couldn’t have made it without Ma. We admire her, as a good listener, a problem solver, who doesn’t judge, her sharing is caring and friendly approach and kind gestures, she employs at kid’s school grounds. We also admire her motherly demeanour of once a mother always a mother, and a mother to all. We shared her with our friends who she treated as her own. Ma just had a way of making others feel better about themselves.

May Allah make us to be more content, well-disciplined, selfless, humble and modest like you. What I like the most are some of the qualities you shared with Pa, you both love helping out, hated been taken for granted, love sharing and like helping the disadvantaged, how you guys supported sick and mentally challenged. Allah knows best and chooses our partners and soulmates for us. You have been to hell and back, fought quietly and swallowed hard as no one heard your screams, but with grace and dignity you stood your ground and insisted on carrying on Pa‘s legacy.

On your birthday we pray that Ya Allah will reward you with goodness, bless you with great health and prosperity and reward Pa with premium level of Jaanatul Firdaws. We love and appreciate your strength and courage, pray that Ya Allah keeps you here with the righteous to continue your good deeds. Alhamdulilah and we thank Pa once again for choosing someone special like you, we are ever so proud to call you mum.