THE bodies of six Ghanaians killed in the Gambia in July 2005 were on Sunday returned to Ghana, aboard a Ghana Air Force plane which touched down at the Air Force base at about 8 p.m.
Accompanying the remains was a four-member Gambian delegations led by Dr Jallou Marietou, Gambian Minister of Health.
Also on board was a Ghanaian team of forensic experts and pathologists led by Dr Lawrence Adusei of the Police Hospital.
After a short prayer for the safe arrival of the plane, Dr Marietou in a solemn mood, handed over the six coffins containing the remains to Alhaji Muhammed Mumuni, Ghana’s Foreign Minister.
“It is with deep sadness that we extend our condolences to the government and people of Ghana,” she said.
“We pray to God to grant the family the fortitude to bear the pain and also pray that Ghana and the Gambia remain united,” Dr Marietou added.
Alhaji Mumuni expressed appreciation to God that the remains had been returned to Ghana to enable their families to give them befitting burials.
He also thanked the UN and ECOWAS team of experts that conducted the investigation that recommended the exhumation of the bodies for burial in Ghana.
Alhaji Mumuni later held a closed door meeting with the Gambia delegation and the Ghanaian team that conducted the forensic examination and exhumation but declined to comment further, saying “we are not in a position to talk about the details now, we apologise to you”.
A source close to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Times that based on the report of the pathologist, the remains would be identified and given to the families for burial as soon as practicable.
The six were among 40 Ghanaians and other West African nationals travelling through Gambia, apparently to Europe in search of greener pastures, when they came up against the Gambia security agencies.
They were arrested but some were later found to have been killed and dumped in the Tanyi forest in the Gambia. The bodies were later buried in a mass grave.
Martin Kyere, a Ghanaian, who claimed to have escaped from the arrest, later broke the news to the Ghanaian authorities leading to preliminary investigations that established that they were killed by some elements within the Gambian security agency.
The account of the circumstances leading to the arrest and killing of the Ghanaians was initially disputed by the Gambian authority necessitating the empaneling of UN and ECOWAS forensic experts to conduct an independent investigation.
Eight bodies were exhumed and six identified as Ghanaians.
The UN and ECOWAS team of experts, in their findings though did not find the Gambia government culpable, blamed the killing on “some rogues within the Gambia security”.
It also emerged from the investigation that the aborted trip that resulted in the disappearance and killings was a scam perpetrated by Lamine Tunkara and Captain Taylor of the Gambia.
The independent team recommended for the exhumation of the bodies for befitting burials and to be accompanied by compensation by the Gambian government.
As a result, Ghana and the Gambia signed a memorandum of understanding to begin implementing the recommendation therein.