Two years from the cold-blooded murder of Lassana Cisse, his family in the Ivory Coast is calling for justice, as friends and family struggle to come to terms with the racially motivated assassination.

To add to their pain, the coronavirus has further delayed the repatriation of Lassana’s body, with ports being closed to curb the pandemic.

His cousin, Abdoulaye spoke to Times of Malta about a sense of “fatigue” that has blanketed the family over the past 24 months.

“He was killed in the street like an animal. Since then, his mother, for whom Lassana was an only child, has been taken ill and she just keeps asking when she is going to see his body,” he told Times of Malta over the phone, breaking down in tears.

Lassana, 42, was killed on April 6, 2019 in a drive-by shooting in Ħal Far. The Ivorian father-of-two was walking home after watching football with friends.

Two soldiers, Francesco Fenech, 21, and Lorin Scicluna, 22, have been accused of the murder as well as the attempted murder of another two men and a hit-and-run incident.

All four victims are black.

Both men have been granted bail, a decision that stilled fear, a sense of humiliation and disappointment among black people and the migrant community. 

Repatriation of Cisse’s body has been delayed due to pandemic

Abdoulaye said the family, including Lassana’s mother, Baka-yoko Nawa, were “begging” for justice.

They questioned why anyone would kill a hardworking man who always thought of his friends and family.

“I got the news about my cousin’s murder just as I was going to the village where Lassana’s daughter lived.

“Lassana had sent me money to buy diesel for the car, so that I could go to her village and tell her that her father was doing his best to see her soon,” his cousin said.

Cisse’s body was released for burial nine months following his murder, leaving his relatives in the Ivory Coast and friends in Malta baffled as to why the corpse was being kept at the mortuary for such a long time.

However, by March last year, the government had committed itself to cover all repatriation costs, including transport to the burial place, permits and mortuary fees, a home affairs ministry spokesperson said.

“In addition, the government will also cover the travelling and accommodation costs of one accompanying person.

“These assurances have been provided in writing to the representative of the family over a year ago, in March 2020.

“Notwithstanding several reminders from the ministry, the representatives of the family have not replied with a tentative date for the actual repatriation,” she said.

The director of the Foundation for Shelter and Support to Migrants, Ahmed Bugre, has been in contact with the government over the matter together with Lassana’s friend and Ivorian community leader,  Ousmane Dicko.

Bugre told Times of Malta that the repatriation had been delayed because ports were closed as a result of surging corona-virus cases.

In the meantime, he was in discussion with the authorities to ensure that both he, as an official representative of the migrant community in Malta, and Dicko, a respected elder entrusted by the family to accompany the body, fly Lassana back home to his family.

Dicko has meanwhile applied for documents that would allow him to travel in and out of Malta to accompany the body.

In a statement, the Malta Refugee Council paid tribute to Lassana and said it continued to stand with the migrant community and condemned all forms of racism, xenophobia and discrimination.

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