Sandeng family vows to get Jammeh to justice

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By Mafugi Ceesay

The daughter of the slain opposition activist Solo Sandeng has told the TRRC that her family and other victims of former president Yahya Jammeh will ensure every stone is turned to bring the ex-leader to justice.

Fatoumatta Sandeng-Darboe said she is currently working with like-minded people to add impetus to the growing efforts in ensuring Jammeh and his confederates in crime pay for their wrongs against citizens and non-Gambians.

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According to her, despite the crash of the draft constitution Jammeh’s victims will go at full stretch to ensure he has his day in court.

Continuing her testimony, Mrs Darboe decried that there are some elements that are using the death of her father to make political gains, saying this has remained a source of trauma for the Sandeng family up until now. She added that there are people bent on exposing receipts of humanitarian support they’ve rendered to the Sandeng family, explaining that this is a source of additional trauma to the family.

The daughter of the opposition activist said her father made an ultimate sacrifice for the country based on his volition and principles.  

“I beg for respect for him,” she stated.

The 26-year-old told the TRRC that Solo was determined to end dictatorship in the country and was alive to the brute force used to suppress anti-government protests at the time, hence his decision to send his family to a safe location before the protest rally.

She recollected how she saw women running helter-skelter whilst in her office at the Bakoteh Mall, adding that one of the ladies had informed her that there was a coup in the making and that some arrests have been made.

She also recounted how her mother confirmed to her in a telephone conversation the arrest of her father alongside others.

Mrs Darboe also informed the TRRC about the futile search the family made for her father late into the night, adding that it was only on 16 April 2016 that she saw a Facebook post by Seedy Sanneh about the torture to coma of Sandeng.

She added that it was the same day that they received information from the sister of legislator Ya-Kumba Jaiteh in the US that Solo was tortured to death at the NIA.

Mrs Darboe adduced that upon the receipt of information about her father’s death, the family went to the compound of Ousainu Darboe at Pipeline where they found the veteran politician shedding tears.

She stated that Darboe promised to go to Banjul to further establish the veracity of the report of her father’s death even after expressing trust in his informant.

Turning to the protest that followed Sandeng’s torture to death, Mrs Darboe recalled how people went down the street, chanting “Jammeh killed Solo Sandeng. ” We need Solo Sandeng, dead or alive.”

However, she went on, two truck loads of armed soldiers drove past them during the protests but upon reaching the vicinity of Comium on Kairaba Avenue, paramilitary officers descended upon the crowds and started beating them.

“The only weapon we had was the papers,” she recollected.

She also told the TRRC the intervention the daughter of Ousainu Darboe made to take her family members to the Senegalese High Commission but were not allowed access because the guards there said it was on a Saturday and they had no permission to take them in.

However, she went on, the family was able to escape to Senegal after being in hiding, adding that it was tough for them whilst in that country. The witness said they continued to monitor developments in The Gambia, saying her mother was hopeful that Solo Sandeng was alive.

She informed the Commission that Sheikh Omar Jeng, former Operations Director at the NIA, sometime later confirmed that Solo was indeed dead during their arrests.

During the trial of the April 14th protesters, she testified, Nogoi Njie had explained how she saw Solo Sandeng seriously tortured.

The family returned from exile after the ouster of former president Jammeh in 2016 and her father’s remains exhumed after the family’s consent to the police, she recalled.

She however said the remains of Solo are still at the mortuary of Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital for four years now.

On the impacts Solo’s death had on the family, she said one of her younger sisters was so close to her dad she is always absorbed in her thoughts of him.

She also told the truth-seekers that the youngest member of the family-two years old at the time of Solo’s death-couldn’t remember his father, adding both she and her sister have lost their jobs upon returning from exile with their former house rented out.

Meanwhile, TRRC Chairman, Dr Lamin J. Sise, said Solo was a patriot who fought against dictatorship and his sacrifice to the country will remain in the annals of the country’s history.