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Solo Sandeng’s family speaks ahead of his state burial tomorrow

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By Tabora Bojang

Ahead of his state burial tomorrow, the daughter of slain opposition activist Solo Sandeng has told The Standard that although the family is encouraged by government’s stance in serving justice by taking punitive actions against those responsible for his death, there is still a pending amount of justice to be done on issues that he died for.

Solo Sandeng, a former opposition UDP youth leader, is lauded and respected as a martyr for the cause of democracy in The Gambia. He was arrested alongside other members of UDP after they protested for electoral reforms in April 2016.

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In June 2022, the High Court sentenced to death former NIA director general Yankuba Badjie and 4 other officers for murdering the activist, while a doctor who prepared his death certificate was sentenced to 10 years for forgery.

The government has announced last week that Sandeng’s exhumed remains will be given back to the family for a state funeral.

Asked whether the family believes justice is finally served, Fatoumatta Sandeng replied: “When it comes to those people who have killed him, we have seen something has been done because they are serving their terms now, but when it comes to the country, the nation, what we should have done for him, for his sacrifice and what he died for are still not being realised. There is still a pending amount of justice to be done on what he stood for, which is electoral reforms, which is institutional reforms and constitutional reforms. These are things my father was keen about and these are the reasons why he was out on that day,” Sandeng said.

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She said besides these reforms, the issue of torture which her father is a victim of, is not criminalised in Gambian law books, which was why the court relied on other issues such as bodily harm to serve justice.

“It is the government that can pass the bills or policies and get them enforced. The person in the market cannot go to the National Assembly or the State House and do some of these things [reforms]. That is the responsibility of the government,” Fatoumatta charged.

Asked how the family considers UDP’s support in ensuring justice is served in her father’s cause, she said the family has got no problems with the stance of the opposition party, saying even though Solo cannot be separated from the party, he went out to protest on that fateful day, under the flag of an independent Gambian.

“We have seen UDP members go out to protest on April 16th   2016 and it was because of him [Solo] some were incarcerated and sentenced to 3 years and we have also seen other subsequent protests they embarked on. That was his party and it is part of his legacy that we cannot erase. So we respect who he was, where he belonged and what he stood for.”

Responding to whether they would want the state to recognise Solo, with a national day, Sandeng said that was long overdue.

“It has been six years and Solo [Sandeng] has never been honoured in any way by the state or government on April 14th or any other day. We are doing the state funeral, I take it as the state or the Gambia as a country is giving Solo at least that he deserved to be sent off. But I believe that the day that he died should be remembered in the Gambia. There should be monuments and places named after him. I know that other people have stood against dictatorship before him but he laid his life and he used to say if he must be the sacrificial lamb for Gambia to be free, so be it, and so he did not care about himself, he cared about the country that was bigger than him. So Gambia owed him at least some of these things that are evident in every other country for their heroes. It also encourages other people to come out and do something for their country. If I feel that my sacrifice would pay because people who did it before me were honoured and respected and appreciated, I would have no hesitation to come forward and do it for the country. But if those who died for me or stood for the country before me are ignored and not respected and honoured, then we would have less people to want to take that stance in the future and I think that is what is happening to the Gambia.”

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