A FALLEN HERO – EBRIMA SOLO SANDENG – Gambia’s Steve Biko
By Ebraima Manneh, Former UDP Senior Administrative Secretary
When the news that Solo Sandeng, had died in custody reached me I received it with a great deal of skepticism and incredulity. Solo cannot die. He was too active, too needed by the whole of the country. It was only a couple of months ago that he was unanimously elected to the exalted position of the National Organising Secretary at the Party congress held in Basse. I had spoken to him a few days before that fateful day of 11th May and he was full of life and determination. But I must admit his voice was full of foreboding. “Koto, this has to stop. This man wants to get rid of all opposition parties. “The series laws that the National Assembly has just passed is last effort to kill and bury us all”. He went on to talk other matters that I now find difficult to recall. With the revelations reportedly made recently in Dakar by the Minister of Interior, one would have given up hope that Solo is alive. Nevertheless, until we see his body we can hope upon hope that he may alive.
If Solo is really dead, today Wednesday, 22nd May would have been the fortieth day of his demise and in accordance with tradition, we should be remembering him and praying for him. The UDP intends therefore to mark the day with prayers and remembrance of this man who did so much to bring awareness of the plight of Gambians and the vicitudes that that go through on a daily basis. We will pray first and foremost that he is still alive and secondly, that Allah grant him Janaa Firdausi in case he is no more. Solo Sandeng deserves all our prayers not only for the brave deeds but the glimmer of hope that we all have that he may, despite all our fears he may still be alive.
As we celebrate the life of Solo, let us remember the man was Solon. Solo was born in Dippakunda, Serekunda. He was from a large religious Mandinka/ Sarahule family. Solo has, since young days been an organizer of people. In his native town of Dippakunda, he saw the struggles of the women folk involve in batik and tie and dye cloth making and organised them into a cooperative – the Chub town Women’s society and the membership grew and prospered.
One amazing thing about Solo was that he never sat in a school classroom. Yet still he wrote brilliant reports and newspaper articles that would be considered well written by any university graduate. At one of the international conferences that he attended, he was elected to chair one of the working groups.
Dedicated and devoted to the duty to party and country and as Secretary to the UDP Youth Wing, Solo travelled the entire length and breadth of the country with his late comrade and President of the Youth Wing Mr. M L Shyngle Nyassi. Thanks to this tandem and other members of the Wing, membership of the party extended to all nooks crannies of the country. With the loss of these party stalwarts, the UDP is poorer for it.
He represented the party at international meetings in Africa, South America and Europe organised mainly by the International Union of socialist Youths, the youth branch of Socialist International. Over the years he built a very strong bond with the regular delegates of various countries.
Solo did not devote all his time and energy to politics and the UDP. He was for some time Assistant Administrative Secretary of IOGT, an NGO working in the area of the fight against use and abuse of tobacco, illicit drugs and alcohol, particularly among youths. He was also Assistant Secretary of Lions Club and represented the Club at several meetings in Senegal.
Above all his ever present personality in the social and political life of our community, Solo was a good husband and father. He was devoted to his family and was always busy planning for the advancement of his children. He has left behind a family of hard working children and a devoted wife Nyima who in her own right is a stalwart of the party’s Female Wing. Solo was a devote Muslim and anywhere you meet he had a copy of the Quran with him. He used to read the holy book cover to cover once a month.
The United Democratic Party has lost a dedicated and willing member. He was a combination of a fearless foot soldier and an intelligent party officer whom it will be impossible to replace. He spoke both Mandinka and Wolof with dextrosity and was regularly interpreting in one or the other of these languages at public rallies and meetings. His gratuitous death will be marked as one more senseless and incredulous and desperate acts of a decadent and corrupt regime that has for over two decades reeked immense havoc and sorrow to every family in Gambia The UDP membership along with scores of thousands of sympathizers all over the world, the majority of whom do not even know him, pray that God the Almighty grant him peace wherever he is and protect his young family. He goes to join heroes the like of Steve Biko. We will miss him.