Solo Sandeng’s peaceful protest was the most important defining moment of our political history. Solo Sandeng, the former Organising Secretary of the United Democratic Party, was indeed not only a brave patriot but he has also proven his critics wrong by his patriotic move to demand his constitutional rights to seek political level playing field which was a moral responsibility of any decent human being who truly believes in democracy and constitutional rule. Mr Sandeng was a great agent of change, an opinion leader as well as a great innovator of an idea which truly transformed our political landscape and subsequently led to the freedom of oppressed nation. The Gambia’s Steve Biko exemplified a character of a great visionary, resolute, empathetic and above all selfless leader whose sole desire was to change the trajectory of his country. Today he is in the history books for being the man who gave himself up to save the Gambia and her chained people.
During those early hours of the peaceful protest, Mr. Sandeng and his colleagues were labeled all kind of names by both his political opponents and the regime of terror. While opponents described the peaceful electoral reforms protest as a distraction which threatened our country’s national security, peace and stability, the regime of Dictator Yaya jammeh claimed “Solo Sandeng and his colleagues were sponsored by foreign powers and Gambian dissidents to cause political instability and National civil Strife.” These two forces were against the basic human rights of freedom of expression, association and assembly which Mr Sandeng and his fellow citizens courageously demonstrated and defended. At the time, majority of people failed to recognize that peaceful protest was in fact for the benefit of every Gambian irrespective of political party or ideology. Today Gambian people have finally come to realize that Mr Sandeng was perfectly right and that he was a great patriotic visionary leader who was only interested in freeing his country from 22 years of military dictatorship characterized by mass disappearances, murders and illegal incarcerations.
Mr Sandeng and his colleagues can smile broadly in their perfect resting place for their selfless sacrifices to free an oppressed nation. As we remember and celebrate the lives of Mrss Sandeng, Ebrima Janko Ceesay, Lang Marong and other countless heroes, we must all ask ourselves one simple question: “what was my own contribution before we arrive at this moment in our political history.” The lesson we should all learn is that selfless sacrifice is indeed the cornerstone of every divine religion which preaches respect for the fundamental rights of others and human dignity. These rights include the right to peaceful protest, political freedom, association and right to make your voice known in political discourse. Those who truly believe in relative peace and stability of the country at the time failed to remind themselves that the country was in silent war because of significant number of atrocities, total impunity and other gross human rights violations which they pretended was not a significant problem or threat to our peaceful coexistence as a nation. They also failed to remind themselves that relative peace and stability was a term which was not known to most Gambians whose family members were murdered, disappeared and illegally incarcerated. Those families were only interested in seeing justice being done for their loved ones. We must never again allow relative peace and stability for the minority to cloud our judgement when seeking justice and respect the fundamental human rights and dignity of our fellow citizens. We must never again call the constitutional rights of our fellow citizens a distraction while they seek redress on constitutional violations of political freedom and rights. We must never again characterise the constitutional rights of our citizens to demand fairness and equality in participatory democracy as some foreign sponsored ideas design to cause political instability and National Chaos. We must support and provide assurance and protection to peaceful protesters even when we disagree with their political ideology. After all, democracy is a messy political system which tolerates even ignorant propaganda for political gain. It is the responsibility of citizenry to differentiate truth from falsehood. Mr Sandeng and his colleagues had proven to us that truth triumps over falsehood; deception and outright political oppression never pass the test of time as decent citizens will always stand up and demand their God-given rights.
I say to Mr Sandeng and his colleagues, Rest In Peace until we meet again. Your memories and legacies will forever live. No one has the capability to remove that from our country’s collective political history and dispensation. Thank you for your selfless sacrifices.