Hundreds of people showed up on Saturday to take part in Solo Sandeng Freedom March, commemorating the peaceful demonstration spearheaded by United Democratic Party (UDP) youth wing to demand “proper electoral reforms”.
The peaceful demonstration, which took place on April 14, 2016 was met with a full scale crackdown by the Jammeh regime, leading to the arrest of UDP supporters, and the torture to death of Ebrima Solo Sandeng.
“We are commemorating two years after gallant Gambians descended to the streets demanding for electoral reforms, and also good laws in the Gambia,” Muhammed Sandeng, son of the late Sandeng, told this reporter.
The sad events that occured on these fateful days have left the entire country in shock. The events are mainly seen by many observers as catalyst for the political process that led to the end ofYahya Jammeh’s 22-year rule. Dubbed ‘Solo Sandeng Freedom March’, the commemorative event followed the path taken by the protesters in April 2016.
Mr. Sandeng said the family needs justice. “The identification process should be fast-tracked. My father needs proper burial,” he added.
A trial involving top former officers of the defunct National Intelligence Agency (NIA) linked with Ebrima Solo Sandeng is still ongoing at the High Court, and continue to generate headline in the media. More security agents were recently arrested and charged in connection to the April 14 events.
Fatoumata Jawara, who was among the rare female protesters arrested along Ebrima Solo Sandeng, said they were 27 in number when they started the protest march two years ago.”When we were tortured, we never expect to come out alive,” she said.
Now a parliamentarian under the UDP banner, Hon. Jawara said she keeps on praying for those who lost their lives.
“This day should be celebrated by every citizen because what we fought for is what Gambians are enjoying now,” she stated.
Hon. Jawara called on the Gambia government to pay attention to April 14 protesters many of who are in dire need of psychological counselling. “Some of us are still dealing with trauma and grief.”
In a message conveyed to the marchers through Brikama North MP Alhagie Darboe, UDP leader made it clear that Solo Sandeng and Co. stood up for democracy and rule of law.
“The rule of fear has ended,” Ousainou Darboe said. He said our nation is now healing from tyranny.
Fatou Camara, one of the prominent female activists who braved the ‘rule of fear’, said when they initiated the historic march, the Gambia’s interests were put ahead. “We were only interested in justice and democracy.”
Due Sannoh, a member of UDP youth wing, said he was coming from hospital when he got a call from the marchers. “Upon my arrival to Bambo junction, I realised that we were surrounded by security forces. I did draw the attention of my colleagues, and suggest that we go back to our party headquarters. I was later allowed to go home,” he said.
He said justice must prevail in Solo Sandeng and all cases of human rights abuses.
The tiny West African nation is recovering from two-decade long dictatorship by the Jammeh regime. The new government is confronted with rising demand for justice as they push ahead with a reconciliation agenda.