I think Mr. Sidi N. Bojang is wrong to claim there is a cult like belief surrounding the heroism of Ebrima Solo Sandeng whose extra-ordinary sacrifices warranted genuine Gambians to celebrate his life. He was a man whose selfless role led to the achievement of our new found democracy that gives our people freedom and peace. The late Sandeng has inspired millions of people around the world. Like Rosa Parks, Sandeng refused to accept the usual oppressive and undemocratic policies of the mafia state. Instead of folding his hands and murmur in silence, Sandeng led two dozen youths to challenge the regime’s excesses through nonviolent peaceful protest. Solo Sandeng was arrested along with his protesters and callously tortured to death. He demonstrated bravery even at the point of death by confronting his killers that “my death will free Gambians.” Had Yahya Jammeh known the unknown as he claimed to have, he would have spared Solo’s life. He would not allow two detainees with the same name (Solo Sandeng and Solo Krumang) to die in his callous hands. Not every blood is spilt in vain. Sandeng’s blood is Bitter and Heavy. Those who doubt it can ask Equatorial Guinea exiled leader.
In the light of all these bravery and selfless sacrifices being demonstrated by the late Sandeng, it is unfair and unreasonable to compare his (Sandeng’s) historic and bold political move to that of a rebellion that resulted to callous killings of innocent Gambians and non-Gambians. Kukoi Samba Sanyang, who shared the same historical background and beliefs with former Dictator Yahya Jammeh, had no respect for democratic advancement of our country. Both Jammeh and his former mentor Kukoi have their DNA inherently linked to three decades of barbaric tribal denominated rebellion in Casamance, the rebellion that continues to have devastating effects on the lives of Senegambian citizens. These rebel-inspired leaders both attempted to violently overthrow our democratically elected government because of their disrespect for rule of law and democracy. Kukoi failed in his violent endeavours that claimed and displaced more than a thousand lives. His July 1981 senseless, abortive coup caused colossal losses to businessmen who never recovered. Jammeh, a student of Kukoi, successfully accomplished the master’s mission of overthrowing people’s choice of government and installed himself as a callous leader who terrorised, killed extra-judicially, illegally imprison and exiled thousands of outstanding citizens. As if that was not enough, Jammeh successfully looted billions of dollars of national resources and even had the audacity to declare to the entire world that he owned the Gambia, a country his ancestors had found existing. Both former rebel leaders inspired narrow-minded tribal zealots, although their evil actions had systematically wreck harvoc on the lives of ordinary citizens on a daily basis.
Nonviolent peaceful protest is a constitutional and fundamental right that have always played significant roles in changing oppressive and tyrannical governments in many countries. This is the core of Solo Sandeng’s beliefs. He is unlike rebel-inspired leaders like Yaya Jammeh and Kukoi who believe in violent means to subvert the will of the people. If the tribal dominated rebels in southern Senegal of Casamance change trajectory of barbarism into peaceful nonviolent means to improve democracy, rule of law and their lives, they would have amassed support and goodwill of the majority of people, especially believers of genuine democratic ideals. It is this simple reason that civilised people of the Gambia and Senegal refuse to be dragged into senseless violence which Jammeh has used as a recruiting grounds for entrenchment and sustenance of military dictatorship in the Gambia for 22 long years.
Sir Dawda Jawara also believes in nonviolent means of changing the government which was why he joined indigenous people and other leaders to successfully negotiate our independence. Such efforts today make us sovereign people in a sovereign country. It was our independence and national sovereignty that were attacked by rebellious leaders in the persons of Kukoi and Jammeh, resulting to loss of several citizens who matter.
The historic nonviolent peaceful protest led by Solo Sandeng mainly to change trajectory of our country from dictatorship to democractic rule is incomparable to the rebel attack to subvert the will of the people. The two are distinct events which are incomparable in context and objectives. The attack on our independence and national sovereignty and overthrew of our democratically elected government has led to only destruction of our economy, our way of life and peaceful coexistence as one people. These destructive effects should serve as an eye opener and unite our national consciousness. We must celebrate those who contribute positively to our Democratization process while simultaneously frown upon those rebels who subvert our collective will. This simple premise should inspire every citizen who believes in democratic ideals to celebrate and recognise the efforts of Solo Sandeng and his group for paving the way for our current democratic and political dispensation. Anyone who cannot see and recognise the gallantry of Solo Sandeng and his peaceful protesters fit in the category of hypocrites.