In a sombre funeral service, Gambians of all walks of life and across the political spectrum converged on the Never Again Monument, formerly Arch 22, to grant Gambia’s unparalleled and indomitable hero a befitting send-off that he has been deprived of. After seven years of his brutal killing at the bloody hands of Jammeh’s much-feared National Intelligence Agency’s operatives and his subsequent dumping at an undisclosed location, Solo Sandeng has been finally laid to rest by Islamic burial rituals.
Following his daring protest in April 2016 demanding electoral reforms, Solo and his other UDP colleagues were rounded up by Jammeh’s trigger-happy security agents, shoved into a truck and dragged to NIA, where they were viciously beaten up and tortured until Solo stopped breathing and died. The slain hero’s sacrifice spelled an abrupt end to former President Yahya Jammeh’s despotism and absolute iron-fist rule. Thanks to Solo, Gambians were rid off the clutches of Jammeh’s brutal dictatorship that saw a countless number of his compatriots and extrajudicially murdered in cold blood, maimed, tortured, illegally detained, fired, disappeared and sent to exile. Thanks to Solo’s fierce patriotism, fearlessness and selfless service, Gambians now enjoy the freedom of press, expression, assembly and association.
Thanks to Solo Sandeng, Gambians enjoy the liberty of taking to social media to hold the government to account. Solo confronted Jammeh when it was not fashionable to do so. He dared Jammeh’s death squads and torture chambers to ensure democracy and the rule of law were restored to the Gambia. Criticizing Jammeh openly or protesting against his government or policies was tantamount to committing daylight suicide.
As such, many Gambians, including those in the diaspora, remained silent in excruciating agony and constant pain, considering the ramifications of speaking up or speaking out against the dictator. Never again has been Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations’ (TRRC) slogan, reminding people that Jammeh’s atrocities must never repeat in the country. And that, to me, should be the mantra of the current government that came to power at the back of Solong with a pledge to introduce inclusive reforms to restore democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.
Ironically, most reforms have not been forthcoming, including introducing a new Constitution because the existing one was tailored to suit Jammeh’s whims and caprices. In addition, critics are of the view that though we have seen a regime change, system change is yet far-fetched because the system that Jammeh crafted and nurtured is still here.
To honour Solo’s memory and maintain his legacy, the government must take departure from Jammeh’s entrenched system and put the Gambia on a new trajectory by fulfilling its promised reforms with vigour and determination. Though he is gone, Solo’s memory will be carried on and immortalized by his children and loved ones who are determined that his blood was not shed in vain. May Allah forgive his sins, overlook his shortcomings and admit him to Jannah.