By Nelson Manneh
Fatoumatta Sandeng Darboe, the daughter of the late Ebrima Solo Sandeng, has testified before the Truth Commission (TRRC) that the Sandeng Family and victims in general will do all they can in order to bring former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to justice.
Since Jammeh was defeated in the 2016 presidential election, calls for him to be brought to justice ensued forthwith.
Born on 6th April, 1994 in Dibba Kunda, Kanifing Municipality, Madam Sandeng said prior to the protest, her father evacuated his family to either Kerr Sering or Kololi because it was not the first time he was arrested for holding secret meetings for the UDP party.
He said on 14th April, 2016, while in her office at the Bakoteh Mall, she saw women running from Serrekunda market going towards Bakoteh, so she approached one of them who informed her that there was a Coup D’etat and some people were arrested.
At that point, she said she believed that her father and others who were protesting were arrested. So she immediately called her mother who confirmed it to her that she also received a call informing her that Solo was arrested.
Sandeng said her mother and younger brother, Muhammed, returned home and all of them later went out in search of her father but they could not see him. She said on 15th April, she was monitoring social media, particularly Facebook and saw one Seedy Sanneh’s post stating that Solo was tortured and was in coma.
Sandeng said on the 16th April, 2016, they received information from Ya Kumba Jaiteh’s sister in the US that Solo was tortured to death at the NIA. She said upon hearing the information that her father was dead, they went to Darboe’s compound in Pipeline where Darboe told them that there would be a press conference.
She said on that same day, she decided to hold a match pass, demanding her dad death or alive and the people who joined her in the protest chanted, “Jammeh killed Solo Sandeng, Jammeh killed Solo Sandeng.”
“During the Press Conference, Darboe informed us that they will protest and the leaders of the UDP will be in front. We wrote on a piece of papers ‘Released Solo Sandeng, Death or alive, Released the Westfield Protesters,” she said.
The former musician disclosed that when they left Darboe’s house, they chanted “We need Solo Sandeng, death or alive.”
However, she said during that process, they saw soldiers in two trucks with guns but they just drove and passed. After a while, she said they saw a truck with paramilitary officers who descended on them and started beating them.
“The only weapon we had was the papers. During the commotion with the PIU, someone put me and my younger sister in a Taxi and drove us to Dibba Kunda while Muhammed ran to the compound in Dibba Kunda after he was beaten with a Baton by the PIU officials,” she said.
Shortly after Muhammed arrived, she said a young man ran into their compound and told them that soldiers were coming and they ran to one of their neighbour’s compound.
Sandeng said from that compound they went to the Senegalese Embassy and then finally moved to Sanchaba where they were hiding for one week before going to Senegal. She said it was difficult for her family while in Senegal and they had to register with the UNHCR in that country (Senegal) and took their siblings to a Franco Arabic School.
Sandeng further told the Commission that while in Senegal, they continued to monitor situations in The Gambia and that the April 14th protesters were taken to court but their father had still not surfaced. She informed the Commission that Sheikh Omar Jeng, former Operations Director at the NIA, confirmed that Solo Sandeng was dead during the course of arrest.
After Yahya Jammeh lost the elections in 2016, she said she also joined the Campaign “Gambia had decided.”
“When Adama Barrow won the elections we cried, but it was tears of joy that Solo had fought for, was achieved and on the 28th January, 2017, we returned back to The Gambia,” she said.
Sandeng said one of her sisters delivered in Senegal and she also got married in exile. When they came back to The Gambia, she said they were called by the Police who asked them if they could exhume the remains of her dad and they responded in the positive.
She said when the body was exhumed, it was taken to the Mortuary in Banjul and a DNA test was conducted by a foreign doctor who confirmed that it was Solo Sandeng’s remains.
Four years on, Sandeng said her dad’s remains are still in the Edward Francis Small Teaching Hospital in Banjul.
In her concluding remarks, Sandeng said people who used Solo Sandeng for political gains or distribute receipts and pictures of support provided to the family to fight their opponents are re-traumatizing the family. She said Solo Sandeng died for The Gambia and was an adult who cannot be deceived to do something he didn’t want to do.
About the witness:
After completing her schooling, Madam Sandeng Darboe worked as a musician from 2007 to 2015. And from 2015- 2016, she worked at Supersonic Micro Finance.
She founded the Solo Sandeng Foundation after a consensus with her family. During the process of establishing the Sandeng Foundation, she was in exile and got some support from people and launched it on the 14th April, 2017.
The main objective of the foundation is to keep the legacy of her father and what he (Solo) fought for, which is respect for human rights and the principle of democracy.
Madam Sandeng Darboe who served as the Spokesperson of the campaign for Jammeh to Justice said his late father had 8 other siblings. And his father was born in 1959 and he was a member of the UDP. He said his father held positions such as the Youth Secretary for the UDP party and had organized several meetings for UDP.