“The Sandeng Family Will Haunt Yahya Jammeh”, Fatoumatta Sandeng To TRRC
Fatoumatta Sandeng- Darboe, daughter of the late Ebrima Solo Sandeng, told the truth reconciliation and reparation Commission (TRRC) that the Sandeng family and the victims of the APRC regime in general will bring former Gambian president Yahya Jammeh to Justice. No matter how long it takes “We the victims will not relent until we bring Jammeh and his enablers to justice”, she said.
Mrs. Darboe told the Commission that her father was willing to end Dictatorship under any circumstance. My father will often say to me “if I am going to be the sacrificial lamb for The Gambia to be free from dictatorship, so be it”.
She said his father has organized several meetings prior to the April 14th protest. He met other Political Parties to have a coalition to oust Jammeh. “That has always been my father’s dream to see Gambia free from dictatorship.”
“Would you say he was a political and a human rights activist?” asked the Lead Counsel. “That’s right,” Fatoumatta responded
After explaining her relationship with her Father to the Commission. She described it as a “very sweet and smooth relationship.” Lead Counsel, Essa Faal told her “You must miss him so much?”
At this juncture, she shed tears as she explained that on the 14th April, 2016, after Fajr Prayers, his father explained to her that he and some UDP executives will go out for a peaceful demonstration and that whatever happened, she should take care of the family. “That was the last time I saw my father.”
However, her father, Ebrima Solo Sandeng advised her to not return to work until she knew that everything was intact.
The witness testified that while in her office, at the Bakoteh Mall, she saw women running. Fatoumatta approached one woman who informed her that there was a Coup D’état and that people were arrested.
At this point, she knew that her father and his fellow protesters were arrested. She made a phone call to her mother who confirmed that she also received a call informing her that Solo was arrested.
She told the Commission on 15th April. She was still monitoring her father’s whereabouts on social Media. She later saw on Sidi Sanneh’s post that Solo was tortured and was in a coma. “But I still did not believe it.”
On the 16th April, 2016, the Sandeng family received information from Hon. Ya Kumba Jaiteh’s sister in the USA, that Solo was tortured to death at the NIA.
At this juncture, the Sandeng’s family went to Ousainou’s Darboe’s compound and found the UDP Party Leader Ousainou’s Darboe crying. There, she said, “I concluded that my father was dead”.
The UDP leader Ousainou Darboe, the Sandeng’s family and other people, later on that day, held a peaceful protest to demand for Solo’s body, either death or alive. “We wrote a piece on papers, Released Solo Sandeng, Death or Alive, Released the Westfield Protesters” she informed the Commission.
“We saw soldiers in two trucks with guns but they just drove and passed us. Upon arrival at Comium, we saw a truck with Paramilitary officers who descended on the protesters and started to beat them. The only weapon we had was the papers,” she remembered.
Fatoumatta Sandeng recalled that during the commotion with the PIU, someone put her and younger sister in a Taxi and drove them to Dibba Kunda.
She said neither a delegation, nor information emanated from the authorities what happen to their father.
On whether the government made any public statement, she responded in the negative, adding that the government did not only remain silent but wanted to apprehend them as well.
Life in exile
Fatoumatta informed the Commission that it was difficult for her family while in Senegal. They had to register with the UNHCR in Senegal. “Civil society organizations like Article 19 and Amnesty international were so helpful to my family” she said.
She further told the Commission that, while in Senegal, they continued to monitor situations in The Gambia. The April 14th Protesters were taken to court but their father was still nowhere to be seen. Fatoumatta’s mum remained hopeful that Solo, her husband, was probably in a critical condition following his beating at NIA but not dead.
She informed the Commission that Sheikh Omar Jeng, former Operations Director at the NIA, confirmed to them that Solo was dead on April 14th and was buried in Tanji.
“What hurt me must was that our father was not given a proper Muslim burial. It breaks my heart anytime I think of that.
During the course of the trial of the April 14th Protesters, she learned from Nogoi Njie’s testimony that Solo Sandeng was seriously tortured.
“I cried bitterly and I was completely broken. I then informed the family that it was true that my father has been killed. My mother was devastated and she fainted as we all began crying.
After Yahya Jammeh lost the elections, we cried tears of joy. We knew what our Father had fought and died for had finally been achieved.
On 28th January, 2017, the Sandeng family returned to The Gambia. Coming back to the Gambia was a dream come true for the Sandeng family and we were thankful to all those that supported us. “My sister delivered off in Senegal and I also got married while in exile.”
TRRC Chairman, Dr. Lamin J. Sise, said Solo was a Patriot who fought against Dictatorship and his sacrifice will remain in the annals of this country.
In her concluding remarks, Fatoumatta urged people who use her father’s death for political gains to stop traumatizing them.
“Exhibiting receipts and pictures of the support they provided to our family, as a mean to fight political opponents is traumatizing our family. Solo died for The Gambia and not for a specific political party or individual. I beg for his respect and for that of his family”
With regards to victims, she said it was not easy but they came together and formed an organization to bring Jammeh and his enablers to Justice. “With the rejection of the Draft Constitution, it will be difficult for justice to be served but we will not relent.”
Fatoumatta currently served as the Spokesperson of the campaign for “Jammeh2 Justice”. With the rest of the victims, they are relentlessly trying to see Jammeh and his enablers brought to justice. “We will get them all, one after the other.”