Solo Sandeng was killed in detention

 (JollofNews) – The United Democratic Party (UDP) will Friday commemorate the first anniversary of the arrest and murder of its organising secretary, Ebrima Solong Sandeng, by Gambian security officers.

Mr Sandeng died on 15th April 2016 less than 24 hours after he was arrested with a dozen other activists for staging a brief but peaceful anti-government protest at Westfield junction, Serrekunda.

Eye-witnesses said Mr Sandeng and his associates arrived at the busy Westfield junction some 12 kilometres away from the capital, Banjul, during the afternoon rush hour and displayed a banner with the slogan “We Need Proper Electoral Reform”. They also chanted anti-government slogans and demanded Mr Jammeh’s resignation.

However soon after the protest began, they were arrested by a contingent of security officials and detained briefly at the Police Intervention Unit, Kanifing before being transferred to the feared National Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in Banjul.

Sheikh Omar Jeng, NIA’s director of Operation,  said in a sworn affidavit filed on 13th June 2016 in objection to an application made by Mr Sandeng’s lawyer for him to be produced in court whether dead or alive,  that Mr Sandeng died during “the process of his arrest and detention”. He failed to disclosed the cause of the activist’s death.

Gambia opposition member who died in custody. Solo Sandeng with the megaphone with UDP protesters at Westfield Junction.
Solo Sandeng leading the protest at Westfield Junction.

But according to Mr Sandeng’s death certificate issued at the Emergency Unit of Serrekunda Hospital and signed on behalf of one Dr Lamin Sanyang, he died from dyspnea [difficult or laboured breathing], shock and respiratory failure. The report revealed that the activist died on 15th April 2016 at about 04:20 hours.

The death certificate has corroborated testimonies from other detainees who said he was subjected to hours of severe torture including beatings and kicking by security officers wearing black balaclava and gloves.

Angered at his death, the UDP executive members including its leadership took to the streets to seek answers but were met by armed security officers who fired tear gas and live bullets at them before arresting and slapping them with criminal charges.

They were later found guilty and jailed at the Mile Two Central Prisons.

Although the Jammeh regime had admitted Mr Sandeng’s dead, which it said occurred while he was being interrogated, it has refused to return his remains to his family for burial.

However, since the demise of the Jammeh regime in January, police were force to reopen the case resulting in the arrest of senior security officials.

His remains have also been exhumed from an unmarked grave in somewhere near Tanji village, Kombo  South, based on the statements of the detainees.

As part of events marking the day, the UDP members will hold a processing at the Westfield Junction to pay their respect to Mr Sandeng and other party members for their courage and sacrifice.