Gambia: The Deaths That Cannot Be Forgotten

The Death of Ebrima Solo Sandeng is before the courts. The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission may have been the best place to conduct the enquiry. Criminal cases are about proof beyond reasonable doubt to get conviction and sentence.

The death of political prisoners like Ebrima Solo Sandeng or prisoners of conscience such as Deyda Hydara and Chief Manneh are not avenged by imposing maximum sentence upon conviction. The death of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience has national and universal relevance.

They provide lessons on what happens to a society when a human being is viewed and treated like an object without value by a dehumanized human being who is devoid of a heart and conscience to feel and empathise with the suffering of others. In order to prevent society from perpetual revenge there is need to create a system of justice that is not retributive. This is why the horrors of apartheid could not be contained by subjecting the perpetrators of mass murder to endless mass trials and imprisonment for years. This would have galvanized support for mass murderers among South Africans of European descent and introduced new circles of political dissent. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to enable all to listen to the horrors without any fear of retribution. Such a state of affairs enables the perpetrator to fully reflect on what was done rather than employ any defence mechanism to cover up the truth to save one's skin.

A country gains a lot if the killer of a political prisoner or prisoner of conscience testifies and gives gruesome account of what he did. This tends to exorcise the callousness in him as he/she finds it difficult to own up to his/her outrageous actions. This is the healing process for both perpetrator and affected persons. Hence Ebrima Solo Sandeng's family needs closure. All victims need closure. Society needs healing so that we could all say with one voice, perpetrators and victims: "Never Again!"

We therefore wish to join his family to remind the authorities that the route to justice should be pursued in a speedy, just and redemptive manner. Until that happens the old wound would continue to be scratched and the sores will continue to persist. That is not what a new Gambia needs.

We want to be reminded of the past so that the right lessons will be learnt to shape a better future for Sandeng's children and grandchildren.

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