Thousands of people turned out in the Gambian capital on Tuesday for the official funeral of a pro-democracy activist who died in custody in 2016 following a protest against former dictator Yahya Jammeh.
Mourners lined the streets of Banjul as police passed by carrying the flag-draped coffin of Solo Sandeng, in a ceremony that revived memories of Jammeh’s brutal rule.
The dictator held sway over the tiny West African state for 22 years until he was defeated in presidential elections in December 2016 by political newcomer Adama Barrow and fled to Equatorial Guinea.
Sandeng died in custody in April 2016 at the age of 57 after organising a protest calling for the return of democracy.
His death was a catalyst for uniting the country’s fractured opposition and driving a wave of pro-democracy protests which ultimately led to Jammeh’s fall.
Justice Minister Dawda Jallow paid tribute to Sandeng, describing him as “a man who paid the ultimate price in fighting for the cause he genuinely believed in.
“He has left an indelible mark in the political history of this country.
“His legacy will continue to live on in the history of our democratic transition as a nation.”
The coffin was placed before a huge Greek-style arch in Banjul that Jammeh built in the 1990s and which has been re-dedicated to the memory of his victims. Sandeng was later entombed at a site in the suburbs of the capital.
His body was exhumed in March 2017. Six members of Jammeh’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) were convicted of his murder in July 2022, with the agency’s former director being sentenced to death.
The Gambian authorities have charged Jammeh with murder, rape, torture and corruption.
However, he retains substantial clout back home.
Barrow’s government, which won elections in 2016 and again in 2021, has yet to fully implement recommendations made by a truth and reconciliation commission in in 2021.