Solo Sandeng: ‘Charges against me were totally ridiculous’

UDP’s youth leader says Jammeh should ‘go retire’

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By Sanna Camara

After his recent acquittal by the courts, Secretary General of the United Democratic Party (UDP) Youth Wing, Solo Sandeng has described charges levied against him as “totally ridiculous”, saying he is more committed to the struggle to enlighten Gambian population through peaceful mobilization.

Speaking to Gambia Beat, Mr. Sandeng said his arrest, detention and prosecution and subsequent acquittal by the courts has vindicated him and the UDP of committing any crimes under laws of the Gambia. “I will continue to engage in “peacefully organizing our grassroots support ahead of the 2016 presidential elections,” he told Gambia Beat.

He was arrested by the Police at Tujereng Police Station, in the Kombo South district on Wednesday 4th December 2013, and later released. Sandeng was subsequently charged with organising an “unlawful gathering and giving false information to public.” He said he was “surprised” when he was called by the police and told that the meeting they held at the Tanje Community Centre was considered “an unlawful gathering.” He was to spend the next three months going to court until he was acquitted and discharged a little over a month ago.

“The arrest was meant to intimidate and silence me and our supporters at grassroots level. Instead of succeeding in achieving this, they have given me a fresh vigour to carry on my work to enlighten the Gambian people to understand that this [APRC] regime no longer has viable solutions to our problems. That the UDP has in store an alternative government for the young people, the farming community and women of this country,” he charged.

‘We will not engage in lip service’

According to him, the APRC is always talking about empowering the country’s youth which in his opinion, “is just lip service. UDP will empower the farming community to farm for themselves and enjoy the fruits of their labour, instead of going to the president’s farms in either Kanilai or his numerous other farms around the country. There is more we have in store for the people. We will not merely engage in lip service. We will provide solutions that will bring sustainable livelihoods for the people,” he claimed.

As the APRC party clocks the years in power this year, the UDP youth leader also acknowledged that the ruling APRC party has brought more development for the Gambia in the first ten years in power than it has done for the past ten years. Mr. Sandeng said the UDP has never had any problems acknowledging gains registered made by President Jammeh and the APRC government.

Prolonged stay in power by one man

However, he maintained that their main problem, among other things “is the prolonged stay in power by one man.” He explained that this has resulted in retarding the development momentum in recent years.

“From 2004 to date, the APRC has not been able to register as many developments as the first ten years to gain the impression of the majority of Gambians. That is one symptom of over-staying in power,” he argued.

A former hotelier who travelled across many countries around the world prior to his political career with Gambia’s main opposition party, Mr. Sandeng said The Gambia has to learn lessons from other developing democracies around the world and do away with indefinite term limits.

Twenty years is a long time… 

“We [the UDP] are advocating for President Jammeh to go on retirement and pave way for another president imbued with fresh ideas to continue nation building from where he stopped. Twenty years is a long time to rule over a country,” Mr Sandeng said.

He added: “What the UDP is trying to do for The Gambia is to institutionalise a two-five-year-term as maximum time anyone can spend as president. This should be the limit to presidency that no other president can change.”

He maintained that a UDP president will never stay beyond two-five year terms. “With that, anyone who is voted into office is compelled to work harder to deliver within the time frame. That is our principle,” he added.

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