By Ngoné Wade, twin sister of Cheikh Wade, killed on 8 March 2021 *
8 March 2021 remains a painful memory for Cheikh Wade’s family, whom a delegation of Amnesty International, met in the neighbourhood of Cambéréne, in the Dakar suburbs. His mother Marieme** is still affected by the brutal death of her youngest son, and desperately waiting for justice to be served. For nearly a year now, human rights organizations have been standing together with the family to say no to impunity. As part of its campaign “Join us in demanding justice for the victims of Senegal’s violent repression of protests”, Amnesty International is mobilizing its members to ensure that the perpetrators of Cheikh Wade’s murder are identified and held accountable, and that peaceful protest is no longer synonymous with the risk of death.
In this op-ed, Ngoné Wade, Cheikh’s twin sister, calls on the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.
Today is 4 February and we should have been celebrating our 33rd birthdays together but you are no longer with us!
Cheikh, my twin brother, you were one of the 14 young Senegalese who were killed in March 2021 during the protests that followed the arrest of Ousmane Sonko, a leader of the opposition. This period was marked by protests, scenes of looting, destruction of property and clashes between demonstrators and security forces in several cities around Senegal.
A chilling gruesome video
I remember it as if it were yesterday, that Monday 8 March 2021, when a shocking viral video was making the rounds on social media. Like many other Senegalese, I watched that video showing a young man being shot in cold blood by a police officer. I watched in shock as the police car drove up to his limp body, as if checking to see if he were still alive, and then drove off, leaving him to his fate. A deep chill ran through my body at the sight of this gruesome scene. My heart was heavy, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with sadness: another young man had been killed, what a loss for his family.
That evening of 8 March, at around 10 pm, I placed your meal in your room as usual and went to bed. I thought you were finishing a late customer’s order, as you often did. As the evening went on, I called you several times but you never picked up.
I remember when a shocking viral video was making the rounds on social media. Like many other Senegalese, I watched that video showing a young man being shot in cold blood by a police officer. I watched in shock as the police car drove up to his limp body, as if checking to see if he were still alive, and then drove off, leaving him to his fate.Ngoné Wade
News that took my breath away
As I woke up the next day, a phone call from the police informed the family of the horrific news of
your death. I could never have imagined that you were Cheikh, the man in that viral video. My brother, my twin, taken from us so suddenly. You didn’t deserve that fate.
You were brutally taken from your family, and far too soon. This news has turned my life, and that of our family, upside down. How could this have happened?
You were exercising your right as a citizen to demonstrate peacefully. You had sewn the Senegalese flag yourself, with which your body was wrapped in by bystanders after you died. So many questions continue to haunt me to this day. Why were you shot? You were draped in the very flag that the man who shot at you, wore as a badge on his uniform.
Why did they not help you as you were lying on the ground, soaked in blood? I can’t rid myself of that image of you, abandoned to such an unjust fate, and the inhumanity displayed by those who are supposed to maintain law and order.
How can someone shoot a defenceless person they are supposed to protect? Cheikh, you were my brother, and a devoted son, but you are no longer here. And in the meantime, the one who killed you, and those who refused to help you, remain completely free to go about their lives scot-free.
Today, our family has only one demand: that justice be served regarding your death. Our quest for justice may be a long one but we remain united and determined. We demand answers. We want to know who and why? The immensity of our sorrow and grief is shared by so many of our fellow citizens, particularly the families of the other victims, whether they fell in Bignona, Diaobe, Ziguinchor or here in Dakar.
In our family, we find strength and support
Mum misses you so much since you’ve been gone. Almost a year since your brutal death, she is continuing to question the silence of the justice system and she reminds us constantly that we must never give up.
The young people of the neighbourhood miss you, the friends with whom you would play football. The only memory they have left of you now is a portrait hanging in the entrance to our house.
I miss you, my twin. You were my trusted best friend. Thanks to your wonderful talents as a tailor, you would use your sewing skills to make all my clothes, particularly for special celebrations.
We will not give up. We want to know why they shot you and we want to make sure it never happens againNgoné Wade
You were always a rock for all of us, ever silent and watchful and always ready to help and assist. The family misses you. The past year was hard on us, with your loss, and also the passing of another family member: Ndeye Astou, our 19 year old younger sister, passed away 4 months after your death. She will never know the whole truth. For her sake too, we will fight for justice.
The family also did grown and you will unfortunately never meet your “tourondo”***, your nephew born last October. Like us, he is also a twin and, together with Mamadou, they bring us great joy despite the difficult moments we are facing.
Standing together for you, Cheikh
Fortunately, we are not alone in our quest for justice. Many people and organizations who believe in justice are supporting us. On 25 May 2021, our older brother Abdoulaye filed a complaint for culpable homicide, failure to assist a person in danger, infringement of liberties, abuse of authority, barbaric actions, and cruel and degrading acts. And yet still nothing has changed. Our feelings of injustice and inequality before the law remain strong in the face of the silence of the Senegalese judicial authorities regarding the circumstances of your death and those of all the people killed. Even though the President of the Republic of Senegal has stated that internal investigations are underway, our lawyer has yet to be summoned for the purposes of the investigation.
We will not give up. We want to know why they shot you and we want to make sure it never happens again.
Together with our supporters, we repeat our demand for justice for you, Cheikh, and all the other victims of the March 2021 events.
- Twin sister of Cheikh Wade, shot dead on 8 March in Dakar, Senegal
*** Namesake in Wolof