Emotional Funeral: First President laid to rest

Friday, August 30, 2019

Former Gambian president and independence hero, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara was finally laid to rest after a befitting, emotional state funeral service at the National Assembly Chamber on Thursday, 29 August 2019. He was 95.

He was buried at the National Assembly Complex in respect of his distinguished service for an improbable nation he led to independence in 1965. Following a funeral service at the Assembly Sir Dawda’s body was transported to King Fahd Mosque in Banjul for Muslim prayers after a 21-gun salute mounted by The Gambia Armed Forces.

The funeral service was a spectacle of grief; in attendance were the former first family members, diplomats, venerable religious leaders, senior government officials and other dignitaries.

Former First Lady, Ajaratou Lady Chilel Jawara, Njaimeh Jawara, his second wife and also The Gambia’s current First Lady, Fatoumatta Bah Barrow were all in attendance.

The nation’s founding father has finally departed forever having ruled The Gambia for 30 years with respect for rule of law and freedom of speech.

President Adama Barrow speaking at the funeral service described Sir Dawda as the founding father as he was the man who led the country from independence to a sovereign nation.

“He was a champion of human rights that respect everyone and the laws of the country. He was the founder of the OMVG and ECOWAS and he was a true Pan African and a democratic,” he said.

The president assured the deceased family that the nation will always stand by them.

He said that Sir Dawda that had been a true leader who stood for the rights of his people and “built a peaceful environment for all.”     

Sir Dawda Jawara was born on 16 May 1924 at Barajally village  in the Central River Region (then MacCarthy Island Division). He was a son of a trader Almami Jawara. He was educated at the Methodist Boys’ School in Bathurst and then attended Achimota College in Ghana.

After leading The Gambia to independence in 1965, he first served as Gambian Prime Minister between 1965 and 1970 before he was democratically elected as President, with The Gambia moving from monarchy.

He was ousted in 1994 in a bloodless coup led by then 29-year-old Lt. Yahya Jammeh. He finally returned to The Gambia from exile in 2002.

Speaker Mariam Jack-Denton, said The Gambia has indeed lost a patriot and humble servant. “He was also a continental symbol,” she said, adding that Sir Dawda was one of founding fathers of the Organisation of African Union (OAU), now African Union. “He was a fervent advocate of fundamental human rights and rule of law.”

“During his time, he ruled The Gambia with dignity where the rule of law was upheld. Under his leadership, she said, Gambians enjoyed freedom of speech and other fundamental human rights.

The portrait of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, perhaps in his early days of presidency was displayed next to his coffin, while two Gambian flags were draped around the corpse. 

Dr. Lamin J. Marena, family friend, described Sir Dawda as one of the greatest citizens. What he had started can be revitalized for national benefit, he said, adding that Jawara was a calm, industrious and honest man.

Dawda Jawara, Jnr. said his father used his life to inspire and worked for the service of the people, adding that he had good integrity and honesty.

“He dedicated his life to serve his country and respect for human rights.”

He said his father was very much interested in the views and ideas of other people especially when they were different from his. He said Jawara would be the very one to give them words of comfort when they were in difficult times.   

Omar A. Jallow, who is widely known as O.J., said the Gambia would continue to celebrate Jawara’s successes and achievements, adding that he saved Gambia from colonialism and tyranny.

“He is the champion of the independence and became the first prime minister, he never agreed to something that would compromise the laws of the country. He was someone who built the strong relationship between The Gambia and Senegal and signed agreements in the fields of education, health and more for mutual benefit of both countries.”

Author: Pa Modou Cham