flocked into the National Assembly Complex on Thursday to pay their last
respect to former Gambian president, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, who died on
Tuesday morning at his residence in Fajara. He was 95.
President Jawara’s government was considered one of the most respected democracies on the African continent, considering his respect for human rights and rule of law.
As early as 1 p.m., the National Assembly Chamber which was full to the brim started hosting invited guests including diplomats, political leaders and senior government officials as the nation prepared in a spectacular of grief to pay its last respect to the man who led her to self-rule in 1965.
Sir Dawda was described by many as African Statesman who contributed relentlessly to the development of The Gambia and Africa in general.
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.
Family members, Cabinet ministers, senior government officials, invited guests, parliamentarians and religious leaders were seen going around the corpse of former president offering their prayers while other mourners were in tears.
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 flapping around the corpse.
Former First Lady, Ajaratou Lady Chilel Jawara, Njaimeh Jawara, his second wife and also The Gambia’s current First Lady, Fatoumatta Bah Barrow arrived at the National Assembly, all dressed in white African outfits at around 15:38 p.m. to pay their last respect to the first Gambian President.
In honour of his enduring legacy, President Barrow has ordered that the former president be accorded a befitting state funeral and that flags at all public institutions to fly at half-mast and also declared seven days of national mourning.
Sir Dawda Jawara was born at Barajally village on 16 May 1924 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.
He has been trained as a veterinary surgeon at the University of Glasgow’s School of Veterinary Medicine and then completed his training at the University of Liverpool. He returned to The Gambia in 1953 and married Augusta Mahoney, beginning work as a veterinary officer.
Sir Dawda decided to enter politics and became secretary of the new People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and was elected to the House of Representatives in the 1960 election. He became the leader of the PPP and then the country’s first Prime Minister in 1962, only the second ever head of government following Pierre Sarr N’Jie’s term as Chief Minister.
He led 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 2002.
President Barrow last week visited the former president’s home in Fajara to pay his respect and discuss funeral arrangements with the family.
He also described Jawara’s demise as a “huge loss for the nation and African continent.
“He was also tolerant and dedicated his life to the service of humanity.”
“Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara respected the rule of law and made sure the ordinary Gambian had his due,” Said Ousainou Darboe, former vice president of The Gambia and leader of United Democratic Party.
He stated that he also addressed the economic issues of the country and made sure the country’s economy turned around when we were sinking without regard to political consequences he could face.