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Glorifying Gambian history

Apr 12, 2010, 12:27 PM

The study of Gambian history of any epoch has over the years been a painstaking job, simply because of the lack of published reading materials by Gambian authors.

This, coupled with other factors had compelled many to rely heavily on what foreign writers had written about the country, with all the bias editorial slanting, prejudices, ignorance and sometimes arrogance that go with it.

However, this would now be a thing of the past, thanks to Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, former President of The Gambia, who last Saturday added to the list of books on our shelves about the country, which he had himself led to independence from the yoke of colonial rule. With this, Jawara became the first Gambian statesman to do so.

Described as a source on Gambian history, the book which is divided into 33 chapters, should be a worthwhile read for not only the general public, but also historians and scholars on this country's political and economic evolution, in the past 50 years, when Sir Dawda was a strong and illustrious player as a civil servant, opposition politician, leader of the transition to Independence, and of the first three decades of independence.

Having served the country as veterinary officer, Principal Veterinary Officer, Minister of Education, Prime Minister and then President, Sir Dawda Jawara is today an elderly statesman whose contributions to the development of the country is unprecedented.

His party, the Peoples Progressive Party, which led the country to independence, had ruled the country for some four decades. Since then, the country has registered tremendous successes in all spheres of development.

Unlike many African leaders of the first generation, very little is known about his career before 1959, when he helped form the PPP, the nationalist party which was to eventually take The Gambia into full nationhood in 1965.

It must be said that the ability of Sir Dawda to write and publish his autobiography is indeed commendable, considering his age at 85. This, will no doubt be of immense benefit to the younger generation, most of whom have little knowledge about the country?s political history.

Seen in this light, President Jammeh deserved commendation for always being there for the old man. Since his return from exile in the UK, Jawara has received tremendous support from the Jammeh administration. He was accorded the privileges due to him as an elderly statesman.

A clear manifestation of this was the creation of the Office of the Former President, which provides a life time salary for the former President, among others.

"Anyone who believes you can't change history has never tried to write his memoirs."

David Ben Gurion