The Gambia’s founding father on Saturday turned 91 years old. Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, the first president of The Gambia, was joined by the family for the birthday anniversary.
Born in Barajally, MacCarthy Island Division, Mr. Jawara was a veterinarian who became The Gambia’s Prime Minister from 1962 to 1970. He was the country’s President from 1970 until he was overthrown in a 1994 military coup d’etat.
Sir Dawda, the son of Almamy Jawara and Mama Fatty, was educated at a Methodist boys’ school in Banjul before studying in Achimota College in Ghana. He proceeded to study veterinary Science at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Jawara became a qualified veterinary surgeon in 1953.
Upon return to The Gambia, Sir Dawda was appointed principal veterinary officer in 1957. He soon became interested in politics and joined the Protectorate People’s Party which later changed its name to the People’s Progressive Party. Jawara became the party’s leader. He contested elections in 1960 and won a legislative seat, culminating in his appointment as Minister of Education. Sir Dawda resigned his ministerial post a year later after the British government handpicked his rival to serve as the Interim Prime Minister.
Sir Dawda’s PPP won the 1962 general elections. The Barajally native who became the Prime Minister led his country to gain independence from Great Britain in 1965. Jawara was knighted in 1966.
Under Jawara’s leadership, the PPP won six successive elections [1966, 1972, 1977, 1982, 1987 and 1992] which were deem free and fair.
Jawara’s government was not without some hiccups as evidenced in the failed attempted 1981 coup led by Kukoi Samba Sanyang. The coup was repelled with the help of Senegal. The two neighbouring countries signed Senegambia Confederation from 1981 to 1989.The aftermath of the coup led to the introduction of the Economic Recovery Program, which left ordinary Gambians in economic pains.
Jawara ruled the country until July 1994 when a group of rag-tag soldiers dislodged him from power. The former President and his family were granted asylum in Senegal but were later exiled in London. The elderly former statesman returned home in 2002 after he was granted amnesty by his successor. He has since been living as a private citizen.
The Gambia’s history can never be complete without Sir Dawda Jawara whose ardent efforts resulted to the country’s independence. Many people describe Mr. Jawara as a great leader with exemplary character, a man who does not hurt his people with words or actions. During Sir Dawda’s reign, Gambians had enjoyed true democracy, the rule of law and human rights.
Kairo News and Radio wish Sir Dawda good health and long life as he celebrates his 91st birthday anniversary.