The History of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP):
How the Party Came to Existence
The history of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) began with the Protectorate People’s Society (PPS), a grassroots organization formed to facilitate the national affairs of the protectorate people. Prior to independence, the Gambia was divided into two sections: the colony and the protectorate. The colony included Bathurst and Kombo St. Mary’s, while the protectorate included the rest of the Gambia. All the social, political and economic opportunities were endowed to the few urban elites while the protectorate people were alienated from such endowment. Consequently, political activities and Legislative Council representation were limited to the colony. In the early 1950s a new paradigm began to surface challenging the status quo of the dominant urban elites. The political landscape began to expand prompting the creation of political parties. In 1951, Reverend J. C. Faye and Ibrahim Garba Jahumpa formed the Gambia Democratic Party (GDP), the following year Garba Jahumpa broke away from GDP and formed the Gambia Muslim Congress (GMC). In 1957, John Bidwell Bright, a philanthropist and entrepreneur, along with Alexander Jobarteh, Melville Benoni Jones, Edrissa Samba and Kebba Foon formed the Gambia National Party (GNP). Pierre S. Njie headed the United Party (UP). The Wyn-Harris Constitution of 1957 amendment allowing Gambians from the age of twenty-one or above to vote or to be voted for, ignited an extraordinary excitement in the political environment. This change in the political landscape provided the provincial people the opportunity to take part in the political process; and as more young provincials graduate from higher institutions, the viability of a protectorate party became a reality.
In light of the Wyn-Harris constitutional amendment, the PPS began to gain prominence and relevance in and around the protectorate. Under the influence of Pa Sanjally Bojang, then a labor contractor in the groundnut business, the society’s membership grew tremendously. However, competitive rivalry began to boil within the society and with other organizations such as Fankanta and Kambeng Kafo led by Ebrima Njie, and Jangjangbureh Kafo under the leadership of Musa Keita. The competitive rivalry caused disenfranchisement within the organizations resulting in the leaderships throwing their support towards others parties in the colony. Pa Sanjally Bojang shifted his support behind the Democratic Congress Alliance led by J. C. Faye and Garba Jahumpa. Ebrima Njie allied with the United Party led by P. S. Njie.
Two weeks prior to end of 1958, Sir Dawda had a conversation with Pa Sanjally and convinced him to reunite with the PPS and to mend the rivalry within the leadership. Pa Sanjally agreed to the recommendation to rejoin the organization and to mend his differences with the society’s leadership. After Pa Sanjally accepted his request, Sir Dawda organized a reconciliation meeting with the PPS, the Fankanta, the Kambeng Kafo and the Jangjangbureh Kafo. Pa Sanjally and his delegation including his chief associates Farba Fatty, Bakary Manneh, and Lang Saho along with Sir Dawda and Lamin Marenah attended the reconciliation meeting. In the midst of heated debate among the factions, Sir Dawda took his turn to talk about unity among the different organizations. He suggested for the organizations to come together and form a unified party. The idea was immediately welcomed by all the leaderships. A reorganization agenda was instantly developed and by the end of the meeting, an executive committee was elected to lead the new organization. Pa Sanjally Bojang was elected president of the new organization. Mamadi Sagnia was elected vice president and Sherrif Sekouba Sisay was elected Secretary General. From then on, the PPS began to strive for recognition as a viable political party, and to influence policy and constitutional changes. In the beginning of 1959, the PPS attended the Brikama Conference to take its rightful place as a political party and challenged the government to consider constitutional reform.
The momentum that came out of the Brikama conference took on a new height at the chief’s conference (Mansa Bengo) in Basse, when the PPS emerged with an extraordinary decision for political representation. The chiefs, Mama Tamba Jammeh of Upper Baddibou, and Jewru Krubally of Fulladou East demanded local representation of all the provincial constituencies rather than representation by the colony. In addition, the PPS including the Chiefs established comprehensive changes in the governance and policies, as well as the services provided in the protectorate. Although Sir Dawda was at the conference in government official capacity only, his inputs were notably crucial during the meeting process. Though the PPS constitution was only in drafted phase, the society’s spokesmen, Jombo Bojang, and Saja Mboge presented to the Chiefs innovative programs for protectorate development. The response on the programs from the people and the Chiefs were so extraordinary and positive that the idea of the PPS becoming a viable political party took center stage. By the end of the conference, on February 14, 1959, the PPS was transformed into a bona fide political party to become the Protectorate People’s Party (PPP).
The leadership of the new Protectorate People’s Party (PPP) came out the Basse Conference energized and ready to take on an even farther-reaching ideas and programs. However, they realized that in order to challenge the urban-based parties while implementing their extraordinary programs, a capable and well-educated individual must lead the party. Hence, the leadership went on hunting for a party leader. One of the people in consideration was Sir Dawda Jawara, then a veterinary surgeon. While at home in Abuko enjoying the serenity of the morning with his family, a PPP delegation, including Sanjally Bojang, Bakary Fofanah and Madiba Janneh showed up at Sir Dawda’s doorstep to have a conversation about the possibility of him leading the new party. After a long and winding conversation, Pa Sanjally asked Sir Dawda directly if he would be willing to lead the new party. Sir Dawda, shocked by the enormity of the request took a long pause to get his thoughts in line. The space became so quiet you can hear a pin drop. After a long juggle of his thought, Sir Dawda finally responded to the delegation. He told them he would need time to consider their request and to consult with his family; and that he will get back to them soon.
After extensive consultation with his family and friends, Sir Dawda accepted the honorable calling of his people to lead them. He resigned from his post as the country’s only veterinary surgeon on February 4, 1960 to become the leader of the PPP.
Following the launching of the PPP, the party gladiators, Famara Wassa Touray, Pa Sanjally Bojang and Jombo Bojang threaded the villages and towns around the country on their bicycles spreading the good news about the new party. The reception from the general public was great. Sir Dawda knew the extraordinary challenges that lay ahead. He knew that before the PPP could change the political dynamic of the country it must be transformed into an inclusive party. In 1960, through the suggestion of the party’s new leadership, the name of the party was changed from the Protectorate People’s Party to the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) to make it inclusive and representative of the entire nation rather than marginalizing the rest of the country as old parties did in the colony. The mission of the PPP was to improve the lives of the protectorate people by bridging the divide that separated the colony from the protectorate thereby create a single united nation in which all people can strive and seek to advance their own lives based on their own abilities. At the core of the PPP’s vision was of a country founded on democratic principles, with self-governance and self-reliance as its mantle.