The death of Gambia’s former President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara has been announced. The former President who led the small West African Nation to independence in 1965 from British colonial rule died peacefully at his home in Faraja in the early hours Tuesday August 27th, 2019. He was 95 years old.
The eldest statesman who ruled the Gambia for thirty years will be largely remembered for his respect for human rights, democracy and rule of law throughout his tenure as President. Gambians across the globe and the international community remembers Sir Dawda Jawara for his leadership in the areas of peace, security and most importantly his compassionate modesty and respect for the dignity of his fellow citizens. He championed human rights and was known to be a peace maker throughout the world.
Many Gambians are mourning the Statesman and celebrating his legacy as a man of peace, respect and care for his fellow human beings. Many described him as a “simple and peaceful man”. He was a great family man and a leader who cared beyond his small nation of the Gambia. Some who worked with him said his decision making was exemplary and that he took his time, pondered over issues before making his decisions. He cared about the people who surrounded him and his country.
Sir Dawda was ousted out of power in 1994 through a military coup after expressing his willingness to relinquish power few years earlier. The bloodless coup that saw him packing later turned bloody after the military junta tasted power and stayed beyond the transition time they promised. Years later after the military established themselves in power, the eldest statesman was allowed to return to his native Gambia to live peacefully as an elder statesman.
Sir Dawda’s legacy would be largely remembered for his compassion, human rights records, respect for rule of law and democracy. He was gifted with oratory skills that many admired him for. He was a trained medical veterinarian who would later lead the “Probable Nation” The Gambia to independence in 1965. Throughout his 30 years rule Gambia remained largely peaceful except the 1981 coup attempt by disgruntled field forces which led to the killing of hundreds of Gambians. He was restored to power by neighboring Senegal when the rebels showed signs of weakness and lack of control of the state.
On balance, sir Dawda left a legacy of decency, compassion and respect for constitutional democracy. His critics will point out his unfortunate length of stay in power for 30 years which was ended by a military junta. His government had a strong civil service and respect for institutional democracy and human values. His weakness of course came from his compassion and inability to confront the forces of economic disruption which saw moderate development in the country. Many blamed his team’s lack of foresight in economic development which ultimately stops at his doorsteps.
Sir Dawda is survived by his wife Ajaratou Lady Chilel Jawara the former first lady of the Gambia, sons and daughters with several grand and great grandchildren. He was a family man and welcomed several Gambians to his home for visitation and prayers. His legacy of decency and respect for democracy lives on. He will be laid to rest on Thursday August 29th in the Gambia. May his soul rest in eternal peace.