A SPECIAL TRIBUTE AND EULOGY TO SIR DAWDA KAIRABA JAWARA
By Lamin Jassey
Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, GCMG was born in Barajali, on 16 May, 1924. He was a politician who was a significant national leader of The Gambia serving as its Prime Minister from 1962 to 1970, and then as its first President from 1970 to 1994. Sir Dawda, is the statesman who also led The Gambia to nationhood on 18th February 1965, when many thought that The Gambia could not sustain herself. DK, was resolute, determined and forwarding looking with great hopes for little Gambia when he took the instruments of power from the Duke of Kent. He took over the country with very little resources, no mineral resources, poor infrastructure and with very few educated individuals mainly concentrated in what we now call the greater Banjul area.
UNITY OF THE NATION
The first mission of Kairaba was fostering ‘ethnic and cultural unity’ in a country that was ruled by the British for many years. He was able to bridge the gap between the protectorates and people dwelling around the capital city. Sir Dawda, been a democrat himself was also able to institute or establish democracy in The Gambia in a unique fashion. As the leader of the nation, Sir Dawda, upheld the principles of democracy and conducted the business of his government through democratic means. He was hailed by many of his colleagues for championing democracy and human rights in the subregion during his presidency. The Africa Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, is headquartered in The Gambia thanks to the great works of the father of our nation
The economy was in a dire state when Sir took over the country. Expectations were very high from the farmers in the provinces who thought the new government will have a magic solutions to their problems. Though, it took the Jawara government a while to stabilise the economy, but they succeeded at it in the long run. The government was able to support the farmers in groundnut and cotton production which were exported to the world market. Agriculture became the backbone of the economy and constituted nearly 70% of the country’s GDP.
Sir Dawda’s government was also able to develop viable State enterprises which supported the economy and enhanced employment opportunities in The Gambia. Parastatals such as, Gamtel, Gambia Ports Authority, Social Security and Housing Finance Corporation just to name a few had transformed the economy of the country. Meanwhile, all these viable state enterprises where completely looted by the former president Yaya Jammeh to satisfy his lifestyle during the past 22 years of his rule.
I can say without any doubt that Kairaba, was a master politician who mastered the game of politics and also chose his words very carefully, especially when responding his opponents. His great sense of humour earned him many friends and turned many of his adversaries into admirers. DK, never lost an election since he became President of the Country and had not issued any threats to the minorities tribe in order to gain their votes, nor did he use the police or the military to campaign for him or maltreat his opponent, and did not allow civil servants to actively campaign for him on any political platform. He won all those numerous elections through conventional politics in civility and on a level playing field.
Meanwhile, some of his critics say he had overstayed and was too lenient on his Ministers some whom were accused of corruption. Well, that may be true, but at least he had never forced himself on the people, rather was the citizens who wanted him to continue ruling them all those years.
RESPECTED IN AFRICA
The glorious son of Barajali, was very well respected amongst his peers during his presidency and until his demise. He made great contributions to the African Union and ECOWAS. Many leaders on the African continent learned a lot from Sir Dawda, and were also inspired by his leadership style, as well as, how he promoted democracy and the rule of law not only in the Gambia, but in also the subregion. He played a great role to end the war in Liberia and participated in many mediation efforts to bring about peace in many countries around the world including the conflict between Iran and Iraq.
Recently, in recognition of his invaluable contributions to the African Union, his picture was placed on the wall of AU building as a mark of respect and honour. The current president of The Gambia, President Adama Barrow, had the rare opportunity to be among dignitaries who had the honour to put the picture up. I think that is a direct challenge to the new president of The Gambia. President Barrow should set himself to outperform Sir Dawda, as he has an overwhelming support both nationally and internationally.
THE LAW OF NATURE
The law of nature is such that, ‘if you do good, good lives with you and follows you too. If you do bad, it also lives with you and follows you to your grave if you don’t repent.’
Sir Dawda’s premiership was punctuated with fairness, tolerance, forgiveness, and humanity. He respected the lives of citizens and never condoned torture talk less of murdering his own people like chicken. These good deeds lived with him after his presidency and until he departed from the face of this earth.
It was before our very own eyes when Yaya Jammeh forced him on exile, but, Allah forced Yaya Jammeh to bring him back to The Gambia. Allah also forced his mind, heart and hands to return all his properties to him and allow him to live in a dignified life in the country.
But, let it be clear, that was not the work of Yaya Jammeh, that is the fruits of Sir Dawda’s labour when he was in power. When I first authored an article for Sir DAWDA, I predicted that Sir Dawda, will die in The Gambia and accorded a state funeral. I am extremely glad that has/will come to pass. He shall always be remembered for all the good reasons and his name will ever be glorified until the end of time.
Much thanks to President Barrow and his Government for according him a state funeral, ordering flags on all public buildings to fly half-mast and declaring three days of mourning. We are extremely delighted that the President personally visited Sir DAWDA’s compound yesterday where he spoke well of the father of our nation.
I am extremely delighted that just like many Gambians, I celebrated DR. SABARI when he was alive and also had the rare opportunity to personally present to him the tribute I wrote about him in the form of a birthday message. I still remember that very day and moment when I read to Sir DAWDA, an excerpt of my tribute dealing with the law of nature, both him and Mama Chilel shedded tears. I was really touched by that and can still feel in my heart and soul.
I must take this opportunity to thank LADY CHILEL, for standing for and by the father of our nation till his last breath on the face of earth. Mama Chilel, has proven beyond all reasonable doubt that she was indeed a true partner to Baba Jawara.
We also thank the current First Lady, Fatou Bah Barrow, who was frequently visiting the house of Sir DAWDA. In fact, she visited the house a day before he died.
Sir Dawda’s life story should be an inspiration to us and should serve as an example for the entire nation. The way he conducted himself and treated others remain a big lesson for all.
REST IN PERFECT PEACE DK. SABARI, UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN. AMEEN.
Lamin Jassey is the CEO and secretary general of Gambia Football Federation.He hold a master’s degree in International Development (Governance and State-building) from University of Birmingham