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Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, Gambia’s first post-independence president who led The Gambia for 24 years until he was deposed in 1994 / Photo: Screenshot/FatouTV

Gambia mourns first post-independence leader

Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, Gambia’s first post-independence president who led the small West African country for 24 years before being deposed in a 1994 coup, has died at the age of 95, the Gambian presidency said on Tuesday.

The office of President Adama Barrow, whose election in 2016 brought an end to the rule of the army officer who toppled Alhaji Jawara, Yahya Jammeh, hailed the late president as “an elder statesman” and Gambia’s “founding father”.

A veterinarian by training, Jawara in 1959 founded the Protectorate People’s Party, later rechristened the People’s Progressive Party, which emerged as the dominant political force following independence from Britain in 1965.

He served as prime minister from 1962-70, as the newly-independent Gambia remained a constitutional monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1970, Gambia adopted a republican constitution by referendum and Jawara was elected its first president.

Over the next two decades, he presided over a multi-party political system in a region plagued by authoritarian rule and frequent civil unrest.

He drew criticism in the later years for nepotism and corruption. That helped open the door to the military coup that unseated him and which was initially welcomed by many Gambians. His reputation has risen again since the removal of Jammeh.

A statement by Barrow’s office noted that Jawara was affectionately known as “Kairaba Jawara”, or “Peaceful Jawara”.

With agency report

 

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