By Awa B. Bah
Thousands of mourners and sympathisers on Thursday 29th August 2019, occupied the National Assembly of the Gambia in Banjul to pay their last respects and bid farewell to the first president of The Gambia, Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara as he was laid to rest.
His body was escorted from the mortuary, to the King Fahad Mosque and finally to the National Assembly where he was finally laid to rest at 19:00 hrs. The first president of the Gambia who was in power for thirty years was finally brought down in 1994 in a coup d’état.
The speaker of the National Assembly, Mariam Jack Denton, in her statement said that The Gambians have gathered to pay their last respects to “an icon who was not only a leader, but someone who many can reflect on during difficult times”. The day, she noted, is a sad day because the country has lost an irreplaceable soul and a noble servant of their time. She expressed her gratitude particularly to him for the years he spent devoted to the lives of the Gambian people both at national, regional and continental levels. She called on the widow Lady Chillel to continue her devotion as she is a clear example to all women in the country because she had played a big role in the life of late Jawara.
Dr. Lamin Marenah, a family friend of the late Sir Dawda Jawara hailed Jawara for his achievements, noting that Jawara did not enrich himself as we have seen around the world but devoted his entire life in liberating Gambians. He thanked the Gambian people for standing with them throughout this moment.
Dawda Jawara junior on behalf of the Jawara family reflected on the examples his father lived. He said that Jawara was very neutral and fair on issues under his purview without taking sides, but being able to see all sides. He noted that Jawara faced lots of challenges in both his public and personal lives.
Omar Jallow commonly called OJ, a onetime minister under Jawara on behalf of the former cabinet ministers noted that Jawara played a key role in liberating The Gambia both at the national and international levels in economic, social, cultural and many areas; against tyranny and suppression. Jawara he said, encompasses everyone without regard to race, sex, tribe, gender and so on, adding that Jawara never undermines the constitution and legal instruments of The Gambia. OJ also used the day to encourage widow Lady Chillel for her duty to the nation through her late husband Jawara. He also thanked the Senegalese Niassen delegation for their attendance, Jawara being a close friend to Baye Niasse.
Sidia Jatta National Assembly member for Wuli West on behalf of the NAMs said the day is a reality as death is the only reality of our existence. “What most marked me about Jawara was his tolerance, Jawara never arrested, detained or humiliated , or violated any of his working mates as we have seen around the world”, said Sidia Jatta. Jawara he said, was a true democrat and that lessons must be drawn from him. He called on the younger generation to see the late Jawara as a life lesson.
Chief justice Hassan B. Jallow a onetime Chief Justice and Attorney General under Jawara for ten years delivered a statement on the struggles and achievements of Jawara both at national and international levels. He said that Africa has lost an icon while the Gambia has lost a great son. Jawara he said, has maintained sovereignty of The Gambia despite being faced with challenges.
The president, Adama Barrow in his statement extended his condolences to the family and the Gambian people. He affirmed the young people to carefully reflect on the routes Jawara passed through. He consented that the day is a sad and sorrowful one as The Gambia finally laid the most devoted person and the father of the nation who led the struggle for the Gambia “we are calling for today”. Jawara he said, will not be only mourned but will he heavily celebrated and strongly recommended as the most prominent African leader in these generations. He extended his condolences to the family and the entire Gambian population, urging all to take responsibility and safeguard what Jawara has left behind.