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Mourning Sir Dawda: Gambia lowers flags at public institutions to half mast

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Flags at public institutions in the Gambia are to be lowered to half-mast to mourn the death of country’s first president Dawda Kairaba Jawara, President Adama Barrow has ordered. Jawara passed away on Tuesday peacefully at his home in Fajara. He was 95.

A state funeral for the elder statesman who took the small nation to independence will take place on Thursday afternoon at the National Assembly of the Gambia.

“In honor of his enduring legacy, President Barrow has ordered that the former president be accorded a befitting state funeral and that flags at all public institutions to fly at half-mast,” said President Barrow on the official Facebook page of the presidency.

Jawara’s death came as a shock to many. Social media sites of the country are inundated with messages of condolences.

“The passing of Former President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara has sent shock waves across the whole nation and beyond,” said Barrow.

“He was a highly revered elderly Statesman who had sacrificed and served The Gambia with distinction, compassion, and dedication.”

Meanwhile, the United States embassy in the country has also announced it was lowering its flag to mourn Kairaba’s passing.

A founder leader of the Gambia, Jawara led the Gambia to independence in 1965 and became the first President on April 24, 1970 after the country became a republic.

Jawara was born in May 1924. He served as a national leader as prime minister from 1962 to 1970. In July 1994, he was toppled by Yahya Jammeh. He fled to UK where he lived for couple of years.

Following this, he went into exile, but returned in 2002, and now lives in retirement in The Gambia. At 95, he is currently the oldest living former Gambian Head of State.

Jawara was born in Barajally, Central River Region. He is the son of Mamma Fatty and Almami Jawara. He was educated at the Methodist Boys’ School in Bathurst and then attended Achimota College in Ghana.

He trained as a veterinary surgeon at the University of Glasgow‘s School of Veterinary Medicine and then completed his training at the University of Liverpool. He returned to The Gambia in 1953 and married Augusta Mahoney, beginning work as a veterinary officer. He decided to enter politics and became secretary of the new People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and was elected to the House of Representatives in the 1960 election.

He became the leader of the PPP and then the country’s first Prime Minister in 1962, only the second ever head of government following Pierre Sarr N’Jie‘s term as Chief Minister.

The greatest challenge to Jawara’s power came in 1981 when an attempted coup d’état took place and soldiers from neighbouring Senegal were forced to intervene, with 400 to 800 deaths reported by the end of the coup attempt.

Following the coup attempt, Jawara and Senegalese President Abdou Diouf announced the creation of the Senegambia Confederation, but it collapsed in 1989.

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