By Kebba Ansu Manneh
Engineer Alieu Basadi Jawara, cousin brother of the late Gambian first president Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, revealed in an exclusive interview with The voice that his cousin was never hungry to stay in power forever, as he expressed his willingness to relinquish power at the party’s biennial convention in 1992.
The former president was keen to restore the rule of law, democracy and good governance in the country even after he was ousted from power by the military junta led by army lieutenant Yahya AJJ Jammeh on July 22 1994.
Engineer Jawara, who was at the time the army overthrew President Jawara, was pursuing his study program in Canada on a Canadian scholarship ticket, said the 1994 coup d’etat was a big surprise for the whole Jawara family.
He said there was no indication of a justifiable and compelling situation that could justify a possible coup by the Jawara regime rooted in democratic dispensation, rule of law and good governance.
He pointed out that Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, in fact, openly expressed his desire and readiness to cede power to a possible successor during a People’s Progressive Party (PPP) congress held in Mansakonko, Lower River Division (LRD). ) in 1992. He revealed that the former president’s decision was overruled by PPP delegates, including ministers, chiefs and ordinary members, who all convinced him to stay put for two years before the army from illegally taking control of the country.
“On July 22, 1994, I was in Canada pursuing the course of study I had obtained on the Canadian government scholarship when I heard disturbing news of disturbances at home. I promptly contacted Sir Dawda to inform me but I could not reach him through his contact but I managed to reach my brother who told me that it was about disturbances organized by the army”, he recalls the events of July 22, 1994.
According to him, he was later informed that the US Ambassador convinced Sir Dawda to enter their naval ship which was anchored in port at the time in their efforts to engage the military, but this engagement failed and the ship left for Senegal where all his efforts were frustrated and blocked, leading to the success of the coup.
He reiterated that Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara had initially refused to heed the US Ambassador’s advice to take refuge in the US Navy ship, therefore he was not prepared to leave without engaging the army, but was eventually forced onto the navy ship and into Senegal where he was temporarily stranded and cut off from the world in his efforts to restore democratic rule in the country.
He went further in his account: “We (the family members) did not expect any form of coup in the country during this period, because before the military takeover in 1994, free and fairs were held in 1992, which Sir Dawda won overwhelmingly. The economy was also recovering after the economic stimulus program, the tourism industry was booming, the civil service was very efficient, well organized and efficient, the rule of law, democracy and the rights of every Gambian were highly respected and guaranteed.
He added that “Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara was an accomplished technocrat who did not go into development without doing studies and weighing the benefits and impacts. He believes in viable and sustainable developments as evidenced by many of his projects including Gamtel, Gambia Ports Authority, Gambia Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) as well as many other institutions still benefiting from it in the country.
According to him, even after Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara’s last move to the United Kingdom (UK), he never stopped pursuing democratic paths to restore the rule of law in The Gambia by engaging the UN, l AU, UK Government, ECOWAS and Nigeria. Some of these efforts resulted in the announcement of a transition timetable, the establishment of a provisional electoral commission and the return of elections in the country.
He described the former president as an exemplary leader, a good statesman full of wisdom and respect for human rights and democracy, and some of the family members who were against the former president in granting them privileges later apologized to him for saving them from the wrath of the military as is usually the case in other countries where coups have taken place.
“Sir Dawda was such a leader who believed in due process, he did not believe in doing favors to his close friends and family at the expense of the nation and that saved almost all of his families and friends. The military allegedly humiliated his family members and friends for possible corruption charges. Suppose he implanted them in key positions in the government, but that could not happen because he was not doing them any favors or giving them any privileges,” Alieu Basadi Jawara explained.
He noted that the only problem the Jawara family members had at the hands of the military junta was when some of them participated in a planned PPP protest at the US Embassy and were arrested, detained and prosecuted. However, no member of the Jawara family has been charged with corruption, embezzlement or acquiring property illegally or under the influence of former President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara.
He dismissed any suggestion of comparing or contrasting the regime of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara and Yahya Jammeh, he said the former came to power through the ballot box while the latter through the gun barrels which the regime resulted in massacres of Gambians and non-Gambians.
He called on President Adama Barrow’s government to emulate former President Jawara’s “Tesito” agricultural programs that helped boost agriculture in the country, and that the former president did not absolve his responsibilities to the farmers and the agricultural sector, “he did everything to support farmers during the rainy season to enable them to stay on the farms.
“If I have the opportunity to advise President Barrow and his government, I would advise them to follow Sir Dawda’s agricultural policies and agricultural development programs in the country.
Our agricultural sector must not be left unattended as farmers need support to push for agricultural development. That is why, under Jawara’s regime, farmers received support in terms of farming tools, subsidies on fertilizers and seeds, and even good supplies during the rainy season,” Jawara explained.
He claimed that “our agricultural sector and farmers have not had the support since Sir Dawda left, during Jammeh’s time everyone was working for him alone which led to the collapse of the sector. So the best thing for this government to do is to revive “Tesito”, empower farmers and make farming a lucrative investment business that can attract people to farming.
Alieu Basadi Jawara, who recently returned home after many years in exile, called on young Gambians to take up entrepreneurship and said all the young people needed was a little capital to invest and manage well. , thus tearing up the profits in no less than three years for the company to take care of you.