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Sir Dauda Kairaba Jawara

Sir Dauda Kairaba Jawara

Sir Dauda Kairaba Jawara (born 1924) led his nation of the Gambia to independence and became its first president. Until a military coup in 1994, this veterinary surgeon brought years of stable parliamentary democracy to Africa's smallest republic.

Dauda Jawara was born into a Moslem Mandingo family at Barajally, MacCarthy Island Division, in the Gambian Protectorate, a British colony. He was educated in a local Moslem primary institution and at the Methodist Boys' Grammar School. From 1945 to 1947 Jawara was a trainee nurse in the Gambia Medical Department.

Medical School

Awarded a veterinary scholarship, Jawara spent a year studying science at Achimoto College in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). After passing his intermediate bachelor of science examination, he entered the University of Glasgow and graduated from the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1953. Jawara was president of the African Students' Union during his years in Scotland.

Upon his return to Africa as his country's first veterinarian, Jawara worked up-country for a short while before joining the government veterinary service in January 1954. In 1958, a year after earning a diploma in tropical veterinary medicine from Glasgow, he became the colony's principal veterinary officer, a post he held until February 1960.

Disturbed by the unequal development between his native Mandingo tribal area and the capital city of Bathurst, he joined the Protectorate People's Party in 1959. By December he was in charge of the organization, which changed its name to the People's Progressive Party.

Jawara resigned his government post to contest the May 1960 elections, in which he won a seat in the House of Representatives. Appointed minister of education (1960-1961) by the British, he spent part of that time in London as a member of a finance delegation.

When Pierre Saar N'Jie, leader of the opposition United Party, was appointed first chief minister of the colony in 1961, Jawara resigned from the government. In the next elections, the People's Progressive Party won the majority of House seats, and Jawara was called on to form a government. He thus became Gambia's first premier. When the Gambia achieved independence, on February 18, 1965, he became the prime minister of this smallest African nation. Located on the western coast and containing only 4,127 square miles, the Gambia is a 30-mile-wide strip of land surrounded on three sides by Senegal. Jawara negotiated the Defense and Foreign Representation Agreement, which placed an independent Gambia within the protection of Senegal's foreign affairs.

Sir David

Jawara was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1966. He had become a Christian in 1955 and was known as "David" thereafter, but he returned to his Moslem faith in 1965. His wife, the former Augusta Mahoney, an Aku trained in nursing in Britain, campaigned with her husband each time he ran for reelection, urging women to become actively interested in politics. The Jawaras had five children.

When an April 1970 referendum changed the Gambia's status to a republic, Jawara became the country's first president. He headed one of Africa's most stable and successful parliamentary democracies until, after 24 years in power, he was brought down by a bloodless military coup.

Further Reading

Harry A. Gailey, Jr., A History of the Gambia (1964), discusses Jawara's political career; an informal study of Gambia and its politics is Berkeley Rice, Enter Gambia: The Birth of an Improbable Nation (1967). □

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Gambia, The

Gambia, The


11,300sq km (4363sq mi)



capital (population):

Banjul (57,800)


Military, transitional

ethnic groups:

Mandinka (Mandingo or Malinke) 40%, Fulani (Peul) 19%, Wolof 15%, Dyola 10%, Soninke 8%


English (official)


Islam 95%, Christianity 4%, traditional beliefs 1%


Dalasi = 100 butut

Republic of The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa; the capital is Banjul.

Land and Climate

The Gambia consists of a narrow strip of land bordering the River Gambia, and is enclosed by Senegal, except for a short Atlantic coastline. Near the sea, the land is flat. Gambia has hot, humid summers. In winter (November to May), temperatures drop to c.16°C (61°F). Mangrove swamps line the river banks. Much tropical savanna has been cleared for farming. Gambia is rich in wildlife.

History and Politics

Portuguese mariners reached Gambia's coast in 1455, when the area was part of the Mali empire. In the 16th century, Portuguese and English slave traders operated in the area. In 1664, the British established a settlement and later founded a colony, Senegambia (1765), which included parts of present-day Gambia and Senegal. In 1783, this was handed over to France. In 1816, Britain founded Bathurst (now Banjul) as a base for its anti-slavery operations. In 1888, Gambia became a British colony and remained under British rule until it achieved full independence in 1965 with Dawda Jawara as prime minister. In 1970, The Gambia became a republic. In 1981, an attempted coup was defeated with the help of Senegalese troops. In 1992, Jawara was re-elected as president for a fifth term. In July 1994, he was overthrown in a military coup, led by Yahya Jammeh. In 1996, Jammeh was elected president. His regime faced charges of political repression. In 2000, more than 12 people were shot dead during student demonstrations. In 2001, Jammeh lifted the ban on opposition parties and was elected for a second term in office.


Agriculture employs more than 80% of the workforce (2000 GDP per capita US$1100). The main food crops are cassava, millet, and sorghum; groundnuts are the leading export. Tourism is increasingly important.

Political map

Physical map


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Jawara, Sir Dauda Kairaba

Sir Dauda Kairaba Jawara (dou´də kīrä´bə jäwär´ə), 1924–, president of Gambia (1970–94). A veterinarian, he became active in politics in 1960 and leader of the People's Progressive party. Entering government as minister of education (1960–61), he also served as first minister (1962–70). In 1970, Gambia became a republic with Jawara as president. During the early 1980s, Jawara survived, with Senegalese aid, armed rebellions and coups and was reelected in 1987. In 1989, he oversaw dissolution of the Senegambian confederation and gained renewed popularity, but he was overthrown in an army coup in 1994.

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