Gambia state funeral underway for founding leader

APA-Banjul (The Gambia)

The body of Gambia's independence leader Sir Dawda Jawara has been lying in state in the main chamber of the National Assembly in Banjul before it was taken to the capital's main mosque for the customary religious rites ahead of a state burial on Thursday evening.

Gambia's first president who ruled for 32 years before he was overthrown in a military coup 25 years ago, died at his home on Tuesday at the age of 95.

Speaker after speaker including President Adama Barrow, politicians Omar A Jallow, Sidia Jatta and Chief Justice Hassan B Jallow eugolised the man and converged on the idea that the former leader has left and indelible mark not only in his country but in the wider world thanks to his humility, honesty, fairness and selflessness.

Jawara's coffin draped in the national colours was carried into the bowel of the National Assembly complex and placed on a table by six military pallbearers accompanied by two parallel lines of soldiers marching in solemn fashion on either side.

Hundreds of mourners had filed past the coffin as throngs of others wept or kept vigil outside the assembly complex.

The remains of the man who is revered as the father of Gambian independence were earlier on Thursday taken to the main mosque in Banjul where the first customary Muslim rites were performed in the presence of teeming crowds of mourners.

Gambians of all stripes began flocking to the nation's capital as early as 6am ahead of the funeral.    

Jawara's remains will be buried on the grounds of the National Assembly later on Thursday.

In the meantime, tributes have been pouring in thick and fast for the elder statesman whose name is liberally juxtaposed with democracy, human rights and the rule of law during the course of his leadership.

The Glasgow-trained veterinarian negotiated and took The Gambia to  independence in 1965 at a time when much of the world saw Africa’s smallest country as an improbable nation with no viability to last any length of time.

Since returning from exile in the United Kingdom in 2002, ex-president Jawara has been living a quiet retirement life in his Fajara residence, 14km south of Banjul.

Jawara was born to a modest family in Barrajally, 226km east of the  Gambian capital in 1924 and first went to school at the age of 13.

He would later enrol in Achimota College in Ghana before earning a degree in Veterinary Science from Glasgow University in Scotland.

He entered politics in 1959.


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