The Funeral of Sir Dawda K. Jawara: Will President Seize the Opportunity for Reconciliation?
By Musa Bah:
Gambians of all walks of life are united in their grief following the demise of Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, the first president of the Republic. Sir Dawda passed away on Tuesday morning and the news shocked the nation.
A short while after the news of his demise, President Adama Barrow led a delegation of government officials to pay condolences to the bereaved Jawara family in their family home in Fajara. Later, the Statehouse announced that there will be a state funeral for the man many regard as the Father of the Nation on Thursday.
Without a shadow of a doubt, Sir Dawda was a unifying figure who transformed the Gambia from an improbable nation to a democracy known around the world for its respect for Human Rights and Rule of Law. He was respected and admired not only here at home but all over the world.
No Gambian will doubt the great contribution of Sir Dawda and his being a very peaceful and Human Rights champion. His efforts in the fight against human rights abuse were immortalized when the African Charter on Human and People's Rights was headquartered here in Banjul by the Organization of African Union (now African Union). In fact, the charter is often referred to as the Banjul Charter.
This is a great honour for the Gambia and all Gambians. I have no doubt in my mind that Sir Dawda's legacy is his Human Rightsrecord. He was an icon who was able to live peaceful with everyone, including his political opponents. Everyone is agreed on this fact.
As the entire nation mourns the fall of a great hero, a democrat, defender of human rights and the rule of law, it will be prudent if President Adama Barrow and his government were to use this occasion to extend the olive branch and begin a political reconciliation.
There is no doubt that the country is currently polarized. The Adama Barrow camp and the United Democratic Party (UDP) are at daggers drawn all the time. The other political parties are equally divided with some sympathising with Barrow while others tend to lean with Lawyer Ousainou Darboe.
The fallen hero had an excellent manner in which he used to tackle his political opponents without making them feel that he was their enemy. He had inculcated a culture of political tolerance which saw the country emerge as one of the most peaceful countries in the African continent. This went on until the coup d'etat in 1994 which toppled his government.
Even in that, he ultimately accepted his fate and came home to live here peacefully as an elderly statesman. He reconciled with Yahya Jammeh and stayed here in peace, dignity and self respect. Therein lies a lesson for our present political leadership.
The government should use this opportunity to extend a hand of reconciliation, especially considering the thorny issue of Three Years Jotna. Dialogue is the key to solving many, if not most, of our problems.
Take note Mr President!