Dawda Jawara
Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, GCMG
Order of St Michael and St George
The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George is an order of chivalry founded on 28 April 1818 by George, Prince Regent, later George IV of the United Kingdom, while he was acting as Prince Regent for his father, George III....

 (born May 16, 1924) was the first leader of The Gambia
The Gambia
The Republic of The Gambia, commonly referred to as The Gambia, or Gambia , is a country in West Africa. Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, surrounded by Senegal except for a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean in the west....

, serving first as Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 from 1962 to 1970 and then as President
Heads of state of the Gambia
-Heads of State of The Gambia :-Affiliations:*PPP - People's Progressive Party*APRC - Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction*Mil - Military of the Gambia...

 from 1970 to 1994.

Initially trained as a veterinary surgeon at the Glasgow veterinary school he then moved to complete his training at Liverpool University, he served as prime minister from 1962 until 1970. After the country abolished the rule of the Monarchy of the United Kingdom
Monarchy of the United Kingdom
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

, they became a republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

 through a referendum and Jawara became the first president on April 24, 1970.

Born Kairaba Jawara on May 16, 1924 at Barajally
Barajally is a small town in central Gambia. It is located in Niani District in the Central River Division. As of 2008, it has an estimated population of 878. It is the birthplace of President Dawda Jawara.-External links:*...

, MacCarthy Island Division (now Central River Division
Central River Division
Central River is the largest of the five administrative divisions of The Gambia. Its capital is Janjanbureh , on MacCarthy Island...

). His parents were Mamma Fatty and Almami Jawara, Sir Dawda was educated at the Methodist Boys’ High School in colonial Bathurst (now Banjul
-Transport:Ferries sail from Banjul to Barra. The city is served by the Banjul International Airport. Banjul is on the Trans–West African Coastal Highway connecting it to Dakar and Bissau, and will eventually provide a paved highway link to 11 other nations of ECOWAS.Banjul International Airport...

), then attended Achimota College in Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

, he then finished his studies at the University of Glasgow
University of Glasgow
The University of Glasgow is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's four ancient universities. Located in Glasgow, the university was founded in 1451 and is presently one of seventeen British higher education institutions ranked amongst the top 100 of the...


Childhood and Early Education

Dawda Jawara was born in 1924 to Almammi Jawara and Mamma Fatty in the village of Barajally Tenda in the central region of The Gambia
The Gambia
The Republic of The Gambia, commonly referred to as The Gambia, or Gambia , is a country in West Africa. Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, surrounded by Senegal except for a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean in the west....

, approximately 150 miles from the capital, Bathurst
-Transport:Ferries sail from Banjul to Barra. The city is served by the Banjul International Airport. Banjul is on the Trans–West African Coastal Highway connecting it to Dakar and Bissau, and will eventually provide a paved highway link to 11 other nations of ECOWAS.Banjul International Airport...

. One of six sons, Dawda is the lastborn on his mother’s side and a younger brother to sister Na Ceesay and brothers Basaddi and Sheriffo Jawara. Their father Almammi, who had several wives, was a well-to-do trader who commuted from Barajally Tenda to his trading post in Wally Kunda. Dawda from an early age attended the local Arabic schools to memorize the Quran, a rite of passage for many Gambian children. Needless to say, there were no primary schools in Barajally Tenda; the nearest was in Georgetown, the provincial capital, but this boarding school was reserved for the sons of the chiefs.

Yet, as fate would have it, around 1933, young Jawara’s formal education was sponsored by a friend of his father’s,a trader named Ebrima Youma Jallow, whose trading post was across the street from Alammi’s in Wally-Kunda. Dawda was then enrolled at Mohammedan primary school. After graduation from Mohammedan, Jawara won a scholarship to a all Boys High School, where he enjoyed all his classes, but showed the greatest aptitude in science and math. Upon matriculation in 1945, he worked as a nurse until 1947 at the Victoria Hospital in colonial Bathurst. The limited career and educational opportunities in colonial Gambia led to a year’s stint at Achimota College in Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

, where he studied science. While at Achimota College, Jawara showed little interest in politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, even when Ghana and many colonies in Africa at the time were beginning to become restless for political independence
Independence is a condition of a nation, country, or state in which its residents and population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory....

 or internal self-government. While he was happy to have met Ghana’s founding father, Kwame N’Krumah, the impact did not prove significant at the time.

After attending Achimota College, Jawara won a scholarship to Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

’s Glasgow University to study veterinary medicine. This was indeed a remarkable accomplishment for two reasons. First, it was noteworthy at the time because colonial education was intended to train Africans for the most menial of clerical tasks in the civil service. And secondly, it was rare for Gambians to be awarded scholarships in the sciences. It was at Glasgow University in the late 1940s, that Jawara’s interest in politics began. In 1948 he joined the African Students Association and was later elected secretary-general and president, respectively. Also, while at Glasgow, Jawara honed his political interests and skills by joining the Student Labour Party Organization, Forward Group, and became active in labor politics of the time. Though never a “leftist,” Jawara immersed himself in the Labour Party’s socialist politics and ideology. At Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...

 Jawara met Cheddi Jeggan, Guyana
Guyana , officially the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, previously the colony of British Guiana, is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America that is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and of the British...

’s future “leftist” prime minister, and classified this period in his life “as very interesting politically” . It was a moment of rising Pan-Africanist fervor and personal growth politically. Yet, still a political career was furthest from Jawara’s mind upon completing his studies in 1953.

Return to The Gambia

When Jawara returned home in 1953 after completing his studies as a veterinary surgeon, he served first as a veterinary officer. He became a Christian, and now, as “David,” in 1955 married Augusta Mahoney, daughter of Sir John Mahoney, a prominent Aku in Bathurst. The Aku, a small and relatively educated group, are descendants of freed slaves who settled in The Gambia after manumission
Manumission is the act of a slave owner freeing his or her slaves. In the United States before the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which abolished most slavery, this often happened upon the death of the owner, under conditions in his will.-Motivations:The...

. Despite their relatively small size, they came to dominate both the social, political and economic life of the colony. It was this class that young David Jawara married into. Many opponents claim that it was a pragmatic, albeit an unusual, fulfillment of Jawara’s wish to marry a well-to-do Anglican woman.

As a veterinary officer, Jawara traveled the length and breadth of the Gambia for months vaccinating cattle
Cattle are the most common type of large domesticated ungulates. They are a prominent modern member of the subfamily Bovinae, are the most widespread species of the genus Bos, and are most commonly classified collectively as Bos primigenius...

. In the process, he established valuable social contacts and relationships with the relatively well-to-do cattle owners in the protectorate. Indeed, it is this group, together with the district chiefs and village heads, who in later years formed the bulk of his initial political support. As indicated previously, British colonial policy at that time divided The Gambia into two sections; the colony and the protectorate. Adults in the colony area, which included Bathurst and the Kombo St. Mary sub-regions, were franchised, while their counterparts in the protectorate were not. What this meant in effect was that political activity and representation at the Legislative Council were limited to the Colony. At the time of his return to The Gambia, politics in the colony were dominated by a group of urban elites from Bathurst and the Kombo St. Mary’s areas. Needless to say, at a meeting in 1959 at Basse, a major commercial town almost at the end of the Gambia River, the leadership of the People’s Progressive Society decided on a name change, designed to challenge the urban-based parties and their leaders. Thus was born the Protectorate People’s Party.

In that same year, a delegation headed by Sanjally Bojang, a well-off patron and founding member of the new party, together with Bokarr Fofanah and Madiba Janneh, arrived at Abuko to inform Jawara of his nomination as secretary of the party. Jawara resigned his position as chief veterinary officer in order to contest the 1960 election. In that same year, the Protectorate People’s Party was renamed the People’s Progressive Party
People's Progressive Party (The Gambia)
The People's Progressive Party is a moderate centre-left political party in The Gambia. It was the dominant ruling party from 1965 with president Dawda Jawara. He was elected for a sixth term of office in 1992, but was overthrown in a coup by young army officers in 1994...

 (PPP). The name change could not be more timely and appropriate, for it, in principle if not in practice, made the party inclusive as opposed to the generally held perception of it being a Mandinka-based party. Over time, the PPP and Jawara would supersede the urban-based parties and their leaders. This change is what Arnold Hughes termed a “Green Revolution,” a political process in which a rural elite emerges to challenge and ultimately defeat an urban-based political petty-bourgeoisie. Jawara’s political ascendance to the head of the party was hardly contested. As one of the few university graduates from the protectorate, the only other possible alternative candidate was Dr. Lamin Marena from Kudang . In fact, some sources indicated that Marena was the first choice for the post of secretary general, which he declined. Jawara’s origin as a member of the cobbler caste was not looked upon favorably by some within the party and the electorate who claimed to, and in many cases actually did, come from royal background. In time, however, the issue of caste became less important, as the 1960 election results would demonstrate.

Self-Government in The Gambia

In 1962, Jawara became Prime Minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

, which laid the foundation for PPP and Jawara domination of The Gambia’s political landscape. With Jawara’s rise to power after the 1962 elections, the colonial administration began a gradual withdrawal from The Gambia, with self-government granted in 1963. Jawara was appointed Prime Minister in the same year, and independence came on February 18, 1965. This completed The Gambia’s peaceful transition from colonial rule . Yet, independence had its many challenges, as years of colonial neglect left The Gambia with only two government-owned hospitals and high schools, and a poor infrastructure. Unfortunately, The Gambia also faced limited natural resources, a mono-crop export sector and poor social services. At independence, almost all African countries had evolved economies that were extremely vulnerable and heavily dependent on colonial markets and former colonial powers. Thus, Jawara and his cabinet inherited serious problems that influenced the subsequent course of politics in The Gambia. With a small civil service, staffed mostly by the Aku and urban Wollof
Wolof people
The Wolof are an ethnic group found in Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania.In Senegal, the Wolof form an ethnic plurality with about 43.3% of the population are Wolofs...

s, Jawara and the PPP sought to build a nation and develop an economy to sustain both farmers and urban dwellers. Many in the rural areas hoped that political independence would bring with it immediate improvement in their life circumstances. These high expectations, as in other newly independent ex-colonies, stemmed partly from the extravagant promises made by some political leaders. In time, however, a measure of disappointment set in as the people quickly discovered that their leaders could not deliver on all their promises.

The 1981 Aborted Coup

The greatest challenge to Sir Dawda’s rule (other than the coup that ended his power in 1994) was a putsch in 1981, headed by a disgruntled ex-politician turned Marxist, Kukoi Samba Sanyang
Kukoi Samba Sanyang
Kukoi Samba Sanyang led a 1981 rebellion against the democratically elected Gambian government of President Dawda Jawara.On 31 July 1981, while Jawara was abroad, a 12-member National Revolutionary Council headed by Mr. Sanyang seized control of the country. The leftist NRC accused Jawara's...

, and some members of the Field Force (Saine, 1989). The attempted coup reflected the desire for change, at least on the part of some civilians and their allies in the Field Force. Despite Kukoi’s failure to assume power permanently, the attempted coup revealed major weaknesses within the ruling PPP and society as a whole. The hegemony of the PPP, contraction of intra-party competition and growing social inequalities were factors that could not be discounted. Also crucial to the causes of the aborted coup was a deteriorating economy whose major victims were the urban youth in particular. In his 1981 New Year message, Jawara explained The Gambia’s economic problems thus:

The most striking consequence of the aborted coup was the intervention of the Senegalese troops at the request of Jawara, as a result of the defense treaty signed between the two countries in 1965. At the time of the aborted coup, Jawara was attending the wedding of Prince Charles
Charles, Prince of Wales
Prince Charles, Prince of Wales is the heir apparent and eldest son of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Since 1958 his major title has been His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. In Scotland he is additionally known as The Duke of Rothesay...

 and Princess Diana
Diana, Princess of Wales
Diana, Princess of Wales was the first wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, whom she married on 29 July 1981, and an international charity and fundraising figure, as well as a preeminent celebrity of the late 20th century...

 in London and flew immediately to Dakar
Dakar is the capital city and largest city of Senegal. It is located on the Cap-Vert Peninsula on the Atlantic coast and is the westernmost city on the African mainland...

 to consult with President Abdou Diouf
Abdou Diouf
Abdou Diouf was the second President of Senegal, serving from 1981 to 2000. Diouf is notable both for coming to power by peaceful succession, and leaving willingly after losing the 2000 presidential election to Abdoulaye Wade...

. While Senegal’s intervention was ostensibly to rescue President Jawara’s regime, it had the effect of undermining The Gambia’s sovereignty, which was something that had been jealously guarded by Gambians and Jawara in particular. Yet it was relinquished expediently. The presence of Senegalese troops in Banjul was testimony to Jawara’s growing reliance on Senegal, which consequently was a source of much resentment.

The Senegambian Confederation

Just three weeks after the aborted coup and the successful restoration of Jawara by Senegalese troops, Presidents Diouf and Jawara, at a joint press conference, announced plans for the establishment of the Senegambian Confederation. In December 1981, five months after the foiled coup, the treaties of confederation were signed in Dakar. The speed with which the treaties were signed and the lack of input from the bulk of the Gambian population suggested to many that the arrangement was an exercise in political expedience. Clearly, President Jawara was under great pressure because of the repercussions of the aborted coup and the Senegalese government. Under the treaty with Senegal, President Diouf served as president and Sir Dawda as his vice. A confederal parliament and cabinet were set up with several ministerial positions going to The Gambia. Additionally, a new Gambian army was created as part of a new confederate army.

The creation of a new Gambian army was cause for concern for many observers. Such an institution, it was felt, would by no means diminish the re-occurrence of the events of July 30, 1981, nor would it guarantee the regime’s stability. By agreeing to the creation of an army, Jawara had unwittingly planted the very seeds of his eventual political demise. The army would in time become a serious contender for political office, different from political parties only in its control over the instruments of violence. Therefore, it seems likely that Jawara had few if any other option but to create a new Gambia army. Such an atmosphere, however, as the events of 1994 would show, was fertile ground for coups and counter coups. Perhaps more important, the creation of a new army diverted limited resources that could have otherwise been used to enhanced the strong rural development programs of the PPP government. The Confederation eventually collapsed in 1989.

Jawara did not resort to the authoritarian and often punitive backlash that follows coups in most of Africa. Instead, he made overtures of reconciliation, with judicious and speedy trial and subsequent release of well over 800 detainees. Individuals who received death sentence convictions were committed to life in prison instead, and many prisoners were released for lack of sufficient evidence. The trial of more serious offenders by an impartial panel of judges drawn from Anglophone Commonwealth countries is testimony to Jawara’s democratic impulses, sense of fair play and respect for human rights. International goodwill toward the regime was immediate and generous and before long Jawara had begun a process of political and economic reconstruction of the country. Thus, it would have been premature to dismiss democracy in The Gambia at that time.

Economic Reform

As one of the most marginal nations in the capitalist periphery at the time of independence, The Gambia was incorporated into the world capitalist system as a supplier of agricultural exports (largely groundnuts) and tourism. Since independence, there has been little change in the structure of the economy, which remains very heavily dependent on groundnut production. Agriculture and tourism are the dominant sectors and also the main sources of foreign exchange, employment, and income for the country. Thanks to the growing economy, the government introduced in the 1970s the policy of Gambianization, which led to an expansion of the state’s role in the economy. There was a 75 percent increase in total government employment over the period from 1975 to 1980.

In mid-1985, The Gambia under Jawara, initiated the Economic Recovery Program (ERP), one of the most comprehensive economic adjustment programs devised by any country in sub-Saharan Africa. With the aid of a team of economists from the Harvard Institute for International Development
Harvard Institute for International Development
The Harvard Institute for International Development was a think-tank dedicated to helping nations join the global economy, operating between 1974 and 2000...

 and the International Monetary Fund
International Monetary Fund
The International Monetary Fund is an organization of 187 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world...

, The Gambia greatly reformed the economic structure of the country. Under ERP, in 1985-86, the deficit was 72 million Dalasis, and it increased to 169 million Dalasis in 1990-91 (Budget Speech, June 15, 1990). However, by mid-1986, just a year after the ERP was established, the revival of The Gambian economy had begun. The government reduced its budget deficit, increased it foreign exchange reserves, and eliminated it debt service arrears.

Under the ERP, money-seeking opportunities became more abundant, and, unfortunately, many private businessmen and public officials turned to illegal means to make profit. Corruption created a serious legitimacy crisis for the PPP. Several cases of corruption were revealed and these seriously indicted the PPP regime. The Gambia Commercial Development Bank collapsed, largely due to its failure to collect loans. An Asset Management and Recovery Corporation (AMRC) was set up under an act of parliament in 1992, but the PPP government was not willing to use its influence to assist AMRC in its recovery exercise. This was particularly embarrassing because of the fact that the people and organizations with the highest loans were close to PPP. In an embezzlement scheme at the Gambia Cooperative Union (GCU), fraud was revealed in Customs , and through the process of privatization, it was discovered that many dummy loans had been given to well-connected individuals at GCDB. A group of parastatal heads and big businessmen closely associated with the PPP (nicknamed the Banjul Mafia) were seen as the culprits responsible for corruption in the public sector . Driven to make profit, many elites did not refrain from manipulating state power to maintain a lifestyle of wealth and privilege. Corruption had become a serious problem in The Gambia, especially during the last two years of the PPP rule.

By 1992, The Gambia was one of the poorest countries in Africa and the world, with a 45-year life expectancy at birth, an infant mortality rate of 130 per 1000 live births, a child mortality rate of 292 per 1000, and an under-five mortality rate of 227 per 1000. At that time, 120 out of every 1000 live births died of malaria. The Gambia also had a 75 percent illiteracy rate, only 40 percent of the population had access to potable water supply, and over 75 percent of the population were living in absolute poverty .

Structural adjustment programs implemented in response to the economic crisis resulted in government fragmentation, privatization, less patronage in co-opting various groups and growing corruption. The 30-years the PPP regime operated with diminished resources and therefore could no longer rule as it always had. The credibility of the competitive party system was severely challenged as Jawara’s PPP was unable to show that good economic management could lead to benefits for the majority of society.

To combat the myriad threats to political survival, a leader needs resources. Despite the existence of both state- and time-specific variations, it is possible to identify a range of resources leaders may employ to prolong their rule. African leaders have access to two types of resources: domestic (by virtue of their access to the state) and external (foreign aid, loans, and so forth). Given states’ widely disparate levels of domestic resources, with some possessing valuable mineral deposits and others confined to agricultural production, generalizations are unwise, although an accurate case-by-case assessment of a leader’s domestic resource base is clearly an important factor when explaining political survival.

Regime Survival

In The Gambia the PPP regime’s prolonged survival owed much to its leader. There existed an intimate, almost inextricable link between the survival of Dawda Jawara and the survival of the regime, Jawara’s apparent indispensability reflected his uncommon ability to maintain subordinate’s loyalty without forfeiting popular support. Jawara’s rule created and sustained a predominant position within the PPP.

With Jawara’s precarious hold on power at The Gambia's independence, his low caste status constituted a grave handicap and one which threatened to overshadow his strengths (most notably, a university education). The two pre-independence challenges to Jawara’s position demonstrated his vulnerability and illustrated the fact that he could not rely upon the undivided loyalty of the party’s founding members. At independence Jawara’s lieutenants regarded him as their representative, almost a nominal leader, and clearly intended him to promote their personal advancement.

Given these circumstances, Jawara’s task was to overcome his low caste status, assert his authority over the party and secure control over its political direction. In doing this, he did not use coercion. Politically inspired “disappearances” were never an element of PPP rule; neither opponents nor supporters suffered harassment or periods of detention on fabricated charges. That Jawara was able to eschew coercive techniques and still survive reflected an element of good fortune, and yet his skillful political leadership was also crucial. Within his own party Jawara was fortunate to be surrounded by individuals willing to refrain from violence to achieve their goals, and yet much of the credit for this restraint must go to Jawara—his skilful manipulation of patronage resources, cultivation of affective ties and shrewd balancing of factions within the PPP. Lacking the coercive option, and given that affective ties, which had to be earned, were a medium- to long-term resource, Jawara initially relied heavily on instrumental ties and distribution of patronage. His limited resource base posed an obvious, though not insurmountable, problem. Within the ruling group, ministerial positions—which provided a generous salary, perks and for some, access to illicit wealth—constituted the most sought after form of patronage and yet, before 1970, the number of ministerial posts did not exceed seven. By 1992 the number remained a comparatively modest fourteen. Despite these limits, Jawara skillfully used all the various permutations of patronage distribution (appointment, promotion, termination, demotion and rehabilitation) to dramatize his power over subordinates’ political futures and entrench himself as leader.

After independence, in response to the pre-1965 challenges to his authority, Jawara moved to reduce the size, cohesion and authority of the founding members as a group. Many of the party’s earliest adherents (even those who showed no outward sign of disloyalty) lost ministerial posts during the early years of PPP rule. Jawara may not have used force, but neither was he hampered by sentiment; his pragmatism and willingness to demote, or even drop, former supporters in order to strengthen his personal political position was apparent. Jawara further strengthened his political position with the incorporation of new sources of support within the ruling group. His enthusiasm for political accommodation stemmed from the closely related imperatives of weakening the influence of the PPP’s original members and avoiding political isolation. The original group resented the fact that newcomers had not participated in the early struggle for power and yet were now enjoying the fruits of their labor. The secondary factor of ethno-regional considerations compounded this resentment; those who were co-opted came from all ethnic groups in the former colony and protectorate.

Jawara’s popular support and cultivation of effective ties were crucial for easing the pressure on scarce patronage resources. Although the skilful distribution of patronage and associated tolerance of corruption (to be discussed later) played an important role in the PPP’s survival, Jawara did not rely on elite-level resource distribution as heavily as some of his counterparts.

Corruption and Political Survival

For many years observers viewed corruption in The Gambia as significantly less prevalent than in many other African states. In retrospect this view appears overstated, though it is true that corruption did not reach the heights seen elsewhere. Jawara himself refrained from excessive self-enrichment and many of his lieutenants followed suit. Conflicting survival imperatives—in particular, the need for foreign aid and popular support, both of which were unlikely to be forthcoming under a thoroughly corrupt regime, persuaded Jawara to set some limits on “allowable” corruption. The possibility of exposure in parliament or by the press provided a further constraint.

Nevertheless, events during the closing years of the People's Progressive Party
People's Progressive Party (The Gambia)
The People's Progressive Party is a moderate centre-left political party in The Gambia. It was the dominant ruling party from 1965 with president Dawda Jawara. He was elected for a sixth term of office in 1992, but was overthrown in a coup by young army officers in 1994...

 rule together with post-coup revelations and inquiries suggest that corruption was both a significant phenomenon and one which played an important role in the People's Progressive Party
People's Progressive Party (The Gambia)
The People's Progressive Party is a moderate centre-left political party in The Gambia. It was the dominant ruling party from 1965 with president Dawda Jawara. He was elected for a sixth term of office in 1992, but was overthrown in a coup by young army officers in 1994...

’s survival. Jawara understood the political advantages of corruption. Fundamentally, corruption formed an important component of the patronage network, facilitating elite accumulation. It provided a means of creating and sustaining mutually beneficial and supportive relationships between PPP politicians (headed by Jawara), senior civil servants and Gambian businessmen.

Initially, then, corruption played a significant part in the survival of the People's Progressive Party
People's Progressive Party (The Gambia)
The People's Progressive Party is a moderate centre-left political party in The Gambia. It was the dominant ruling party from 1965 with president Dawda Jawara. He was elected for a sixth term of office in 1992, but was overthrown in a coup by young army officers in 1994...

, uniting political, bureaucratic and business interests in a series of mutually beneficial and supportive relationships. In the longer term, however, it served to undermine the regime. Perhaps the first indication of this occurred in 1981 when, during the coup attempt of that year, Kukoi Samba Sanyang cited “corruption and the squandering of public funds” as a primary motive of intervention. No doubt there was a strong element of opportunism in Sanyang’s actions, yet the fact that he seized upon corruption as a suitable justification for his actions reflected increasing public awareness of the problem. Just a month prior to the coup, Reverend Ian Roach had spoken out publicly against corruption, the local press reported numerous instances of low-level bureaucratic theft, and higher up, Jawara’s leniency towards the ministers and civil servants towards the end of the 1970s was widely resented. The increased public awareness of corruption weakened the People's Progressive Party
People's Progressive Party (The Gambia)
The People's Progressive Party is a moderate centre-left political party in The Gambia. It was the dominant ruling party from 1965 with president Dawda Jawara. He was elected for a sixth term of office in 1992, but was overthrown in a coup by young army officers in 1994...

 regime and furnished the 1994 conspirators with a suitable pretext for intervention. Since many soldiers reportedly regarded their unsatisfactory living conditions as a manifestation of corruption, it also gave them a motive. Sir Dawda may have underestimated the real risk a new army would pose to himself and the country, and in fact, may have dragged his feet in dealing accordingly with corruption. To this accusation he responded:

Of course, many African leaders are aware of the positive relationship between popular support and elite acquiescence. However, resource shortages had more likely than not persuaded leaders to priorities in favor of elites. In The Gambia two additional factors persuaded Jawara to pursue a somewhat different route to political survival. On the one hand, the People's Progressive Party
People's Progressive Party (The Gambia)
The People's Progressive Party is a moderate centre-left political party in The Gambia. It was the dominant ruling party from 1965 with president Dawda Jawara. He was elected for a sixth term of office in 1992, but was overthrown in a coup by young army officers in 1994...

 needed to win successive multi-party elections. On the other, Jawara’s rejection of coercion as a survival technique meant that overt public challenges could not simply be suppressed; it was vital the latent threat posed by specific societal groups remain dormant. Fortunately, Jawara did have a great deal of public support.

Personal Rule and Public Support

Given Jawara’s prolonged political survival under difficult circumstances, one might expect the Gambian leader to have possessed exceptional political qualities. Jawara did possess three advantages; the same advantages which had prompted his selection as party leader in 1959. First was his protectorate birth and Mandinka ethnic identity
Mandinka people
The Mandinka, Malinke are one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa with an estimated population of eleven million ....

; Jawara personified the PPP’s early electoral appeal to protectorate
In history, the term protectorate has two different meanings. In its earliest inception, which has been adopted by modern international law, it is an autonomous territory that is protected diplomatically or militarily against third parties by a stronger state or entity...

, and specifically Mandinka, sensibilities. His personal connections in the rural areas cultivated during his travels as a senior veterinary officer during the second half of the 1950s were seen as an additional electoral asset. Eclipsing both these attributes, however, was Jawara’s graduate status. Whereas most PPP members shared the same ethnic background, few could claim to have been educated beyond high school. Jawara’s university education both distinguished him from his colleagues and outweighed the fact that it was others who had initiated political activities within the protectorate.

In contrast to these advantages, however, Jawara possessed the decided disadvantage of low caste
Caste is an elaborate and complex social system that combines elements of endogamy, occupation, culture, social class, tribal affiliation and political power. It should not be confused with race or social class, e.g. members of different castes in one society may belong to the same race, as in India...

. As a member of the leather workers’ caste, Jawara’s social standing was much lower than many of his colleagues, which provoked doubt as to his suitability for the position of leader. Some regarded caste as a more important consideration than education and lobbied for the selection of the chief’s son, instead.

It is assumed that long-surviving political leaders do think in strategic terms, that they have some sort of “game plan” for pre-empting and countering threats to their position. That is not to downplay the importance of less tangible factors, intuition for example, but simply to say that on some level, successful leaders consider how they might prolong their rule, and respond accordingly. Secondly, it is assumed that leaders possess sufficient authority to implement their chosen strategies and that degree of skill they bring to bear on a situation will influence the outcome. Accounting for the importance of leadership, scholars typically point to the absence of established constitutional rules, effective political institutions or widely shared values, all of which, to varying degrees, characterized African states. The impact of these characteristics has been analyzed in a study by Jackson and Rosberg. Adopting the classical concept of a political institution
Political system
A political system is a system of politics and government. It is usually compared to the legal system, economic system, cultural system, and other social systems...

 as “an impersonal system of rules and offices that effectively binds the conduct of individuals involved in them,” they suggest that, in most African states, non-institutionalized governments “where persons take precedence over rules” prevails. Conceptualizing African politics in this way caused Jackson and Rosberg to identify a distinctive type of political system which they labeled “personal rule.” Subject to certain modifications, the theory of personal rule provides a useful framework for the study of leadership and survival, not only explaining why leaders frequently play such a key role in the elite political sphere but also identifying the specific threats that they might expect to confront.

Without the backing of effective institutional rules, a personal ruler is undoubtedly vulnerable. Nevertheless, if elites generally are unrestrained by rules, the same is equally true of leaders. Constrained only by the power of other “big men,” the political liberation supplied by a system of personal rule enables a leader to utilize strategies (designed to strengthen his grip) that would be unthinkable in institutional systems. Moreover, the political rules may be changed, as in the establishment of a single-party state
Single-party state
A single-party state, one-party system or single-party system is a type of party system government in which a single political party forms the government and no other parties are permitted to run candidates for election...

 to suit a leader’s personal political convenience. He may also utilize constituent components of the system of personal rule, including clientelism
Clientelism is a term used to describe a political system at the heart of which is an assyemtric relationship between groups of political actors described as patrons and clients...

, patronage
Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another. In the history of art, arts patronage refers to the support that kings or popes have provided to musicians, painters, and sculptors...

 and purges, to perpetuate his rule. Adopting these strategies, a leader attempts to prevent politics from deteriorating into a violent fight, a fight he may well lose. Whether or not he succeeds is primarily dependent upon political skill. Jackson and Rosberg’s theory addresses threats to a regime’s survival, possible strategies to deal with threats, as well as the defining factor, or skill, which determines a leader’s success or failure. Somewhat surprisingly, this theory does not truly describe the state of Jawara’s leadership in The Gambia. Whereas systems of personal rule generally lack effective institutions and are “inherently authoritarian,” in The Gambia, Jawara’s adherence to democratic norms was responsible for both a non-authoritarian approach to power retention and a degree of institutionalization.

Although the theory of personal rule cannot be applied wholesale to the study of Gambian politics, and is subject to certain modifications, it remains a useful model. The first general point, for example, is Jackson and Rosberg’s depiction of African politics as an “institutionless” arena. Although this perspective illuminates central features of the African political process, it is important not to lose sight of the variations between states. States other than The Gambia have, at different times, exhibited varying degrees of institutionalization, some have undoubtedly enjoyed a “purer” form of personal rule than others, and in this sense it is possible to envisage an abstract scale of personal rule. The Gambia, though occupying a low ranking, would not, during the years of PPP rule, have been off the scale altogether. President Jawara was, in many ways, a typical personal ruler due to the the pivotal political role he occupied, the threats he faced and the strategies he used attest to this.

One strategy or approach Jawara failed to adopt was authoritarianism
Authoritarianism is a form of social organization characterized by submission to authority. It is usually opposed to individualism and democracy...

. Jackson and Rosberg, noting the “widespread removal of constitutional rights and protection from political opponents, the elimination of institutional checks and balances, the termination of open party politics
Party Politics
Party Politics is a peer-reviewed academic journal that publishes papers in the field of Political Science. The journal's editors are David M Farrell and Paul Webb...

 and the regulation and confinement of political participation, usually within the framework of a “single party,” describe systems of personal rule as “inherently authoritarian.” Jawara, on the other hand, retained a multi-party system
Multi-party system
A multi-party system is a system in which multiple political parties have the capacity to gain control of government separately or in coalition, e.g.The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition in the United Kingdom formed in 2010. The effective number of parties in a multi-party system is normally...

 (at least in theory), a choice which can be likely explained in one of two ways. First, it may have reflected Jawara’s perception of the political advantages of a multi-party system. If so, the theory of personal rule retains its utility. Thus, Jackson and Rosberg argue that personal rulers only follow rules when they “have been changed . . . to suit his . . . personal political convenience”. In Jawara’s case the rules were already “convenient”—there was no need to change them.

Conversely; it is possible to speculate that had the rules become a hindrance (had an opposition party won a general election, for example), Jawara’s commitment to a multi-party system was such that he would have agreed to step down. Though hardly the action of a typical leader practicing personal rule, this would nevertheless have been a personal decision. Nevertheless, although Jawara may have adhered to the rules which as a result of his personal skill as a leader had been retained, there was little to prevent him following the same route as other African leaders and instituting a series of authoritarian reforms. Indeed, many of his subordinates would have welcomed such a move. The element of restraint Jawara demonstrated with regard to political opposition was not dictated by fully established institutional rules. Rather, he chose a non-authoritarian approach. Jawara’s choice held important implications for the PPP’s survival. Perhaps most significantly, it compelled the cultivation of popular support, a feature not incorporated into Jackson and Rosberg’s theory of personal rule, which suggests that mass support is of negligible importance to a personal ruler’s survival. Though popular support may not be a necessary component of survival, it may be a significant factor in the longevity of both single-party and multi-party regimes.

The public support enjoyed by the PPP stemmed, in part, from Jawara’s personal popularity. A fundamentally pragmatic and flexible individual, Jawara was no ideologue and did not possess a charismatic hold on the populace. However, he did possess the ability to inspire trust. An important aspect of this was Jawara’s accessibility (assisted by the small size of The Gambia). He undertook annual “meet the farmers” tours,during which he listened to people’s problems and explained government policy as well as periodic meetings with sections of the Banjul Community. Despite the increased security surrounding the State House after the 1981 coup attempt, Jawara remained available to individuals or delegations seeking audience. In addition to being fairly accessible, Jawara remained “in touch” with his people. His lifestyle, though obviously comfortable, did not feature the insensitive extravagance of some African leaders. Whether distributing gifts or inspecting projects, he demonstrated a seemingly genuine concern for his people. As time passed Jawara’s longevity and seeming invincibility also worked to his advantage. Many Gambians simply could not imagine life without him.

Treatment of the Press

Jawara’s non-authoritarian approach to political survival extended to his treatment of the press, as evidenced by the fact that he eschewed the tactics favored by many other African leaders. He allowed newspapers to operate free of coercive legislation
Freedom of the press
Freedom of the press or freedom of the media is the freedom of communication and expression through vehicles including various electronic media and published materials...

, police harassment or frequent court appearances. Jawara’s tolerance reflected his readiness to risk legitimacy-deflating exposes in order to sustain his legitimacy-inducing reputation (both at home and abroad) as a peaceable democrat. The risk was lessened, too, by Jawara’s ability to keep corruption within limits, mass illiteracy and newspaper’s perennial lack of resources for investigative journalism
Investigative journalism
Investigative journalism is a form of journalism in which reporters deeply investigate a single topic of interest, often involving crime, political corruption, or corporate wrongdoing. An investigative journalist may spend months or years researching and preparing a report. Investigative journalism...

 or even producing issues on a regular basis. Almost certainly some ministers wished to see what one local observer described as a more “respectful” press, but as long as Jawara retained his commitment to press freedom, a change of direction remained unlikely.

Of course, the press was not only a to the People's Progressive Party
People's Progressive Party (The Gambia)
The People's Progressive Party is a moderate centre-left political party in The Gambia. It was the dominant ruling party from 1965 with president Dawda Jawara. He was elected for a sixth term of office in 1992, but was overthrown in a coup by young army officers in 1994...

 but also served as a useful survival resource. Government-controlled newspapers, and Radio Gambia even more so, served as a useful communication and legitimization tool during elections or periods of difficulty for the regime, such as labor unrest and the introduction of the ERP. While opposition groups were not denied all access to the radio during elections and most major events in between received coverage, broadcasts were primarily a government tool and a degree of self-censorship was practiced.

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