In commemoration and celebration of a strategic investment in Tourism, then and still now a 25% annual contribution to his nation’s GDP, a very successful launching of his country’s newly built £10 million 5 star hotel in 1990, allowed then former Gambian president to eventually name the hotel after himself – Kairaba Beach Hotel.
The timely completion of the hotel – not only ensured, but reassured added boosted confidence for the Republic of The Gambia to send out a signal to her fellow ECOWAS member States of her new found capability to accommodate all member Heads of State and their dignitaries, including observers from all across Sub-Saharan Africa in anticipation of hosting that year’s upcoming session of the ECOWAS (Economic Community Of West African States), which she accomplished and did just that.
With a successful self-promoted military Coup behind him, his former friend and fellow Coupist, Thomas Sankara, now victim of a mysterious death, a self-designated adversary of his to not worry about, General Blaise Campaore, then Head Of State of a firmly gripped Burkina Faso as chairman of the 13th Session, convened with his fellow Heads of State colleagues in a small upscale town of Kololi, a few miles from the capital city of Banjul to discussion a varying range of governance issues mainly, the dilapidating economic conditions of the subregion, affecting the ECOWAS member states alike, at the time.
This was an internationally acclaimed achievement for The Gambia to be not missed in the subregion.
The ECOWAS proceeded to proudly conclude productively on its very successful 13th Session of The Authority of Heads Of State and Government in the host nation of The Republic Of The Gambia, West Africa, without what seems a noticeable hitch. Making the smallest country in continental mainland Africa proud.
But was there a possible looming consequence later on, to the host nation’s almost 30-year of stable democracy for hosting the summit?
A seismic phenomenon of governance change, strangely occurred 4 years later, a wave of change clearly Sir Dawda Jawara and the PPP weren’t prepared for. An automatic shift of governance from a stable multiparty democracy to a dictatorship.
The host President of the 13th session, Sir Dawda Jawara, then President of the Republic 25 years since 1965, at the time, and the first and only democratically elected President for 5 consecutive elections since the tiny ECOWAS nation was dubbed an improbable nation, but won independence from Colonial Britain, was duly ousted in a bloodless Coup D’Etat on July 22nd 1994, led by his former presidential bodyguard Leftenant Yahya AJJ Jammeh as chairman of the AFPRC junta.
Jammeh became President for 22 years, coup circumstances, beyond Sir Dawda Jawara’s control sent him Jawara packing, into exile to England just like how most of his compatriots across Sub-Saharan Africa ended up.
Ironically, Jammeh himself becomes a complement of Sir Dawda Jawara’s same fate. Voters of a December 1st 2016 Presidential election sent Jammeh too packing, into exile to Equatorial Guinea when he refused to honor and accept defeat, instead, attempted to meddle with election results announced by the nation’s IEC (Independent Electoral Commission).
When he was no longer seen as a threat to Jammeh and the Gambian people, Sir Dawda Jawara was pardoned by Jammeh and has since returned to The Gambia from exile to enjoy his freedom, whilst Jammeh now, then viewed to be a savior of the Gambian people from Sir Dawda, on the other hand, is now widely seen as a threat to Gambians and perhaps for a very long time to remain in exile.
The Gambia, was a highly frequented tourist destination, decades of economic booster she enjoyed due to the country’s political stability, sunny beaches, affordable meals, tour sites, hotels, cultural, traditional entertainment, and a flock of rare birds, a seasonal attraction, bird watchers enjoyed since well beyond the country’s founding.
At the time, other than her neighbor Senegal, surrounding her on all 3 sides and the Atlantic on the fourth, former French colony, (whose democratically elected President, Abdou Diouf was noticeably absent, which could have been perhaps due to broken diplomatic ties by then, from ongoing peace talks attempting to salvage a loose confederation that existed between 1982 and 1989 in the creation of Senegambia, he Diouf oversaw between The Gambia and Senegal), The Gambia was the only Sub-Saharan ECOWAS country that hasn’t faltered under military rule. But eventually did.
There were many speculatory reasons how and why the ousting of Sir Dawda Jawara and the PPP Party happened through a coup in the peaceful Gambia, what was it that motivated such and why successful?
Despite the many, here is one to consider that may have played a very humongous role over time.
In our lives as human beings, we all have motivators and influencers to look up to, whether for the right or wrong reasons. Gambian soldiers did, from the 13th session of Ecowas Summit. Their mentors were other soldiers. Atleast those that made it to the Ecowas Summit.
Gambian soldiers may have viewed the many Heads of State across Sub-Saharan Africa that convened at the 13th session of the ECOWAS to be influencers of the regime change they were to embark on widely rumored around the Gambian military at the time, as the final confidence booster to make it happen and a reality for any to take on or keep in mind.
Many of their colleagues in the military across Sub-Saharan Africa have become Heads of State. So, why not them? What were they waiting for?
But too, many failed, either caught, jailed mostly with the keys thrown away if lucky, or when not, fell to the bullet, got executed, gone for good and not to be a continual potential nuisance in the military for second chance attempts nor a potential source of civilian upheaval.
Many betrayed themselves, mainly each other, and became victims of their own endeavors, greed, and mistrust for those around them, to simply operate in a state of paranoia that often characterized military regimes.
Some succeeded, but not for too long.
An overall risky endeavor, but one they were always willing to embark on and widely seen to be worth the risk to eventually come through, arriving at Gambia’s airport as their heroes and possible mentors. They figured they could be like them.
Regime change of postcolonial governments across Sub-Saharan Africa, of Gambia’s type, especially of those whose leaders were viewed to have overstayed their welcome, was a trend blowing with high tumultuous winds of anticipated change of Heads Of State, well on target towards the shores of peaceful and stable Gambia.
Sir Dawda Jawara and the PPP Party even after 25 years in the Presidency, were still dominant at the Ballot box. Many critics cited had full access, control and was in constant use of state resources as the incumbent, an ever-present critical and crucial resource edge over the already deprived opposition.
The opposition was seen to be mainly lethargic, that may be true for other reasons, but the real truth was, it was the PPP Party and Sir Dawda that was, for the reasons that led them deposed.
Despite overseeing and implementing a whole host of transformative and innovative institutional setups that were then and are still today the backbone of the founding of the country, and a stepping foundation for any other Party or President, the PPP Party was in total disarray, viewed to be not focused on the daily struggles of the average Gambian.
The Party was marred with Political infighting, mainly who was loyal or not to Sir Dawda, who will succeed him or not, should he step down or not, if so when.
The Party was viewed to be a party of corruption and coverup, did very little, if anything useful, only good enough for political propaganda but not impactful enough to curb the high unemployment rate amongst youths, poverty that plagued the Gambian society, nor protected the weak and vulnerable, but rather, year after year, got the country into unsustainable debt, underfunded misappropriated budgets, wasted a lot the country’s resources on personal riches, hence, the party became a highly attractive target of undemocratic removal in the eyes of the military.
In the mindset of Gambian Soldiers, democratic turnovers were seen to be an impossible achievement through the ballot box, hence the perfect setup for Sir Dawda to be removed by the barrel of the gun as a justification of overstaying his welcome of a self-perpetuating rule.
Many post-colonial leaders, some of whom fought and led their countries into securing independence were seen decades later as failures of their people, running their countries down to the ground, plundering resources, manipulating several election rounds in their favor to be “legitimate” democratically elected leaders for decades in turn, despite growing calls for their resignation clearly based on their ineffectiveness governing. But they acted obliviously and continued to hold on to power regardless.
12 Heads of State out of the 16 to be in attendance at the 13th Session of the ECOWAS summit President Sir Dawda Jawara enthusiastically welcomed at the Yundum International Airport, were of military background and by then, already have successfully crafted and staged overthrows of their own country’s governments to become Heads of State. Some resulted in brutal takeovers of a typical bloodbath in bloodshed that characterized violent coups Sir Dawda knew of.
Some were repeated offenders, mainly culprits, and violators of the very tenets of their own democracies treason worthy, with the punishment of death, most of their military courts would have handed down to them.
At times no access to trials at all, and when caught engaged into attempts of deposing and removing their country’s Head of State eventually, summarily executed. Despite such, succeeding to lead their country.
Many at the time at home, faced internal threats of upheaval, including economic and security instabilities. Possible removal from office, which mostly resulted in the loss of their own life, always a daily plot and reality, a treatment others too would’ve received from them.
Credible threats of counter-coups from their military or from threats of rebels inching ever closer and advancing into their capital cities to oust them, constantly loomed over as a daily worrying concern.
Hence Gambian soldiers may have widely regarded, those that made it to the 13th session of the ECOWAS convention in person, leaders of military regimes, to have had a firm grip of power, whilst those that weren’t sure of their grip, had to send their External Affairs ministers as representation whilst they watched over their shoulders at home in the interest of their own security.
There is a narrower view now, recently held, strongly to be considered. Perhaps known back then, but not widely speculated on.
A view that, the presence of those influential military Generals at once, all converged in The Gambia from all across Sub-Saharan Africa, each plotters of bloodshed in their country, was a real credible threat to the Presidency of Sir Dawda Jawara’s, especially The Gambia being the other country out of the only two countries not under military dictatorship at the time.
All of those military leaders staged successful coups, and were culprits in violation of both international and domestic law.
Many already condemned in their brutal use and methods of torturing their own, their unconventional actions rightfully earned them tyrannous reputation, labeled murderers of the same people they claimed they sought to protect from their predecessors hence their ascension to power, only to become looters of their own country’s resources, became filthy rich overnight millionaires, manipulated their societies so well to be highly respected by their fellow military men and countrymen, despite the criminality, hanging over their heads (which many of them paid dearly for later on, but some never held to account on.)
In some cases, some got chased out of power, jailed or sent into exile to die alone, or got killed, due to betraying the trust of their people. The same people that hailed them, chase them.
Those Military leaders arriving at Gambia’s airport in their country’s planes or private jets, hailed and welcomed as exemplary Leader Heroes and Heads of State seemingly enjoying the good life, treated like Kings on a 3 day visit inside of The Gambia’s £10 million newly built hotel, a stark contrast to the life they led as former disgruntled military personnel, who usually felt forgotten, neglected to suffer harsh military life, may have influenced the removal of President Sir Dawda Jawara, when Gambian Soldiers believed it was their time to enjoy that luxury too at the expense of Taxpayers.
See the List of Military Heads Of State Attendees whose grandiose appearance at Gambia’s Airport for the ECOWAS Summit, could have influenced the 1994 July coup – here in detail.
General João Bernardo Vieira – President Of Guinea Bissau – Was Present.
Alhaji Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara – President Of The Gambia – Was Present.
Captain Blaise Compaore – President Of Burkina Faso – Was Present.
General Lansana Conté – President Of the Republic Of Guinea – Was Present.
Lieutenant Gnassingbé Eyadéma – President Of Togo – Sent Foreign Minister.
General Moussa Traoré – President Of Mali – Was Present.
General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida – President Of Nigeria – Was Present.
Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh – President of Sierra Leone – Was Present.
Major Ali Saibou – President Of Niger – Sent Prime Minister.
Major Mathieu Kérékou – President of Benin – Sent Foreign Affairs Minister.
Aristides Pereira – President Of Cape Verde – Sent Minister Of Public Works.
Félix Houphouët Boigny – President Of Côte d’Ivoire – Sent Foreign Minister.
Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings – President Of Ghana – Sent Foreign Minister.
Master Sergeant Samuel Doe – President Of Liberia – Sent Minister Of Planning and Economic Affairs.
Colonel Maaouya Ould Sid’Ahmed Taya – President Of Mauritania – Sent Foreign Minister.
Abdou Diouf – President of Senegal – Sent Foreign Minister.