Dawda Jawara was born in 1924 – One of six sons, Dawda from an early age attended the local Arabic schools. Upon matriculation in 1945, he worked as a nurse until 1947 at the Victoria Hospital in colonial Bathurst. After attending Achimota College, Jawara won a scholarship to Scotland’s Glasgow University to study veterinary medicine.
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. 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.
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.
In December 1991, Jawara announced that he would not seek re-election in 1992. After 30 years leading his country, he decided to retire. However, such panic greeted his announcement, that he consented to stand for re-election yet again. The question of his retirement continued to loom over The Gambia’s political future, however, and dissention mounted.
On 22 Jul 1994, a group of soldiers led by Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh stormed the capital. The coup was successful and Jawara was exiled until 2002. He returned to The Gambia as an elder statesman, but cannot take part in politics for the rest of his life.