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Thursday, September 24, 2020

Jawara: I told Britain there was going to be no dumping of Gambia

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Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara said the country had suffered long enough under colonial rule for her independence to be delayed, noting that a merger with Senegal was not an option.

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“I made it clear that there was going to be no dumping of our country,” he recounted in his autobiography, Kairaba, of his encounter with Britain at the 1964 Marlborough conference where The Gambia’s independence was officially declared.

He said he had to remind Britain at that 64 Marlborough conference of the difficult geographic situation the colonial government had thrust in the country amid not enough land for serious agriculture. 

“The lack of land was one direct result of the bad choices the British negotiated with the French in setting the borders of The Gambia,” he said. “I argued that as things had turned out, the peculiar position of our boundaries had impeded the natural flow of trade and prevented the full use of our one great natural asset – river Gambia. Our small size and the narrow basis of our agriculture, based as it was entirely on one cash crop – groundnuts – severely limited our ability to become self-supporting at a reasonable level of services.”

Besides the difficult geographic situation, the Jawara government had to deal with the poor state of affairs of the country’s economy. At independence, the country’s deficit was 30 percent. Total revenue stood at 9 million pounds and a grant of 5 million pounds  was provided by the British to meet recurrent and development expenditure. 

Jawara however said his government was undeterred. 

He said: “There were many sceptics…who doubted our chances of surviving as an independent nation. On the contrary, convinced that we could improve markedly on the status quo, we concentrated our energies on areas that would show signs of our growth with agriculture on the top of priorities.”

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