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Sidia Jatta’s Africa Heroes Award: A well-deserved honour

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It takes courage and commitment to dedicate one’s life to the service of people. Sometimes, that is at a national level and at other times at both national and international levels. Whatever the case, it is a lonely path which no coward or fainthearted person can tread.

In The Gambia, there are many such people who have been known to sacrifice every comfort and luxury just to serve their people. These services are so selfless that they are universally acclaimed. It is important that each nation has these heroes, for heroes indeed they are judging by any metric.

One such towering figure in The Gambia is Sidia Jatta. He is a rare gem as a human being, a dedicated pan-Africanist from infancy whose letter was even included in Kwame Nkrumah’s book Dark Days in Ghana. Sidia believes in Africa and like that other Senegalese Prometheus, Cheikh Anta Diop, has used his intellect to assert the dignity of Africans.

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Mr Sidia Jatta has served this country in various ways. Along with likeminded folk notably Sam Sarr and Halifa Sallah, they set up the People’s Democratic Organisation for Independence and Socialism and along with it Foroyaa which became the organ of the party and later an independent daily newspaper. They served one purpose and one purpose only: to enlighten the people so that they can make informed choices and ultimately become the masters of their destiny.

Owing to the intrigues associated with politics, the party has failed to convince the electorate to give it the power to run the country, but even its archenemies would agree that PDOIS and their decades long civic crusade has succeeded in removing the wool from the eyes of Gambians. They have demystified power and Gambians now know that the government and the people who work in the government from the president to the badge messenger at the district tribunal are the servants of the people and not their masters or mansas.

Gambians have become nyaakoï fèrrete– cleared eyed!

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Another area where Sidia Jatta has left a lasting impression in The Gambia and on the continent is his work and advocacy for the promotion of indigenous African languages. He started this work even before he entered politics half a century ago and he’s still at it. Just last month, a senior lecturer at London’s prestigious King’s College university, Dr Clyde Ancarno, won a prize and dedicated it to Sidia, who she referred to as “a vocal mother tongue education advocate”.

So congratulations are in order to this noble distinguished son of The Gambia on being conferred the Africa Hero of the Year Award by Ohio University in the United States. This in a small way acknowledging your exemplary leadership and dedication to pan-Africanism, cultural preservation, empowerment, and advocacy for Africa’s liberation.

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