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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Gambia at 50: fifty prominent Gambians who helped to shape the nation

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As we celebrate the golden jubilee of the Gambia’s independence from British colonialism, it is quite fitting that we also acknowledge the contributions of certain personalities towards the achievement of nationhood and its sustenance. Therefore, this list below is an amateurish attempt to list down 50 prominent Gambians who have played quite a significant role in helping to shape the nation since the attainment of independence in February 1965.

One would however wonder why such prominent names in the independence struggle like the late Edward Francis Small, a prominent trade unionist/journalist/activist, Sir John Mahoney, the first Gambian to be knighted by the Queen of England or other pre-independence personalities like Musa Mollo Baldeh, the King of Fulladu, Foday Kaba Dumbuya, a national warlord, and Foday Kombo Sillah, who confronted colonial expansion in the Kombos, have not been included in such a list. The simple answer is that even though they and many others had contributed quite significantly towards the creation of this dear nation of ours, the very fact that they never witnessed the attainment of independence rules them out of the list as it is a contribution to the commemoration of the Gambia’s 50th independence anniversary. Therefore, it is only people who either witnessed the event or were born after independence are eligible for inclusion, hence the absence of such prominent personalities. It has definitely not been easy to compile such a list as there are thousands of Gambians, both living and dead who have contributed significantly in the shaping of the nation, but as we are observing the 50th anniversary of our independence, the idea is to list only 50 names of those who, in my opinion, played quite a significant role in their various disciplines to make this country what it is today. While the list is definitely far from perfect, as it is impossible to choose 50 people out of nearly two million Gambians, both living and dead, who have played quite a significant part in the shaping of the nation, in my opinion, the names on this list have been among those who have played no small part in that process. You would realise that I have made attempts to make the list as inclusive as possible, to reflect the different sectors of the society, to include people from up-country as well as women.


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Politics/Public service

1. Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara (first president)

2. Pierre Sarr Njie (prominent first generation politician/first chief minister)

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3. Ibrahima Garba Jahumpa (prominent first generation politician/independence activist)

4. Rachel Palmer (prominent nurse and independence activist)

5. Lucretia St. Claire Joof (first Gambian woman member of the legislature)

6. Michael Baldeh (prominent first generation politician/independence activist)

7. John Colley Faye (prominent first generation politician/independence activist)

8. Seyfo Omar Mbackeh (prominent traditional leader/politician)

9. Henry Madi (prominent first generation politician/independence activist)

10.Sanjally Bojang (prominent first generation politician/traditional ruler) 

11. Louis Lucien Thomasi (designer of the Gambian flag)

12. Louise Njie (first woman cabinet minister)

13. Nyimasata Sanneh Bojang (first elected Gambian woman parliamentarian)

14. Yahya Jammeh (architect of ‘July 22 Revolution’)

15. Belinda Bidwell (first Gambian woman parliamentary speaker)

16. Eric Christensen (first Gambian secretary general and head of civil service)

17. Harry Lloyd Evans (first Gambian commissioner of police)



18.Justice Obrien Coker (first Gambian high court judge)

19 .Abdoulie Drammeh (prominent legal practitioner) 

20.Mam Yassin Sey (first Gambian woman high court judge)

21.Abdou Karim Savage (first Gambian Chief Justice)



22.William Dixon Colley (pioneer journalist)

23.Deyda Hydara (pioneer in desktop publishing)

24. Badou Lowe (pioneer radio broadcaster)


Trade Union

25.ME Jallow (prominent trade unionist/independence activist)



26.Master John Bolingbroke Fowlis (prominent educationist)

27.Mrs. Harriet Ndow (pioneer in private education)

28.Alieu ‘Kama’ Badjie (prominent educationist)



29.Dr. Ebrahima Malick Samba (pioneer medial practitioner)

30.Jarjarwo Jammeh (Kanilai -prominent fracture/traditional healer)

31.Jasong Touray (Buiba) prominent mental/traditional healer)

32.Dr. Samuel Palmer (pioneer private medical service provider)


Traditional leaders

33.Seyfo Mama Tamba Jammeh (Illiasa -prominent first generation traditional ruler)

34.Seyfo Abu Khan (Kuntair -prominent first generation traditional ruler)



35. Bishop Solomon Tilewa Johnson (first Gambian Anglican bishop)

36. Omar Bun Jeng (Gunjur -prominent Islamic scholar)

37. Hatab Bojang (Gunjur -prominent Islamic scholar)

38. Cherno Baba Jallow (Kerr Cherno – prominent Islamic scholar)

39. Bubacarr Sadiq Jallow (Bansang – prominent Islamic scholar)



40. Shyben Madi (prominent businessman)

41.Momodou Musa Njie (prominent businessman)

42.Musukebba Drammeh (prominent woman entrepreneur)



43.Alhaji Momodou Njie ‘Biri’ (first Gambian international football star)



44. Marie Samuel Njie (prominent musician/cultural icon)

45. Vicky Blain (prominent musician/exponent of Gambian music)

46. Labba Sosseh (prominent musician/exponent of Gambian music)

47. Paps Touray (prominent musician/exponent of Gambian music)

48. Jali Nyama Suso (prominent musician/cultural icon)


Youth Affairs

49.Matarr John (prominent youth leader and activist)



50.Dr. Lenrie Peters (pioneer Gambian poet/writer)

A happy Golden Jubilee to all Gambians, both at home and abroad. May the next 50 years see our dear country once again become the beacon of peace and tranquillity in the sub-region, and where democracy and good governance become a reality rather than a mere dream. Amen!


By DA Jawo,



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