In the demise December 15 of Alhaji Abdalla M Sering Secka, I have lost a mentor and teacher and elder and a partner in historical research. The Gambia has lost a worthy son in religion, the arts, culture, and public service.
Uncle Sering was born October 5th 1932 in Bathurst from a strong Muslim parentage as his grandparent was one of the founders of the first constructed Bathurst Mosque in around 1901. Like most other Muslim children of Bathurst in those days, he attended Dara in the noon and Muhammedan primary school in the mornings where he got a Standard 7 certificate in 1951. He started his working life in 1952 and continued, in one way or the other, in public service until his demise.
From 1952 to 1965, during the last decades of colonial rule, he worked for the leading firms in Bathurst notably Elder Dempster, which operated the famous MV Apapa liner linking Bathurst and the rest of the world. He served as purser in that firm for nearly a decade. As independence approached, he was among the few patriotic Gambians who were already in employment in the private sector and had garnered experience, who voluntarily decided to join the civil service of the New Gambia of 1965 at great lost in earnings, but with inimitable determination and patriotic zeal.
From 1965 to 1970, he worked as Travelling Paymaster Department of Education. He visited all the village schools and met all teachers during this period. He also served briefly at Gambia College as finance officer.
In 1973, he was moved to the newly created Tourism Officer as Product Control Officer and trained in Israel, Morocco and Ireland in various aspects of tourism such as handicraft development and product control. He was instrumental in the establishment of the tourist markets and bengdulas in Banjul and Bakau, the first tourist hotspots.
Uncle Sering was also active in youth and religious matters. He was founder of the Metta Youth Club, which organized the first Miss Gambia contest in 1965, and continued to do so until the early 1970s. He was active in the Scout movement, and served as member of the Muslim High school, NCAC and Gambia High School Boards and member of the Committee of Banjul Muslim Elders, the oldest extant community group in the country today dating to more than 100 years ago. In 1966, he was in the Gambian delegation which attended and honoured our new country at the First Festival of Black Art held in Dakar, Senegal; in 1977, he was again a leading member of the Gambian delegation to the third Festival of Black Art or FESTAC held in Lagos, Nigeria, as playwright and actor. Uncle Sering was a constant in all the activities related to the development of the social well being of Gambians.
This was especially so after 1983 when he took early retirement from government service and dedicated more time to his Tijani siyareh Group in Banjul and took pilgrims to Fez, Morocco, each year to honour the saint, Sheikh Ahmad Tijan.
He was a producer of knowledge who has in the past four years published five books including three plays, a book on Islam in Bathurst and the first Who’s Who Gambia, which I co-edited with him and James Abraham and was published by Toplink in 2015. This book was banned by the ex-Gambian despot Yahya Jammeh simply because we put a ‘copious’ entry on, and photo of the assassinated journalist Deyda Hydara on page 69! The ban letter from Jammeh was addressed to Uncle Sering and he came to my office to show it to me. We laughed over it and continued to print and distribute the book.
Uncle Sering was a patriot. He worked to promote Gambian arts and culture. He promoted Islam in Banjul. He consolidated our understanding of Gambian history by his numerous TV and newspaper contributions on aspects of Gambian history. Our last joint article on Gambian history was published 20 days ago, and I read the proofs to him while he was admitted at BAFROW clinic.
He was a player in the private sector. He established one of the first tourist Landrover safari tour companies called Serciha Tours in 1985, and later established a cleansing service called Seckasettal, which he ran for close to 30 years.
To his family, and the NCAC and Committee of Banjul Muslim Elders, I convey my sincere condolences, and may his soul rest in peace.
(Alhaji A.M Sering Secka MRG: Civil servant, historian, playwright and Banjul Muslim Elder born October 5 1932 in Bathurst, died Serekunda 15 December 2017).