(b. Barajally, Gambia, 11 May 1924)
Gambian; Prime Minister 1962–70, President 1970–94 A member of the Mandinka ethnic group Jawara graduated in veterinary medicine from the University of Glasgow in 1953. In 1959 he founded and led the Protectorate People's Party (later People's Progressive Party). After the victory of the party in the 1962 election he became Prime Minister, a post he retained after independence in 1965. With the adoption of a republican constitution in 1970 he became President. From independence until 1994 he retained a democratic multi-party system with freedom for opposition parties, although his own party won a majority of seats in every election. He gained an international reputation as a defender of human rights. In 1981 an attempted coup d'état by the para-military police was defeated with assistance from Senegalese troops. Following this a Senegambian Confederation was established but this was dissolved in 1989. In July 1994 Jawara was overthrown by the army in a coup d'état and went into political exile in Britain, returning to Gambia in 2002. He is active in forums supporting health and democracy in Africa.
Under Jawara's rule Gambia remained an isolated example of democracy and stability in the troubled West African region but in the latter part of his rule corruption became a major problem. For a short time before his overthrow he was the very last of that generation of African leaders who had led their countries to independence in the 1960s to remain in power.
Subjects: African Studies.