Even in today’s Gambia, it is the ultimate test of one’s love, to leave your religion, and embrace the religion of your partner, in order to get wed. You can imagine how much stigma one would have to endure in 1950s Gambia. In understanding this, we begin to appreciate, how much head over heels in love the young Jawara must have been with his first wife, Augusta.
Having last seen Augusta in 1947, before his departure to Ghana, the nurses’ quarters in Basse was to be their next meeting place. When she had heard of Mr Jawara’s presence in the Veterinary Camp, she sent word for him to come for dinner. That was the night, far away from Banjul, in a medical camp in Basse, when the two knew, that there may be something in the air for them.
“We both knew clearly from the first evening that the dinner was not going to be our last. She was in as much of a hurry for me to return the next evening as I was getting there.”
The lover boy admitted that he did visit the Sister’s Quarters at every opportunity, so much so that when his trek finished, and he returned to Kombo, he couldn’t wait to be back in Basse. He convinced his boss, a Mr. Walshe that it was vital that he return to Basse to “clean up any pockets he may have missed.” It took him only two weeks before he was back on his toing and froing between the Vet Camp and the Sister’s Quarters.
The two were clearly, uncontrollably in love. The challenge was the little issue of their faiths. Augusta was a strict Pentecostal Christian, and there was no way she’ll convert to Islam. Jawara wasn’t a bad Muslim either; he used to call the azaan in their mosque in Banjul. In the end, it seemed his obsession over the fair lady overcame his love for Islam and he rationalized that it didn’t matter much which religion he espoused, since he had a deep faith in God. So a thirty year old Jawara was baptized and confirmed in quick successions, and on a Sunday in 1955, in a little church in the province, Father Grainge solemnized the matrimony of David Kwesi and Augusta Mahoney.
I wonder if the Holy Father or anyone else knew then, that they had witnessed the wedding of the first, First Lady and the first Prime Minister and president of The Gambia.
Part 3 coming soon.