France Locks Down As Global Virus Panic Spreads

 

France goes into a near-total shutdown Tuesday over the coronavirus, the latest country to impose draconian restrictions affecting the lives of tens of millions of people.

European leaders also plan to ban all non-essential travel into the continent on Tuesday in a bid to stem a pandemic that has upended society, battered markets and killed thousands around the world.

With French President Emmanuel Macron describing the battle against COVID-19 as a “war”, governments around the world are scrambling to keep the public safe with measures rarely seen in peacetime, slamming borders shut and forcing citizens to stay home.

The crisis is infecting every sector of the economy, and global stocks have been on a rollercoaster ride, with Wall Street on Monday sinking more than 12 percent in the worst session since the crash of 1987.

Investors are still in panic mode, despite emergency interventions by central banks and governments to shore up confidence.

After the initial outbreak in a Chinese city in December, Europe has emerged as the epicentre of the virus with more deaths now recorded outside China than inside.

COVID-19 has now killed more than 7,000 people worldwide, including over 2,100 in Italy, the worst-hit country outside China.

READ ALSO: Philippines Suspends Stock Market Trade Over Coronavirus Fears

More than 180,000 cases have been recorded in 145 countries.

The head of the World Health Organization called Monday for every suspected coronavirus case to be tested, something which would send the known tally of the sick sky-rocketing.

“You cannot fight a fire while blindfolded,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists. “Test, test, test. Test every suspected case.”

In a sombre address to the nation, Macron ordered the French to stay at home for 15 days from midday Tuesday, banning all non-essential trips or social contacts.

Most shops, restaurants and tourist sites in the world’s most visited country are already shuttered.

About 100,000 police and gendarmes will be out on the streets to enforce the measures, after Macron warned violations would be punished.

“We are at war, a public health war certainly. We are fighting not against an army or another nation. But the enemy is there, invisible and elusive and on the move,” he said.

With European nations already closing their borders, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said she would ask the leaders of the bloc’s Schengen visa-free border zone to stop all non-essential travel into the area.

“Concretely, all trips between non-European countries and EU countries will be suspended for 30 days,” Macron said.

This follows a ban on inbound travel to the United States, whose President Donald Trump steeled the nation for a fight against the virus that he warned could last months.

US health officials said the first human trial to evaluate a possible vaccine had begun, although it may be another year to 18 months before it becomes available.

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi and American drugmaker Regeneron also said they had started clinical trials for a new drug, Kevzara, an immuno-suppressor.

In another small glimmer of hope, China reported just one new domestic case on Tuesday — but found 20 imported from abroad.

– ‘Apocalyptic vibe’ –

Trump said he was asking Americans to restrict gatherings to groups of fewer than 10 people — as the streets of New York and the capital Washington stood largely deserted.

One customer at a French restaurant in Brooklyn said she felt the moves were unprecedented.

“I want strong leadership, but it’s scary. I’ve never experienced anything like this before and I don’t think my parents have, I don’t think anyone has,” Kelly McGee told AFP.

“There’s something about being in this apocalyptic vibe and being with other people and experiencing it together that I think I still crave.”

Trump acknowledged the United States “may be” heading into a recession due to the virus, as G7 leaders vowed to coordinate their response to the virus and “do whatever it takes, using all policy tools” — after a meeting held via videoconference.

Every sector from tourism to food to aviation is affected, as the global economy effectively goes into shutdown.German giant VW on Tuesday joined other European car makers in closing down plants and major world airlines have axed almost all flights temporarily, triggering pleas to help carriers survive.

Italy announced plans to renationalise national carrier Alitalia, while France said it was also ready to nationalise large companies if necessary.

There are growing doubts too over the European football championships set to take place in 12 countries this summer and the Olympics in Japan, as the virus shreds the sporting calendar.

Very few countries have been left untouched by the virus as it continues its relentless march across the globe, and a cascading number are taking increasingly drastic responses.

Britain called for an end to all “non-essential” contact and travel, while Switzerland declared a state of emergency.

Germany banned gatherings in churches, mosques and synagogues and said playgrounds and non-essential shops would close.

Tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia were ordered into effective home quarantines, with Malaysia and the Philippines announcing unprecedented lockdowns.

In India, the world’s second-most populous country, where most schools and entertainment facilities have already shut down, the Taj Mahal was closed to visitors.

AFP

Philippines Suspends Stock Market Trade Over Coronavirus Fears

Vehicles pile up at the boundary of Manila and the North Luzon Expressway Mindanao Avenue exit during rush hour in Manila on March 16, 2020, with temperature and identification checkpoints as part of measures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. – The virus has upended society around the planet, with governments imposing restrictions rarely seen outside war-time, including the closing of borders, home quarantine orders and the scrapping of public events. Maria TAN / AFP.

 

The Philippines suspended trade on its local stock exchange Tuesday, becoming the first country to close its financial market over coronavirus fears.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered most of the 55 million people on the main island of Luzon, which includes the capital Manila, to stay at home for the next month after social distancing measures failed to keep people away from one another.

Philippine Stock Exchange President Ramon Monzon told traders in a memo that trading is suspended starting Tuesday “until further notice” to move in step with Duterte’s order.

Monzon said the suspension was also “to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the escalating cases of the coronavirus disease”.

Confirmed cases in the Philippines have jumped to 142, with 12 deaths and the government has unveiled a 27.1 billion peso($526.6 million) package to fund hospitals fighting the virus and provide reprieve amid a slowdown in economic activity.

READ ALSO: Euro 2020 Fate To Be Decided As Coronavirus Threat Looms

The benchmark PSE index plunged 7.9 percent during shortened trading on Monday as investors reeled from the virus’ economic impact.

The suspension order came as stock markets and oil prices went into freefall after central banks’ fresh stimulus measures failed to dampen fears of the global pandemic.

Shares in Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index dropped by as much as 3.66 percent at Tuesday’s open before recovering about 70 minutes after the opening bell.

Overnight, Wall Street indices fell in their worst day since 1987, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq dropping about 12 percent and the Dow sinking nearly 13 percent.

AFP

S.Africa Stock Market Tumbles As Coronavirus Restrictions Intensify

 

Cyril Ramaphosa delivers a speech during his inauguration as South African President, at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, on May 25, 2019.

 

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) plunged 12 percent on Monday as South Africa imposed tough restrictions after declaring a national state of disaster in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that Africa’s most developed nation would close its borders from Wednesday to all foreigners from countries highly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools are closing down and gatherings of more than 100 people have been prohibited.

The JSE fell below 38,784 points on Monday, its lowest level since August 2013, following a downward trend in markets around the world sparked by concerns about the economic fallout of Covid-19.

The JSE Africa All-Share Index tumbled as much as 12 percent, while the rand currency lost 2.2 percent against the US dollar to trade at 16.64 rand.

Nedbank economist Nicky Weimar said South Africa’s economy and markets were being hit on multiple fronts by “weak demand (both locally and abroad), contained inflation, the volatile rand and an uncertain global environment due to the coronavirus.”

Shares in the industrial metals, food producers and mining industries also fell.

To date 62 people in South Africa have tested positive for the virus — the second-highest number of cases in Africa after Egypt, which has reported at least 110 cases.

South Africa’s economy has already been battered by internal factors such as power outages and weak business confidence.

It slumped into recession in the last quarter of 2019.

Economists forecast that the central bank will cut interest rates by at least 50 basis points.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni on Monday said despite having funds available through the National Disaster fund, the country may need to set aside further funding to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The impact of the virus on an already struggling economy has piled pressure on Ramaphosa who took over from graft-tainted Jacob Zuma two years ago promising a new start.

“We are going through a period which we have never gone through since (end of apartheid in 1994),” he told reporters on Monday. “It is going to be a testing period on all of us”.

“It is going to have a negative impact on our economy, our economy which is already in technical recession”.

AFP

Coronavirus: Ghana Closes Schools, Bans Gatherings

 

Ghana on Monday closed all schools and universities and suspended public events to stop the spread of coronavirus as a string of African nations imposed tighter restrictions to stem the spread of the global pandemic.

President Nana Akufo-Addo announced in an address to the West African nation that the authorities were shutting schools and universities “until further notice”.

Public gatherings — including conferences, religious services, sports matches and political rallies — have also been suspended for four weeks, he said.

Ghana on Sunday announced it would start barring entry to the country from Tuesday for any non-Ghanaian citizen or resident “who, within the last 14 days, has been to a country that has recorded at least 200 cases”.

READ ALSO: PHOTOS: Blast Wreaks Havoc In Lagos Community

The move came as the authorities reported a rise in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 from two to six, with the new cases all arrivals from abroad.

Numerous nations in sub-Saharan Africa — including Senegal, Kenya and South Africa — have begun imposing entry restrictions or closing schools as the continent scrambles to halt the spread of the virus.

AFP

Death Threat Forces Guinea Bissau Interim President To Resign

 

The man appointed interim president of Guinea-Bissau by the side beaten in the December presidential election has stepped down because of death threats, less than two days after being nominated.

“Given the death threats against me and my bodyguards, I have decided to give up the role of interim president for which I was nominated, to avoid a bloodbath in Guinea-Bissau,” said Cipriano Cassama.

“I fear for my physical integrity,” he said in a press statement, less than 48 hours after he was appointed by the country’s historic ruling party, the PAIGC.

“My life and that of my family is in danger. I have no security,” he said, adding that soldiers had come for his bodyguards on Friday.

But he said he would stay on as leader of the National Assembly.

The PAIGC has dominated political life since the former Portuguese colony won independence in 1974, and on Friday 54 of its deputies, out of the 102 parliamentary seats, appointed Cassama interim president.

Two rival contenders for the presidency have been battling to assume power since the December 29 run-off vote.

Opposition leader Umaro Sissoco Embalo 47, won 53.55 per cent of the votes in the second-round vote, according to the National Electoral Commission.

Domingos Simoes Pereira, 56, also from PAIGC, won 46.45 per cent but denounced the result as fraudulent.

 Ousted premier denounces ‘attempted coup’ 

The Supreme Court, responding to a petition by the PAIGC, ordered a check of the vote tally sheets, but this has failed to resolve the dispute, with a row breaking out between the Supreme Court and the election panel.

On Thursday, Embalo conducted his own presidential swearing-in ceremony and moved into the presidential palace, without waiting for a final ruling from the Supreme Court.

On Friday, he appointed Nuno Gomes Nabiam as prime minister after sacking the internationally recognised incumbent Aristides Gomes.

Embalo, a former prime minister who fell out with the ruling party, styled himself as the outsider in the election campaign. He has vowed to break with the decades-long domination of the PAIGC.

But after soldiers occupied the prime minister’s office on Friday evening, according to an AFP correspondent, Gomes denounced what he described as “attempted coup”, in a statement on his Facebook page.

Guinea-Bissau has suffered chronic instability since independence, with the army often playing a major role. The country has suffered four coups and 16 attempted coups since 1974, the last one in 2012.

One of the world’s poorest countries, it is also ranked as one of the most corrupt.

Drug traffickers use it as a transit point, moving cocaine in from Latin America towards Europe, with the suspected cooperation of army officers.

AFP

Former Kenyan President Dies At 95

 

 File picture of Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi addressing a rally in Malindi, North of Mombasa, 26 August 1997. ALEXANDER JOE / AFP
File picture of Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi addressing a rally in Malindi, North of Mombasa, 26 August 1997. ALEXANDER JOE / AFP

 

Former Kenyan president Daniel arap Moi, who ruled the country with an iron fist between 1978 and 2002, has died aged 95, President Uhuru Kenyatta announced Tuesday.

Moi’s 24-year rule saw his country become a one-party state where critical voices were crushed, corruption became endemic and tribal divisions were stoked and turned bloody.

“It is with profound sadness that I announce the death of a great man of an African state,” Kenyatta said in a statement.

He ordered a period of national mourning until a state funeral is held, on a date not yet announced.

The former president died “in the early morning of February 4 at Nairobi hospital in the presence of his family,” Kenyatta said.

‘Chequered career’

Moi fought off rivals in a bitter contest to take the top job in 1978, succeeding Kenya’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, when he died.

The speaker of Kenya’s national assembly, Justin Muturi said that Moi was an “astute politician”, who “employed pragmatic nationalism to keep the country together for the 24 years that he led our nation.”

“He will be remembered for his great efforts towards consolidating peace and tranquility within the Horn of Africa and largely the East African Region, at a very difficult time for the region and the African continent,” Muturi added.

His son Gideon Moi, a senator, confirmed Moi died at 5:20 am (02:20 GMT). “He passed away peacefully,” he said. “I was by his side and, as a family, we have accepted (his death).”

One of the defining scandals of Moi’s presidency was the loss of $1 billion from the central bank through false gold and diamond exports.

A report by Britain-based risk consultant group Kroll in 2007 claimed Moi’s family and clique laundered money on a global scale, buying properties and companies in London, New York and South Africa and even a 10,000-hectare (25,000-acre) ranch in Australia.

‘Discipline’

Vice-President William Ruto, who comes from the same Kalenjin people as Moi, mourned his “legendary personal discipline” and said that his “life and work touched every one of us in lasting, impactful ways.”

Those targeted by his regime included human rights and environmental activists, including the writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o and the future Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

Moi was however praised for keeping Kenya a relative haven of peace during a chaotic period in east Africa which saw the genocide in Rwanda and civil wars in Burundi and Somalia.

His later return — under significant pressure — to multiparty elections in 1992, and peaceful handover of power to opposition leader Mwai Kibaki in 2002 also won him some praise.

Former opponent Raila Odinga, who spent several years in jail under Moi, referred to the late leader’s “chequered career”, but also spoke of his decision to finally restore multiparty politics.

“Moi and I reconciled after the political differences of the 1980s and early 90s, and we were able to work together to bring more reforms to the country,” Odinga said.

In recent years observers have criticised the “rehabilitation” of Moi as the elderly former president often received visits from President Kenyatta, his opposition rival Raila Odinga and any politician seeking his blessing ahead of elections.

Kenyatta revived “Moi Day” in honour of the former president in 2017, after it was scrapped in 2010.

 

AFP

Iraq President ‘Denounces’ Iran Missile Strikes

President Buhari To Swear In Ministers August 21

 

 

Iraq’s President Barham Saleh on Wednesday condemned Iran’s missile strikes on Iraqi bases where the US and other foreign troops are based, saying he feared “dangerous developments” in the region.

“We denounce the Iranian missile bombing that hit military installations on Iraqi territory and renew our rejection of the repeated violation of state sovereignty and the transformation of Iraq into a battlefield for warring sides,” his office said in a statement.

Iran launched the missiles early Wednesday in response to the killing of senior Revolution Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Iraq last week.

Reps Reject Bill Seeking Six-Year Single Term For President, Govs

 

A Bill for an Act to alter the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to Provide for a single term of six years for the President and governors has failed to scale second reading in the House of Representatives.

The bill also considers a six-year term for Members of the National Assembly and States Houses of Assembly.

Majority of the lawmakers during plenary on Tuesday rejected the bill which was sponsored by John Dyegh from Benue State.

READ ALSO: Senate Summons Aregbesola Over Visa-On-Arrival Policy

John Dyegh argued that the bill was necessary to for members of the National Assembly to gain more experience in six years years instead of four.

According to him, re-election for the President and governors cost three times more than the first election and is characterised by violence. He believes a single term of five years will curb the irregularities associated with re-election.

The lawmakers in disagreement with Dyegh pushed instead for a credible electoral process. They argued that the President or governor will be unable to make meaningful achievements if restricted to just a six year single term.

They added that the current tenure provides an opportunity for appraisal every four years.

US Court Finds President’s Brother Guilty Of Drug Charges

Man Bags 15 Years In Prison For N5.2m Fraud

 

A New York court found the brother of the president of Honduras guilty of drug trafficking Friday, in a blow to the leader of the Central American country.

Juan Antonio Hernandez, known as Tony Hernandez, was convicted by a jury on all four counts, a spokesperson in the Manhattan prosecutor’s office told AFP.

Hernandez, a former Honduran congressman, was arrested at a Miami airport in November 2018 on charges of conspiring to import cocaine into the United States, weapons offenses and making false statements.

He is the brother of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who tweeted Friday that his brother had been convicted with “testimony from confessed murderers.”

Sentencing is due on January 17. Hernandez, 41, faces from five years to life in prison.

The US government argued that Hernandez was a large-scale drug trafficker who worked from 2004 to 2016 with others in Colombia, Honduras and Mexico to import cocaine into the US by plane, boat and submarine.

The prosecution also said Hernandez, who served as a member of the Honduran Congress from 2014 to 2018, was involved in at least two murders of rival drug traffickers in 2011 and 2013.

Some of the cocaine he was transporting was labeled with his initials “TH,” prosecutors argued.

The trial also featured compromising allegations against the president himself.

The prosecution claimed that several candidates from Honduras’ ruling National Party accepted campaign funding from Tony Hernandez, including former president Porfirio Lobo and the current president, who was elected first in 2013 and again in contested elections in 2017.

The Manhattan prosecutor’s office filed a motion in August alleging that President Hernandez received at least $1.5 million in drug money from one of the prosecution’s cooperating witnesses for his first campaign, and $40,000 for the second.

President Hernandez and Lobo have both rejected the accusations, and neither has been formally charged by the US judicial system.

The high-profile trial lasted just under two weeks.

US prosecutors have aggressively pursued current or former Honduran public officials and their relatives over drug trafficking allegations.

The verdict comes after Mexican kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the 62-year-old former co-leader of Mexico’s feared Sinaloa drug cartel, was convicted in New York in February of smuggling hundreds of tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana into the United States.

He has been jailed for life, a sentence he is appealing.

Zimbabwe’s Ex-President Mugabe Finally Laid To Rest

 

The body of Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe was buried on Saturday in a low-key ceremony in his home village after weeks of wrangling over his final resting place.

Family members threw white roses into the grave as the coffin of the liberation hero turned despot, draped in navy blue velvet, was lowered to its final resting place in the courtyard of his rural home about 90 kilometres (55 miles) west of Harare.

A boys choir from Mugabe‘s old highschool sang in the background.

The burial in the village of Kutama came after the Mugabe family finally opted to reject government proposals that he be laid to rest at the National Heroes Acre in the capital.

Mugabe died in a Singapore hospital on September 6, aged 95, almost two years after a military coup ended his autocratic 37-year rule.

Hundreds of mourners assembled for the burial, which was initially intended to be a private family event.

Many wore white Mugabe-emblazoned T-shirts with the slogans “founding father”, “liberator” and “torchbearer”.

Some sang and danced. Others sat quietly under two white tents.

Mugabe’s widow Grace and his children accompanied the coffin.

 

 

Clad in black, they took their places in a VIP tent ahead of the service.

The words “DAD” and “BABA”, meaning “father” in the local Shona language were spelled out in white flowers.

“Our hearts are bleeding because we have lost our father,” said the priest, standing next to a portrait of Mugabe framed by white carnations.

“This is a man who made use of the gifts he was given by God. This man was an asset, he was not a liability.”

No senior government officials were among the audience.

– ‘It’s his wish’ –

A mausoleum was being constructed at the site in Harare reserved for heroes of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle.

However, the family said on Saturday he would not have wished to have been buried there.

“What we have done is his wish,” said Grace’s older sister Shuvai Gumbochuma, addressing mourners in Shona.

“He (Mugabe) said with his own mouth that he didn’t want to be buried at the heroes acre,” she said.

The ruling ZANU-PF party described the family’s decision as “most unfortunate”.

“All patriotic Zimbabweans were shocked to learn that the remains of the former president had been surreptitiously taken yesterday to Zvimba for a private burial,” said spokesman Simon Khaya-Moyo in a statement on Friday.

Former guerrilla leader Mugabe took power after independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Initially hailed as a pan-African liberator, Mugabe‘s rule became increasingly repressive as he cracked down on his political opponents.

This was combined with a series of disastrous economic policies that drove millions of Zimbabweans abroad.

Mugabe was eventually toppled by his formerly loyal military generals in 2017.

Many in the family are bitter over his ouster and the role played by his deputy and successor Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was elected president in 2018.

 

 

The army turned against Mugabe after he sacked Mnangagwa, a move many saw as an attempt to position Grace to succeed him.

Zimbabwe remains deeply split over his legacy.

“I was very comfortable that he be buried at the heroes acre,” said local official Christopher Ndlovu before the ceremony.

“That’s what we wanted as local villagers. But since it’s a family decision to bury him here, we will respect it.”

 

 

Tunisia’s Ex-President Ben Ali Dies At 83

FILES) In this file photo taken on April 01, 1988 former President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali 1987 poses for an official picture in front of the Tunisian flag.  Handout / AFP

 

Former Tunisian president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, the first leader to be toppled by the Arab Spring revolts, died Thursday in Saudi Arabia, Tunisia’s foreign ministry told AFP.

“We had confirmation of his death 30 minutes ago,” the ministry said, without giving further details. Ben Ali was 83.

His lawyer, Mounir Ben Salha, confirmed the news, citing family members and Ben Ali’s doctor.

Ben Ali, who ruled his North African country from 1987 until 2011, was viewed by some as a bulwark against Islamist extremism, but faced criticism for muzzling the opposition and his reluctance to embrace democracy.

Eventually, growing frustration over unemployment and high prices snapped.

In late 2010, the self-immolation of a young trader sparked major protests that rocked the country and sparked a deadly clampdown.

Ben Ali fled Tunisia for Saudi Arabia on January 14, 2011.

His rapid departure sparked a string of similar uprisings across the region, toppling Egyptian and Libyan strongmen Hosni Mubarak and Moamer Kadhafi.

The turmoil triggered what was to become Syria’s devastating eight-year war.

 Pyjamas in exile 

In mid-2012, Ben Ali was sentenced in absentia to life in jail for his role in the deaths of protesters during the uprising that ousted him.

Little information has emerged on his life in exile.

Photos posted on Instagram in 2013 showed the former strongman smiling in striped pyjamas.

Rumours of his death had circulated several times in recent years.

A week ago, Ben Salha said the former president was in a “critical condition”, before denying reports that he had died.

“He is not dead, but his state of health is bad. He has left hospital and is currently being cared for at his home — his condition is stabilising”, the lawyer said at the time.

Prime Minister Youssef Chahed said last week that on humanitarian grounds Ben Ali could return to die in his own country — “like every Tunisian” — should he wish to do so.

Ben Ali is survived by six children; three daughters by a first marriage and two daughters and a son by Leila Trabelsi.

A career soldier, Ben Ali took power on November 7, 1987 when he toppled Habib Bourguiba, the ailing father of Tunisian independence who was by then reported to be senile.

Tunisians, including Islamists, hailed his bloodless, non-violent takeover.

He went on to make Tunisia a moderate voice in the Arab world while Western governments viewed him as an effective bulwark against extremism despite criticism of his slow move toward democracy.

Ben Ali was also sentenced in absentia to misappropriating public funds and ordering the torture of army officers who allegedly led a coup attempt against him.

Tunisia on Sunday held a presidential election, in which two outsiders — law professor Kais Saied and detained media mogul Nabil Karoui — made it through to a second round run-off.

The country’s first post Arab Spring democratically elected president, Beji Caid Essebsi, died in July aged 92, bringing the first round of the presidential polls forward by several months.

AFP

First Gambia President, Dawda Jawara Dies At 95

President of Gambia Dawda Kairaba Jawara’s visit to the USSR. Dawda Jawara signs the book for honourable guests. Lev Ivanov / Sputnik

 

Dawda Jawara, the first president of The Gambia following independence from Britain, died Tuesday at the age of 95, officials said.

Current President Adama Barrow, in online comments, described Jawara’s death as “a great loss to the country in particular and humanity in general”.

Fisheries Minister James Gomez told AFP that “the former head of State Sir Dawda Jawara died this afternoon. Flags would fly at half mast” and the body will lie in state for mourners to pay their respects.

Jawara, a Glasgow-trained veterinary doctor, led the former British Colony to Independence on 18th February 1965 until July 1994 when his reign was brought to an end by a bloodless military coup led by Yahya Jammeh, who went on to rule the tiny West African state for 22 years.

The Gambian presidency, in a statement on Twitter announced that a state funeral would be held on Thursday.

“In honour of his enduring legacy, President Barrow has ordered that the former president be accorded a befitting state funeral and that flags at all public institutions to fly at half-mast.

“Sir Dawda has lived a life that epitomises peace, tolerance, respect, and patriotism. His time as president has put the country on the path of development at both human and institutional standards. His legacy as the father of the nation shall forever live on.”

Jawara was born in 1924 into a Muslim family in central Barajally, where his father was a tradesman.

He worked as a vet and it was not until 1960 that he decided to enter politics, joining the Protectorate People’s Party in 1960 while the country was still under British rule..

His party, which later changed its name to the People Progressive Party (PPP) won the elections in 1962 and he became the country’s prime minister.

That was the post Jawara held when The Gambia gained its independence in 1965, ending British colonial rule which begun in 1888.

It was not until 1970 that he assumed his post as the country’s first president.

Jawara resisted post-independence pressure to become part of neighbouring Senegal, which surrounds the whole country with the exception of its Atlantic coastline.

Following his 1994 ouster, Jawara sought refuge in Britain where he lived with his family until 2002 when he returned home after President Jammeh granted him amnesty and returned his assets to him.

While in power his regime was considered one of the most democratic on the African continent.

AFP