4 April 2011

Gambia: AE Cham Joof Passes Away

Alhaji Alieu Ebrima Cham Joof commonly known as Pa Cham Joof, a renowned and well-respected Gambian historian, politician and trade unionist, passed away last Saturday, April 2nd, 2011, at his home in Bakau. Born on 24th October 1924 in Banjul, the late Joof was a public figure for more than 50 years. He was laid to rest at the Old Jeshwang cemetery the same day.

Background

Born to Ebrima Joof and Aji Anna Samba, he was a descendant of the Joof Royal Family of Sine and Saloum, the Njie Royal Family of Jolof and the renowned Nyang Family of Saloum. He was the great-grandson of Kotcha Joof from Sine-Saloum and Fakebbe Njie (sister of Buur Ba Jolof - Alboury Sainabou Njie). åIn 1953, he represented The Gambia then, as the head of the Gambia Boys Scout during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. He also served as Director of Programmes at Radio Gambia in the early days, a position he held from 1968 until his retirement in the early 1980s. He was of course the person who helped Alex Haley (an African American) discover his roots in The Gambia, when he was introduced to him at the Atlantic Hotel and asked whether he can help him. He also headed the programme called "Chossani Senegambia" which was a collaboration of Radio Senegal and Radio Gambia. He travelled the length and breadth of The Gambia and Senegal with his team interviewing the elders to narrate the history of Senegambia. He was an accomplished historian and author who have written several manuscripts about the history of Senegambia. He was a well-respected historian within the profession.

He was the mentor of students from the University of The Gambia who would line his house taking notes as he narrated the history of Senegambia, the great Senegambian kings, the ancient kingdoms, battles etc. Very few Senegambia authors and historians can claim to have written their books without first interviewing Pa Cham Joof. He was the mentor of the well-respected historian Professor Samba Jobe as well as Professor Nyang from Harvard University (USA) whom were one of many of his pupils whom he would give audience to enlighten them on Senegambian history. He was a well-respected politician, a trade unionist, co-founder of ECCO 1997 [The Education Through Community and Culture Organisation]; former chairman of The Gambia National Archives- National Record Service (NRS); member of The National Consultative Committee; Assistant Scout Master from 1946 -1952; City councilor; Social Secretary of The Gambia Democratic Party and Assistant Secretary of The Democratic Congress Alliance in 1960. He also stood as candidate against PS Njie in The Gambia's first general election. He was an important figure during the colonial era and organised several demonstrations against the British administration in The Gambia and lobbied the administration in order to acquire independence for The Gambia. It was through his efforts among with his colleagues that led to Gambia's independence.

He was also the founder member and first Secretary General of The Gambia Development Company which introduced tourism into The Gambia in 1966. He had donated several documents and historical information to the NRS, universities, authors etc. Most historians (Senegambian or otherwise) and government agencies including the NRS, who wished to know the history of The Gambia as well as Gambian institutions, have visited him on several occasions and even right after his retirement from public office. Even right after his retirement, he still continued to give audiences. Joof was a well-respected historian, political and trade unionist figure. From being a key figure of the 'Bread and Butter Demonstration' in The Gambia in 1959, which resulted in constitutional development in the country, to holding several high-profile jobs over his long career, Joof saw no point of just sitting down and doing nothing, but concentrated on his books, writings and talks.

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