It was The Gambia News and Report Magazine that started The Man of The Year Award in 1992 with the conferment on Amadou Samba, the chairman of Gacem, the first cement company in the country.
The award was later renamed to the more gender sensitive and politically correct Person of Year and now Gambian of The Year. The winners over the years represented a broad spectrum of the Gambian populace including men, women, young and the old, the rich and the famous, kora players and imams, doctors and politicians, urbanites and rural dwellers, presidents and opposition politicians and so forth. It has been a disparate lot but the one thing that unites them is their patriotism, altruism and sterling contribution to the common good. For several years and since his death, the award has not been given and it wasn’t for lack of befitting recipients.
We at The Standard felt that we should pick up from where Mr Conateh and The Gambia News & Report Magazine left, hence the decision to name and confer The Gambian of The Year 2020 Award.
Swaebou has been gone for two years but his legacy endures and this award is a testament to that. He continues to inspire in life as in death.
The Gambia Press Union remembered him thus: “Throughout his career, he rendered selfless services to the journalism profession and the welfare of journalists. A man of integrity and decency, he dedicated his magazine to giving voice to the voiceless and the marginalised.”
Marcel Thomasi, who succeeded him as Director of Broadcasting said of him: “He was a very good journalist who wrote better than he spoke. He had this slant for writing but at Radio Gambia he showed great capacity for radio and would listen to all programmes for quality and ethical issues.”
Former Minister for Information and Communication Infrastructure, Demba Jawo said Mr Conateh was instrumental in shaping his journalistic career.
“On professional basis, we used to discuss a lot of issues. His advices were always useful. If anybody felt his departure, I am definitely one of them,” he said at a memorial in 2019.
Writer Seedy Bojang simply wrote of him: “He was the best person I ever worked with”.
Alagi Yorro Jallow, managing editor of the defunct The Independent newspaper who worked with Mr Conateh stated: “He lived an accomplished life of service to journalism and free press. Swaebou Conateh was a man of integrity and intellectual courage as well as a profound decency. People tell the dead to rest in peace; Swaebou was occupied with the living, living in peace in the service of the voiceless.”
Swaebou Conateh was not just a journalist, he was also a writer who authored books and anthologies of poems as well as contribute to two of the seminal books on Gambian political historiography. Among them was the story of the People’s Progressive Party, the PPP, Vox Populi, Pox Dei and President Dawda Jawara’s memoir Kairaba.
We dedicate The Gambian of The Year, 2020 Award to the memory of the man Pa Nderry Mbai of Freedom Newspaper called “the titan” of Gambian journalism, Mr Swaebou Conateh.
These are the past winners:
1992 – Amadou Samba, Businessman
1993 – Pa Sallah Jagne, Inspector General of Police
1994 – Ebrima Samba (1932-2016), Head of WHO regional office for Africa
1995 – Lenrie Peters (1932-2009) Writer, surgeon
1996 – Lamin Waa Juwara, Politician
1997 – Isatou Njie-Saidy, Vice president
1998 – Bai Lamin Jobe, Head of Gamworks Agency
1999 – Harriet Ndow (1926-2019) Educationist
2000 – Karamo Touray, Imam of Brikama
2001 – Ousman Conateh (1937-2020) President of Gambia Football Association
2002 – Hassan Jallow, Justice of the Supreme Court
2003 – Muhammed Jah, CEO of QuantumNet
2004 – Deyda Hydara (1946-2004) Journalist (posthumous)
2005 – Pa Sallah Jeng, Mayor of Banjul
2006 – Bolong Sonko and Mustapha Njie, alias Taf
2007 – Yahya Jammeh (1965) President
2008 – Isatou Touray, Feminist activist
2009 – Jaliba Kuyateh (1957) Musician
2010 – Dawda Jawara (1924-2019) Former president
2011 – Fatou Bensouda (1961) Prosecutor ICC
2012 – Solomon Tilewa Johnson (1954-2014) Archbishop Primate of the Anglican Church in West Africa
2013 – Ibrahim Ceesay, Filmmaker and activist
2014 – Momodou Turo Darboe, Businessman and philanthropist
2015 – Bakary Gassama (1979) Football referee
2016 – Alieu Momar Njie, Chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission
2017 – Not awarded
2018 – Swaebou Conateh (1944-2018) Publisher of The Gambia News & Report (posthumous)
2019 – Not awarded.