UDP Party Leader and Secretary General: Ousainou Darboe
Born of humble origins to wonderful, caring and noble parents of the village of Dobo (Niani), Central River Region in 1948, Lawyer Ousainou Darboe grew up under the tutelage of his parents and the elders of Dobo. In days of old, a child belongs to the community, virtues which stayed with Lawyer Darboe throughout his journey. He grew up as a son, brother, and cousin to every senior member of the community with respect and humility.
The Darboes are part of the larger Manding kinship group who specialized in trade and scholarship. They migrated towards the lower Gambia region from the great empire of Mali around the twelfth to the fourteenth centuries.
Lawyer Darboe attended Bansang Primary School where he distinctively excelled in the Common Entrance Examination to gain his rightful place at the Gambia High School. His years at the Gambia High could be considered as his second formative years. From Gambia High School, Darboe secured a Commonwealth scholarship to study law at the University of Lagos in Nigeria. He later did a Master’s degree in law from the University of Ottawa in Canada.
Indeed, these were the days of independence movement in Africa. Days during which Africa and Africans were fighting to end colonial domination. As such, Lawyer Darboe and many of his student pears became part of a revolutionary movement, “the Lumumbaist”, mainly to foster national consciousness and to truly devise strategies to build a new Africa. He was apparently part of a generation of Africans who were convinced by Pan Africanist ideas and were prepared to be part of post-independence political narrative for a free and just society for Africa and for Africans.
Spurred by the desire for a just and free society, Ousainou decided earlier in his age to study law so as to represent and defend the disadvantaged and the rural migrants who were seriously underrepresented in the realm of the law. Most of the lawyers at the time were on the payroll of the rich city dwellers and their colonial lackeys. The emergence of young and smart lawyers like Darbo unmistakably sent shock waves in the corridors of justice that the rural masses and the poor city residents now have a soldier in their midst and can no longer be taken advantage of.
Darboe was called to Federal Bar of Nigeria in 1973 before he returned home to take up the post of state prosecutor. Darbo rose to the ranks of Acting Registrar and then Legal Draftsman before he resigned in 1980. Darboe’s resignation from Attorney General’s Chambers to go into private practice was in protest against the laws being used by then government to suppress the opposition in the country and stifle democracy in the country. As a private practitioner, Darboe earned a lot of praise for saving the lives of more than 100 Gambians who were tried for high treason as a result of their alleged involvement in the 1981 coupe master-minded by Kukoi Samba Sanyang. Such high profile cases included Sherriff Mustapha Dibba and Pap Cheyassin Secka and lot of other people who were detained under emergency law.
Darboe’s resilience and dedication to free The Gambia knows no boundaries. As a Mandinka proverb emphasizes, Sisewo meng be kookolela, I buka wo faa luntang ye (A chicken that is destined to reach its full age cannot be served to a stranger). In other words, however the former dictator tried to silence and end Darboe’s life, he escaped the wrath of his furry with the help of Almighty Allah. About 15 years after the Kukoi cases closed, Darboe found himself at the helm of a party that would eventually contribute meaningfully to the liberation of its people from decades of quasi military dictatorship.