Suwaebou Conateh

Tributes are pouring in on the social networking site Facebook to veteran journalist Suwaebou Conateh,  who died on Thursday.

Mr Conateh, publisher of the Gambia News and Report weekly magazine is reported to have passed away after a brief illness.

Paying tribute to him, the Gambia Press Union (GPU) said: “The Gambia Press Union (GPU) has learnt with deep sadness and great shock the sudden death of Mr Suwaebou Conateh, a veteran Gambian Journalist and publisher of the Gambia News and Report weekly magazine.

As a journalist, he spoke and wrote the truth, with bravery, vigour and passion. As a publisher, he inspired, groomed and guided so many young journalists and championed press freedom and freedom of expression. As a doyen, he helped strengthen GPU and today we are all proud of the union thanks to the likes of Swaebou.

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 marginalized.

As we mourn his death, the GPU also celebrated his legacy as a principled, brave, professional and very progressive journalist who stood and fought for justice for all.”

Alagi Yorro Jallow, managing editor of now defunct newspaper, The Independent said: “This is greatly saddening news.  The Gambia has lost one of its greatest journalist, editor and publisher. He lived an accomplished life of service to journalism and free press.

Suwaebou Conateh; a man of integrity and intellectual courage as well as a profound decency: People tell the dead to rest in peace. Suwaebou was occupied with the living, living in peace in the service of the voiceless.

Death is a shadow that always; ALWAYS follows the body. A universal, inevitable phenomenon that picks the weak and the strong, the rich and the poor – young and old. “Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and own dying” (Martin Luther – not the King).

Yes. All that live must die. It is a debt we must pay. In the words of Hilaire Beloc, “death is what even politicians fail to bribe or swindle, bully or blackmail”. Fare thee well, doyen Suwaebou Conateh: ; a man’s ability may be great or small, but if he has this spirit, he is already noble-minded and pure, a man of moral integrity and above vulgar interests, a man who is of value to the people. May Allah grant him Jannatul-Firdaus.”

Madi Ceesay, managing of the Daily News, who worked with Mr Conateh for many years wrote:” I am devastated to learnt the demised of my former boss and mentor (JOURNALISM) Alh Suwaebou Conateh of Dippa Kunda today. I owe him a lot as far as journalism is concern and by extension other achievements in life. I first join his organization in 1993 and he was the one who coached me on the job and introduced me to computers at no cost.

He is a very kind and honest man I have never met. I rose from the ranks of a freelancer to Assistant Managing editor at the News and Reports magazine(his personal Assistant). Until in 2006 when the Independent Newspaper hired my services as their General Manager. I found it very difficult to tell him that I was going to leave for The Independent; but when I finally got the courage and told him he simply say GO. I am proud that after several years you are spotted by another media to manage. This is a rear man in this day and age. I am in Benin attending a parliamentary meeting and therefore sending my condolences to the wife Aja Sukai Badjan Conated and children in Gambia and abroad.
I pray the Janatul Firdausi be his permanent resting place.”

 Also paying tribute to him, Fodeh Baldeh, a former University of the Gambia lecturer wrote: “I came to know Swaebou when he was the director of information in the 1970s and early 1980s. In those years I was a regular contributor of human-life stories in the Gambia News Bulletin.

But I knew the veteran journalist more intimately when together with the late Momodou Fintong Singhateh and former information minister and veteran journalist Nana Grey-Johnson we helped midwife former President Jawara’s memoir entitled ‘Kairaba’.

The four-member editorial team ploughed through the work for about two years, 2007- 2009, at the residence of the former president. In those days Swaebou struck me as a man with solid experience in writing.

Of course his English language skills were impeccable. I remember when I was at St Augustine’s Secondary School from 1962 to 1967, our English teacher would always read to us Swaebou’s well- written essays to emulate. He was indeed a master craftsman ! He was 3/4 years my senior.

We normally worked from 4 to 7pm with Sir Dawda always insisting on providing him with the ‘mot juste’. Swaebou was always helpful when called upon to share his vast knowledge in the English language in general and synonymy in particular. He was jovial and down to earth.

Jawara served us snacks and Swaebou would always remind the team that it was time for ‘siitaa'( Mandinka for ‘evening snacks’). So it was inevitable that we nicknamed him ‘Siitaa’.”