Gambia Map - click to view larger

Geography

  • The Republic of The Gambia is located in the centre of the West African coastline bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and is surrounded on the remaining three sides by Senegal.
  • It is the smallest country on the continent of Africa.

Economy

  • The Gambia is one of the worlds poorest countries, with few natural resources meaning that it relies heavily on foreign aid. It is ranked as one of the worlds least liveable countries by the Human Development Index (HDI) published annually by the UN.
  • About 75% of the population depends on crops and livestock for its livelihood. Small-scale manufacturing activity features the processing of peanuts and fish. Tourism is also heavily depended on.
  • Unemployment rates are extremely high.
  • The currency used in The Gambia is the Dalasi, which isnt very stable.

Land & People

  • The Capital City is Banjul, which is the only large urban area in The Gambia and is the countries economic and administrative centre.
  • The population is an estimated 1,547,000.
  • English is the official language spoken in The Gambia, but a number of African dialects are widely spoken such as Wolof and Mandinka.
  • An estimated 90% of the country are Muslim and less than 10% Christian.

Government

  • The Gambia is headed by a president elected for a 5 year term each election.
  • The current President is Yahya A. J. J. Jammeh.
  • The country’s legal system is based on English common law, Koranic law, and customary law.

History

  • Portuguese explorers reaching the Gambia region in the mid-15th century reported a group of small Malinke and Wolof states that were tributary to the empire of Mali.
  • The English won trading rights from the Portuguese in 1588, but their hold was weak until the early 17th cenury, when British merchant companies obtained trading charters and founded settlements along the Gambia River.
  • In 1816 the British purchased Saint Mary’s Island from a local chief and established Banjul (called Bathurst until 1973) as a base against the slave trade.
  • The city remained a colonial backwater under the administration of Sierra Leone until 1843, when it became a separate crown colony.
  • Between 1866 and 1888 it was again governed from Sierra Leone.
  • As the French extended their rule over Senegal’s interior, they sought control over Britain’s Gambia River settlements but failed during negotiations to offer Britain acceptable territory in compensation.
  • In 1889, The Gambia’s boundaries were defined, and in 1894 the interior was declared a British protectorate.
  • The Gambia came under Brittish rule in 1902 and that same year a system of government was initiated in which chiefs supervised by British colonial commissioners ruled a variety of localities.
  • In 1906 slavery in the colony was ended.
  • The Gambia continued the system of local rule under British supervision until after World War II, when Britain began to encourage a greater measure of self-government and to train some Gambians for administrative positions.
  • By the mid-1950s a legislative council had been formed, with members elected by the Gambian people, and a system had been initiated wherein appointed Gambian ministers worked along with British officials.
  • The Gambia achieved full self-government in 1963 and gained independence in 1965 under Dauda Kairaba Jawara and the People’s Progressive party (PPP), made up of the predominant Malinke ethnic group.
  • Following a referendum in 1970, The Gambia became a republic in the Commonwealth of Nations. In contrast to many other new African states, The Gambia preserved democracy and remarkable political stability in its early years of independence.
  • In July, 1994, Jawara was overthrown in a bloodless coup and Yahya Jammeh assumed power as chairman of thearmed forces and head of state. The constitution of 1970 was suspended in 1994 after a military countercoup with a rewritten version established in 1997.
  • After surviving the attempted countercoup in November 1994, Jammeh won the presidential elections of September 1996, from which the major opposition leaders effectively had been banned.
  • Only in 2001, in advance of new presidential elections, was the ban on political activities by the opposition parties lifted, and in October 2001, Jammeh was reelected.
  • The 2002 parliamentary elections, in which Jammeh’s party won nearly all the seats, were boycotted by the main opposition party.