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|Republic of the Gambia|
|Motto: "Progress, Peace, Prosperity"|
|Anthem: For The Gambia Our Homeland|
Location of the Gambia (dark red area within circle) on the coast of West Africa.
|Ethnic groups (2003)||
|-||from the United Kingdom||18 February 1965|
|-||Republic declared||24 April 1970|
|-||Total||11,295 km2 ( 164th)
4,007 sq mi
|-||2009 estimate||1,782,893 ( 149th)|
|-||Density||164.2/km2 ( 74th)
|GDP ( PPP)||2012 estimate|
|GDP (nominal)||2012 estimate|
|HDI (2007)|| 0.456
low · 168th
|Currency|| Dalasi (
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||GM|
The Gambia (the / /; officially the Republic of the Gambia), also commonly known as Gambia, is a country in West Africa. It is surrounded by Senegal, apart from a short strip of Atlantic coastline at its western end. It is the smallest country on mainland Africa.
The country is situated either side of the Gambia River, the nation's namesake, which flows through the country's centre and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Its area is 11,295 km² with an estimated population of 1.7 million. Banjul is the Gambian capital, but the largest cities are Serekunda and Brikama.
The Gambia shares historical roots with many other West African nations in the slave trade, which was the key factor in the placing and keeping of a colony on the Gambia River, first by the Portuguese and later by the British. On 18 February 1965, the Gambia gained independence from the United Kingdom and joined the Commonwealth of Nations. Since gaining independence, the Gambia has enjoyed relative political stability, with the exception of a brief period of military rule in 1994.
Due to the fertile land of the country, the economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and tourism. About a third of the population lives below the international poverty line of US$1.25 a day.
Arab traders provided the Gambia's first written accounts in the 9th and 10th centuries. During the 10th century, Muslim merchants and scholars established communities in several West African commercial centres. Both groups established trans-Saharan trade routes, leading to a large trade in slaves, gold, ivory (exports) and manufactured goods, etc. (imports).
By the 11th century or the 12th century, the rulers of kingdoms such as Takrur (a monarchy centred on the Senegal River just to the north), ancient Ghana and Gao, had converted to Islam and had appointed Muslims who were literate in the Arabic language as courtiers. At the beginning of the 14th century, most of what is today called Gambia was part of the Mali Empire. The Portuguese reached this area by sea in the mid-15th century, and they began to dominate overseas trade.
In 1588, the claimant to the Portuguese throne, António, Prior of Crato, sold exclusive trade rights on the Gambia River to English merchants. Letters patent from Queen Elizabeth I confirmed the grant. In 1618, King James I of England granted a charter to an English company for trade with the Gambia and the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Between 1651 and 1661 some parts of the Gambia were under Courland's rule, and had been bought by Prince Jacob Kettler, who was a Polish-Lithuanian vassal.
During the late-17th century and throughout the 18th century, the British Empire and the French Empire struggled continually for political and commercial supremacy in the regions of the Senegal River and the Gambia River. The British Empire occupied the Gambia when an expedition led by Augustus Keppel landed there—following the Capture of Senegal in 1758. The 1783 First Treaty of Versailles gave Great Britain possession of the Gambia River, but the French retained a tiny enclave at Albreda on the river's north bank. This was finally ceded to the United Kingdom in 1856.
According to its president Yahya Jammeh, the Gambia "is one of the oldest and biggest countries in Africa that was reduced to a small snake by the British government—[which] sold all our lands to the French".
As many as three million slaves may have been taken from this general region during the three centuries that the transatlantic slave trade was operated. It is not known how many slaves were taken by inter-tribal wars or Muslim traders before the transatlantic slave trade began. Most of those taken were sold by other Africans to Europeans; others were prisoners of inter-tribal wars; some were victims sold because of unpaid debts; and others were simply victims of kidnapping.
Traders initially sent slaves to Europe to work as servants until the market for labour expanded in the West Indies and North America in the 18th century. In 1807, the United Kingdom abolished the slave trade throughout its Empire. It also tried, unsuccessfully, to end the slave trade in the Gambia. Slave ships intercepted by the Royal Navy's West Africa Squadron in the Atlantic were also returned to the Gambia, with Liberated Slaves released on MacCarthy Island far up the Gambia River where they were expected to establish new lives. The British established the military post of Bathurst (now Banjul) in 1816. In the ensuing years, Banjul was at times under the jurisdiction of the British Governor General in Sierra Leone. In 1888, the Gambia became a separate colony.
An agreement with the French Republic in 1889 established the present boundaries. The Gambia became a British Crown Colony called British Gambia, divided for administrative purposes into the colony (city of Banjul and the surrounding area) and the protectorate (remainder of the territory). The Gambia received its own executive and legislative councils in 1901, and it gradually progressed toward self-government. Slavery was finally abolished in 1906.
During World War II, the entire Gambian army, 10 soldiers, fought with the Allies of World War II. Though these soldiers fought mostly in Burma, some died closer to home and there is a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in Fajara (close to Banjul). According to Jammeh, "when Germany was about to defeat Britain, not only were Gambians conscripted and forced to go and fight in Britain, but civil servants were also contributing on weekly basis towards the war effort." Banjul contained an airstrip for the US Army Air Forces and a port of call for Allied naval convoys. President of the United States Franklin D. Roosevelt visited by air and stopped overnight in Banjul en route to and from the Casablanca Conference (1943) in Morocco, marking the first visit to the African continent by an American President.
After World War II, the pace of constitutional reform increased. Following general elections in 1962, the United Kingdom granted full internal self-governance in the following year. The Gambia achieved independence on 18 February 1965, as a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth of Nations. Shortly thereafter, the national government held a referendum proposing that an elected president should replace the Gambian monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) as the head of state. This referendum failed to receive the two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution, but the results won widespread attention abroad as testimony to the Gambia's observance of secret balloting, honest elections, civil rights, and liberties. On 24 April 1970, Gambia became a republic within the Commonwealth, following a second referendum. Prime Minister Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara became the Head of State.
The Gambia was led by President Dawda Jawara, who was re-elected five times. The relative stability of the Jawara era was shattered first by an attempted coup in 1981. The coup was led by Kukoi Samba Sanyang, who, on two occasions, had unsuccessfully sought election to Parliament. After a week of violence which left several hundred people dead, Jawara, in London when the attack began, appealed to Senegal for help. Senegalese troops defeated the rebel force.
In the aftermath of this attempted coup, Senegal and Gambia signed a Treaty of Confederation in 1982. The goal of the Senegambia Confederation was to combine the armed forces of the two states and to unify their economies and currencies. After just a short stretch of years, Gambia permanently withdrew from this confederation in 1989.
In 1994, the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) deposed the Jawara government and banned opposition political activity. Lieutenant Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, chairman of the AFPRC, became head of state. The then 29-year-old dictator remains president to this day. The AFPRC announced a transition plan for return to democratic civilian government. The Provisional Independent Electoral Commission ( PIEC) was established in 1996 to conduct national elections. The PIEC was transformed to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in 1997 and became responsible for registration of voters and conduct of elections and referendums. In late 2001 and early 2002, the Gambia completed a full cycle of presidential, legislative, and local elections, which foreign observers deemed free, fair, and transparent, albeit with some shortcomings. President Yahya Jammeh, who was elected to continue in the position he had assumed during the coup, took the oath of office again on 21 December 2001. Jammeh's Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) maintained its strong majority in the National Assembly, particularly after the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) boycotted the legislative elections.
The Gambia is a very small and narrow country whose borders mirror the meandering Gambia River. It lies between latitudes 13° and 14°N, and longitudes 13° and 17°W.
The country is less than 48.2 km (30.0 mi) wide at its widest point, with a total area of 11,295 km². Approximately 1,300 km² (11.5%) of the Gambia's area is covered by water. It is the smallest country on the continent of Africa. In comparative terms the Gambia has a total area which is slightly less than that of the island of Jamaica. The Gambia is surrounded on three sides by Senegal, with 50 miles of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean on its western side.
The climate of the Gambia is tropical. There is a hot and rainy season, normally from June until November, but from then until May there are cooler temperatures with less precipitation. The climate in the Gambia is about the same as that found in neighbouring Senegal, southern Mali, and the northern part of Benin.
Its present boundaries were defined in 1889 after an agreement between the United Kingdom and France. During the negotiations between the French and the British in Paris, the French initially gave the British approximately 200 miles (320 km) of the Gambia River to control. Starting with the placement of boundary markers in 1891, it took nearly fifteen years after the Paris meetings to determine the final borders of the Gambia. The resulting series of straight lines and arcs gave the British control of areas that are approximately 10 miles (16 km) north and south of the Gambia River.
The Gambia is a republic and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The serving President is Yahya Jammeh.
Following independence, the Gambia conducted freely contested elections every five years. Each election was won by The People's Progressive Party (PPP), headed by Dawda (David) Jawara. The PPP dominated Gambian politics for nearly 30 years. After spearheading the movement toward complete independence from Britain, the PPP was voted into power and was never seriously challenged by any opposition party. The last elections under the PPP regime were held in April 1992.
In 1994, following corruption allegations against the Jawara regime and widespread discontent in the army, a largely bloodless and successful coup d’état installed army Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh into power. Politicians from deposed President Jawara's People's Progressive Party (PPP) and other senior government officials were banned from participating in politics until July 2001. A presidential election took place in September 1996, in which Yahya Jammeh won 56% of the vote. The legislative elections held in January 1997 were dominated by the APRC, which captured 33 out of 45 seats.
In July 2001, the ban on Jawara-era political parties and politicians was lifted. Four registered opposition parties participated in the 18 October 2001, presidential election, which the incumbent, President Yahya Jammeh, won with almost 53% of the votes. The APRC maintained its strong majority in the National Assembly in legislative elections held in January 2002, particularly after the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) boycotted the legislative elections.
Jammeh won the 2006 election handily after the opposition coalition, the National Alliance for Democracy and Development, splintered earlier in the year. The voting was generally regarded as free and fair, though events from the run-up raised criticism from some. A journalist from the state television station assigned to the chief opposition candidate, Ousainou Darboe, was arrested. Additionally, Jammeh said, "I will develop the areas that vote for me, but if you don't vote for me, don't expect anything".
On 21 and 22 March 2006, amid tensions preceding the 2006 presidential elections, an alleged planned military coup was uncovered. President Yahya Jammeh immediately returned from a trip to Mauritania, many army officials were arrested, and prominent army officials fled the country. Some believe the planned coup was fabricated by the President for his own purposes, but no proof has been found.
For their roles in an alleged 2009 coup plot, 8 Gambians, including the former Chief of Defense Staff of the Gambian Armed Forces, a former head and deputy head of the National Intelligence Agency and others were tried for treason, found guilty and sentenced to death in July 2010. One of the convicted, a businessman, disappeared while in custody awaiting his appeal. Before that trial concluded, the former Chief of Defense Staff and the former Chief of the Gambia Naval Staff were charged with treason for their complicity in the failed 2006 coup. A key prosecution witness, serving a lengthy prison sentence for his role in the 2006 coup plot, received a Presidential Pardon, apparently in return for his testimony.
The 1970 constitution, which divided the government into independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches, was suspended after the 1994 military coup. As part of the transition process, the AFPRC established the Constitution Review Commission (CRC) through decree in March 1995. In accordance with the timetable for the transition to a democratically elected government, the commission drafted a new constitution for the Gambia, which was approved by referendum in August 1996. The constitution provides for a strong presidential government, a unicameral legislature, an independent judiciary, and the protection of human rights.
In November 2011, elections were held under conditions that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) characterised as "not to be conducive for the conduct of free, fair and transparent polls". These elections, which were not monitored by ECOWAS, returned Jammeh to another 5-year term.
On 22 August 2012, Gambia announced it will execute all death-row convicts, 42 men and 2 women, by September 2012. The country has not executed anyone in the past 30 years.
Foreign relations and military
The Gambia followed a formal policy of nonalignment throughout most of former President Jawara's tenure. It maintained close relations with the United Kingdom, Senegal, and other African countries. The July 1994 coup strained the Gambia's relationship with Western powers, particularly the United States, which until 2002 suspended most non-humanitarian assistance in accordance with Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act. Since 1995, President Jammeh has established diplomatic relations with several additional countries, including Libya (suspended in 2010), Republic of China (Taiwan), and Cuba.
The Gambia plays an active role in international affairs, especially West African and Islamic affairs, although its representation abroad is limited. As a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Gambia has played an active role in that organisation's efforts to resolve the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone and contributed troops to the community's ceasefire monitoring group (ECOMOG) in 1990 and ( ECOMIL) in 2003. It also has sought to mediate disputes in nearby Guinea-Bissau and the neighbouring Casamance region of Senegal. The Government of the Gambia believes Senegal was complicit in the March 2006 failed coup attempt. This has put increasing strains on relations between the Gambia and its neighbour. The subsequent worsening of the human rights situation has placed increasing strains of US-Gambian relations.
The Gambian national army numbers about 1,900. The army consists of infantry battalions, the national guard, and the navy, all under the authority of the Department of State for Defense (a ministerial portfolio held by Jammeh). Prior to the 1994 coup, the Gambian army received technical assistance and training from the United States, United Kingdom, People's Republic of China, Nigeria, and Turkey. With the withdrawal of most of this aid, the army has received renewed assistance from Turkey and others. A number of junior Gambian army officers are regularly trained at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and sergeants from the Royal Gibraltar Regiment were observed training Gambian troops in Bakau in November 2010.
The Gambia allowed its military training arrangement with Libya to expire in 2002.
Members of the Gambian military participated in ECOMOG, the West African force deployed during the Liberian civil war beginning in 1990. Gambian forces have subsequently participated in several other peacekeeping operations, including Bosnia, Kosovo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea and East Timor. The Gambia contributed 150 troops to Liberia in 2003 as part of the ECOMIL contingent. In 2004, the Gambia contributed a 196-man contingent to the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur, Sudan. Responsibilities for internal security and law enforcement rest with the Gambian police under the Inspector General of Police and the Secretary of State for the Interior.
Alex Bellamy and Paul Williams classify The Gambia as a Tier 2 peacekeeping contributor, and the NYU Centre on International Cooperation describe The Gambia as a regional leader in peacekeeping.
The Gambia is divided into five divisions and one city. The divisions of the Gambia are created by the Independent Electoral Commission in accordance to Article 192 of the National Constitution.
- Banjul (North, Central, South)
The national capital, Banjul, is classified as a city
- Central River ( Janjanbureh)
- Lower River ( Mansa Konko)
- North Bank ( Kerewan)
- Upper River ( Basse)
- Western ( Brikama).
The divisions are further subdivided into 48 districts. Of these, Kombo Saint Mary (which shares Brikama as a capital with the Western division) may have been administratively merged with the greater Banjul area.
The Gambia has a liberal, market-based economy characterised by traditional subsistence agriculture, a historic reliance on groundnuts (peanuts) for export earnings, a re-export trade built up around its ocean port, low import duties, minimal administrative procedures, a fluctuating exchange rate with no exchange controls, and a significant tourism industry.
The World Bank pegs Gambian GDP for 2011 at US$898M while the International Monetary Fund puts it at US$977M for 2011.
Agriculture accounts for roughly 30% of gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 70% of the labour force. Within agriculture, peanut production accounts for 6.9% of GDP, other crops 8.3%, livestock 5.3%, fishing 1.8%, and forestry 0.5%. Industry accounts for approximately 8% of GDP and services approximately 58%. The limited amount of manufacturing is primarily agricultural-based (e.g., peanut processing, bakeries, a brewery, and a tannery). Other manufacturing activities include soap, soft drinks, and clothing.
Previously, the United Kingdom and other EU countries constituted the major Gambian major domestic export markets. However, in recent years Senegal, the United States, and Japan have become significant trade partners of the Gambia. In Africa, Senegal represented the biggest trade partner of the Gambia in 2007, which is a defining contrast to previous years that saw Guinea-Bissau and Ghana as equally important trade partners. Globally, Denmark, the United States, and China have become important source countries for Gambian imports. The UK, Germany, Côte d'Ivoire, and the Netherlands also provide a fair share of Gambian imports. The Gambian trade deficit for 2007 was $331 million.
As of May 2009, there were twelve commercial banks in the Gambia, including one Islamic bank. The oldest of these, Standard Chartered Bank dates its presence back to the entry in 1894 of what shortly thereafter became Bank of British West Africa. In 2005, the Swiss-based banking group, International Commercial Bank established a subsidiary and has now four branches in the country. In 2007, Nigeria's Access Bank established a subsidiary that now has four branches in the country, in addition to its head office; the bank has pledged to open four more. In May 2009, the Lebanese Canadian Bank opened a subsidiary called Prime Bank (Gambia).
From 2006 to 2012, the Gambian economy grew annually at a pace of 5–6% of GDP.
In January 2013, with support from the British High Commission (BHC) and Conscience International charity, a large literacy training program for women will be launched in the Gambia. The lessons are intended to “increase women's life skills, improve their abilities to access opportunities, and enable them to participate in community decision making processes.” The Gambia is a champion in women empowerment, there are many women empowerment initiatives in the Gambia including free girls education. The country's vice-president Isatou Njie-Saidy is a woman and the longest serving cabinet member and many women are serving or served in the cabinet.
More than 63% of Gambians live in rural villages (1993 census), although more and more young people come to the capital in search of work and education. Provisional figures from the 2003 census show that the gap between the urban and rural populations is narrowing as more areas are declared urban. While urban migration, development projects, and modernisation are bringing more Gambians into contact with Western habits and values, indigenous forms of dress and celebration and the traditional emphasis on the extended family remain integral parts of everyday life.
The UNDP's Human Development Report for 2010 ranks the Gambia 151st out of 169 countries on its Human Development Index, putting it in the 'Low Human Development' category. This index compares life expectancy, years of schooling, Gross National Income (GNI) per capita and some other factors.
Ethnicity and language
A variety of ethnic groups live in the Gambia, each preserving its own language and traditions. The Mandinka ethnicity is the largest, followed by the Fula, Wolof, Jola, Serahule, Serers and the Bianunkas. The Krio people, locally known as Akus, constitute one of the smallest ethnic minorities in the Gambia. They are descendants of the Sierra Leone Creole people and have been traditionally concentrated in the capital.
There are approximately 3,500 non-African residents including Europeans and families of Lebanese origin (roughly 0.23% of the total population). Most of the European minority are Britons, many of whom left after independence.
English is the official language of the Gambia. Other languages are Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, Serer, Krio and other indigenous vernaculars.Due to geographical setting French language knowledge is relatively wide spread.
The Constitution mandates free and compulsory primary education in the Gambia. Lack of resources and educational infrastructure has made implementation of this difficult. In 1995, the gross primary enrolment rate was 77.1% and the net primary enrolment rate was 64.7% School fees long prevented many children from attending school, but in February 1998 President Jammeh ordered the termination of fees for the first six years of schooling. Girls make up about 52 percent of primary school students. The figure may be lower for girls (and consequently higher for boys) in rural areas, where cultural factors and poverty prevent parents from sending girls to school. Approximately 20 percent of school-age children attend Koranic schools.
Article 25 of the Constitution protects the rights of citizens to practice any religion that they choose. The government also did not establish a state religion. Islam is the predominant religion, practised by approximately 90 percent of the country's population. The majority of the Muslims in the Gambia adhere to Sufi laws and traditions. Virtually all commercial life in the Gambia comes to a standstill during major Muslim holidays, including Eid al-Adha and Eid ul-Fitr. Most Muslims in the Gambia follow the Maliki school of jurisprudence. There is also a Shiite Muslim community in the Gambia, mainly from Lebanese and other Arab immigrants to the region. The Christian community represents about 8 percent of the population. Residing in the western and the southern parts of the Gambia, most of the Christian community identify themselves as Roman Catholic. However, there are smaller Christian groups present, such as Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah's Witnesses and small evangelical denominations.
The remaining 1.97 percent of the population adheres to indigenous beliefs, such as the Serer religion. Serer religion encompasses cosmology and a belief in a supreme deity called Rog. Some of its religious festivals include the Xoy, Mbosseh and Randou Rande. Each year, adherents to Serer religion make the annual pilgrimage to Sine in Senegal for the Xoy divination ceremony. Serer religion also has a rather significant imprint on Senegambian Muslim society in that, all Senegambian Muslim festivals such as "Tobaski", "Gamo", "Koriteh" and "Weri Kor", etc., are all loanwords from Serer religion. They were ancient Serer festivals.
Like the Serers, the Jola people also have their religious custom. One of the major religious ceremonies of the Jolas is the Boukout.
Although the Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, its culture is the product of very diverse influences. The national borders outline a narrow strip on either side of the River Gambia, a body of water that has played a vital part in the nation's destiny and is known locally simply as "the River." Without natural barriers, the Gambia has become home to most of the ethnic groups that are present throughout western Africa, especially those in Senegal. Europeans also figure prominently in the nation's history because the River Gambia is navigable deep into the continent, a geographic feature that made this area one of the most profitable sites for the slave trade from the 15th through the 17th centuries. (It also made it strategic to the halt of this trade once it was outlawed in the 19th century.) Some of this history was popularised in the Alex Haley book and TV series Roots which was set in the Gambia.
Football in the Gambia is administered by the Gambia Football Association, who are affiliated to both FIFA and CAF. The GFA runs league football in the Gambia, including top division GFA League First Division, as well as the Gambia national football team. Nicknamed The Scorpions, the national side have never qualified for either the FIFA World Cup or the Africa Cup of Nations finals at senior levels. The Gambia won two CAF U-17 championships one in 2005 when the country hosted, and 2009 in Algeria automatically qualifying for FIFA U-17 World Cup in Peru (2005) and Nigeria (2009) respectively. The U-20 also qualified for FIFA U-20 2007 in Canada. The female U-17 also competed in FIFA U-17 World Cup 2012 in Azerbaijan.