Gambia

The Gambia, also commonly known as Gambia, is a country in West Africa.

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The Gambia (the i/ˈɡæmbiə/; officially the Republic of The Gambia), also commonly known as Gambia, is a country in West Africa. Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, surrounded by Senegal except for a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean in the west.

The country is situated around 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.

On 18 February 1965, The Gambia gained independence from the United Kingdom and joined the Commonwealth of Nations. Banjul is The Gambia's 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. Since gaining independence in 1965, The Gambia has enjoyed relative political stability, with the exception of a brief period of military rule in 1994.[3][4]

Thanks 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.[5]

History

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).



The first picture is of the Senegambian stone circles (megaliths) which runs from Senegal all the way to The Gambia and described by UNESCO as "the largest concentration of stone circles seen anywhere in the world".

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.[6] 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.



A map of James Island and Fort Gambia

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".[7]

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 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.[8] 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 also..."[7] Banjul contained an airstrip for the U.S. 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 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.[9]

Geography



Map of the Gambia

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 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 western side of the country borders the North Atlantic Ocean with 50 miles of coastline.[10]

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.[10] The climate in The Gambia is about the same as that found in neighbouring Senegal, southern Mali, and the northern part of Benin.[11]

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.[12]

Politics



Marina Parade street.

The Gambia is a republic and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The serving President is His Excellency Sheikh Professor Al Haji Dr Yahya A.J.J. 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.[13]

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.[13]

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.[13]



Arch 22 monument commemorating the 1994 coup

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".[14]

On the 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. [15]

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".[16] 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 woman, by September 2012. The country has not executed anyone in the past 30 years.[17]

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.[13]

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 the 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 U.S.-Gambian relations.[13]

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.[13]

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.[13]

Administrative divisions

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.[18]

  1. Lower River (Mansa Konko)
  2. Central River (Janjanbureh)
  3. North Bank (Kerewan)
  4. Upper River (Basse)
  5. Western (Brikama)
  6. Banjul (North, Central, South)

The national capital, Banjul, is classified as a city.

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.[19]

Peacekeeping

Recognition

According to The Daily Observer, the new U.S. Ambassador to The Gambia, Edward M. "Ned" Alford, praised President Jammeh for his peacekeeping efforts. "A relationship built on history of students' exchange. Today, many Gambians studied and continue to study in America. Based on the history of the Peace Corps, so many young Americans have served here and gone back to the US, telling great stories about this country. We also discussed issue concerning economic ties." [20]

Mission and Contributions

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), The Gambia has contributed to a number of peacekeeping operations:[21]

  • Since 1990, the Gambia has sent peacekeeping forces to the following places: Sierra Leone, Kosovo, Timor Leste, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Liberia, Cote D’Ivoire, Sudan, Burundi, Darfur, Afghanistan, Nepal, and Chad.
  • The Gambia has contributed over 200 troops per year to African Union missions from 2005 to 2007.
  • The Gambia contributed to an ECOWAS mission in 2003, sending over 150 troops.
  • The Gambia also contributed over 100 troops to UN missions in 2003 and 2004 (over 100 troops each year), and over 200 troops from 2008 to 2010.

Regional Leadership

According to the NYU Center on International Cooperation, The Gambia is a regional leader in peacekeeping. For the number of peacekeeping troops contributed per capita, the country is ranked:[22]

  • Second (#2) in West Africa
  • Third (#3) in all of Africa
  • Seventh (#7) in the world

Economy



Graphical depiction ofGambia's product exports in 28 color coded categories.



Serekunda market



Brightly painted fishing boats are common in Bakau, The Gambia.

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.[13]

The World Bank pegs Gambia's GDP for 2009 at US$733M while the International Monetary Fund puts it at US$968M for 2009.

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.[13]

Previously, Great Britain and other EU countries constituted the Gambia's 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 U.K., Germany, Côte d'Ivoire, and the Netherlands also provide a fair share of Gambian imports. The Gambia's trade deficit for 2007 was $331 million.[13]

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). [23]

Demographics



Gambian woman and child.

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.[13]

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).[13] Most of the European minority are Britons, many of whom left after independence.

English is the official language of The Gambia. Other languages are , , , Serer, Krio and other indigenous vernaculars.[24]Due to geographical setting French language knowledge is relatively wide spread.

Education



Classroom at Armitage High School

The Constitution mandates free and compulsory primary education in the Gambia. Lack of resources and educational infrastructure has made implementation of this difficult.[25] In 1995, the gross primary enrollment rate was 77.1% and the net primary enrollment rate was 64.7%[25] 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.[25] 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.[25] Approximately 20 percent of school-age children attend Koranic schools.[25]

Health

In June 2011, the United Nations Population Fund released a report on The State of the World's Midwifery. It contained new data on the midwifery workforce and policies relating to newborn and maternal mortality for 58 countries. The 2010 maternal mortality rate per 100,000 births for Gambia is 400. This is compared with 281.3 in 2008 and 628.5 in 1990. The under 5 mortality rate, per 1,000 births is 106 and the neonatal mortality as a percentage of under 5's mortality is 31. The aim of this report is to highlight ways in which the Millennium Development Goals can be achieved, particularly Goal 4 – Reduce child mortality and Goal 5 – reduce maternal death. In Gambia the number of midwives per 1,000 live births is 5 and the lifetime risk of death for pregnant women is 1 in 49. [26]

Public expenditure was at 1.8% of the GDP in 2004, whereas private expenditure was at 5.0%.[27] There were 11 physicians per 100,000 persons in the early 2000s. Life expectancy at birth was at 59.9 for females in 2005 and for males at 57.7.[27]

According to the World Health Organization in 2005 an estimated 78.3% of Gambia's girls and women have suffered female genital mutilation.[28] c.90% of Gambian men have been circumcised.

A group called Power Up Gambia operates in The Gambia to provide solar power technology to health care facilities, ensuring greater access to electricity.[29]

Public health progress

Under President Jammeh, The Gambia has improved public health. In October 2012, it was reported that The Gambia has made significant improvements in polio, measles immunization, and the PCV-7 vaccine. [30]

Polio

The Gambia was certified as polio-free in 2004. "The Gambia EPI program is one of the best in the WHO African Region," Thomas Sukwa, a representative of the World Health Organization, said, according to the Foroyaa Newspaper. "It is indeed gratifying to note that the government of the Gambia remains committed to the global polio eradication initiative." [31]

Immunizations

According to Vaccine News Daily: [32]

  • Gambia is tied for third place in Africa for measles immunization among one-year-old children.
  • Gambia is tied for fourth place in the world for the DTP3 immunization for one-year-old children.
  • Gambia is ranked second in Africa for "feverish children under the age of five who received antimalarial treatment, according to Trading Economics."

Religion



A mosque



Saint Mary's Anglican Cathedral in Banjul

Article 25 of the Constitution protects the rights of citizens to practice any religion that they choose.[33] The government also did not establish a state religion.[34] 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.[34] Virtually all commercial life in The Gambia comes to a standstill during major Muslim holidays, including Eid al-Adha and Eid ul-Fitr.[35] Most Muslims in the Gambia follow the Maliki school of jurisprudence.[36] There is also a Shiite Muslim community in the Gambia, mainly from Lebanese and other Arab immigrants to the region.[37] 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.[34]



Serer religious symbol (the Ndut).

The remaining 1.97 percent of the population adheres to indigenous beliefs, such as the Serer religion.[38] 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.[39] 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.[40]

Like the Serers, the Jola people also have their religious custom. One of the major religious ceremonies of the Jolas is the Boukout.

Due to immigration from South Asia, there is a presence of Buddhists and followers of the Baha'i Faith.[34]

Culture

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.

Media

Critics have accused the government of restricting free speech. A law passed in 2002 created a commission with the power to issue licenses and imprison journalists; in 2004, additional legislation allowed prison sentences for libel and slander and cancelled all print and broadcasting licenses, forcing media groups to re-register at five times the original cost.[41][42]

Three Gambian journalists have been arrested since the coup attempt. It has been suggested that they were imprisoned for criticising the government's economic policy, or for stating that a former interior minister and security chief was among the plotters.[43] Newspaper editor Deyda Hydara was shot to death under unexplained circumstances, days after the 2004 legislation took effect.

Licensing fees are high for newspapers and radio stations, and the only nationwide stations are tightly controlled by the government.[41]

Reporters Without Borders has accused "President Yahya Jammeh's police state" of using murder, arson, unlawful arrest and death threats against journalists.[44] In December, 2010 Musa Saidykhan, former editor of The Independent newspaper, was awarded US$200,000 by the ECOWAS Court in Abuja, Nigeria. The court found the Government of The Gambia guilty of torture while he was detained without trial at the National Intelligence Agency. Apparently he was suspected of knowing about the 2006 failed coup.[citation needed]

Sports

Football



Footballer Ebrima Sohna

Even with a population under two million, Gambian players abroad have been making a distinct impact in the football (soccer) world. Macoumba Kandji plays with the 2006 and 2007 MLS Champions Houston Dynamo. Portland Timbers (MLS) team features Gambian defender Mamadou "Futty" Danso as a starter in 2011. On 12 July 2011, Mustapha Jarju signed with Vancouver Whitecaps FC in the MLS.[45]

Other Gambian players in MLS include Amadou Sanyang (Seattle Sounders FC), Sanna Nyassi (Montreal Impact), Sainey Nyassi (New England Revolution) and Kenny Mansally (Real Salt Lake). Mamadou Danso was called up to the national team along with Sanna Nyassi, Sainey Nyassi and Kenny Mansally for a 2012 Africa Cup of Nations qualification match versus Namibia.[46]

Other Gambian players who play outside the Gambia include Ousman Jallow and Paul Jatta (Brøndby IF), Ibou (OH Leuven), Tijan Jaiteh (SK Brann), Momodou Ceesay (MŠK Žilina), Ebrima Sohna (Sandefjord Fotball), Matarr Jobe(Nesta) (Valur FC Iceland), Yankuba Ceesay (JK Nõmme Kalju) and Mustapha Carayol (Milton Keynes Dons, Lincoln City F.C., Bristol Rovers). The former England under-21 international Cherno Samba was fully capped by Gambia.

Alhaji Momodo Nije, also known as Biri Biri, who played for Sevilla FC, was the first Gambian footballer to play professionally abroad. He is regarded as the best Gambian footballer of all time. The name of the current group of Sevilla FC supporters is called Biris after his name.

Boxing

Gambian Patrick Mendy (born 26 September 1990) is a professional boxer. He was picked as a contender for the 13th series of Prizefighter series where he went on to win the super middleweight competition. He was also the youngest fighter ever to take part in the competition at the age of 19.

Footnotes

  1. CIA World Factbook.
  2. "The Gambia". International Monetary Fund. http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2012/01/weodata/weorept.aspx?pr.x=23&pr.y=11&sy=2009&ey=2012&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=648&s=NGDPD%2CNGDPDPC%2CPPPGDP%2CPPPPC%2CLP&grp=0&a=. Retrieved 18 April 2012.
  3. http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/africa-emerges/peace-africa-not Gambia Ranked at no. 10 in Africa
  4. http://allafrica.com/stories/201009100241.html Empty Democracy v Democratic Dictatorship Suwaibou Touray 8 September 2010
  5. Human Development Indices, Table 3: Human and income poverty, p. 35. Retrieved on 1 June 2009
  6. Easton P Education and Koranic Literacy in West Africa IK Notes on Indigenous Knowledge and Practices, n° 11, World Bank Group 1999 p 1–4
  7. British Govt is Supporting Opposition Parties, Daily Observer, 28 July 2010
  8. Patrick Webb. 1994. Guests of the Crown: Convicts and Liberated Slaves on McCarthy Island, The Gambia. Geographical Journal. 160 (2): 136–142.
  9.  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Department of State document "Background Note: The Gambia" (section).
  10. "The Gambia – Geography". The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency. 18 December 2008. https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ga.html#Geo. Retrieved 8 January 2009.
  11. Hayward, Derek; J. S. Oguntoyinbo (1987). Climatology of West Africa. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-389-20721-4. http://books.google.com/?id=0RooGyB2f60C&pg=PA189&dq=Gambia+climate.
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Further reading

  • Bennet, Lindsey and Voormeij, Lisa, The Gambia (Travellers), (Thomas Cook Publishing, 2009)
  • Emms, Craig and Barnett, Linda, Gambia (Bradt Travel Guides), (Bradt Travel Guides, 2006)
  • Hughes, Arnold, Historical Dictionary of the Gambia, (Scarecrow Press, 2008)
  • Hughes, Arnold and Perfect, David, A Political History of The Gambia, 1816–1994, (University of Rochester Press, 2008)
  • Gregg, Emma and Trillo, Richard, The Rough Guide to The Gambia, (Rough Guides, 2006)
  • Kane, Katharina, Lonely Planet Guide: The Gambia and Senegal, (Lonely Planet Publications, 2009)
  • Rice, Berkeley, Enter Gambia: The Birth of an Improbable Nation, (Houghton Mifflin. 1967)
  • Sarr, Samsudeen, Coup D'etat by the Gambia National Army, (Xlibris, Corp., 2007)
  • Sternfeldt, Ann-Britt, The Good Tourist in The Gambia: Travelguide for conscious tourists Translated from Swedish by Rolli Fölsch (Sexdrega,2000)
  • Tomkinson, Michael, Michael Tomkinson's Gambia, (Michael Tomkinson Publishing, 2001)
  • Various, Insight Guide: Gambia and Senegal, (APA Publications Pte Ltd., 2009)
  • Wright, Donald R, The World and a Very Small Place in Africa: A History of Glogalization in Niumi, The Gambia (New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2004)



More information

Airports1 (2012)
Borders WithSenegal
Coastline80 km
Coordinates13 28 N, 16 34 W
Domain Suffix.gm
Ethnic GroupAfrican 99% (Mandinka 42%, Fula 18%, Wolof 16%, Jola 10%, Serahuli 9%, other 4%)
Ethnic Groupnon-African 1% (2003 census)
Female Life Expectancy66.18 years (2012 est.)
Female Median Age19.9 years (2012 est.)
Fertility Rate4.1 children born/woman (2012 est.)
GDP$3.496 billion (2011 est.)
GDP$3.386 billion (2010 est.)
GDP$3.209 billion (2009 est.)
GDP Growth3.3% (2011 est.)
GDP Growth5.5% (2010 est.)
GDP Growth6.7% (2009 est.)
Government typerepublic
Highest Pointunnamed elevation 53 m
Land Area10,000 sq km
Land boundary740 km
LanguageEnglish (official)
LocationWestern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and Senegal
Lowest PointAtlantic Ocean 0 m
Male Life Expectancy61.52 years
Male Median Age19.4 years
NationalityGambian(s)
Population Growth2.344% (2012 est.)
Roadways3,742 km
Terrainflood plain of the Gambia River flanked by some low hills
Total Area11,295 sq km
Total Life Expectancy63.82 years
Total Median Age19.7 years
Water Area1,295 sq km
Waterways390 km (on River Gambia; small ocean-going vessels can reach 190 km) (2010)





Neighboring countries


Important people