Gambia, The: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This West African Nation


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Gambia, The

Introduction The Gambia gained its independence from the UK in 1965. Geographically surrounded by Senegal, it formed a short-lived federation of Senegambia between 1982 and 1989. In 1991 the two nations signed a friendship and cooperation treaty, but tensions have flared up intermittently since then. Yahya A. J. J. JAMMEH led a military coup in 1994 that overthrew the president and banned political activity. A new constitution and presidential elections in 1996, followed by parliamentary balloting in 1997, completed a nominal return to civilian rule. JAMMEH has been elected president in all subsequent elections, including most recently in late 2006.
History The first written accounts of the region come from records of Arab traders in the ninth and tenth centuries AD. In 1066, the inhabitants of Tekrur, a kingdom centered on the Sénégal River just to the north, became the first people in the region to convert to Islam. Muslim traders established the trans-Saharan trade route for slaves, gold, and ivory. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, most of what is today called The Gambia was a tributary to the Mali Empire. The Portuguese reached the area by sea in the mid-fifteenth century and began to dominate the lucrative trade.

In 1588, the claimant to the Portuguese throne, António, Prior of Crato, sold exclusive trade rights on the Gambia River to English merchants; this grant was confirmed by letters patent from Queen Elizabeth I. In 1618, James I granted a charter to a British company for trade with Gambia and the Gold Coast (now Ghana). Between 1651-1661 some parts of Gambia was under Courland’s rule, bought by prince Jacob Kettler, who was Polish vassal.

During the late seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth, Britain and France struggled continually for political and commercial supremacy in the regions of the Senegal and Gambia rivers. The 1783 Treaty of Versailles gave Great Britain possession of the Gambia river, but the French retained a tiny enclave at Albreda on its north bank, which was ceded to the United Kingdom in 1857.

As many as 3 million slaves may have been taken from the region during the three centuries that the transatlantic slave trade operated. It is not known how many slaves were taken by Arab traders prior to and simultaneous with the transatlantic slave trade. Most of those taken were sold to Europeans by other Africans; some were prisoners of intertribal wars; some were sold because of unpaid debts, while others were kidnapped. Slaves were initially sent to Europe to work as servants until the market for labor expanded in the West Indies and North America in the 18th century. In 1807, slave trading was abolished throughout the British Empire, and the British tried unsuccessfully to end the slave trade in The Gambia. They 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 colonial entity.

An 1889, agreement with France established the present boundaries, and The Gambia became a British Crown Colony, 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 gradually progressed toward self-government. A 1906 ordinance abolished slavery.

During World War II, Gambian troops fought with the Allies in Burma. Banjul served as an air stop for the U.S. Army Air Corps and a port of call for Allied naval convoys. U. S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt stopped overnight in Banjul en route to and from the Casablanca Conference in 1943, marking the first visit to the African Continent by an American president while in office.

After World War II, the pace of constitutional reform increased. Following general elections in 1962, full internal self-governance was granted in the following year. The Gambia achieved independence on February 18, 1965 as a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth of Nations. Shortly thereafter, the government held a referendum proposing that an elected president replace the Gambian Monarch (Queen Elizabeth II) as head of state. The 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 April 24, 1970, The Gambia became a republic within the Commonwealth, following a second referendum, with Prime Minister Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, as head of state.

The Gambia was led by President Jawara, who was re-elected five times. The relative stability of the Jawara era was shattered first by a coup attempt 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 the attempted coup, Senegal and The Gambia signed the 1982 Treaty of Confederation. The Senegambia Confederation came into existence; it aimed eventually to combine the armed forces of the two states and to unify their economies and currencies. The Gambia withdrew from the confederation in 1989.

In July 1994, the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) seized power in a military coup d’état. The 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 December 21, 2001. The APRC maintained its strong majority in the National Assembly, particularly after the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) boycotted the legislative elections.

Geography Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and Senegal
Geographic coordinates: 13 28 N, 16 34 W
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 11,300 sq km
land: 10,000 sq km
water: 1,300 sq km
Area – comparative: slightly less than twice the size of Delaware
Land boundaries: total: 740 km
border countries: Senegal 740 km
Coastline: 80 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm
contiguous zone: 18 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm
continental shelf: extent not specified
Climate: tropical; hot, rainy season (June to November); cooler, dry season (November to May)
Terrain: flood plain of the Gambia River flanked by some low hills
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: unnamed location 53 m
Natural resources: fish, titanium (rutile and ilmenite), tin, zircon, silica sand, clay, petroleum
Land use: arable land: 27.88%
permanent crops: 0.44%
other: 71.68% (2005)
Irrigated land: 20 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources: 8 cu km (1982)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): total: 0.03 cu km/yr (23%/12%/65%)
per capita: 20 cu m/yr (2000)
Natural hazards: drought (rainfall has dropped by 30% in the last 30 years)
Environment – current issues: deforestation; desertification; water-borne diseases prevalent
Environment – international agreements: party to: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography – note: almost an enclave of Senegal; smallest country on the continent of Africa
People Population: 1,688,359 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 44.1% (male 373,831/female 370,397)
15-64 years: 53.2% (male 445,365/female 452,311)
65 years and over: 2.8% (male 23,582/female 22,873) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 17.8 years
male: 17.6 years
female: 17.9 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 2.781% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 38.86 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 11.99 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0.94 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.009 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 0.985 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 1.031 male(s)/female
total population: 0.997 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 70.14 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 76.55 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 63.54 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 54.54 years
male: 52.68 years
female: 56.46 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 5.21 children born/woman (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate: 1.2% (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS: 6,800 (2003 est.)
HIV/AIDS – deaths: 600 (2003 est.)
Major infectious diseases: degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
vector born diseases: dengue fever, malaria, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, and yellow fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis (2008)
Nationality: noun: Gambian(s)
adjective: Gambian
Ethnic groups: African 99% (Mandinka 42%, Fula 18%, Wolof 16%, Jola 10%, Serahuli 9%, other 4%), non-African 1%
Religions: Muslim 90%, Christian 9%, indigenous beliefs 1%
Languages: English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 40.1%
male: 47.8%
female: 32.8%

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