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
Politics

Before the 1994 coup d'état, The Gambia was one of the oldest existing multi-party democracies in Africa. It had conducted freely contested elections every five years since independence. After the coup, 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 retired Col. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh won 56% of the vote. Four registered opposition parties participated in the October 18, 2001, presidential election, which the incumbent, President 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 Development and Democracy, 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 [1]."

On the 21st and 22 March 2006, amid tensions preceding the 2006 presidential elections, an alleged planned military coup was uncovered. President Yahya Jammeh was forced to return from a trip to Mauritania, many suspected army officials were arrested, and prominent army officials, including the army chief of staff, fled the country.

There are claims circulating that this whole event was fabricated by the President incumbent for his own purposes; however, the veracity of these claims is not known, as no corroborating evidence has yet been brought forward.

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.

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
vectorborne 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% (2003 est.)
Government Country name: conventional long form: Republic of The Gambia
conventional short form: The Gambia
Government type: republic
Capital: name: Banjul
geographic coordinates: 13 27 N, 16 34 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
Administrative divisions: 5 divisions and 1 city*; Banjul*, Central River, Lower River, North Bank, Upper River, Western
Independence: 18 February 1965 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 18 February (1965)
Constitution: approved by national referendum 8 August 1996; effective 16 January 1997
Legal system: based on a composite of English common law, Islamic law, and customary law; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Yahya A. J. J. JAMMEH (since 18 October 1996); note - from 1994 to 1996 he was chairman of the Junta; Vice President Isatou NJIE-SAIDY (since 20 March 1997); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Yahya A. J. J. JAMMEH (since 18 October 1996); Vice President Isatou NJIE-SAIDY (since 20 March 1997)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president elected by popular vote for a five-year term (no term limits); election last held 22 September 2006 (next to be held in 2011)
election results: Yahya A. J. J. JAMMEH reelected president; percent of vote - Yahya A. J. J. JAMMEH 67.3%, Ousainou DARBOE 26.6%, Halifa SALLAH 6.0%
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (53 seats; 48 members elected by popular vote, 5 appointed by the president; to serve five-year terms)
elections: last held 25 January 2007 (next to be held in 2012)
election results: percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - APRC 47, UDP 4, NADD 1, independent 1
Judicial branch: Supreme Court
Political parties and leaders: Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction or APRC (the ruling party) [Yahya A. J. J. JAMMEH]; Gambia People's Democratic Party or GPDP [Henry GOMEZ]; National Alliance for Democracy and Development or NADD [Halifa SALLAH]; National Convention Party or NCP [Sheriff DIBBA]; National Reconciliation Party or NRP [Hamat N. K. BAH]; People's Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism or PDOIS [Sidia JATTA]; United Democratic Party or UDP [Ousainou DARBOE]
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organization participation: ACP, AfDB, AU, C, ECOWAS, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, MIGA, NAM, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNMEE, UNMIL, UNOCI, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO
Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Abdul Rahman COLE (since 24 December 2007)
chancery: Suite 905, 1156 15th Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
telephone: [1] (202) 785-1379
FAX: [1] (202) 785-1430
Diplomatic representation from the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Barry L. WELLS
embassy: Kairaba Avenue, Fajara, Banjul
mailing address: P. M. B. No. 19, Banjul
telephone: [220] 439-2856, 437-6169, 437-6170
FAX: [220] 439-2475
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of red (top), blue with white edges, and green
Tourism

The tourism industry today in The Gambia started when a party of 300 Swedish tourists arrived in 1965.[1] That pioneering trip was organised by a Swede named Bertil Harding together with the tour operators Vingresor. It was seen as an ideal place to escape the harsh winter months of Scandinavia where Europeans would enjoy not only sun, sand and beaches but also experience the excitement of a real African holiday. Moreover due to its proximity to Europe, it also offered new opening for an affordable holiday to increasing numbers of traveling Europeans.

The number of visitors increased from 300 tourists in 1965 to 25,000 visitors in 1976.[4] The number of tourists has continued to rise sharply throughout the years, and as the government is eager to diversify the economy, it recognised tourism as a potential major foreign exchange source of revenue. However, despite increasing popularity as a tourist destination, infrastructure development has been slow.

Economy Economy - overview: The Gambia has no confirmed mineral or natural resource deposits and has a limited agricultural base. About 75% of the population depends on crops and livestock for its livelihood. Small-scale manufacturing activity features the processing of peanuts, fish, and hides. Reexport trade normally constitutes a major segment of economic activity, but a 1999 government-imposed preshipment inspection plan, and instability of the Gambian dalasi (currency) have drawn some of the reexport trade away from The Gambia. The Gambia's natural beauty and proximity to Europe has made it one of the larger markets for tourism in West Africa. The government's 1998 seizure of the private peanut firm Alimenta eliminated the largest purchaser of Gambian groundnuts. Despite an announced program to begin privatizing key parastatals, no plans have been made public that would indicate that the government intends to follow through on its promises. Unemployment and underemployment rates remain extremely high; short-run economic progress depends on sustained bilateral and multilateral aid, on responsible government economic management, on continued technical assistance from the IMF and bilateral donors, and on expected growth in the construction sector.
GDP (purchasing power parity): $1.338 billion (2007 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): $379 million (2007 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 7% (2007 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP): $800 (2007 est.)
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 32.8%
industry: 8.7%
services: 58.5% (2007 est.)
Labor force: 400,000 (1996)
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 75%
industry: 19%
services: 6% (1996)
Unemployment rate: NA%
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: 1.8%
highest 10%: 37% (1998)
Distribution of family income - Gini index: 50.2 (1998)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 3.5% (2007 est.)
Investment (gross fixed): 27.7% of GDP (2007 est.)
Budget: revenues: $160.4 million
expenditures: $165.7 million (2007 est.)
Agriculture - products: rice, millet, sorghum, peanuts, corn, sesame, cassava (tapioca), palm kernels; cattle, sheep, goats
Industries: processing peanuts, fish, and hides; tourism, beverages, agricultural machinery assembly, woodworking, metalworking, clothing
Industrial production growth rate: -2.3% (2007 est.)
Electricity - production: 145 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
nuclear: 0%
other: 0% (2001)
Electricity - consumption: 134.9 million kWh (2005)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2005)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2005)
Oil - production: 0 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - consumption: 2,030 bbl/day (2005 est.)
Oil - exports: 41.5 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - imports: 2,050 bbl/day (2004)
Oil - proved reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2006 est.)
Natural gas - production: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - consumption: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - exports: 0 cu m (2005 est.)
Natural gas - imports: 0 cu m (2005)
Natural gas - proved reserves: 0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance: -$31.69 million (2007 est.)
Exports: $147.7 million f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Exports - commodities: peanut products, fish, cotton lint, palm kernels, re-exports
Exports - partners: India 38.6%, UK 15.9%, Indonesia 7.9%, France 7%, Italy 4.6% (2006)
Imports: $276 million f.o.b. (2007 est.)
Imports - commodities: foodstuffs, manufactures, fuel, machinery and transport equipment
Imports - partners: China 25.2%, Senegal 11.3%, Cote d'Ivoire 8.1%, Brazil 6.6%, Netherlands 4.5%, UK 4% (2006)
Economic aid - recipient: $58.15 million (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: $119.9 million (31 December 2007 est.)
Debt - external: $628.8 million (2003 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares: $NA
Currency (code): dalasi (GMD)
Currency code: GMD
Exchange rates: dalasi per US dollar - 27.79 (2007), 28.066 (2006), 28.575 (2005), 30.03 (2004), 27.306 (2003)
Fiscal year: calendar year
Communications Telephones - main lines in use: 52,900 (2006)
Telephones - mobile cellular: 404,300 (2006)
Telephone system: general assessment: adequate; a packet switched data network is available; two mobile-cellular service providers
domestic: adequate network of microwave radio relay and open-wire; combined fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity approaching 30 telephones per 100 persons
international: country code - 220; microwave radio relay links to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean) (1997)
Radio broadcast stations: AM 3, FM 2, shortwave 0 (2001)
Radios: 196,000 (1997)
Television broadcast stations: 1 (government-owned) (1997)
Televisions: 5,000 (2000)
Internet country code: .gm
Internet hosts: 6 (2007)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 2 (2001)
Internet users: 58,000 (2005)
Transportation Airports: 1 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways: total: 1
over 3,047 m: 1 (2007)
Roadways: total: 3,742 km
paved: 723 km
unpaved: 3,019 km (2004)
Waterways: 390 km (on River Gambia; small ocean-going vessels can reach 190 km) (2006)
Merchant marine: total: 5 ships (1000 GRT or over) 32,064 GRT/9,751 DWT
by type: passenger/cargo 4, petroleum tanker 1
foreign-owned: 1 (Australia 1) (2007)
Ports and terminals: Banjul
Military Military branches: Gambian National Army (National Guard, GNA), Gambian Navy (GN) (2007)
Military service age and obligation: 18 years of age for voluntary military service; no conscription (2001)
Manpower available for military service: males age 18-49: 311,025
females age 18-49: 316,214 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 18-49: 183,057
females age 18-49: 194,551 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 0.5% (2006)
Transnational Issues Disputes - international: attempts to stem refugees, cross-border raids, arms smuggling, and other illegal activities by separatists from southern Senegal's Casamance region, as well as from conflicts in other west African states
Refugees and internally displaced persons: refugees (country of origin): 5,955 (Sierra Leone) (2006)