Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Republic of The Gambia is a country in West Africa. It is the smallest country within the African continent and is entirely surrounded by Senegal, with the Gambia River emptying into the Atlantic Ocean in its center. In 1965, The Gambia became independent from the British Empire. Banjul is its capital.
|National motto: Progress, Peace, Prosperity|
|Official language||English, Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, others|
|President||Alhaji Yahya Jammeh|
- % water
| Ranked 158th|
| Ranked 145th|
1,367,124 (July 2000 est.)
| From the United Kingdom|
February 18, 1965
|National anthem||For The Gambia Our Homeland|
Main article: History of The Gambia
Gambia was once part of the Empire of Ghana and the Songhai Empire. The first written accounts of the region come from records of Arab traders in the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. Arab traders established the trans-Saharan trade route for slaves, gold, and ivory. In the 15th century, the Portuguese took over this trade using maritime routes. At that time, The Gambia was part of the Mali Empire.
In 1588, the claimant to the Portuguese throne, Antonio, 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, King James I granted a charter to a British company for trade with The Gambia and the Gold Coast (now Ghana).
During the late 17th century and throughout the 18th, England and France struggled continuously 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, but the French retained a tiny enclave at Albreda on the north bank of the river, 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. In 1807, slave trading was abolished throughout the British Empire, and the British tried unsuccessfully to end the slave traffic 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. In 1889, it became a crown colony.
After World War II, the pace of constitutional reform quickened. Following general elections in 1962, full internal self-government was granted in 1963. The Gambia achieved independence on February 18, 1965, as a constitutional monarchy within the British Commonwealth. On April 24, 1970, The Gambia became a republic following a referendum.
Until a military coup in July 1994, The Gambia was led by President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, who was re-elected five times. The relative stability of the Jawara era was first broken by a violent, unsuccessful coup attempt in 1981.
In the aftermath of the attempted coup, Senegal and The Gambia signed the 1982 Treaty of Confederation. The result, the Senegambia Confederation, aimed eventually to combine the armed forces of the two nations and to unify 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'etat, deposing the government of Sir Dawda Jawara. 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 referenda. 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 re-elected, 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.
Main article: Politics of The Gambia
Before the coup d'état in July 1994, The Gambia was one of the oldest existing multi-party democracies in Africa. It had conducted freely contested elections every 5 years since independence. After the military 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.
Following the coup in July 1994, 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.
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 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.
Main article: Subdivisions of The Gambia
The Gambia is divided into eight subdivisions:
Main article: Geography of The Gambia
The Gambia is a very small and narrow country with the border based on the Gambia River. The country is less than 48km wide. The country's present boundaries were defined in 1889 after an agreement between the United Kingdom and France. It is almost an enclave of Senegal and the smallest country on the continent of Africa.
Main article: Economy of The Gambia
The Gambia has a liberal, market-based economy characterized 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.
Agriculture accounts for 29% of gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 75% of the labor 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 12% of GDP and forestry 0.5%. Manufacturing accounts for 5.5% of GDP. The limited amount of manufacturing is primarily agriculturally based (e.g., peanut processing, bakeries, a brewery, and a tannery). Other manufacturing activities include soap, soft drinks, and clothing. Services account for 19% of GDP.
The U.K. and other EU countries constitute The Gambia's major domestic export markets, accounting for 86% in total; followed by Asia at 14%; and the African subregion, including Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, and Ghana at 8%. The U.K. and the other EU countries--namely, Germany, France, Netherlands, and Belgium--were the major source of imports accounting for 60% of the total share of imports followed by Asia at 23%, and Cote d'Ivoire and other African countries at 17%. The Gambia reports 11% of its exports going to and 14.6% of its imports coming from the United States.
Main article: Demographics of The Gambia
A wide variety of ethnic groups live in The Gambia with a minimum of intertribal friction, each preserving its own language and traditions. The Mandinka tribe is the largest, followed by the Fula, Wolof, Jola, and Serahule. Approximately 3,500 non-Africans live in The Gambia, including Europeans and families of Lebanese origin.
Muslims constitute more than 95% of the population. Christians of different denominations account for most of the remainder. Gambians officially observe the holidays of both religions and practice religious tolerance.
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 modernization are bringing more Gambians into contact with Western habits and values, the traditional emphasis on the extended family, as well as indigenous forms of dress and celebration, remain integral parts of everyday life.
Main article: Culture of The Gambia
See also: Music of the Gambia
- Birds of The Gambia
- Transportation of The Gambia
- Communications of The Gambia
- Foreign relations of The Gambia
- Military of The Gambia
- Public holidays in The Gambia
External links and references
- Republic of The Gambia Official Website
- Much of the information presented here comes from the CIA World Factbook 2000 and the 2002 U.S. Department of State website.
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