About Gambia

 

Background

Arab traders provided the Gambia's first written accounts in the 9th and 10th centuries. During the 10th century,
 Muslim merchants and scholars created communities in several of West Africa's commercial centers.
Both groups established trans-Saharan trade routes, leading to an exchange for slaves, gold and ivory.
By the 11th or 12th century, the rulers of kingdoms such as Takrur (a kingdom centered on the Sénégal River just to the north),
 Ancient Ghana and Gao, had converted to Islam and had appointed Muslims who were literate in Arabic as advisers.[4]
 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 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, James I 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, bought by prince Jacob Kettler, who was a Polish vassal.
 
 

 
 
 
A map of James Island and Fort Gambia.
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. Britain occupied
 the Gambia when an expedition led by Augustus Keppel landed there, following the Capture of Senegal in 1758.
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. This was finally ceded to the United Kingdom in 1856.
According to the current 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 who sold all our lands to the French".[5]
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 inter-tribal wars or Arab traders prior to the transatlantic slave trade. Most of those taken were sold by other Africans to Europeans; some were prisoners of intertribal wars; some were sold because of unpaid debts; while others were kidnapped.
Traders initially sent slaves 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, the British abolished slave trading throughout their Empire. They also tried, unsuccessfully, to end the slave trade in The Gambia. 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 colonial entity.
An 1889 agreement with France established the present boundaries. The Gambia became a British Crown Colony, 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 gradually progressed toward self-government. It passed a 1906 ordinance abolishing slavery.
During World War II, Gambian troops fought with the Allies in Burma. According to current president Yahya Jammeh, "when Germany was about to defeat Britain, not only were Gambians conscripted and forced to go and fight in Britain".[5] 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 a sitting 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 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 24 April 1970, the Gambia became a republic within the Commonwealth, following a second referendum, with Prime Minister Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, as head of state. This made the Gambia the first and last British colony in West Africa.[citation needed]
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 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 goal of the Senegambia Confederation was to combine the armed forces of the two states and to unify their economies and currencies. In 1989 the Gambia withdrew from the confederation.
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.[6]
 

Geography

 

Map of the Gambia

The Gambia is a very small and narrow country whose borders mirror the meandering Gambia River. The country is less than 30 miles wide at its widest point, with a total area of 11,300 km². Approximately 1,300 km² of the Gambia's area is covered by water. The Gambia 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.[7]

The climate of the Gambia is tropical. During the period from June until November, there is a period of hot weather and a very rainy season. From November until May, there are cool temperatures and is part of a dry season.[7] The climate in the Gambia is the same found in neighboring Senegal, southern Mali and the northern part of Benin.[8]

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.[9]