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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: 11,295 sq km - The smallest country on mainland Africa
Population: 1.8 million (est 2011)
Capital City: Banjul
People: The Gambia is made up of several ethnic groups, including the Mandinka (the largest), the Fula, the Wolof, the Jola and the Serahuli.
Language(s): English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, and other indigenous languages are widely spoken.
Religion(s): The Gambia is predominantly Muslim (90%), but there is a significant Christian community (8%) and indigenous beliefs (2%) are also practised. Religious tolerance is good.
Currency: Dalasi (GMD)
Major political parties: Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC); National Reconciliation Party (NRP); People's Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS); United Democratic Party (UDP); the People's Progressive Party (PPP); the National Convention party (NCP); the National Democratic Action Movement (NDAM); Gambia Party for Democracy and Progress (GPDP); National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD); Gambian Moral Council (GMC)
Government: The Gambia is a republic under multi-party democratic rule. The APRC currently holds a huge majority (42 of the 48 elected seats)
Head of State: Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya AJJ Jammeh
The President is both the Head of State and Head of Government
Foreign Minister: Momodou Tangara.
Membership of international groupings/organisations: African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), African Development Bank (AfDB), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Group of 77 (G-77), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRCS), Islamic Development Bank (IDB), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Interpol, International Olympic Committee (IOC), International Organisation for Migration (IOM), Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Non Aligned Movement (NAM), African Union (AU), Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). United Nations (UN), United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), World Bank (WBG), World Health Organisation (WHO), World Trade Organisation (WTO).

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ECONOMY

GDP - real growth rate: 5.7% (2010 est.)
GDP - per capita: US$1,900 (2010 est)
Inflation: 5.5% (2010 est.)
Main industries and exports: Agriculture (especially groundnuts), re-export, tourism.
Exchange rate: 1 GBP = 46 Gambian Dalasi. (July 11)
The Gambia has no important mineral or other natural resources and has a limited agricultural base. About 75% of the population depend on crops and livestock. Their livelihood is highly dependent on rainfall. Small-scale manufacturing activity includes the processing of groundnuts, fish, and animal hides. Re-export trade to neighbouring countries makes a significant contribution to the economy, but is dependent on fluctuating relations with Senegal. Tourism, and associated construction industry, is a mainstay of the economy, as are remittances. The number of banks has grown from 6 in 2007 to 14 in 2009.

The Gambia currently has a Staff Monitored Programme with the IMF, as part of a Medium Term Economic Framework Plan. The IMF has reported some modest progress on fiscal balance and some improvements in financial management, but has noted continued problems related to low capacity, high turnover of government staff, and growing internal debt.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) (http://www.imf.org/external/index.htm)

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HISTORY

The Gambia became a British protectorate in 1894 and a British Colony in 1902. It gained independence from Britain on 18 February 1965, with Dawda Jawara as Prime Minister. On 24 April 1970, The Gambia became a Republic following a referendum and Jawara was elected as President. Jawara and the People's Progressive Party dominated Gambian politics, until 1994 (See Below), although the country retained a multi-party system, and opposition parties were represented in the small parliament. A coup attempt in 1981 was only put down at the expense of hundreds of people being killed. In the 1980s and the early 1990s the government became increasingly unpopular, largely due to allegations of corruption.

In July 1994 26-year old Captain Yahya Jammeh overturned the 30-year rule of Sir Dawda Jawara in a bloodless coup. Jammeh's Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) ran the country by decree and all political activity was banned until the second Republic was established in 1997. What appeared to be a counter coup in January 1995 was put down and its ringleaders, who were former close allies of Jammeh, were imprisoned. There was another alleged coup in March 2006 which was unsuccessful.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

The Gambia maintains generally good relations with other African countries. In June 2006 the Gambia successfully hosted the summit of the African Union. Jammeh has mediated (sic) both in the peace process in Guinea-Bissau between 1998 and 2000 and in the peace process in the Casamance region of Senegal (see Senegal Country profile). However relations with Senegal in recent years have been difficult effecting trade and transport issues. Relations further worsened when Jammeh accused Senegal of harbouring those behind the coup attempt of March 2006. But Senegambia relations have improved of late with two visits to Banjul in 2010 by President Wade and a re-institution of the Senegal/Gambia Joint Commission.

The Gambia is a member of the Commonwealth. In 2000 the Gambia was referred to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) over concerns that the country was not respecting the political and human rights values of the organisation. In 2005 the Commonwealth appointed a representative, the Nigerian retired general and former President Abubakar, as special envoy in the run up to the elections. It was again on CMAG agenda (on human rights grounds) in 2009 following a visit by the Commonwealth Secretariat. Under Jammeh the Gambia has developed links with many countries in the Islamic world, including Libya who offered political support in the 1990s. Gadafi visited Banjul in July 2009 as special guest during the 44th Revolution Celebrations. Ties have been developed more recently with Iran (Mahmoud Ahmedinejad visited Banjul on 22 November 2009) without reason Iranian Diplomats were ordered to leave in November 2010. and Venezuela, both of which have offered financial and other support. The Islamic development bank and OPEC have offered financial support, for example in road building projects.

African Union (http://www.africa-union.org/)
ECOWAS (http://www.ecowas.info/)
The Commonwealth Secretariat (http://www.thecommonwealth.org/)
Gambia Tourism Authority (http://www.visitthegambia.gm/">Research and Analytical Papers: Africa (#)

The Gambia's Relations with the UK

Historically the UK has had strong ties with the Gambia. Many thousands of Gambians have lived and studied in the UK, and some 60,000 British citizens visit the Gambia on holiday each year. Diplomatic relations were strained following the 1994 coup, and again following the expulsion of our Deputy High Commissioner in 2001. However, they have gradually improved since, and are now relatively strong.

Recent Visits

In July 2002, the ex-Trade Minister, Musa Sillah, led a trade delegation to the UK. In September 2002, and Blaise Jagne, Foreign Minister, paid a brief visit to the UK in the same year. This was followed in October 2003 by a visit to the UK from Blaise Jagne, Musa Bala Gaye, Finance Minister, and Edward Singateh, Minister for Trade, Industry and Employment. Baroness Amos visited Banjul in 2006. Momodou Tangara, Foreign Minister, visited UK in 2010 to discuss current state of UK/Gambia relations.

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GEOGRAPHY

The Gambia is a small country in Western Africa and the smallest on mainland Africa. Apart from a small Atlantic seaboard, it is entirely surrounded by Senegal. The geography of the country is dominated by the Gambia river basin and floodplain, beyond which lies savannah and low hills. The climate is tropical with a hot rainy season (June to November) and a cooler dry season (November to May).

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Trade and Investment with the UK

Trade with the UK is strong, and the UK is consistently among the Gambia's top 5 trading partners. UK exports in goods and services to the Gambia in 2009 amounted to £23 million, key products being medicament, sugar, vehicles; accessories and spare parts. Trade in goods and services in the opposite direction were valued at £37 million, key products: ground nuts, fruit and vegetables and dried fish.

Development

The Gambia suffers from widespread poverty. Life expectancy at birth is 56 years, but that figure has improved markedly in the last two decades. Unemployment is high in urban areas, and in rural areas the fragile agricultural sector is highly dependent on the weather. The country ranks 168 out of 182 in the UNDP's human development index (2009). Child school enrolment is relatively high for comparable countries, as is adult literacy rate at 62% (according to UN estimates). The UNDP and ILO, in collaboration with the government, are engaged in a 3-year programme - the Fight Against Social and Economic Exclusion - which aims to empower communities, especially women, to create sustainable livelihoods.

United Nations Development Programme (http://www.undp.org/)
World Bank (http://web.worldbank.org)

UK Development Assistance

DFID's programme of direct assistance to the Gambia resumed in 1998 following the restoration of civil democracy in 1997. The Programme finished in March 2011 with some residual responsibility passing to the European Commission. The development programme allocation of £3 million focused on the following main areas, all linked to the national Poverty Reduction Strategy: basic education, legal capacity building, including access to justice; financial governance, including training for the National Assembly's Public Accounts Committee, and capacity building in the Department of State for Finance; civil society capacity building; debt management and foreign private capital capacity building. The UK also provides a considerable amount of assistance to the Gambia through multilateral organisations, such as the EU, World Bank and United Nations agencies.

DFID Country Profile: The Republic of The Gambia (http://www.dfid.gov.uk/countries/africa/gambia.asp) (last updated 2007)

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POLITICS

Jammeh's initial 4-year programme for return to civilian rule after the 1994 coup was widely condemned at home and abroad. A controversial consultation process eventually produced a Constitution, which was approved by referendum in August 1996, allowing for multiparty elections, and a Presidential term of 5 years with no limit on the number of terms served. However, the main political parties were banned in the run up to the first elections. Having denied his desire to stand until late in the day, Jammeh won the presidential elections of September 1996 with 56% of the vote, and his newly formed party, the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC), won 33 of the 45 parliamentary seats in January 1997.

Despite the elected government, political stability remained fragile. Few senior ministers retained their posts for long, rumours of coups regularly circulated in the country and the independent media and opposition were regularly harassed for allegedly stirring anti-government feeling. Jammeh made effective use of government media and funds to ensure victory in the October 2001 presidential elections, with 53% of the vote in the second round against 33% for the main opposition party the United Democratic Party (UDP) led by Ousainou Darboe. In National Assembly elections in January 2002, Jammeh's APRC party won a huge majority – 40 of the 43 elected seats (the remaining 5 seats being nominated by the President), largely owing to a boycott by the opposition due to allegations of malpractice over the electoral register.

In March 2006 the regime was shaken by an alleged coup attempt, following which 27 people were arrested and the former chief of staff of the army disappeared, having been accused by Jammeh of being behind the coup. Preparations for elections were controversial and the independence of the Independent Electoral Commission was seriously compromised by the dismissal of 3 Chairmen by the President. The opposition coalition (the National Alliance for Democracy and Development), which had undertaken to field a single candidate against Jammeh split in February 2006. This damaged the capacity of the opposition to mount an effective challenge to Jammeh in the one-round election, which was held on 22 September 2006. In the event, three candidates were accepted: President Jammeh, Ousainou Darboe of the UDP and Halifah Salah of the National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD). President Jammeh won the elections with 59% of the vote to Darboe’s 27%. The vote was considered by observers to have been free and fair on the day, although the Commonwealth Secretariat noted 'abuses of incumbency' in the lead up to the polls. Legislative elections were held on 27 January 2007. The ruling APRC confirmed its overwhelming dominance of the political scene, winning 42 of the 48 elected seats, but the voter turnout was low at 41.7%.
Gambian Government website (http://www.gambia.gm/)
BBC News Country Profile: Gambia (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/country_profiles/1032156.stm)

BBC News: Africa (http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/)

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HUMAN RIGHTS

The Gambia has suffered from a poor human rights record since the change of regime in 1994. Both the commonwealth and the EU have been vocal in their condemnation. The killing of students in April 2000 was the subject of a government report, but recommendations have not been acted on and no prosecutions have been forthcoming. In November 2004, 3 prominent members of the opposition - Omar Jallow, Hamat Bah and Halifah Sallah - were arrested. Jallow and Sallah were subsequently charged with Sedition and Bah was charged with possession of official documents. The President dropped all charges on 7 February 2006 and the 3 were released. Following the apparent attempted coup of April 2006, many of those arrested have been detained without access to lawyers or international organisations, and well beyond the 72 hours allowed by law. Journalists and former government officials continue to be arrested and held without charge and occasionally without communication with the outside world. A journalist organisation has taken the case of the journalist Chief Ebrima Manneh to the community court of the regional organisation ECOWAS. He has been held without charge since July 2006.

The Campaign manager of the UDP, Femi Peters, was charged in October 2009 of holding an illegal assemble and being in possession of loudspeakers without permission. He was found guilty on both counts In March 2010 and sentenced to a fine of approx £300 and a one year mandatory sentence without the option of a fine. The sentences are currently under appeal as being unconstitutional. The UK together with the EU and the US has made statements requesting the Government of The Gambia to adhere to its International obligations in hearing this appeal.

The media has come under sustained pressure through prosecutions for sedition and criminal libel and frequently successful attempts by government to close down organs of the independent or opposition press. Physical attacks on journalists have been frequent and are not properly investigated. In December 2004 a prominent journalist and critic of the government, Deyda Hydara, was assassinated. His murder has not been adequately investigated.

Since 2008, Jammeh has increased pressure on Gambia journalists. Fatou Jaw Manneh, based in the USA was convicted and charged with writing a seditious article (on-line). She was found guilty and sentenced to a jail sentence and a hefty fine (which was paid by colleagues). She has since returned to the USA. In June 2009 six journalists were arrested and charged with sedition and writing a defamatory article. They were found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison with hefty fines. After heavy pressure from the International Community,including the UK and the EU Jammeh pardoned the journalists in September 2009. There have been many more examples.

July 2011

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Last Updated: July 2011

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