Gambia

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Map:

Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of red (top), blue with white edges, and green 

Location: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and Senegal 

Geographic coordinates: 13 28 N, 16 34 W 

Climate: tropical; hot, rainy season (June to November); cooler, dry season (November to May) 

Independence: 18 February 1965 (from UK); note - The Gambia and Senegal signed an agreement on 12 December 1981 that called for the creation of a loose confederation to be known as Senegambia, but the agreement was dissolved on 30 September 1989 

Nationality: Gambian(s) 

Capital City: Banjul 

Population:  1,367,124 (July 2000 est.)

Head of State: President Yahya A. J. J. JAMMEH 

Area: 11,300 sq km 

Type of Government: republic under multiparty democratic rule 

Currency: 1 dalasi (D) = 100 butut 

Major peoples:  African 99% (Mandinka 42%, Fula 18%, Wolof 16%, Jola 10%, Serahuli 9%, other 4%), non-African 1% 

Religion: Muslim 90%, Christian 9%, indigenous beliefs 1% 

Official Language: English

Principal Languages: English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, other indigenous vernaculars 

Major Exports: peanuts and peanut products, fish, cotton lint, palm kernels 

History: Attracted by the river, most peoples of Gambia emigrated from neighboring parts of today's Senegal.  By the 15th century, Mandingo settlers associated with the Mali empire had settled in the valley, founding a cluster of kingdoms that controlled trade along the river.  Muslim religious wars in the 19th century resulted in the more complete Islamicization of the region and brought further immigration.

The Portuguese first reached the Gambia River in 1455 and sold trading rights to the British in 1618.  In 1660 the British established a fort on Fort James Island.  During the 18th century, Britain and France struggled for supremacy in the area.  The British established a trading post at Bathurst at the mouth of the river in 1807 and carved out a zone of influence.  In 1889, its present boundaries were settled with France, and Gambia became a crown colony.  Slavery was abolished in the colony in 1906.  In 1965 the colony became independent.

According to the constitution of 1970, Gambia is a republic headed by a president;  Dawda K. Jawara and his People's Progressive party have ruled since independence.  On Feb. 1, 1982, in the wake of a 1981 coup attempt put down with the aid of Senegalese troops, Gambia and Senegal inaugurated the Confederation of Senegambia.  Deteriorating relations between the two nations led to the dissolution of the confederation in 1989.  In 1991 they signed a treaty of friendship and cooperation.  Jawara remained in power after legislative and presidential elections in 1992.

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