Area: 11,300 sq. km. (4,361 sq. mi.);
less than half the size of Maryland.
(pop. 34,828 excluding suburbs; 2003 census
Terrain: Flood plain of the Gambia River flanked
by low hills.
Climate: Tropical; hot rainy season (June to
November); cooler, dry season (November to May).
Population (2008): 1.7 million.
Annual growth rate (2008 est.): 2.724%.
Ethnic groups (2003 census): Mandinka 42%, Fula
18%, Wolof 16%, Jola 10%, Sarahule 9%, Serere
7.8%, Krio/Aku Marabout 1.8%, Manjago 0.8%,
Bambara 0.7%, other Gambians 1.2%, no
Non-Gambians 12.9% of the population.
Religions: Muslim 90%, Christian 8%, other 2%.
Languages: English (official), Mandinka, Wolof,
Fula, Jola, Sarahule, other indigenous
compulsory--up to age eight. Attendance--69%
primary, 35% secondary. Adult
expectancy--57 yrs (2005 est.). Infant
mortality rate (2005)--97/1,000. Access
to safe drinking water (2004)--urban
95%, rural 77%.
Work force (400,000): Agriculture--70%; industry,
commerce, services--24%; government--6%.
Independence: February 18, 1965.
Constitution: January 16, 1997.
Branches: Executive, legislative, and judicial.
Subdivisions: Capital and six divisions.
Political parties: Alliance for Patriotic
Reorientation and Construction (APRC), United
Democratic Party (UDP), National Reconciliation
Party (NRP), National Convention Party (NCP),
Peoples Democratic Organization for Independence
and Socialism (PDOIS), National Democratic
Action Movement (NDAM), and the Gambia Party for
Democracy and Progress (GPDP).
GDP (2007): $709 million.
Annual growth rate (2007): 6.5%.
Per capita income (2007): $454.
Natural resources: Seismic studies indicate the
possible presence of oil and gas offshore.
Services: 58.50% of GDP, 2007.
Agriculture (32.80% of GDP, 2007): Products--peanuts,
rice, millet, sorghum, fish, palm kernels,
vegetables, livestock, forestry.
Industry (8.70% of GDP, 2007): Types--peanut
products, construction, telecommunications,
brewing, soft drinks, agricultural machinery
assembly, woodworking, metal working, clothing
and textile manufacturing, food processing.
Trade: (2007 est.): Principal
exports--$14.5 million: 43.33% groundnut
products, 25.18% fish and fish preparations,
2.43% cotton, 11.18% fruits and vegetables,
0.17% hides and skin, 6.191% re-exports, and
others 11.52%. Major markets--France
48.85%, Senegal 22.62%, Netherlands 10.21%,
United States 7.02%, Germany 3.46%, and Japan
Principal imports--$345.7 million
including food and beverages, manufactures,
machinery and transport equipment, and minerals
and fuel. Major suppliers--Denmark,
United States, China, Germany, U.K., Cote
d'Ivoire, and Netherlands.
Official development assistance (ODA) received
from all sources (2001): $50.9 million.
U.S. economic aid received (FY 2007): $88,000 in
grassroots projects and assistance to democracy
and human rights programs.
PEOPLE AND HISTORY
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 Sarahule.
Approximately 3,500 non-Africans live in The
Gambia, including Europeans and families of
Muslims constitute more than 90% 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.
The Gambia was once part of the Ghana Empire 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 Kingdom of Mali.
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. 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
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.
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
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 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. Shortly
thereafter, the government proposed conversion
from a monarchy to a republic with an elected
president replacing the British monarch as chief
of state. The proposal 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, and civil rights and liberties. 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.
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 dead, President
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 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 transition process included the
compilation of a new electoral register,
adoption of a new constitution by referendum in
August 1996, and presidential and legislative
elections in September 1996 and January 1997,
respectively. Foreign observers did not deem
these elections free and fair. Retired Col.
Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh was sworn into office as
President of the Republic of The Gambia in
November 1996. 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. President Jammeh was
re-elected for a third five-year term on
September 22, 2006 with 67% of the vote. The UDP
received 27% of the vote, and instead of
boycotting future elections, vowed to take part
in the 2007 National Assembly elections. In the
January 2007 parliamentary elections the ruling
Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and
Construction (APRC) won 42 of the available 48
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.
Local government in The Gambia varies. The
capital city, Banjul and the much larger
Kanifing Municipality have elected town and
municipal councils. Five rural divisions exist,
each with a council containing a majority of
elected members. Each council has its own
treasury and is responsible for local government
services. Tribal chiefs retain traditional
powers authorized by customary law in some
Principal Government Officials
President--Yahya Abdulaziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh
Vice President--Isatou Njie-Saidy
Ambassador-designate to the United States--Tamsir
UN Representative--Omar Touray
The Gambia maintains an embassy at 1156 15th
Street, NW, Suite 905, Washington, DC 20005.
Tel. (202) 785-1399. Its UN mission is located
at 820 2nd Avenue, Suite 900-C, New York, NY
10017. Tel. (212) 949-6640.
The Gambian national army numbers about 1,900.
The army consists of infantry battalions, the
national guard, and the navy, all under the
authority of the Department of State for Defense
(a ministerial portfolio held by President
Jammeh). Prior to the 1994 coup, the Gambian
army received technical assistance and training
from the United States, United Kingdom, People's
Republic of China, Nigeria, and Turkey. With the
withdrawal of most of this aid, the army has
received renewed assistance from Turkey and new
assistance from Libya and others. The Gambia
allowed its military training arrangement with
Libya to expire in 2002.
Members of the Gambian military participated in
ECOMOG, the West African force deployed during
the Liberian civil war beginning in 1990.
Gambian forces have subsequently participated in
several other peacekeeping operations,
including, inter alia, Bosnia, Kosovo,
Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone,
Eritrea, and East Timor. The Gambia contributed
150 troops to Liberia in 2003 as part of the
ECOMIL contingent. In 2004, The Gambia
contributed a 196-man contingent to the UN
Peacekeeping Mission in Darfur, Sudan.
Responsibilities for internal security and law
enforcement rest with the Gambian police under
the Inspector General of Police and the
Secretary of State for the Interior.
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.
The People's Progressive Party (PPP), headed by
former president Jawara, had dominated Gambian
politics for nearly 30 years. After spearheading
the movement toward complete independence from
Britain, the PPP was voted into power and was
never seriously challenged by any opposition
party. The last elections under the PPP regime
were held in April 1992.
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. The legislative elections held in January
1997 were dominated by the APRC, which captured
33 out of 45 seats. In July 2001, the ban on
Jawara-era political parties and politicians was
lifted. Four registered opposition parties
participated in the October 18, 2001,
presidential election, which the incumbent,
President Yahya 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.
President Jammeh won the September 2006
elections with 67% of the vote while the
opposition alliance won a total of 27%. In the
January 2007 parliamentary elections, Jammeh's
APRC won 42 of the available 48 seats. While
both the September and January elections were
declared credible, several sources have reported
increased oversight of journalists in the
preceding months. A failed coup in March 2006
had a major effect on The Gambia's political
climate. Since then President Jammeh has taken
far-reaching steps to maintain power.
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 roughly 30% of gross
domestic product (GDP) and employs about 70% 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 approximately 8% of
GDP and services approximately 58%. The limited
amount of manufacturing is primarily
agricultural-based (e.g., peanut processing,
bakeries, a brewery, and a tannery). Other
manufacturing activities include soap, soft
drinks, and clothing.
Previously, the U.K. and other EU countries
constituted The Gambia's major domestic export
markets. However, in recent years Senegal, the
United States, and Japan have gained fair
proportions of Gambian exports. In Africa,
Senegal represented the biggest trade partner of
The Gambia in 2007, which is a defining contrast
to previous years that saw Guinea-Bissau and
Ghana as equally important trade partners.
Globally, Denmark, the United States, and China
have become important source countries for
Gambian imports. The U.K., Germany, Cote
d'Ivoire, and Netherlands also provide a fair
share of Gambian imports. Gambia's trade deficit
for 2007 was $331 million.
The Gambia followed a formal policy of
nonalignment throughout most of former President
Jawara's tenure. It maintained close relations
with the United Kingdom, Senegal, and other
African countries. The July 1994 coup strained
The Gambia's relationship with Western powers,
particularly the United States, which until 2002
suspended most non-humanitarian assistance in
accordance with Section 508 of the Foreign
Assistance Act. Since 1995, President Jammeh has
established diplomatic relations with several
additional countries, including Libya, Taiwan
The Gambia plays an active role in international
affairs, especially West African and Islamic
affairs, although its representation abroad is
limited. As a member of the Economic Community
of West African States (ECOWAS), The Gambia has
played an active role in that organization's
efforts to resolve the civil wars in Liberia and
Sierra Leone and contributed troops to the
community's ceasefire monitoring group (ECOMOG)
in 1990 and (ECOMIL) in 2003. It also has sought
to mediate disputes in nearby Guinea-Bissau and
the neighboring Casamance region of Senegal. The
Government of The Gambia believes Senegal was
complicit in the March 2006 failed coup attempt.
This has put increasing strains on relations
between The Gambia and its neighbor. The
subsequent worsening of the human rights
situation has placed increasing strains of
U.S. policy seeks to build improved relations
with The Gambia on the basis of historical ties,
mutual respect, democratic rule, human rights,
and adherence to UN resolutions on
counter-terrorism, conflict diamonds, and other
forms of trafficking. Following The Gambia's
successful presidential and legislative
elections in October 2001 and January 2002,
respectively, the U.S. Government determined
that a democratically elected government had
assumed office and thus lifted the sanctions it
had imposed against The Gambia in accordance
with Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act
as a result of the 1994 coup. U.S. assistance
supports democracy, human rights, girls'
education, and the fight against HIV/AIDS. In
addition, the Peace
a large program with about 100 volunteers
engaged in the environment, public health, and
education sectors, mainly at the village level.
Relations with the U.S. have not been improved
significantly due to the human rights and
freedom of press shortcomings, which resulted in
the suspension of The Gambia's compact with the
Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in June
2006. The Gambia became eligible for
preferential trade benefits under the African
Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) on January 1,
Principal U.S. Officials
Deputy Chief of Mission--Brian Bachman
Peace Corps Country Director--Michael McConnell
The Gambia is situated in Fajara on Kairaba
Avenue, formerly known as Pipeline Road. Tel:
 4392856; fax  4392475). The Peace
Corps office also is on Kairaba Avenue near the
embassy. (Tel.  4392466). The international
mailing address for the embassy is American
Embassy, PMB 19, Kairaba Avenue, Banjul, The