Gambia – The Smiling Coast of Africa

Progress, Peace and Prosperity
Progress, Peace and Prosperity

The Gambia officially the Republic of the Gambia and often called simply Gambia) is a country in West Africa mostly surrounded by Senegal with a short strip of its coastline bordered with the Atlantic Ocean at its western end. It is the smallest country on mainland Africa.

The Gambia is situated on either side of the Gambia River, the nation’s namesake, which flows through the centre of the Gambia and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Its area is 10,689 square kilometres (4,127 sq mi) with a population of 1,882,450 at the 15 April 2013 Census (provisional). Banjul is the Gambian capital, and the largest cities are Serekunda and Brikama.

The Gambia shares historical roots with many other West African nations in the slave trade, which was the key factor in the placing and keeping of a colony on the Gambia River, first by the Portuguese, during which era it was A Gâmbia, and later by the British. In 1965, the Gambia gained independence from the United Kingdom. Since gaining independence, the Gambia has had two leaders -Sir Dawda Jawara, who ruled from 1970 until 1994, when the current leader Yahya Jammeh seized power in a coup as a young army officer. The Gambia’s economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and tourism.

THE GAMBIA NATIONAL ANTHEM

For the Gambia, our homeland we
strive and work and pray,
That all may live in unity,
Freedom and peace each day,
Let justice guide our actions towards
the common good,
And join our diverse peoples to prove
man’s brotherhood.

We pledge our firm allegiance,
Our promises we renew,
Keep us great God of nations,
to The Gambia ever true.

History

Arab traders provided the first written accounts of the Gambia area in the ninth and tenth centuries. During the tenth century, Muslim merchants and scholars established communities in several West African commercial centres. Both groups established trans-Saharan trade routes, leading to a large trade in slaves, gold, ivory (exports) and manufactured goods (imports).

Wassu Stone Circle
Wassu Stone Circle
This picture is of the Senegambian stone circles (megaliths) which run from Senegal through the Gambia and which are described by UNESCO as “the largest concentration of stone circles seen anywhere in the world”.

By the eleventh or twelfth century, the rulers of kingdoms such as Takrur (a monarchy centred on the Senegal River just to the north), ancient Ghana and Gao, had converted to Islam and had appointed Muslims who were literate in the Arabic language as courtiers. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, most of what is today called Gambia was part of the Mali Empire. The Portuguese reached this area by sea in the mid-fifteenth century, and they began to dominate overseas 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, King James I of England 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 Courtland’s rule, and had been bought by Prince Jacob Kettler, who was a Polish-Lithuanian vassal