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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #19 of 54: Gabon | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #21 of 54: Ghana »

May 27, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #20 of 54: Gambia

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- 20. GAMBIA Flag of the Republic of Gabon

Formal Name: Republic of Gambia.

Term for Citizens: Gambians.

Capital: Banjul. Population: 418, 000.

Independence Achieved: February 18, 1965 from Britain.

Major Cities: Banjul.

Geography:

Gambia is in West Africa. Gambia covers an area of about 4, 361 square miles. It is a strip of land along the Gambia River. Gambia is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Senegal on three sides. Gambia is generally well watered by the river Gambia. Rainfall, especially along the coast, is over 60 inches annually. This permits subsistence farming. Herding of sheep, goats and cattle is also practiced. There are two seasons, wet and dry.

Society:

Gambia has an estimated population of 1, 426, 000.

Ethnic Groups: Mandingo, Fula, Serahuli, Jola, Diola and Wolof.

Languages: Mandingo, Fulani. English is the official language.

Religion: Muslim 80%, Christian 16%, the rest indigenous beliefs.

Education: Free primary education. Literacy rate is estimated at 40.1 %

Economy: Subsistence farming along the river Gambia. Herding of sheep, goats and cattle. Tourism industry is well developed in Banjul. GDP estimate: $2.6 billion; Per Capita: $290(World Bank, 2005). Monetary Unit: Dalasi (GMD).

History and Government:

Upon independence from Britain, Gambia inherited British type parliamentary system. A military coup disrupted that situation. At the present, there is stability under president Yahya Jammeh. The country is divided into five divisions and one city.


CONTEMPORARY HISTORY AND POLITICS


What is now called Gambia was part of the middle ages successive African empires of Ghana, Songhai and Mali. In that sense, it has been around for quite a while. However, the modern history of Gambia began with the Trans Atlantic slave trade. The various European Countries, at one time or another plied the Gambia River, a river that crosses the middle of Gambia, buying slaves.

Portugal set up shop in 1588 and thereafter was replaced by emergent European sea powers, including, at one time, the Polish (1651-1661).

The British abolished slave trading in 1807 and sent her war ships to patrol the coast of West Africa, indicting ships carrying slaves. The British set up camp at what they called Bathurst, now the capital of Gambia, Banjul. In 1857, Britain officially claimed Gambia and in 1888 Gambia became a British protectorate.

Gambia was not exactly a crown jewel of the British Empire, for it had very little economic resources for Britain to exploit. Most of the land is arid except for the strip of land along river Gambia, where groundnuts are planted. The chief crop of Gambia, to the present, remains groundnuts, a crop whose price fluctuates in the world market.

Not much was heard about Gambia until Britain gave it independence in 1965. Mr. Dawda Jawara was elected the Prime Minister and remained in that office until 1994 when a military coup overthrew him.

The leader of the coup, Lt. Jammeh, became the head of state, and two years later wrote a constitution that called for a strong president, and was promptly elected the president in 1997. He has been in office since then.

Gambia is divided into five divisions, which are further divided into 37 districts and one city, the capital.

The politics of Gambia is the politics of the activities of two men, Mr. Jawara and Mr. Jammeh. These men have managed to make Gambia attractive to European tourists and Gambia’s economy is these days reliant on tourism (and allied vices that go with that industry). As long as the rulers of Gambia maintain peace and tourists keep coming to enjoy her beautiful beaches (Europeans find them as attractive as the beaches of Spain and Portugal), the economy is doing as well. Moreover, Gambians contact with foreigners has made it possible for them to travel to all over the world and repatriate money home and that helps the economy, too.

On the whole, Gambia is doing as well as might be expected of a small country that lacks natural resources.

ozodi@africainstituteseattle.org

Posted by Administrator at May 27, 2006 11:31 AM

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