Capital : Banjul (Bathurst)
Size: 4400 sq m Popn: 360 000
This Commonwealth country is one of the smallest in Africa. It was part of the Mali empire, a Muslim gold trading state which declined after Portuguese explorers reached it in 1455. English and French merchants established trading posts on the Gambia River for ivory and slaves in the C17th. Britain displacing France by the end of the C18th, governing from Sierra Leone. In 1843, The Gambia was made a crown colony and became an independent British colony in 1888.
Political parties were formed during the 1950s and internal self-government was granted in 1963. Full independence within the Commonwealth came in 1965 under Dawda Jawara who became President of the Republic in 1970. He was re-elected in 1972 and 1977 and resisted pressure from the Progressive People's Party to make the Gambia a one-party state, surviving an attempted coup in 1981 with Sengalese help. In 1982 it became linked with Senegal (by which it is entirely surrounded except for a small coastal area at the river mouth) but Gambia's fear of Senegalese domination led to the dissolution of Senegambia in 1989. Jawara had further election victories in 1982 and 1987 and helped to stabilize Liberia in 1990.
The major ethnic groups, the Mandingo, Fula and Wolof, also inhabit Senegal. They all have their own languages but English is used officially and the religions are Islam and Christianity.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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