The area that makes up today's Gambia has been
part of several early West African kingdoms. During the
heyday of Malirik in the 1300s, Islam came to the
region. In the 1400s, Europeans came and established
trade relations with local rulers along the Gambia
River. Soon, the trade in slaves dominated the Atlantic.
In 1888, Gambia became a British colony. In 1965
independence was achieved under non-dramatic forms.
Of the people now living in The Gambia, researchers
believe that diola has been around the furthest. The
largest ethnic group Mandinka immigrated on a large
scale in the 1300s, when the Mali kingdom expanded from
its center in Timbuktu. Mandinka organized trade along
the Gambia River. They founded several small vassal
states, which became independent as the Mali Empire
collapsed in the 16th century.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Gambia, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
Portuguese traders arrived in the Gambia River in
1455. Initially, they were primarily interested in gold
and ivory, but the slave trade grew rapidly. Soon there
also came British, French and Dutch. Europeans were in
constant conflict with each other over the control of
trade. In 1661, a British trading company established a
base on James Island in the Gambia River. The island was
an important center of British slave trade until 1807,
when it was banned. By then, Britain had already secured
control of the river through the Versailles Treaty of
The area was managed periodically from the British
colony of Sierra Leone, but in 1888 the Gambia became a
separate British crown colony. The following year, the
borders were set against the surrounding French West
Africa. The main reason why the British extended their
control from the slave trading port of Bathurst (now
Banjul) and up the Gambia River was to prevent the
French from using the river as a transport route.
Besides the river and peanut cultivation, the British
did not show much interest in the small colony. When the
liberation process began in Gambia after the Second
World War, there were no paved roads outside the capital
and only a school and a hospital.
The first political parties targeted an elite in the
cities. Veterinarian Dawda Jawara and his People's
Progress Party (PPP) were the first to
present a rural program, winning the election in 1962.
When Gambia became an independent state within the
Commonwealth (made up of the United Kingdom and former
colonies) in 1965, Jawara was named prime minister.
After a referendum five years later, Gambia became a
republic and Jawara its first president.
The coup attempt is turned down
On December 30, a group of armed men attack the presidential palace. Jammeh
is currently abroad. The coup makers are regime-critical Gambians in exile who
have entered the country via Senegal. Disgruntled soldiers in The Gambia also
participate. The coup attempt is defeated by regimented forces and the coup
leader Lieutenant Lamin Seneh is killed. Three other coup makers are also
killed, while a fourth is arrested. Many other people involved in the failed
coup attempt manage to escape from the country. The coup is condemned by
Senegal, the United States and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.
Presidential elections are boycotted.
Six opposition parties decide to boycott the presidential election in
November 2016 because they feel that there are no conditions for the election to
be conducted under free and fair forms. The six parties are calling on the
authorities to stop the arrests and harassment of their members.
October November Old History
Death sentences are transformed into life imprisonment
The death sentences against the eight men found guilty of planning a coup
against President Jammeh in 2009 are converted to life imprisonment by the
Supreme Court in November (see October 2009 and March
The Gambia threatens to cut off dialogue with the EU
Foreign Minister Bala Garba Jahumpa threatens to interrupt the political
dialogue with the EU after the Union criticized the new law on homosexuality.
UN experts are denied access to sentenced prisoners
Two UN experts, charged with investigating charges of extrajudicial
executions and torture of opposites, are denied entry to the section of the
Banjul Jail where sentenced prisoners are being held. This is happening even
though the government has promised to cooperate with the experts.
Homosexuals are arrested and tortured
The new law against homosexuality is signed by President Jammeh. Shortly
thereafter, around 20 people are arrested for violating the law, several of whom
are tortured and abused.
August September Old History
The penalty for homosexuality is tightened
Parliament adopts a new law that tightens the penalty for homosexuality,
which is banned in The Gambia. The maximum sentence is increased from 14 years
in prison to life for "gross homosexuality". The law does not specify what this
heading would mean.
February March Old History
English loses the status of official language
The President states that English is no longer the official language of the
Gambia, as it is, according to Jammeh, a remnant from the colonial era. It is
unclear whether any other language will receive official status.
Members of the UDP Youth Federation are arrested
Twelve members of the UDP Youth Federation are arrested, accused of holding a
meeting without permission from the authorities. The youth are released by a
court in March.