The Gambia, officially the Republic of the Gambia, is the smallest country in Africa.  Situated in West Africa, the Gambia is almost entirely surrounded by Senegal, except for its coastline running at its western end on the Atlantic Ocean. Banjul is the Gambian capital city, and the largest cities are Brikama and Serekunda.  The Gambia has survived 300 years of colonial rule, as a former Portuguese empire, and a colony under French and later, British rule.

Independence Day celebrations of the Gambia take place in the capital city of Banjul, involving a parade of school children, teachers and numbers from the military.  The parades take place at McCarthy Square, in front of the president and other dignitaries.

On February 18, 1965, the Gambia finally gained its independence, and 54 years later, here are 5 things to know about the Gambia and its Independence Day.

1First to be Conquered and Last to be Freed

Gambia was the first nation to be conquered by the British in West Africa.  The nation shares historical roots with a number of West African countries placed in the slave trade.  The Gambia River, which is the Gambia’s namesake, was the key factor in placing and keeping of the colony, first by the Portuguese and later, on 25 May 1765, The Gambia was made a part of the British Empire. The government formally assumed control and established the Province of Senegambia.  When Gambia gained its independence, it was the last colony of Great Britain’s West African colonies to do so. The Gambia became the 37th African state to gain sovereignty. It became the 21st member of the Commonwealth to still pledge allegiance to the Queen, and it became the 116th member of the United Nations.  On February 18, 1965, the Gambia gained independence under the leadership of Dawda Jawara.

2February 18, 1965 – The Gambia Transition to Independence

The Gambia had a peaceful transition to independence.  In 1963, two years prior the Gambia independence, the United Kingdom granted the country internal self-governance. The Duke and Duchess of Kent traveled to the Gambia to commemorate the event which celebrated the end of 300 years of colonial rule. The royal couple representing the Queen joined the Gambia’s Prime Minister Dawda Jawara and Governor Sir John Paul in the mansa bengo (the gathering of kings) where the Gambian chiefs were seated.  The oldest chief, Toure Sagnaing, is reported to have thanked the United Kingdom for its help in the transition to independence.  The traditional ceremony which took place in Brikama, one of the largest cities in The Gambia, was a global event with a global audience with dignitaries from 30 different countries.

3The Gambia New Flag Raised

The Gambia’s Independence Day celebration included the raising of The Gambia’s red, blue, green and white national flag, and the lowering of the Union Jack for eternity.

The new flag was a winning design by Louis Thomasi, who was an accountant.  The flag’s design bears no political basis; it is one of the few African flags without colours resembling the country’s ruling political party. The Gambia national flag has remained the unchanged flag of the Republic of the Gambia since the country celebrated its independence.   Dawda Jawara became the first leader of the Gambia after its independence.  Jawara served as prime minister from 1962 to 1970 and as president from 1970 to 1994.  During his rule, the Gambia and neighbouring Senegal formed a confederation that became known as Senegambia.  The confederation lasted for 7 years before it was dissolved in 1989.  The dissolution of the confederation did not result in any changes of national symbols and flags. However in 1994, Lieutenant Yahja Jammeh led.

4Economic Development of the Gambia

The Gambia’s economy is dominated and supported by farming, fishing, remittance payments and especially tourism.  The Gambia is notably developing in its public health sector. In October 2012, it was reported that the Gambia had made significant improvements in polio, measles immunisation, and the PCV-7 vaccine. “The Gambia EPI program is one of the best in the World Health Organisation (WHO) African Region,” said Thomas Sukwa, a representative of the WHO, to the Foroyaa newspaper.  “It is indeed gratifying to note that the government of the Gambia remains committed to the global polio eradication initiative”.

Tourism in the Gambia has been a reliable source of revenue.  The number of tourists travelling into the Gambia increased from 300 tourists in 1965 to 25,000 visitors in 1976. Attractions in the Gambia include beaches, safaris, markets, and arts and crafts, in Banjul, Serekunda, Brufut, Albreda, Barra, Kololi, Brikama, Bakau and many more.  The number has continued to rise steadily throughout the years, and government has recognised the potential of tourism as a major foreign exchange source of revenue.

5Power Up Gambia! (PUG)

A group called Power Up Gambia (PUG) operates in the Gambia to provide solar power technology to health care facilities, to ensure sustained access to electricity.  PUG is a non-profit health care and environmental group that works in the Gambia to provide reliable electricity to health care facilities in the Gambia. The group does installations of solar panel systems and battery storage systems to ensure there is power throughout the day.  PUG was founded in 2006 by Kathryn Cunningham Hall, who saw the realities of limited electricity while travelling to Sulayman Junkung General Hospital in the Gambia.  Later, PUG installed solar systems at that hospital, and since then, the group has grown and has completed a solar panel installation at a village clinic, Somita Community Clinic, and prepares for an installation at Bansang Hospital, one of the largest hospitals in the Gambia.  The organisation is also working with the Gambian Technical Training Institute in Banjul, the capital city, to develop a solar energy training program to support its efforts in the future. 

Previous articleWhere African Art Is No Longer In The Dark
Next articleCasablanca, Morocco
Bongiwe Tutu is a driven author, inspired by universal growth and progress. She holds a Postgraduate in Politics and International Studies from Rhodes University and an Honours degree in Journalism and Media Studies from Wits University. Tutu has delegated as a speaker in the Model United Nations South African Universities (MUNSAU) debating. She has obtained skills training from the Future Journalists Programme, a Highway Africa Initiative, and has also held office as the Media and Communications Officer of the Young Women’s Dialogue, an initiative of the PAN African Youth Dialogue. Bongiwe is interested in storytelling, depicted visually through moving pictures, the spoken and the written word. She is a skilled video content producer, scriptwriter and an author of fiction and futurism. She is also a skilled fitness and health instructor and a steady marathon runner.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your name here