Gambia Recent History

The first discoverers of the area were the Portuguese, but already in 1291 the Genoese Benedetto Vivaldi had passed there, during a trip to India.

In 1449 the Portuguese explorer Tristao Nunez arrived at the mouth of the homonymous river but had to leave immediately because it was hampered by the natives.

In 1455/56 two Italians went up the river: Alvise Cadamosto, Venetian, and the Genoese Antoniotto Usodimare, from Noli, in the service of Portugal. They discovered the Cape Verde islands and explored the area up to Rio Grande. Usodimare left us a very detailed documentation of the country, which at the beginning he called Gambra in which, however, he encountered many difficulties and often had to fight before he could explore the region and calmly start his trade. At that point Portugal intervened with its own forces, above all because attracted by the presence of gold and the lucrative slave trade.

In 1588 the English merchants arrived, who under the aegis of Queen Elizabeth I, formed commercial companies and began to oppose the Portuguese. Later also Giacomo I Stuart, son of Maria Stuarda and successor of Elizabeth I, lavished aid on a company that built a fort at the mouth of the Gambia river as a defense against the natives, often revolted because they were raised by the Portuguese.

In 1664 another defensive bulwark, Fort James (in honor of the king) was built on a small coastal island, necessary to face the enemies of the moment, the Dutch.

According to Abbreviationfinder, an acronym site which also features history of Gambia, the British expeditions within the region in search of gold were also thwarted by the French who continuously moved from neighboring Senegal.

When in 1783 England was free, by defeat, from the American War of Independence, it entered into agreements with France to establish their respective spheres of commerce in Senegal and Gambia.

And in this period no colony, in the true sense of the word, had the British, but only possessions bordering on the forts. And when slavery was abolished, England was the most damaged power and to make up for the damage suffered, Senegal demanded France.

Gambia Recent History

However, the Treaty of Vienna of 1815 intervened to restore French sovereignty over Senegal, and then the British the following year founded their colony on the island of Santa Maria and called it Bathurst, in honor of the then colonial minister, Henry count from Bathurst. Then, from 1857 the British established full possession of the Gambia river.

France tried several times to get Gambia to surrender from England, as it was included among the other French possessions of West Africa, but to no avail.

But with some agreements of 1889 and 1904 he obtained possession of some places on the middle course of the river. England, therefore, never renounced its possession and its protectorates. He continued his colonial policy trying to improve the economic situation, including rice, millet, corn and oil palm in the peanut monoculture. Cattle breeding was included in the development plan; the British also thought of upgrading the breeding of poultry in Yundum, but the venture was unsuccessful.

After the Second World War, England decided to apply a policy that would prepare the colonies first for self-government in internal affairs and then for genuine territorial sovereignty. And for this the Gambia underwent three constitutional changes, in 1947, 1951 and 1954.

In the last year, a Constitution, a Legislative Council and an Executive Council were launched. In 1959 the London government promised an extension of the Legislative Council by universal suffrage elections for the following year.

And while currents praising the union with the Republic of Senegal were forming in the territory, England adopted the system of “native authorities” in the 36 districts of the protectorate. Several political parties were also born, including the “Protectorate Peolpe’s Party”, founded by Dauda Jawara, who sought to activate the people of the inland areas, the Mandingo.

In the May 1960 elections to the House of Representatives, the Jawara party achieved great success; the political evolution was so evident that a new Constitution in 1962 led to self-government and this started in 1963 with a coalition headed by Jawara, who in 1965 became the premier of Independent Gambia.

The majority party of the government was the one of which Jawara was always the leader, renamed “People’s Progressive Party” and this always had the victory in the elections of 1966.

In 1968 political stability was shaken by the emergence of some opponents within the party; they founded the Progressive People’s Alliance. In 1970 the introduction of the republican institutional form was approved by the people and the elections of 1972 confirmed Jawara as president.

In 1973 he declared himself in favor of a gradual economic integration between Senegal and Gambia and in 1974 he entered into a friendship treaty with Liberia. In 1976, with the January visit of the President of Senegal, economic relations between the two countries strengthened.

In 1980 a coup d’√©tat, attributed to Libya, brought a jolt to the government, easily led by Jawara. He asked for help to the friendly country Senegal which, in fact, sent military contingents and order in Banjul was restored.

The following year, on July 29, a subversion occurred by the leftist leader Kukli Samba Sanyang and Senegal again intervened victoriously.

Following these events, a federal agreement was reached in December of the same year between the two countries. It was called “Senegambia” and it provided for close cooperation to integrate the armed forces, diplomacy and money.

But good results were also not found because within Gambia fears arose about the authenticity of friendship by the stronger neighboring state of Senegal and in 1989 Senegambia broke up.

However, in January 1991 a treaty of friendship and collaboration was still signed between the two countries.

In this period, however, both political and economic instability came to light; but in the elections of April 29, 1992 Jawara once again won re-election as president with the usual large majority.

This led to 22 July 1994 when, with a coup, by some young officers led by Lieutenant Y. Jammeth, Jawara was deposed. Jammeth assumed the office of president of the republic, banned all political activity and entrusted power to a provisional council. The main purpose of his policy was to completely eradicate corruption, wherever it was, and for this he appointed some commissions of inquiry.

Of course, financial aid from many parts of the country was missing. Thus, in order not to incur complete international isolation, Gambia prepared, between 1994 and 1995, to establish diplomatic relations with Libya, Taiwan, Cuba and Iran.


In 1995 the death penalty was reinstated and many journalists and dissidents were arrested. But then the politics of some parties were reactivated, minus those that had been the main ones until then.

Presidential elections were held on September 26, 1996 and Jammeh achieved great success. A few weeks earlier, he had resigned from the army to stand for election, as a representative of the Alliance For Patriotic Reorientation and Construction. On January 2, 1997 there were legislative elections which reaffirmed the success of the Alliance and with the inaugural session of the National Assembly on January 16 the new Constitution also entered into force.

Jammeh’s great success had been the consequence of the presentation of his ambitious government program. With this program he had committed himself to building schools, hospitals, television stations, a new terminal and to modernize the old structures of the port. The opposition was quick to criticize these projects, which it considered only “facade”, as they required exceptional expenses that the country could not have incurred. In April 1997 all civil elements were restored to government positions.

Internationally, in January 1996 and April 1997, many collaboration and good-neighborly agreements were signed between the Gambia and Senegal to jointly fight the growing drug phenomenon, illegal immigration and to maximize trade. commercial.