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, river, Africa
Gambia, river, c.700 mi (1,130 km) long, rising on the Fouta Djallon, N Guinea, W Africa, and flowing generally northwest through SE Senegal then west, bisecting The Gambia, to the Atlantic Ocean at Banjul. It is navigable for the entire length of The Gambia; oceangoing vessels can reach Georgetown, c.175 mi (280 km) upstream. The river is the chief transport artery of The Gambia and provides access to interior sections of Senegal and Guinea. The river is crossed by the Senegambia, or Trans-Gambia, Bridge (2019) in central Gambia S of Farafenni. In 1978, Senegal and The Gambia formed the Gambia River Development Organization (which was joined by Guinea in 1980) for the purpose of developing the river's natural resources.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Republic of The Gambia), a state in West Africa. Part of the British Commonwealth. Borders on the east, north, and south with the Republic of Senegal; washed on the west by the Atlantic Ocean. Area, 11,300 sq km. Population, 357,000 (1969, estimate). Capital, Banjul. Administratively, Gambia is divided into seven areas.

Constitution and government. Gambia is a republic. The existing constitution was adopted in April 1970. The head of state is the president, elected for five years. The presidential and parliamentary elections are held simultaneously. If only one candidate is nominated for the presidency, he is considered to be elected without a vote. If several candidates are nominated, there is a preferential system of elections: the parliamentary candidates declare their preference for one of the presidential candidates, and the candidate who receives more than 50 percent of these expressions of preference is considered elected. The president has broad powers. He heads the government, bears responsibility for the defense of the country, convenes and dissolves the parliament, appoints high officials, and exercises the right of pardon.

The supreme legislative body is a unicameral parliament (the House of Representatives), consisting of 40 members. Of the representatives, 32 are elected by the people on the basis of universal and direct suffrage, four are representatives of the chiefs and are elected by the assembly of tribal chiefs, three are appointed by the president, and one (the attorney general) is a member of parliament by virtue of his office. Parliament is elected for a five-year term. The government (cabinet) consists of the president, the vice-president, and the ministers appointed by the president from among the members of parliament. Suffrage is granted to persons 21 years of age and over. The local government bodies are the city and area councils, most of whose members are elected by the people, but some—the tribal chiefs—hold their seats by virtue of their office.

The judicial system of Gambia includes the Court of Appeal (the highest judicial instance), the Supreme Court, area magistrate’s courts, and courts of Muslim law. The constitution preserves the right to appeal the decisions of the Court of Appeal to the judicial committee of the Privy Council of Great Britain.


Natural features. Gambia is a flat, low plain (elevations to 100 m) composed primarily of Eocene and Pliocene sandstones and Quaternary alluvium. The plain extends for 350 km into the heart of the continent along both banks of the broad and deep Gambia River, which reaches a breadth of 20 km at its mouth. The subsurface is poor in minerals, with only small deposits of ilmenite. The climate is equatorial-monsoonal, with rainy summers (from June to October) and dry winters (from November to May). In Banjul the average July temperature is 27° C and the February temperature, 23° C. Annual precipitation ranges from 750-1,000 mm in the interior of the country to 1,300-1,500 mm on the coast. Vegetation is primarily savanna, with acacias and baobabs. In the valley of the Gambia River there are gallery evergreen tropical forests and in the estuary, mangrove vegetation. Forests cover 29.2 percent of the area of Gambia, including 34,000 ha of preserves. The fauna of Gambia was extensively destroyed during the period of European colonization, and many animals that were previously found here (boars, antelopes, leopards) are rarely encountered. There are many monkeys (in the tropical forests), hippopotamuses, crocodiles, birds, and insects. There are many fish in the coastal waters.

Population. In the western part of the country people speaking the Atlantic, or Western, Bantoid languages predominate, including the Fulbe (70,000; 1967, estimate), Wolof (45,000), Jola (22,000), and Manjaque (10,000). People of the Mande language family, the Malinke (160,000) and Soninke (25,000), inhabit the eastern regions.

Europeans (English) and people of Asiatic origin (Syrians, Lebanese) number less than 1,000. The official language is English and the bulk of the population speaks Fula, Wolof, or Mandingo. Over 80 percent of Gambians are Muslims, and most of the rest adhere to local traditional beliefs. A small part of the population are Christians—Catholics and Protestants of various denominations. The official calendar is the Gregorian. Gambia’s rate of population growth from 1963 to 1969 was 2.1 percent a year. About 90 percent of the economically active population is engaged in agriculture. There is a seasonal migration of workers from Senegal to the agricultural regions of Gambia. The average population density is 32 persons per sq km (1969), and much of the population is concentrated in the vicinity of Banjul and in the valley of the Gambia River. The urban population is 12 percent, and the largest city is Banjul, with 45,000 inhabitants (1970).

Historical survey. The ancient and medieval history of Gambia has been little studied. It is known that from the 13th to the 15th centuries the territory of Gambia (named after the Gambia River) belonged successively to the medieval African states of Mali and Songhai. There was an intensive trade in ivory, gold, copper, cotton, and other goods along the Gambia River. The territory of Gambia was inhabited by various African peoples, such as the Malinke, Wolof, and Fulbe, who were at the tribal stage of social development. The population was engaged primarily in agriculture, but crafts were also well developed, including the fashioning of weapons and of various other articles from wood and hides. The first Europeans to appear on Gambian territory were Venetians and Genoese. The Portuguese expedition of A. Cadamosto came to Gambia in the mid-15th century, and English merchants began to penetrate the area at the end of the 16th century. In the early 17th century the French made unsuccessful attempts to consolidate their position in Gambia. The protracted Anglo-French rivalry for possession of so-called Senegambia culminated in the recognition of Great Britain’s rights to most of Gambia (by the treaty of 1783). In 1807 the part of Gambia that had been seized by the English was proclaimed a crown colony. In 1816 the English acquired St. Mary’s Island and a small area at the mouth of the Gambia River, where they founded the port of Bathurst, which became the center of the colony of Gambia. In 1821 all the territory seized by Great Britain was placed under the jurisdiction of the governor of Sierra Leone. In 1843 it was declared a separate colony. From 1866 to 1888 Gambia was again administered by the governor of Sierra Leone, but in 1888 it became a separate colony once more. In 1889 an Anglo-French agreement established the boundary between the British colony of Gambia and French Senegal. Between 1850 and 1874, after imposing a number of protectorate treaties on the tribal chiefs, Great Britain subjugated new territory in Gambia. A law consolidating British rule over the seized areas was promulgated in 1902, and the territory along the Gambia River, with the exception of St. Mary’s Island, was declared a British protectorate. The colonialists turned the entire country into a peanut plantation, and peanuts accounted for over 95 percent of the country’s exports.

The people of Gambia resisted the colonialists. In the early 1890’s there were spontaneous actions led by one of the tribal chiefs, Fodi Kabba. The uprising spread throughout the country. English military units from Sierra Leone came to the colony in 1892, and the city of Marige—the insurgents’ center—was destroyed. The resistance of the people did not cease, however. English punitive detachments harshly suppressed the uprising in 1901; Fodi Kabba was killed.

An organized liberation movement arose in Gambia in the 1920’s. Gambian representatives participated in the creation of the National Congress of British West Africa in 1920. A trade union, the Gambia Labour Union, was established in Bathurst in 1928, and in 1929 it conducted the first strike in the country’s history in support of the demands of sailors and dock workers for higher pay. In 1930 the Association of Taxpayers was organized on the initiative of the trade union. In 1931 it succeeded in bringing the English authorities to create a city council in Bathurst that would include representatives of the native population.

English troops were stationed in Gambia during World War II (1939-45). Under the influence of the liberation movement in other African countries, political parties began to form in Gambia after the war, including the Democratic Party (which subsequently merged with the People’s Progressive Party), the United Party (1951), and the People’s Progressive Party (1959). As the political struggle grew active in Gambia, the English colonialists were forced to begin introducing reforms that gradually expanded the political rights of the Gambians. A unicameral parliament (the House of Representatives) was established in 1960 to replace the Legislative Council that had existed since the end of the 19th century. In March 1961 the Executive Council under the governor-general, to which Gambians were admitted for the first time, was formed. In May 1962, Gambia was granted limited self-government. After the general elections held in May 1962, D. K. Jawara, the leader of the People’s Progressive Party, became head of the government. Gambia’s independence was proclaimed on Feb. 18, 1965. The head of state, however, was still the English queen, who was represented by the governor-general. In 1966, after a victory in the parliamentary elections, the People’s Progressive Party formed a one-party government under D. K. Jawara. In the referendum held Apr. 20-23, 1970, two-thirds of the voters endorsed the new republican constitution, and Gambia was proclaimed a republic on Apr. 24, 1970. D. K. Jawara became simultaneously president and head of the government.

In foreign policy the government of Gambia proclaimed its adherence to the principles of nonalignment and of the development of friendship and cooperation with all countries. On Feb. 18, 1965, Gambia signed treaties with Senegal providing for cooperation in defense and security and for a common foreign policy. On July 17; 1965, diplomatic relations were established between Gambia and the USSR, and that same year Gambia was admitted to the UN. Gambia supports disarmament and the final liquidation of colonialism, opposes apartheid and racism, and advocates African unity.


Political parties, trade unions, and other social organizations. The ruling party—the People’s Progressive Party—was founded in 1959. The United Party, founded in 1951, is the opposition party. The Gambia Labour Union, founded in 1928, belongs to the World Federation of Trade Unions and the Pan-African Federation of Trade Unions. The Gambia Workers’ Union, founded in 1957, belongs to the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. The National Union of Youth was founded in 1966. There is a Gambia Federation of Women.

Economic geography. Gambia is an agrarian country, economically one of the most backward in Africa. It ranks among the lowest on the continent in value of gross national product—a total of $33 million, which in 1968 represented $95 per capita. After the proclamation of independence in 1965, measures were initiated to develop the economy and diversify its single-crop orientation. Work is under way to introduce oil palms, cotton, and lemon trees. The establishment of supply and marketing cooperatives is encouraged, and food enterprises and light industry are being built up. After the completion of the first development program (1964-67), a new program (1967-71) was adopted, according to which the annual growth rate of the gross national product was to attain 5 percent. The programs have aimed to increase peanut production, expand rice planting, develop livestock breeding and fishing, establish local industry, and develop transportation and communications. The improvement of education and the establishment of cultural institutions are also envisaged. The program is financed by foreign— primarily British—loans.

Agriculture is the leading branch of the economy, with small peasant farms predominating and with few European plantations. Farming is transitory, using primitive agricultural implements. About one-fifth of the land is under cultivation, and the main crop cultivated by the agricultural population is the peanut, which is raised primarily for export. The area under peanuts (1968) is 140,000 ha, and the harvest, 114,000 tons (1969; domestic consumption 10,000 tons a year). Peanuts are purchased and sold on the foreign market by the state company, Gambia Oilseeds Marketing Board.

The main food crops are rice (38,000 ha, 41,000 tons in 1968), which is grown primarily in the delta of the Gambia River, and millet and sorghum (42,000 ha, 45,000 tons). Manioc, corn, legumes, bananas, and citrus fruits are also grown. The fruit of the oil palm is harvested, and vegetables are raised. Livestock breeding is seminomadic and extensive. In 1967-68 there were 221,000 head of cattle, 78,000 sheep, and 108,000 goats. There is lumbering in the tropical forests. River fishing and sea fishing are well developed, and in the coastal areas fish is sun-dried and smoked.

Gambia’s industry is poorly developed, with small enterprises for the initial processing of agricultural produce. Most enterprises belong to private—primarily English—companies. There are plants for shelling peanuts (in Banjul, Kaur, and Kuntaur), oil mills (the production of peanut oil), three rice mills, sawmills, clothing factories and a soap factory. There are riverboat workshops in Banjul and Barra. Shoe and textile factories, as well as plants for the production of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, were built in 1966 and 1967 with the help of foreign capital. There is a considerable amount of handicraft production, such as pottery and basket-weaving. The hydroelectric energy of the Gambia River is not utilized; the potential energy resources of the basin are 4.5 billion kW. The established capacity of steam power plants is 6,300 kW, and electrical energy production was 11 million kW-hr in 1967.

The main transportation artery is the Gambia River, which is navigable for a distance of 350 km from its mouth. There are no railroads. There are about 1,300 km of roads (1966), of which 277 km are hard-surfaced. There are 2,000 trucks (1968) and 2,300 automobiles. The main seaport and river port is Banjul. There is an international airport at Yundum, 27 km southwest of Banjul.

In 1966-67 exports amounted to£6.3 million, with peanuts and peanut products accounting for 93 percent of the total. Imports amounted to £7.1 million, the main articles being textile goods (30.6 percent), machines and equipment (19.1 percent), foodstuffs (primarily rice, 14.7 percent), and beverages and tobacco (7.3 percent). The country’s main trading partners in terms of imports are Great Britain (36.9 percent), Japan (19.1 percent), and Burma (4.8 percent) and in terms of exports, Great Britain (61 percent), Portugal (21.1 percent), and Italy (7.4 percent). The monetary unit is the dalasi, which is equal to£0.20 (1971).


Armed forces. Gambia has no regular armed forces. Internal security is ensured by a police force of about 600 men, which has militarized field subdivisions. The police are equipped with English weapons and trained by English officers serving in command posts.

Health and social welfare. In 1962-63 the birth rate was 38.7 per 1,000 and the death rate, 21.0. Infant mortality was 82.6 (1967) per 1,000 live births. The average life span in 1962-63 was 43 years. (More recent data has not been published.) Infectious and parasitic diseases predominate. Among quarantine diseases, cases of smallpox are recorded each year, and malaria and intestinal infections are widespread. The morbidity rate per 100,000 was 104 for malaria (1961), 140.9 for leprosy (1963), 16 for sleeping sickness (1960), and 26.9 for syphilis (1960). Tens of thousands of people are afflicted with frambesia and trachoma. In rural areas 11-12 percent of the children up to nine years of age are ill with tuberculosis. Urogenital schistosomiasis is endemic in the central and eastern parts of Gambia: on the average, 15 percent of the population in the low-lying regions adjacent to the Gambia River is afflicted and 50-55 percent of the population in the rest of the country. Protein and vitamin deficiency diseases resulting from the predominantly vegetable diet, as well as cardiovascular diseases, are widespread. In 1966 there were 488 hospital beds in the country (1.5 beds per 1,000), 18 doctors (1 doctor per 19,000), one dentist, 67 mid-wives, and 240 nurses.


Education. There is no compulsory education law, and education is not free. At the age of six children enter the six-year primary school. There instruction is in English, and one of the local African languages is also studied. There are two types of secondary schools: the seven-year grammar (five and two years) school (complete) and the four-year modern school (incomplete). In the 1968 school year there were 16,200 students in the 94 primary schools and 4,000 students in the 16 secondary schools. Vocational training is given in the lower vocational schools upon completion of primary school, and these vocational programs are of varying duration. Vocational training is also provided by three-year vocational schools upon completion of a modern school. Teachers for the elementary schools receive training at the three-year pedagogical college after graduating from a modern school. In the 1968 school year there were 120 people studying in the vocational training system and 155 in the pedagogical college. There are no higher educational institutions in Gambia. Some of the graduates of the complete secondary schools are sent abroad to obtain a higher education.


Press and radio. The following are published in Gambia (1974): The Gambia News Bulletin (since 1943; circulation 5,000; organ of the government; published three times weekly), The Gambia Echo (since 1934; circulation 3,000; weekly newspaper), The Nation (since 1965; circulation 400-500; newspaper; published once every two weeks), Progressive (since 1966; bulletin; published three times weekly), and The Gambia Onward (since 1968; bulletin; published twice weekly). The government radio station was founded in 1962. It broadcasts in English and in local languages.

Folk art. Mats and baskets decorated with geometrical designs of colored straw are woven. Decorative woodcarving is used to cover the posts that support the projections of roofs. Boats, household utensils, sculptures, and masks are made. Primitive earrings, rings, and bracelets are fashioned from ivory and metal.


Khiltukhin, E. I. Sovremennaia Gambia. Moscow, 1967.
Istoriia Afriki v XIX-nach. XX v. Moscow, 1967. Pages 106-107, 299.
Noveishaia istoriia Afriki, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.
Church, R. J. H. Zapadnaia Afrika. Moscow, 1959. (Translated from English.)
Suret-Canale, J. Afrika Zapadnaia i Tsentral’naia. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from French.)
Archer, F. B. The Gambia Colony and Protectorate. London, 1906.
Southorn, B. The Gambia. London, 1952.
Gamble, D. P. The Wolof of Senegambia. London, 1957.
Gailey, H. A. A History of The Gambia. London, 1964.
Gray, J. M. A History of The Gambia. New York [1966].



a river in West Africa, within the boundaries of the Republic of Guinea, Senegal, and Gambia. Length, 1,200 km; basin area, 180,000 sq km. It rises in the highland region of Fouta Djallon and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The riverbed is winding, and there are many islands and a large number of rapids. The middle course is marshy. Before flowing into the Atlantic Ocean, the Gambia broadens considerably (up to 20 km). Flooding occurs from June through October. At high tide seawater flows upstream for 150 km. The river is navigable for 350 km from its mouth. Located on the Gambia are the landings Ballangar, Kuntaur, and MacCarthy. The port of Banjul is situated at the river’s mouth.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Official name: Republic of The Gambia

Capital city: Banjul

Internet country code: .gm

Flag description: Three equal horizontal bands of red (top), blue with white edges, and green

National anthem: “For The Gambia, our homeland” (first line), adapted from the traditional Mandinka song “Foday Kaba Dumbuya”

Geographical description: Western Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean and Senegal

Total area: 4,361 sq. mi. (11,300 sq. km.)

Climate: Tropical; hot, rainy season (June to November); cooler, dry season (November to May)

Nationality: noun: Gambian(s); adjective: Gambian

Population: 1,688,359 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Mandinka 42%, Fula 18%, Wolof 16%, Jola 10%, Serahuli 9%, other African 4%, non-African 1%

Languages spoken: English (official), Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, and other indigenous languages

Religions: Muslim 90%, Christian 9%, indigenous religions 1%

Legal Holidays:

Christmas DayDec 25
Easter MondayApr 25, 2011; Apr 9, 2012; Apr 1, 2013; Apr 21, 2014; Apr 6, 2015; Mar 28, 2016; Apr 17, 2017; Apr 2, 2018; Apr 22, 2019; Apr 13, 2020; Apr 5, 2021; Apr 18, 2022; Apr 10, 2023
Good FridayApr 22, 2011; Apr 6, 2012; Mar 29, 2013; Apr 18, 2014; Apr 3, 2015; Mar 25, 2016; Apr 14, 2017; Mar 30, 2018; Apr 19, 2019; Apr 10, 2020; Apr 2, 2021; Apr 15, 2022; Apr 7, 2023
Independence DayFeb 18
May DayMay 1
New Year's DayJan 1
Revolution DayJul 22
St. Mary's DayAug 15
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.


The. a republic in W Africa, entirely surrounded by Senegal except for an outlet to the Atlantic: sold to English merchants by the Portuguese in 1588; became a British colony in 1843; gained independence and became a member of the Commonwealth in 1965; joined with Senegal to form the Confederation of Senegambia (1982--89); consists of a strip of land about 16 km (10 miles) wide, on both banks of the Gambia River, extending inland for about 480 km (300 miles). Official language: English. Religion: Muslim majority. Currency: dalasi. Capital: Banjul. Pop.: 1 462 000 (2004 est.). Area: 11 295 sq. km (4361 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
In fact, there do not appear to be too many individuals that have stumbled upon The Gambia and started abusing the people and country for their own gain.
The President further noted that India is among the top trading partners of Gambia. "Our bilateral trade in 2018-19 crossed USD 200 million, representing an increase of nearly 100 per cent in last two years," he said.
Document type and language of publication: A total of 2 509 documents were published by at least one author from the Gambia which represented 11 document types in SCI-EXPANDED.
Responding to his trip to The Gambia, Mr Iyer, an ear nose and throat specialist, said: "We carried out a health check-up for the children to see if there's anything we could do to improve their lives."
" says Huibonhoa Gambia is a small country located in West Africa.
Up until now, people have had to use an unreliable ferry crossing or take the long route round The Gambia. Lorry drivers could spend days, and sometimes a week, in a queue waiting to cross meaning that perishable goods could spoil.
The royal couple have arrived in Gambia for a three-day visit.
The International Trade Centre's Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) in partnership with the European Union and the government of the Gambia supports the creation of quality jobs at home by addressing skill gaps and identifying business opportunities for youth.
Senghore collects essays he has written during the past decade or more on political and social conditions in The Gambia. Among his topics are Africa in a changing world: the major governance crisis in West Africa and the way forward, press freedom and democratic governance in The Gambia: a rights-based approach, the judiciary in governance in The Gambia: the quest for autonomy in the Second Republic, and harnessing traditional governance institutions to improve governance in West Africa: the case study of The Gambia.
Nouakchott, July 2 (SUNA)- President of the Republic, Field Marshal Omer A-Bashir, received Monday on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Nouakchott the President of Gambia, Adama-Barrow, and affirmed Sudan readiness to cooperate with Gambia and to provide it with expertise in the fields of agriculture, industry and mining.
International conference on The Gambia in Brussels BRUSSELS, May 22 (KUNA) -- A total of 1.45 billion euro (USD 1.7 billion) was mobilised by the International Conference for The Gambia, co-chaired by The Gambia and the European Union, in Brussels Tuesday.
A donor pre-engagement on Gambia's new National Development Plan (NDP), is scheduled to take place in Dakar, Senegal from 20 to 22 February 2018.