Flashmag Digizine Edition Issue 107 July 2020 - Page 128

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Flashmag July 2020 www.flashmag.net

After World War II, the pace of constitutional reform increased. Following general elections in 1962, the United Kingdom granted full internal self-governance in the following year. The Gambia achieved independence on 18 February 1965, as a constitutional monarchy within the Commonwealth, with Elizabeth II as Queen of the Gambia, represented by the Governor-General. Shortly thereafter, the national government held a referendum proposing that the country become a republic. This referendum failed to receive the two-thirds majority required to amend the constitution, but the results won widespread attention abroad as testimony to The Gambia's observance of secret balloting, honest elections, civil rights, and liberties.

On 24 April 1970, The Gambia became a republic within the Commonwealth, following a second referendum. Prime Minister Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara assumed the office of President, an executive post, combining the offices of head of state and head of government.

In 1994, the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council (AFPRC) deposed the Jawara government and banned opposition political activity. Lieutenant Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, chairman of the AFPRC, became head of state. Jammeh was just 29 years old at the time of the coup. The AFPRC announced a transition plan to return to a democratic civilian government. The Provisional Independent Electoral Commission (PIEC) was established in 1996 to conduct national elections and transformed into the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in 1997 and became responsible for the registration of voters and for the conduct of elections and referendums.

In late 2001 and early 2002, The Gambia completed a full cycle of presidential, legislative, and local elections, which foreign observers[ deemed free, fair, and transparent. President Yahya Jammeh, who was elected to continue in the position he had assumed during the coup, took the oath of office again on 21 December 2001. Jammeh's Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) maintained its strong majority in the National Assembly, particularly after the main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) boycotted the legislative elections.[31] (It has participated in elections since, however).

On 2 October 2013, the Gambian interior minister announced that The Gambia would leave the Commonwealth with immediate effect, ending 48 years of membership of the organisation. The Gambian government said it had "decided that The Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism".

Incumbent President Jammeh faced opposition leaders Adama Barrow from the Independent Coalition of parties and Mamma Kandeh from the Gambia Democratic Congress party in the December 2016 presidential elections. The Gambia sentenced main opposition leader and human rights advocate Ousainou Darboe to 3 years in prison in July 2016, disqualifying him from running in the presidential election.

Following the 1 December 2016 elections, the elections commission declared Adama Barrow the winner of the presidential election. Jammeh, who had ruled for 22 years, first announced he would step down after losing the 2016 election before declaring the results void and calling for a new vote, sparking a constitutional crisis and leading to an invasion by an ECOWAS coalition. On 20 January 2017, Jammeh announced that he had agreed to step down and would leave the country.

On 14 February 2017, The Gambia began the process of returning to its membership of the Commonwealth and formally presented its application to re-join to Secretary-General Patricia Scotland on 22 January 2018. Boris Johnson, who became the first British Foreign Secretary to visit The Gambia since the country gained independence in 1965, announced that the British government welcomed The Gambia's return to the Commonwealth. The Gambia officially rejoined the Commonwealth on 8 February 2018.

The Gambia is a very small and narrow country whose borders mirror the meandering Gambia River. It lies between latitudes 13 and 14°N, and longitudes 13 and 17°W.

The Gambia is less than 50 kilometres (31 miles) wide at its widest point, with a total area of 11,295 km2 (4,361 sq mi). About 1,300 square kilometres (500 square miles) (11.5%) of The Gambia's area are covered by water. It is the smallest country on the African mainland. In comparative terms, The Gambia has a total area slightly less than that of the island of Jamaica.

The country has a population of 2.1 million. With 176 people per square kilometer, it is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. Most of the population (57%) is concentrated around urban and peri-urban centers.

Senegal surrounds The Gambia on three sides, with 80 km (50 mi) of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean marking its western extremity.