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Gambia Modern History

The Gambia became independent from the UK in 1965. The country's first leader was Dawda Jawara. After a coup attempt in 1981, the country formed a confederation with Senegal, Senegambia, but it fell apart after seven years. Jawara was overthrown in a military coup in 1994 and Gambia was ruled for many years by dome leader Yahya Jammeh. Civilian rule and multi-party democracy were reintroduced, but the president soon showed his authoritarian and whimsical sides. In 2016, he unexpectedly lost the presidential election to opposition candidate Adama Barrow.

At independence, Jawara became prime minister, while the British monarch remained head of state. When the Gambia turned into a republic after a 1970 referendum, Jawara became president. He was the leader of the dominant People's Progress Party (PPP).

  • ABBREVIATIONFINDER: List of most commonly used acronyms containing Gambia. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.

The Gambia was one of Africa's few stable democracies during the 1970s and 1980s, with free elections and relatively good respect for human rights. The opposition was weak and Jawara and PPP won all elections by a large majority. However, the government was often accused of corruption and inefficiency.

When President Jawara was overseas in July 1981, a group within the small semi-military field force made an armed coup attempt along with some radical political groupings. The Gambia then had no army and the insurgency was fought with the help of soldiers from neighboring Senegal. At least a thousand people are believed to have lost their lives during the week the crisis lasted.

Contemporary History of GambiaJammeh takes power in a coup

As a result of the coup attempt, the Senegambia Confederation was formed in 1982. The countries would remain independent states but coordinate foreign policy, defense and parts of the economy. With the help of Senegalese military, Gambia built up a defense force. Senegal wanted to move forward with the integration but the Gambians slowed down and in 1989 the Confederation dissolved.

The PPP won for the sixth time in a row in the 1992 elections, albeit with a slightly less overwhelming majority than before. Jawara was re-elected president with nearly 60 percent of the vote.

In July 1994, however, the nearly three decades of democratic tradition in the Gambia was broken. Jawara was overthrown by a group of young soldiers led by Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh. It was a quick and bloody bargain; no reports were found of dead or injured and Jawara was allowed to leave the country. The coup makers motivated their takeover of power by saying that the old regime was corrupt and immoral and had neither built a hospital nor a university during his 30 years in power. Behind the coup there was a growing dissatisfaction with delayed wages and poor conditions within the army.

The Gambia was now ruled by a military council and a provisional government, with Jammeh as head of state and government. All political parties were banned and freedom of the press was restricted. Politicians and journalists were jailed at times, often without trial. There was information about torture of political prisoners and of citizens being harassed by the security service.

Return to civilian government

A return to civilian rule within four years was promised, but after protests both within the country and from abroad, the military council was forced to expedite the process.

The major donors of the United States, the United Kingdom, the EU and Japan condemned the coup and several of them withheld their aid. The country's economy went into a deep crisis when the important tourism was also hit by a sharp decline in 1994-1955, after the UK and Sweden, among others, warned their citizens to travel to the Gambia. The country managed to cope with the worst crisis with the help of increased assistance from, among others, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Taiwan.

The coup leader Jammeh left the army in 1996 to be able to stand in the presidential election that would mean a return to civilian rule. However, the three largest parties from the time before the coup were banned from running in the upcoming elections, as was former President Jawara and all former ministers.

Yahya Jammeh won the presidential election with 56 percent of the vote. International observers, however, expressed doubts about the credibility of the election. The election to the National Assembly in January 1997 was held under more equitable conditions. But Jammeh's party the Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Reconstruction (APRC) had superior resources and took home 33 of the 45 mandates.

The president quickly became popular by investing in education, health, roads and a national TV channel. At the same time, his government was repeatedly criticized by human rights organizations for violations of freedom of expression and association. Opposition politicians and journalists were arrested and imprisoned for periods. Torture occurred in the detention center. Between 1994 and 2000, six coup attempts were reported to have been revealed. Many people were arrested, suspected of interference. In some cases, it may have been a pretext for approaching political opponents.

Weak and divided opposition

In the October 2001 presidential elections, the parties that had been banned in 1994 were allowed to stand. This time too, there were disturbances and accusations of cheating. Jammeh won by almost 53 percent of the vote. Several of the leading opposition parties boycotted the parliamentary elections in January 2002, which led to the APRC taking almost all of its seats.

In early 2005, five opposition parties merged in an effort to strengthen their position ahead of the presidential election the following year. The National Alliance for Democracy and Development (NADD) was successful in filling parliamentary elections during the year. But four alliance members were suspended from their parliamentary positions when accused of violating the law during a current mandate in violation of the law. Three opposition leaders were arrested at the end of 2005, accused of devastating activities. However, the prosecution against them is dropped.

In March 2006, authorities claimed that about 20 officers had been arrested, suspected of planning a coup attempt. Five of them were reported to have escaped after a month. In August, three people were sentenced to 20 years of labor camp for lying behind the coup attempt, while one was released. The person designated as the principal had managed to escape the country. Ten others were sentenced to ten years in prison.

Critical election victory

The split of the opposition became clear when two parties left the NADD even before the September 2006 presidential election. The three parties remaining in the NADD chose Halifa Sallah as their candidate.

Before the election, the authorities made several interventions against the media. Moreover, most of the opposition-friendly media had been forced to strike again. Jammeh won with 67 percent of the vote against 27 percent for Darboe and 6 percent for Sallah. The opposition accused the government side of extensive electoral fraud.

The election to the National Assembly in January 2007 gave APRC 42 of the 48 electable seats. NADD then continued to split and eventually became its own party.

Bizarre statements

In early 2007, President Jammeh caused international uproar when he claimed he could cure AIDS with the help of herbs and bananas. In February, UN envoy Fadzai Gwaradzimba was ordered to leave the country after questioning Jammeh's claim.

Jammeh made new startling statements. He said he could cure even high blood pressure with a single dose of herbs and threatened to chop the heads of all gays in the country. Death threats were also targeted at "everyone" who was trying to "destabilize the country" and especially human rights activists. When the president felt that witchcraft threatened the country, ordinary villagers suffered persecution. At the beginning of 2009, information came out that government-loyal militia in the company of witch-deportees removed 100 people in the Foni Kansala district. They were held in camps where they were forced to drink hallucinogenic brews. Several had kidney damage and some were reported to have died. Others fled their homes to avoid being trapped.

Jammeh carried out repeated furnishings in his government. Several dome plans were reported to have been revealed. In rounds, journalists, opposition leaders, former ministers and several high-ranking defense and security services were arrested. Eight of them were sentenced in July 2010 to death for involvement in an alleged coup attempt in 2009.

Jammeh devoted himself to collecting titles and wanted to be called both academic and religious leaders. He announced in 2010 that he would be titled: His Excellency's President, Professor Alhaji Doctor Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh.

Jammeh wins the 2011 presidential election

The November 2011 presidential election was held after a ten-day official election. Jammeh's counter-candidates complained that it was too short a time for them to have a chance to reach out to voters. This may have contributed to Jammeh receiving 72 percent of the vote. His main challenger UDP's Ousainou Darboe received 17 percent while UF's Hamat Bah, received 11 percent.

Election observers from the African Union (AU) and the Islamic Cooperation Organization (OIC) reported some problems but still approved the election. The West African cooperation organization Ecowas, on the other hand, refrained from sending observers at all, saying that there was no prerequisite for a democratic election. Ecowas pointed to tough state control of the media as well as threats and harassment against opposition politicians and voters.

In early 2012, former Minister of Information Amadou Scatred Janneh (who was also a US citizen) was sentenced to life imprisonment for treason. At the same time, three people were sentenced to six years in prison for the same crime. They were said to have planned a coup and in addition made themselves guilty of sharing t-shirts with the text: “Coalition for change. End of dictatorship now ”.

The coup attempt is turned down

The opposition tried to postpone the elections to the National Assembly in March 2012, citing irregularities by the regime. When the electoral authority refused, six opposition parties decided to boycott. This led to the ruling party taking home 43 of 48 eligible seats.

In October 2013, the government announced that the Gambia would leave the Commonwealth with immediate effect. The reason stated was that the country could not imagine being a member of a "neo-colonial organization". According to media sources, the exit could have been linked to the Commonwealth's proposal that the Gambia should appoint a commission to protect human rights, media freedom and drive the fight against corruption.

On December 30, 2014, a group of armed men attacked the Presidential Palace when President Jammeh was abroad. The coup makers were regime-critical Gambians, who went into exile, who entered the country via Senegal, and dissatisfied soldiers on the spot in The Gambia. Regimental forces defeated the coup attempt and four coup makers were killed.

Jammeh exclaims the Islamic Republic of Gambia

At the end of 2015, President Jammeh declared that Gambia should be an "Islamic State" (see Calendar). The country's official name would now be the Islamic Republic of Gambia. The decision violated the country's constitution, which stipulates that Gambia is a secular (non-religious) state.

According to several analysts, Jammeh in this way tried to approach rich Arab countries in the hope of gaining new financial support. The Gambia was in need since the EU decided to withhold its aid because of the democratic shortcomings in the country. In addition, Gambia's decision to terminate diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 2013 had a financial breakdown. After Muammar Gaddafi's fall in Libya 2011, no money came from there either. Another theory was that the decision to make Gambia an Islamic state was an attempt to counter sex tourism in the country (see Social conditions).

Shift of power

In April 2016, the opposition party UDP staged a protest demanding political reform and Jammeh's departure. The police intervened against the protesters with harsh methods and 10 people were arrested. A new demonstration was held after one of the activists had died in prison, which led to the arrest of UDP leader Darboe. He was sentenced in July of that year to three years in prison, and was therefore unable to take part in the presidential election at the end of the year. Several other opposition politicians were also imprisoned.

Prior to the December 2, 2016 presidential election, most of the opposition managed to unite behind a single candidate, the political newcomer businessman Adama Barrow. A third candidate, Mamma Kandeh, who had previously belonged to the ruling party, also participated, but was accused of standing alone to undermine the opposition's chances of winning the election.

Few, though, thought Barrow could win, but he did. It was a great surprise when Jammeh quickly admitted that he had lost the election and congratulated the winner. When the election results were first presented, Barrow seemed to have won by a clear margin, but a recalculation of the votes showed that it was only about 19,000 votes. Now Jammeh changed his foot and demanded that the whole election be redone. Prior to the oscillation, the president had promoted at least 49 officers.

On December 13, soldiers entered the Electoral Commission headquarters. Barrow feared for his life, but maintained that he would take over the presidential post on January 19 when Jammeh's term expired. Several groups, unions, law and student organizations became involved in his cause. By first admitting that he had lost the election, Jammeh aroused the hopes of many Gambians for an end to the dictatorship, which made it harder for them to accept his later behavior than if he had cheated on the victory.

In January 2017, Jammeh announced an emergency permit for 90 days. This was subsequently approved by Parliament, which also extended his mandate for one month. Tensions in the country rose. On January 19, Barrow swore the Presidential Order at the Gambia Embassy in Senegal, and the following day the Ecowas countries joined the Gambia. Only after that did Jammeh give up and go into exile in Equatorial Guinea. He was later charged with emptying the Treasury of the equivalent of $ 11 million.

On January 26, Barrow returned to Gambia from Senegal. The expectations of him making changes were high. He noted early on that Jammeh's decision to declare Gambia an Islamic state no longer applied.

 
 

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