The Gambia Independence Day is observed on 18 February.
This year marks the country’s 57th anniversary of independence.
The Gambia, located on the west coast of Africa, is the smallest country in Africa. The country has a rich history that dates back to the 15th century when Prince Henry, the Navigator, discovered the river that leads to the island upon which the ship ascended and was renamed St. Andrew’s Island.
The land continued to shuffle between various settlers, from French to English, who extracted resources, gold in particular, from the island. The British later seized total control of the land and ruled for more than 60 years.
In 1901, the push for self-governance gained national recognition, and The Gambia received its first legislative council and military unit, empowering the youth of the country.
An agreement of freedom was signed between the newly formed Gambian government and the British in 1964, and the Gambia Independence Act was enacted in 1965, granting full independence to The Gambia.
The name “Gambia” is derived from the Mandinka term Kambra/Kambaa, meaning Gambia River. The definite article “the” in the country’s name is commonly used, originally used because the region was named after “the Gambia [River].”
In 1964, shortly prior to the country’s independence, the Prime Minister Dawda Jawara wrote to the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use, requesting that the name The Gambia retain the definite article, in part to reduce confusion with Zambia, which had also recently become independent.
Today, The Gambia is a republic, with Adama Barrow serving as the current President. The country’s population is estimated to be around 2.4 million people, with the majority of the population being Muslim. The official language of The Gambia is English, but many Gambians can speak an average of four local languages.
The country has a diverse economy that relies heavily on agriculture, particularly the export of peanuts, but also includes tourism and fishing industries.
Despite its small size, The Gambia has a significant role in the African continent, particularly in the area of human rights. The country has been a strong advocate for the International Criminal Court, with former President Yahya Jammeh being the first African leader to sign and ratify the Rome Statute. The country has also taken a strong stance on issues such as female genital mutilation, child marriage, and other human rights abuses.