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Countries currently Commonwealth Realms
The Commonwealth Realms are a part of, but should be distinguished from, the Commonwealth of Nations which is an organization of mostly former British colonies , the majority of whom do not recognize The Queen as head of state.
Commonwealth Realms are:
Antigua and Barbuda , Australia , The Bahamas , Barbados , Belize , Canada , Grenada , Jamaica , New Zealand , Papua New Guinea , Saint Kitts and Nevis , Saint Lucia , Saint Vincent and the Grenadines , The Solomon Islands , Tuvalu , and The United Kingdom , also considered a Commonwealth realm.
Flags of The Queen in Commonwealth Realms
In her capacity as Queen of different Commonwealth Realms, Her Majesty does not use the British Royal Standard, but insteaduses either her flag for that realm, or her personal flag as Head of the Commonwealth , which is also used when visiting Commonwealth countries where she is notrecognised as Head of State. The Queen has flags for Australia , Canada , New Zealand , Jamaica and Barbados. Each is a banner of the country's coat of arms, with the royal cypher in the centre, with the letter 'E' for 'Elizabeth'. The Queen formerly had flags for Sierra Leone , Malta , and Trinidad and Tobago , but when these countries became republics, theybecame obsolete.
Similarly, the Governor-General has his or her own flag featuring the Royal Lion and Crown (The Saint Edward's Crown), with the name of the country written in capitals on a scroll underneath. The Governor General of Canada has a distinctive design, which features the Royal Lion with the Saint Edward's Crown, bearing a maple leaf.
Countries formerly Commonwealth Realms
Following their independence from Britain, most Commonwealth countries retained The Queen as head of state, but eventually changed the title of the monarch to the Sovereign of their own respective nations (ie: "Queen of Barbados", rather than "Queen ofthe United Kingdom"). South Africa and Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka ) were the first to do this.
With time, some Commonwealth Realms moved to become republics, passing constitutional amendments removing the monarch as theirhead of state, and replacing the Governor-General with an elected or appointed president. This was especially true inpost-colonial Africa, whose leaders often did not want to "share" the office of Head of State with the Queen. They remained within the Commonwealth, following the precedent set by India in 1950, recognising the British monarch as 'Head of the Commonwealth', but not as head of state. Previously, republican status was incompatible with Commonwealth membership, prompting Ireland to withdraw from the association on becoming a republic in 1949.
In some former Commonwealth realms, including Malta , Trinidad and Tobago , and Mauritius , the new office of President became a ceremonial post, but other countries, such as Ghana , Malawi and Gambia , the President became an executive post, held by the last Prime Minister. In the latter cases not only wasthe monarchy abolished, but the entire Westminster system ofparliamentary government as well.
In Fiji , the change to a republic in 1987 came asa result of a military coup, rather than out of any republican sentiment, as Fiji's indigenous chiefs had voluntarily ceded theircountry to the Crown. Even when Fiji was not a member of the Commonwealth, symbols of the monarchy remained, including theQueen's portrait on banknotes and coins, and, unlike in the UnitedKingdom , the Queen's Official Birthday is a public holiday. When Fiji was readmitted to the Commonwealth, the issue ofreinstating the Queen as Head of State, was raised, but not pursued, although the country's Council of Chiefs reaffirmed that theQueen was still the country's 'paramount chief'.
Fiji 1 - 1987 (military coup)
Gambia 2 - 1970 (newconstitution)
Ghana 2 - 1960
Guyana 3 - 1970 (constitutionalamendment)
India 1 - 1950 (constitutionalamendment)
Ireland 4 - 1937 (newconstitution)
Kenya 2 - 1964 (newconstitution)
Malawi 2 - 1966 (newconstitution)
Malta 1 - 1974
Mauritius 1 - 1992
Nigeria 3 - 1963 (constitutionalamendment)
Tanganyika now Tanzania 2 - 1962
Pakistan 3 - 1956 (militarycoup)
Sierra Leone 2 - 1971
South Africa 3 - 1961 (referendum)
Sri Lanka 3 - 1972
Trinidad and Tobago 1 - 1976
Uganda - 3 1963 (constitutionalamendment)
1. Presidency is ceremonial post.
2. Presidency is executive post.
3. Presidency originally ceremonial, now executive.
4. Presidency replaced office of Governor-General, but Republic not declared until 1949 .
Burma , Cyprus , Zambia , Singapore , Nauru ,the Seychelles , Dominica , Kiribati , Zimbabwe and Vanuatu became republics on independence and were thus never Commonwealth realms.
Rise of Republicanism
In recent years, there has been some debate within the remaining Commonwealth Realms about the continuing practice of sharinga monarch with the United Kingdom. While many seem to view the Queen's current role as Head of State with passive indifference, others view the Queen as an obstacle to true "independence" from the United Kingdom .
Contemporary Commonwealth realm republican sentiment tends to be quite different in nature from the sentiment which ended therealm status with the above nations. In the former cases, almost all the countries became republics very quickly following theirindependence, being monarchies by "default" as a result of British colonial pratice. These nations almost all felt very eager tocut all remaining ties with Britain in order to seem completely sovereign and free of outside influences, however superficial. The remaining realms, however, continue to share a monarch with the United Kingdom for much longer, in some cases over a hundred years. The republican debate in such countriesis thus more complicated, both in terms of the political and cultural ramifications that a change to a long-standing monarchiststatus quo could bring.
In Australia , Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating made clear his intention to make the country arepublic by 2001 . Following the holding of a Constitutional Convention in 1998 , a referendum was held in 1999 on replacing the Queen as head of state with a President indirectly elected by Parliament . This was rejected because of divisions over how the future President should be elected,with some advocating direct election. It is likely that there will be another referendum on the issue in the future.
In neighbouring New Zealand, Prime Minister Helen Clark and her predecessor James Bolger havealso voiced their support for republicanism, and a republican movement has been established. There have also been doubtsexpressed about the future role of the monarchy in Canada with some members of thegoverning Liberal Party showing support for arepublic, but there has been little sign of change in the immediate future.
In the Caribbean, P.J Patterson , the Prime Minister of Jamaica , and Owen Arthur , thePrime Minister of Barbados also plan to make their countries republics.
Those advocating change have pointed out that the majority of Commonwealth countries have long since become republics, andthat were their countries to do the same, they could still be part of the Commonwealth.
Most republicans in the remaining Commonwealth realms, advocateparliamentary republics, in which the Queen and Governor-General would be replaced by a President, as is the case in India . There has been little support in these countries for a presidentialrepublic, similar to the United States or France . However, in Australia in 1999 , there was disagreement over whether the President of Australia should be elected by parliament (as in India) or directly, as in the Republic of Ireland .
While the Queen's powers in Commonwealth Realms are limited to appointing the Governor-General (and even this is done on the"advice" of the prime minister), her name and image continue to play a prominent role in political institutions and symbols. Forexample, the Queen's image usually appears on coins and banknotes, and an oath of allegiance to her is usually required from politicians, judges, and new citizens. Opponents argue that these symbolic gestures make an independent nation look "subsidiary"to the United Kingdom , and are confusing and anachronistic. Proponentsargue that their respective realm is already an independent nation, and that the monarchy with its history and traditions are thebasis for their national identity. Critics of the monarchy also argue that as the Queen is Supreme Governor of theChurch of England having her as head of state counters principles ofnon-sectarianism by promoting one religion as a de facto state religion even in realms that do not have an official statechurch.
Historically, Commonwealth Realm proponents of the monarchy were generally supportive of the monarchy as a symbolic link tothe United Kingdom . However, by the 1980s most realms had ceased to maintain any form of consitutitional ties to the United Kingdom. This thus marked theend of the so-called colonial mentality , and in doing so threwthe future of the monarchy into question. Proponents of the monarchy then began to downplay the "British" aspect of the monarchy, and began to focus on the Queen's role as Head of State over an independent Commonwealth Realm. Today the Queen is describedwithin realms as being the Queen of that realm (i.e. The Queen of Australia, The Queen of Canada etc...) with references to theCrown meaning the Crown of that country, not the British one. There has thus been a fundamental shift between the "family" aspectof the Empire days, in which all dominons rallied around a common monarch, and today, in which each Commonwealth realm isencouraged to think of the Queen as "their own," and serving a role independent of any other obligations in other countries.
Commonwealth realm supporters of the monarchy often argue that creating a republican head of state would ultimately cost more,not less, than the current monarchy. They point to the presidencies of the United States and France which cost more to maintainthan their monarchies. They cite the additional costs involving in updating the governor-general's residences to full head ofstate presidential palace level, the costs of state visit, political advisors, increased ceremonial functions, etc, functionsthat in many cases do not exist for a governor-general, given that they are not a full head of state, but which would be requiredfor a president.
Establishing republicanism in the remaining realms is often hampered in large part because of previous long disputes overconstitutional issues and reforms (especially in Canada and Australia) and thus a reluctance to enter into the extensiveconstitutional renegotiation that would be required to establish a new political system.
Today most realms have both a Republican Movement and a Monarchist League that serve as a self-proclaimed official outletof debate in the media and press.
The American Colonization Society was established in 1816 by Robert Finley as an attempt to satisfy two groups in the USA. Ironically, one group consisted of philanthropists, clergy and abolitionist who wanted to free African slaves and their descendants and provide them with the opportunity to return to Africa while the other group was the slave owners who feared free people of color and wanted to expel them from America.
Both the these groups felt that free blacks would be unable to assimilate into the white society. At this time, about 2 million Negroes live in America of which 200,000 were free persons of color. Henry Clay, a southern congressman and sympathizer of the plight of free blacks, believed that because of "unconquerable prejudice resulting from their color, they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country."
On December 21, 1816, a group of exclusively white upper-class males met at the Davis hotel in Washington D.C. with Henry Clay presiding over the meeting. They met one week later and adopted a constitution. During the next three years, the society raised money by selling membership. The Society's members relentlessly pressured Congress and the President for support. In 1819, they received $100,000 from Congress and in January 1820 the first ship, the Elizabeth, sail from New York headed for West Africa with three white ACS agents and 88 emigrants.
The ship arrive first at Freetown, Sierra Leone then sailed south to what is now the Northern coast of Liberia and made an effort to establish a settlement. All three whites and 22 of the emigrants died within three weeks from yellow fever. The remainders returned to Sierra Leone and waited from another ship. The Nautilus sail twice in 1821 and established a settlement at Mesurado Bay on an island they named Perseverance. It was difficult for the early settlers, made of mostly free-born blacks, who were not born into slavery, but were denied the full rights of American citizenship. The native Africans resisted the expansion of the settlers resulting in many armed conflicts. Nevertheless, in the next decade 2,638 African-Americans migrated to the area. Also, the colony entered an agreement with the U.S. Government to accept freed slaves captured from slave ships.
During the next 20 years the colony continued to grow and establish economic stability. Since the establishment of the colony, the ACS employed white agents to govern the colony. In 1842, Joseph Jenkins Roberts became the first non-white governor of Liberia. In 1847, the legislature of Liberia declared itself an independent state, with J.J. Roberts elected as its first President.
Liberia's first President, spent his first year as Liberia's leader attempting to attain recognition from European countries and the United States. England and France were the first countries to accept Liberian independence in 1848. However, the United Stated withheld recognition until 1862, during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, because the U.S. leaders believed that the southern states would not accept a black ambassador in Washington D.C.
Roberts was re-elected three more times to serve a total of eight years. During his leadership, the coastline was extended to over 600 miles and an institution of higher learning, later to become Liberia University, was established.
The earliest Nigerians were the Nok people, skilled artisans from around the Jos area. By the beginning of the second millennium the Nok had virtually disappeared and the state of Kanem, to the north east of Lake Chad, was flourishing. Much of Kanem was Islamic, as were the kingdoms around Kano and Katsina, and its wealth came from control of the trans-Saharan trade route from West Africa to the Mediterranean. These northern Islamic states remained untouched by Europeans until well into the 19th century. By contrast the southern states were dominated in the 14th and 15th centuries by a number of Yoruba empires with traditional Obas (kings) who cultivated European contact through the Portugese spice trade.
At the end of the 18th century Fulani religious zealots in the north, sick of being dominated by the Islamic Hausa states, took over and created the single Islamic state of the Sokoto Caliphate. This original division between the Islamic government in the north and the Yoruba tribes in the south has never healed, and over the years intertribal fighting and civil wars have rubbed salt into the wounds. Even today Nigerian politics is riddled with tribal rivalries and ancient axes to grind.
After the bottom fell out of the spice trade, the Portugese, and then the British, began a miserable trade slaves, but by 1807 slavery had been banned and the British began to look for other ways to turn a buck. British companies began to take control of the Jos mines thus destroying the livelihood of thousands of independent tin producers. Worse still, the heavy reliance on mining exports was achieved at the expense of Nigeria's export food crops and the country had its first-ever food shortage. The British had also appointed chiefs in the southern Ibo communities to run the area but this was like hammering square pegs into round holes. These 'invented chiefs' had little in common with the people and simmering hostility and resentment was the usual result.
In 1960 Nigeria declared independence. Unfortunately the British system of colonialism had done nothing to unify Nigeria or prepare it for independence. The historical conflicts between north and south, and other inter-regional fighting, made the idea of a unified republic unworkable. By 1966 the dream of a flourishing democracy was floundering amidst a series of massacres, inter-regional hostilities and, finally, a military coup that installed the first of a series of military governments. The Ibo responded by seceding from the federation and declaring the independent republic of Biafra, kick-starting an all-out civil war that lasted for nearly three years before federal Nigeria won and reintegrated Biafra. The war left behind nearly 1,000,000 dead and 'Biafra' as a byword in mass destruction and famine.
Given Nigeria's seesawing fortunes it was almost predictable that they would follow one of the world's worst famines with a champagne period of excessive prosperity. Rocketing oil prices provided the Nigerian government with a chance to go on a spending spree of reckless proportions and the country quickly became a hotbed of foreigners rushing to Nigeria with their dash (bribe) money. Corruption became de rigueur, crime rampant, and chaos spread like cancer. By the early 1980s the world recession sent oil prices plummeting again and plunged Nigeria into a cycle of massive debt, soaring inflation, large-scale unemployment and widespread corruption. In 1993 the country came under the iron-fisted rule of General Abacha.
Far from delivering on the promise of a US-style democracy, Abacha earned the wrath of human rights group and the censure of the Commonwealth nations for executing well-known playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others for seditious political activity. This and other despotic actions sparked rioting and civil unrest across Nigeria. In June 1998 Abacha died and was immediately replaced by Major General Abubakar. Abubakar promised a return to civilian rule. He kept his promise and in 1999 Olusegun Obasanjo, a former military leader and - until 1998 - a political prisoner, was elected president.
Upon the election of Olusegun Obasanjo, Nigerians were euphoric, as it seemed they were finally free from military rule. It was not long before things deteriorated as several rival groups (religious and tribal), no longer threatened by army intervention, settled down to protracted conflict. In one night of carnage during the Sharia'a riots (over full implementation of Islamic law) in February 2000, over 300 people were killed in hand-to-hand rioting between Igbo Christians and Hausa Muslims in Kaduna.
The emergency was exacerbated by fuel shortages and extended power blackouts that left the country in darkness for weeks. Little improved under the new democracy. Obasanjo consolidated Nigeria's position as West Africa's political heavyweight and a key player in the Commonwealth, but the country was still beset by ethnic and religious violence, especially in Lagos, the Central Plateau and the southern oilfields. In presidential elections in April 2003 Obasanjo claimed an overwhelming victory, although independent observers expressed reservations over irregularities and intimidation.
About The Gambia
The Gambia is a small (4,000 square miles or 11,295 sq. km) country in West Africa. It is surrounded by Senegal on all sides (see map), except on the Atlantic coast, and for this reason the two countries have a lot of ethnic and cultural ties. In contrast to Senegal, a former French colony, The Gambia was colonized by Britain and gained it's Independence on February 18, 1965.
Oral and written history give account of traders moving in caravans from the trading towns of the Niger to those of The Gambia about 400 years ago. People have been interviewed who said that their territories owed loyalty, to the Mali Kingdom. Mali was mainly composed of Mandinka speaking people. Written records also talk about the states of Niumi, Baddibu and Niani owing loyalty to the king of Saloum at Kahone in present day Senegal. Sine Saloum was composed of Wolof and Serer language groupings.
Other written records speak of meeting Jola speaking communities on the south bank near the River Gambia 400 years ago. Written history indicates, that the inhabitants of Kantora had once claimed that they owed loyalty to the Ahmami of Timbo, ruler of Futa Jalon. History also teaches that Demba Sonko, king of Niumi hired 700 Serahule soldiers to maintain order in his state in the 1840s.
The lesson is that Serer, Serahule, Jola, Fula, Mandinka and Wolof language groupings could be found in the place we now call The Gambia at various periods during the pre-colonial times. Some of these language groups had kings who established different states. There were no big Mandinka, Wollof, Fula, Jola, Serer, Serahule speaking kingdoms which involved only the members of each language grouping. Fulas, Serahules, etc, could be found in settlements where the predominant language was mandinka.
Different kings who spoke Mandinka, Wolof, etc. established different states on the north and south banks of the river. Even though the inhabitants of some of these states spoke the same language, they were loyal to the states and not their tribal origins. This was why the King of Niumi did not hesitate to hire 700 Serahule speaking soldiers in the 1840s to contain rebellion in his kingdom. This was why the King of Upper Niani was constantly at war the King of Lower Niani. One finds states like Sine Saloum Kayor, Baol, Jolof among the Wolof language grouping which stretched from Pakala, Niumi and Baddibu areas to present day Senegal. There was war among these groups.
Among the mandinka speaking groups, one finds states like Niumi Baddibu, Upper and Lower Niani, Wuli, Kombo, Kiang, Jarra, Niamina, Eropina, Jimara, Tumana and Kantora. There was war among those groups. There were also divisions into slave owners and slaves.
The Jola speaking group was divided into clans speaking different dialects which moved farther and farther from the river into what is now called the Foni and Casamance as they were attacked by invaders.
History teaches us that the Fula settlers in Kabu eventually established a state under Alfa Moloh which later stretched to involve part of The Gambia known as Fuladugu in the 1800s.
The lessons is therefore clear that before colonialism there was no Senegal or Gambia. Different language groupings settled in The Gambia at one time or another. They never succeeded in establishing a unified tribal state inhabited by all the people speaking one language, sharing a common way of life under one ruler; on the contrary, the states continued to fight each other.
Furthermore, peoples of different language group's who settled in the various states often got married and integrated in them. It is important to point out that it was the division of the states which made it possible for all them to fall under colonial domination, as it would be shown later.
Hence, it is not the colonialists who divided The Gambia. They simply exploited the existing divisions to impose colonial rule. The fundamental lesson we should learn therefore is that without unity we cannot build a future Gambia that would guarantee to her people liberty dignity and prosperity. It is the work of the future to explain how all language groupings came to settle The Gambia. Who was here first or last is insignificant. What is significant is that persons of Serer, Aku, Bayinunkas, Masuankas, Karoninkas, Mandiago, Serahule, Jola, Fula, Mandinka and Wolof origins can be found in The Gambia today. We are all human beings who can think and work to build a better Gambia if we respect and care for each other.
The most important development before the birth of colonialism was the establishment of the British settlement in what is now known as Banjul, Kombo Saint Mary.
Captain Grant who established the settlement 185 years ago in 1816 stated that a treaty was signed with the King of Kombo to get the permission to settle. They paid him 103 bars of iron annually. This shows that up to 1816 the kings had effective control over their territories. They accepted the settlement to promote trade. The British merchants provided iron, tobacco, guns gunpowder, rum, spices, corals, etc. in exchange for elephant tusks, bees wax, hides, timber, bullock horns and gold. It was a mutually beneficial trade. As a treaty between the acting Governor and the king of Kantalikunda stated, the people of England and the people of Kantalikunda agreed to trade together "innocently, justly, kindly and usefully."
Since the settlements appeared as centres for the promotion of trade in the eyes of the kings, the representatives of the monarch in England could be allowed to settle in MacCarthy Island in 1823 by the King of Lower Niani; one square mile was allotted at Barra point in Niumi in 1826 by the King of Niumi and Fatatenda in 1829 by the King of Wuli.
The British monarch saw these territories as colonies. Laws like the Imperial Act of 1843 were established to enable the British monarch to establish a government to govern the settlements. These settlements were to serve as the stepping stone to take full control of The Gambia. In a word, a net is thrown first before fishes could be caught. The settlements served as nets.
As the wars between the various kings of the area, and within their territories for succession increased, some of the kings sought the alliance of the administrators of the British settlements. For example, the King of Lower Niani at Kataba was attacked by the king of Upper Niani, Kementeng in 1840. The king of Lower Niani ( Kataba) sought the assistance of the administrator, of the British settlements and they united to combat Kementeng.
In 1844, the administrator of the British settlements requested one square mile from the king of Lower Niani to build a fort.
Hence, through seemingly offering protection to kings who were threatened by their neighbours or by internal feuds, the British administrators managed to bring such states under their protection and eventual domination.
This became easy because between 1850 and 1890 wars intensified to overthrow the kings of many of the states. Maba Jahu's army changed the face of Baddibu Niumi and Sine Saloum. Foday Kaba's army changed the face of Jarra, Kiang, Niamina and Foni. Foday Sillah's army changed the face of Kombo. Alfa Molloh's army changed the face of Jimara, Tumana and Fulladu area.
The intense wars disrupted trade to the point that values of imports and exports which stood at 153,000 pounds and 162,000 pounds respectively in 1839 dropped to 69,000 pounds and 79,000 pounds respectively in 1886. Once most of the strong states were devastated, the administrator of the British settlements established a law in 1894 called Protectorate Ordinance to prepare the ground for complete colonial domination. Between 1894 and 1902, the administrator of the British settlement had the objective of ensuring the defeat of the strongest armies, that is, the armies of Foday Sillah, Musa Molloh and Foday Kaba. They succeeded in defeating the armies of Foday Sillah and took him to Goree where he died and is buried in Ngai Mbehe in Senegal, close to the Mauritanian border. They signed a treaty of non aggression with Musa Molloh and developed a defence agreement with the French to attack Foday Kaba at Medina. He was killed in 1901.
In 1902, the Protectorate Ordinance or law divided the country into districts and divisions. The commissioners had full control of divisions and chiefs and headmen were to abide by their decisions. The chiefs were to run the affairs of districts to ensure respect for the colonial order. They were appointed by the Governor and could be removed . The headmen of villages could also be removed by the chief and his advisers. Chiefs were no longer kings but subjects of the British Crown. Kings existed in the past but chiefs were created by the colonialists to help them to impose their rule on the people they could not reach directly.
Colonialism was opposed to democracy. It stood for subjugation. Our national rights were seized. In a word, we had no territorial integrity, that is, our ownership of the country was not recognised. Gambia was deemed to belong to the British monarch. Our political independence was seized. It means that we had no right to determine the political status of our country as our social, economic and cultural development. Our sovereignty was seized. It means that we had no voice in our country. We could not determine its relation with other country and take part in its government. The British Crown determined who was to govern us and how the country was to relate to other countries. Sovereignty lay with the British Crown.
Once colonialism was established, some Gambians realised that our people were being taxed but the money was not going to build schools, hospitals, roads and improve the quality of life of the people. They realised that the colonialists decided where they wished to put the money. These enlightened Gambians developed relationship with other enlightened persons in the West African Region. They established the National Congress of British West Africa to struggle for the principle of self Government.
The pioneer of this struggle for self-determination in the Gambia was Edward Francis Small. He realised that organisation and enlightenment are the tools of national liberation. He was only 30 years when he attended the meeting of The National Congress of British West Africa in 1920. After the Congress, he started to call for representative institutions. In 1924 the Secretary of State for Colonies in England rejected the request for representative institutions by claiming that education and political thought in the colony and the protectorate had not reached a level to make the elective principle viable. People like Francis Small continued to struggle. The Bathurst Trade Union was established by him in 1928 which launched a successful strike in 1929. This gave the workers strength. He established a Rate Payers Association to ensure that the rate payers struggled for the slogan: No Taxation Without Representation. He also established newspapers to enlighten the people. He established the Cooperative Union to organise the farmers to have a say in determining the price of their crops. This shows that true liberators do not belong to tribes or place of origin. Their hearts beat in unison with the heart beats of the oppressed and exploited everywhere. A true liberator cannot be a sectionalist. Francis Small wanted the oppressed of both colony and protectorate to be free. The struggle did bear fruit.
By 1930, the first representative institution was established called the Bathurst Urban District Council and Board of Health. Even though only few members were elected and those appointed by the Governor constituted the majority, the fact that the elective principle had been introduced six years after the Secretary of State for Colonies. had dismissed it confirmed that it is the oppressed who determine their destiny; that the oppressor can only obstruct the struggle but cannot prevent its onward march to victory.
In 1942, a call for the elective principle to be introduced in the Legislative Council established by the colonialist to give advice to the Governor, Mr. J. A. Mahoney was dismissed by the then Colonial Secretary.
However, when the struggle for the elective principle intensified, the colonialists had to accept the principle of elected majority in the Town Council and the introduction of the elective principle in the Legislative Council in 1947, five years after Mr Mahoneys call for such a development was rejected. Political parties emerged in the 1950s. Between 1951 and 1954 the Democratic Party led by J.C. Faye, The Muslim Congress led by Ibrahima Garba Jahumpa and United Party led by P. S. Njie were formed.
By 1954, the colonialists amended the colonial constitutional instrument to allow 14 elected members in the Legislative Council. Political Campaigns became the order of the day in the town.
As it became clear that the movement towards independence could not be stopped, with the Independence of Ghana in 1957, new political forces emerged which sought to rely on a sectionalist tactic to gain mass support. The Protectorate People's Party was formed in 1959 a year after Francis Small retired into the world of the martyrs leaving a big political vacuum. In short none of the parties had a clear programme or vision of where to take The Gambia.
The colonialists had to bow down to pressure to convene a Constitutional Conference in 1959 to discuss Constitutional changes on how to move The Gambia towards Self Government. The 1960 Constitution was established with a representative institution which had 27 seats. 12 members were to be elected by rural dwellers; 7 members by town dwellers and 8 members by the chiefs. The colonialists wanted the chiefs who were appointed by the Governor to be the decisive factor in the House of Representatives. They just wanted to delay the Movement towards independence.
However the system proved unworkable. Another Constitutional Conference was convened in 1961 which gave rise to the 1962 Constitution. 25 members were to represent the Protectorate. 7 members were to represent the Colony. The chiefs were to elect 4 representatives. 2 members were to be nominated. In 1963 Internal Self Government was introduced. Gambia then had a Prime Minister. The Crown still retained the Sovereign power to determine the external relations of the country.
After 1963, Gambia could have become a Republic with immediate effect. However each of the Political Parties wanted to lead the country to independence. Hence they were ready to obstruct each other's Path even to the detriment of national liberation. By 1964, a Constitutional Conference was called. in 1965 the independence constitution came into being.
From Independence in 1965 to April, 1970 the country had a parliamentary democracy with a Prime Minister, and the Queen of England as the Head of State.
The country became a Republic in April 1970, with an Executive President as the Head of State, and the Parliament as the Legislative body. In contrast to a number of African countries, The Gambia retained a democratic tradition, holding universal adult suffrage elections every 5 years. These elections were contested by a number of parties, again in contrast to the single-party 'democratic' systems that were popular in a variety of African countries. The election system was slightly modified in 1982, with a change to the direct election of the President, rather than indirectly by the Members of Parliament.
The democratic tradition of The Gambia was briefly interrupted in July, 1981 with an abortive attempt to overthrow the government by the then paramilitary Field Force. This attempt was crushed by Senegalese troops, who intervened on the pretext that the coup attempt was foreign inspired, and a threat to the welfare of the Senegalese community in The Gambia. President Jawara was thus restored to power, and in the aftermath of the events, entered into a Confederation called Senegambia with Senegal. This confederation however, was to be dissolved in September, 1989 following irreconcilable differences between the parties.
A major milestone in The Gambia's political history was the overthrow of the Jawara government in July, 1994, by young, and junior officers of the Gambian military which had been built up by Jawara himself. The military officers, under the leadership of Lieutenant Yaya Jammeh (later Captain and then Colonel), alleged rampant corruption and incompetence as the main reason for overthrowing the Jawara government. The military takeover was roundly condemned by the International community, most especially because Jawara had in the almost 30 years of his rule managed to establish an international reputation for adherence to democratic rule and human rights. Following intense pressure from both within The Gambia, and without (see Report of The NCC), the military-led government announced a timetable for transferring power to civilians in 1996, following a review of the constitution, probes in the wealth of public servants, and elections.
A referendum was held on the 8th of August, 1996 and over 70 percent of those who voted endorsed the ratification of the Draft Constitution as the fundamental law of the Second Republic.
On 26 September the presidential election was held after a ban on political parties was lifted. A decree was passed which disqualified former President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara, the former Vice-President and all former ministers of the People's Progressive Party (PPP) from contesting any political office.
The other main political parties in the Gambia before the coup, the National Convention Party (NCP), and the Gambia People's Party (GPP), were also banned from participating in the election.
Four parties contested the Presidential elections. Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction (APRC) led by Mr. Yahya Jammeh who resigned from the military to run in the elections, United Democratic Party (UDP) led by Barrister Ousainou Darboe, Peoples Democratic Organization for Independence and Socialism (PDOIS) led by Mr. Sidia Jatta and National Reconciliation Party (NRP) led by Mr. Hamat Bah.
Jammeh won 56% of the votes and thereby, the first President of the Second Republic.
National Assembly Elections was held on the 2nd of January, 1997 and the APRC won 33 seats out of 45. UDP won 7 seats, NRP 2 seats, and PDOIS 1 seat and 2 Independent Candidates. The last National Assembly Elections was held in January 2002 but was boycotted by the Three-party opposition alliance led by the main opposition party UDP and thereby, allowing APRC running unopposed in 33 of the 48 constituencies. PDOIS and NRP took part. PDOIS won 2 seats and NRP won 1 seat.
Presidential elections was held on the 18th October 2001 in which President Jammeh polled 242.302 votes representing 52.96 percent of the total votes cast.
President Alhaji Yahya Jammeh's main challenger in the election who led the UDP, PPP, GPP Coalition Mr Ousainou Darboe polled 149.448 votes followed by the NRP leader and candidate Hamat N. K. Bah with 35.671 votes.
The National Convention Party leader and candidate Sheriff Moustapha Dibba, a veteran politician whose party re-joined the political arena after being banned for seven years captured 17.271 votes while the Peoples Democratic Organisation for independence and socialism PDOIS had 13.841 votes.
On the economic front, The Gambia has been a primarily agricultural country. An estimated 81% of the population is engaged in agriculture, while groundnuts (peanuts) account for about 85% of export earnings (Country Profile 1993/94: The Gambia, and Mauritania. The Economist Intelligence Unit 1993). With a trade policy traditionally more liberal than it's neighbors, because of a smaller industrial base to protect, The Gambian economy has always had a brisk re-export sector. Tourism, has been a large component of the service sector, which has accounted for up to 60% of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Despite it's size, The Gambia is relatively densely populated, with a predominantly Muslim population of slightly over 1 million (1993 census figures), and growing at an annual rate of approximately 3%. Major ethnic groups are Fula, Jola, Mandinka, Serahule, and Wollof. The illiteracy rates is very high (61%), and this generally reflects the low Human Development Index scores the country has. Thus, for 2000 The Gambias' ranked 161 out of 174 countries. In 1999 the country was ranked 163.
The UNDP Human Development Report rankings are based on access to health services, education and women's access to social services, among other factors. Per capita income is also amongst the lowest in the world.
Despite the economic poverty and political setbacks, The Gambia has always been active in the International arena, being a member of the United Nations, the African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The Gambia has also provided troops to regional peace-keeping efforts, most notably in Liberia, as well as being an active participant in mediation efforts.
This strong tradition of peacefulness, and respect for human rights was the reason why the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies was created in 1989 by a bill of The Gambian parliament with the vision to "promote in co-operation with other African and international institutions, the observance of human and peoples' rights and democratic principles throughout Africa". It should however be noted that the ACDHRS is governed by an independent council of African jurists and other related experts.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights, an organ set up under the provisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights by the OAU in 1986, is also head quartered in The Gambia. The Secretariat of this regional human rights institution is in the same building with the African Center for Democracy and Human Rights Studies.
The Gambia's human rights record has deteriorated since the military takeover of 1994. The most recent being on the 10th and 11th April 2000, when security forces had used live bullets on innocent students, to break up protesting students, thus resulting in the killing of at least 14 people including a journalist who was working as a Red Cross Volunteer and more than 100 injured.
The students were reacting to tendencies to abuse authority and honour of human values with disregard which led to the killing of Ebrima Barry a student who was allegedly tortured by the Fire Service Personnel and the reported rape of a 13-year old by a member of the security forces in March 2000.