Situated on the Atlantic coast in westernmost Africa and surrounded on three sides by Senegal, Gambia is twice the size of Delaware. The Gambia River flows for 200 mi (322 km) through Gambia on its way to the Atlantic. The country, the smallest on the continent, averages only 20 mi (32 km) in width.
Since the 13th century, the Wolof, Malinke, and Fulani peoples have settled in what is now Gambia. The Portuguese were the first European explorers, encountering the Gambia River in 1455, and in 1681, the French founded an enclave at Albredabut. During the 17th century, Gambia was settled by various companies of English merchants. Slavery was the chief source of revenue before it was abolished in 1807. Gambia became a British Crown colony in 1843 and an independent nation within the Commonwealth of Nations on Feb. 18, 1965. Full independence was approved in a 1970 referendum, and on April 24 of that year Gambia proclaimed itself a republic.
Dauda Kairaba Jawara served as Gambia"s president from 1970 to 1994. A military coup led by Capt. Yahya Jammeh deposed the president in July 1994, suspended the constitution, and banned existing political parties. Jammeh promised new elections, which were held in Sept. 1996 and which he won with 55% of the vote. In 1997, he returned the country to civilian rule, and in 2001, he lifted the ban against opposition parties. Censorship of the press and other repressive measures mar the country"s transition to democracy. In Dec. 2004, Gambia passed a media law that allows the state to jail journalists found guilty of libel and sedition. In September presidential elections, incumbent Yahya Jammeh won a third term.
In Nov. 2011 presidential elections, incumbent Yahya Jammeh won 72% of the vote, Ousainou Darboe 17%, and Hamat Bah 11% with 83% voter turnout.
On the morning of Dec. 30, 2014, an attempt was made to oust President Jammeh. Nine men attacked the presidential palace in Banjul. The coup attempt was led by Lieutenant-Colonel Lamin Sanneh. Sanneh once led the country"s