Gambia (officially Republic of The Gambia), independent country in West Africa.
Land and climate
Gambia is a narrow strip of land 7–20 mi (11–32 km) wide, stretching inland from the Atlantic Ocean, for about 200 mi (322 km) along the Gambia River. It is surrounded on three sides by Senegal. At the mouth of the Gambia River, on St. Mary's Island, is Banjul, the capital city and port.
The Mandingo ethnic group accounts for about 40% of the population. Other groups include the Fulani, Wolof, Jola, and Serahuli. More than 80% of the people are Muslim, the rest being animist or Christian. English is the official language, but tribal languages are also spoken.
The economy is largely agricultural, peanuts being the main cash crop. Millet, corn, and rice are grown for domestic consumption.
Portuguese navigators explored the mouth of the Gambia River in the 15th century, trading in gold and slaves. In 1588 the British obtained control of the trade on the Gambia River. During the following centuries the slave trade flourished, even after its official abolition by Britain in 1807. In 1843 the area around St. Mary's Island was made a British colony, and the interior settlements along the river were declared a British protectorate in 1894. In 1963 Gambia became self-governing, and in 1965 it became an independent member of the British Commonwealth. Relations with Senegal were close, and in 1981 a confederation called Senegambia was declared, linking the two economies while maintaining formal separate sovereignty. The confederation was dissolved in 1989. In the 1990s several coups took place.