- Book Review: The Gambia under AFPRC-APRC Rule, 1994-2008, Abdoulaye Saine, Lexington Books, 2010
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- The Paradox of Third-Wave Democratization in Africa : Abdoulaye S. Saine :
The geographical location of the country is really odd. It has to do with disputes during the colonial period between the French and the English.
The British were much more interested in the river, which is navigable for approximately miles. What ended up was that the country was carved out around the river, 15 miles at the widest point, and then the rest of it went to the French in the Treaty of Versailles.
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Annabelle Quince : So in essence The Gambia at its widest point is only 15 miles. Abdoulaye Saine : Yes, about 15 miles, yes. It's really a very odd location, because it sticks out like a tongue in the middle of Senegal.
Book Review: The Gambia under AFPRC-APRC Rule, 1994-2008, Abdoulaye Saine, Lexington Books, 2010
In other words, you have to cross the Gambia River to go to the southern part of Senegal, so Gambia really splits Senegal almost in half. Annabelle Quince : And what's the population of Gambia, and what's the ethnic makeup? Abdoulaye Saine : Gambia is a multi-ethnic country. Despite its size of 4, square miles and a population of 1. She spoke to me from Gambia on a very shaky Skype line.
Aisha Dabo : If you look at the Gambia River, it takes its source from Guinea, so it has been very important in the trade, because they would use the ships just to go up and down the river, and then they had access to the Atlantic Ocean. Another thing is The Gambia actually was a transit point for slaves as well. Gambia and Senegal, at least 3 million slaves left those rivers to go to the Americas. Abdoulaye Saine : The Gambia was a major hub for the slave trade, the Europeans of course having arrived there in the early s. Slavery in earnest didn't occur, but it is reported a few Gambians and Africans were taken over to Portugal.
When the slave trade began in earnest it became a hub for the transit of captured enslaved Africans to Europe but more importantly to the Caribbean and then to colonial America. Annabelle Quince : And has that had a lasting effect on Gambia at all, its involvement in the slave trade? Abdoulaye Saine : It did, and I believe it continues to do, but the effects are less visible today.
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But clearly the transport of significant numbers of individuals in some ways depopulated the region. It took skills that otherwise would have helped develop the region, and some cultural elements also died in the process. Niklas Hultin : The British arrived in force in the early s. There were some minor British presences along the Gambia River before them, but the beginning of significant British colonialism in The Gambia was about And I guess I would say that the British colonial presence was one of relative neglect. The Gambia was never a crown jewel in the British Empire.
It was not India, it was not Nigeria, it was not Kenya; it was one that had a fairly minimal economic base. Gambia does not have any super valuable natural resources to this day. And it was one with a small British population. You did not have any kind of settler colonialism of the sort that you would see for example in Kenya and Tanzania.
So The Gambia was a colony and the British legacy you still see that in a lot of different things, not least of which being the language, the form of the legal system and so forth. But in terms of if you would count the British troops or administrators on the ground in The Gambia, The Gambia would be a relatively small number.
There was not a significant entity in terms of the British Empire, I think it was kind of an afterthought in some ways. There were even discussions — and I can't exactly remember when, I believe it was in the late s — of the British basically trading The Gambia territory to the French. But those negotiations fell through in no small part due to protests by Gambians. Of course they would prefer to be colonised by the British than the French.
Journalist [archival] : Bathurst put all thoughts aside except the imminent independence of Gambia. Abdoulaye Saine : Independence came without much strife. It was a negotiated settlement, unlike Kenya, unlike Algeria, Gambia really didn't engage in any form of civil strife or any kind of violence to gain independence. Annabelle Quince : And was there any discussion at independence about how The Gambia would cope, because clearly, as you said, it's a very small country with a very particular kind of geography, and in essence if you look at it, it probably makes more sense to be part of Senegal rather than an independent nation.
So I'm wondering, was there discussion at the time of independence about how The Gambia could cope in its place in West Africa? Abdoulaye Saine : That was a major discussion prior to independence. In fact the British encouraged the Gambian politicians at the time to enter into some form of confederation, some integration scheme. The United Nations also conducted a major study looking into the feasibility of such a scheme, and they felt that it might have been the best thing to do for Gambia to integrate into Senegal with protocols and protections of its traditions and so forth and so on.
Mind you, Gambia and Senegal are pretty much the same ethnic groups, same religion, but with the euphoria surrounding independence in the s, most countries gaining independence, including Gambia, wanted to some degree to protect their newly won independence.
Niklas Hultin : The first government, or actually the only government between prior to the coup in , the one led by Jawara, was I guess you would think of it as a fairly kind of liberal government in the sense that they had elections that were deemed free and fair. There was a respect for the rule of law and so forth. They were attempts to develop the country within the confines that they were operating in. Those attempts were quite modest. The first government never built a university, the first government did not build a television station, the first government did not build enough schools, and so forth.
So development was definitely kind of limping along during the first government. He was a peaceful man and at one point he wanted to leave but his party and people that surrounded him said that they don't want him to leave because they don't believe that the country will be able to survive after he leaves. But the downside of that first regime was the fact that there were not many roads and when there were, you had all these potholes on the roads. So the country was really, really underdeveloped. It was difficult to have electricity, and when you had it actually you had power cuts, it was difficult to have access to water because the capital is swampy in some areas.
You had many mosquitoes and the drainage system wasn't good, and The Gambia only had high school, they didn't have a university. So you had all these things, basic things that people would need and that were not right. Abdoulaye Saine : The Gambia had a reputation for peace and stability. In fact at the time that Sir Dawda Jawara was in power until he was overthrown in , Gambia was really one of four countries that had a viable democracy, a functioning democracy.
Sir Dawda actually was successful in putting in place an open capitalist economy, or at least seeking to do that. In fact Gambia had its best economic growth record in the first years of independence from to Niklas Hultin : I think the first thing to point out is there is democracy and there's democracy. So even though if you sort of have a check-list idea of democratic institutions, The Gambia would pass that, the ruling party of The Gambia was pretty dominant, and some historians of this period would argue that they basically entrenched themselves as a de facto, almost one-party state with the trappings of democracy.
One prominent historian has referred to it as a liberal cartel. So you had a sense of the political space not being quite as open as the institutional, on-the-face-of-it composition the country would suggest. And then you also had the fact that the economy was really not doing well, it was really in the doldrums. So you had a situation where you had a government that people were kind of tired of. It wasn't that it was illegitimate and it wasn't that people despised it or that it was oppressive; people were more like, well, it's just not really working.
That of course made all the worse, the worsening of the economy, so that when Yahya Jammeh and his co-conspirators took power in '94 there was really no resistance to speak of at all, it was a bloodless coup. Man [archival] : Fellow Gambians, this country has been taken over by the Gambia armed forces.
The Paradox of Third-Wave Democratization in Africa : Abdoulaye S. Saine :
And the coup was actually bloodless. At the time the army was very tiny and they managed to actually unseat Jawara, who then fled and went into exile. Why did it happen? Well, as I said it was more by chance than by plan. But there were at least grievances in the population, which were no longer so satisfied with the PPP regime.
Of course Jawara was still seen as a father figure, as a hero of the independence, but his legitimacy as well as that of the party was being really threatened by rampant corruption among politicians, as well as austerity measures in the s. Structural reforms also caused a lot of unemployment and hardship for Gambians. The agricultural sector was also stagnant, partly because of mismanagement. And youth were the major victims of these transitions.
They were particularly affected, and as they saw these soldiers came to power, they identified with them. Jammeh at the time was only 29 years old, and he as well as the other fellows were of humble origins. So they reflected more or less the social situation of many of the Gambian youth who then mobilised behind the new military junta, and the junta mobilised them in turn. And this is how in the junta managed to convert itself into a civilian party and win the election. Abdoulaye Saine : Paradoxically there was a lot of euphoria amongst the larger population.
Even amongst the elite to some degree.
https://www.hiphopenation.com/mu-plugins/monongalia/austin-and-ally-fanfiction.php Because many had felt that Sir Dawda could not be dislodged through free and fair elections. And even though he did hold for the most part free and fair elections, with some irregularities, many still felt that given the strong hold he and the PPP that's the major party held, that it was impossible to defeat him. Now, this sentiment became really quite widespread and in turn became the justification, partly, to dislodge him. So there was euphoria, but this euphoria very quickly dissipated because the new regime, military regime, became increasingly repressive; to the degree that people were watching Sir Dawda had still been power.
Annabelle Quince : Although the military regime did transform itself via elections in Abdoulaye Saine : Yes. They did have elections, but these elections were marred by a variety of irregularities. In fact it is estimated that in the transition in the country from military rule to civilian rule, the election had been rigged.
And since then elections have been held regularly of course, but with a lot of repression — the opposition basically didn't have access to the media — and Jammeh really made it very difficult for them to compete on a level playing field. Patriotic reorientation really means keeping the population under a state of permanent mobilisation.
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