The Gambia is the smallest country in mainland Africa has a population of about 1.8 million. The West African country is surrounded by Senegal.
The country has enjoyed stability since independence but recently, it has been plunged into political crisis following the refusal of the sitting president Yahya Jammeh to step down for the president-elect Adama Barrow.
Jammeh who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1994, has ruled the country for 22-years until his shocking defeat in the December 1, 2016 presidential election.
Below are eight things you need to know about the country
The Gambia, the smallest country on mainland Africa, is less than 50 kilometres (31 miles) wide at its widest point, with a total area of 11,295 km2 (4,361 sq mi). About 1,300 square kilometres (500 square miles) (11.5%) of the Gambia’s area is covered by water. Senegal surrounds the Gambia on three sides, with 80 km (50 mi) of coastline on the Atlantic Ocean marking its western extremity.
2. Source of foreign exchange
Tourism is an important source of foreign exchange and also remittance payments by the large number of Gambians who have made it to Europe. The resorts that occupy a stretch of the Atlantic coast always attract tourists.
3. No press freedom
Journalists are regularly arrested on “flimsy and superficial” charges as the law provides for jail terms for libel or sedition. The government operates the only national TV station and state-run Radio Gambia broadcasts only tightly-controlled news, which is relayed by private radio stations. Critical websites are also blocked.
4. Leaders since independence
The Gambia has had only two leaders since it gained independence on February 18, 1965. Dawda Jawara ruled from 1970 until 1994 before Jammeh seized power in a bloodless coup that year as a young army officer.
5. Controversial president
Jammeh seized power in 1994 as a young army lieutenant. His 22-year rule is not enough for him as he has refused to step down for Barrow, and instead declared a state of emergency.
In 2007, he got tongues wagging when he claimed that he could cure AIDS with herbs and bananas. He called homosexuals ”vermin” in 2014 and said the government would deal with them as it would malaria-carrying mosquitoes.
6. Widespread poverty
UN data shows that some 60% of Gambians live in poverty, with a third of those living on less than $1.25 a day. Per capita gross national income (GNI) fell to $460 in 2014, from $750 in 1993.
Islam is the predominant religion, practised by 90% of the country’s population. The Christian community represents about 8% of the population. In December 2015, the Gambia was declared to be an Islamic state by Jammeh.
8. Foreign relations
The Gambia withdrew from the Commonwealth of Nations October 3, 2013. The government stated that it had decided that the country will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism.
Also, in October 2016, the Gambia became the latest African nation to pull out of the International Criminal Court, which it accused of “persecuting” Africans.