Enter Gambia, Stage South

Well I have now been in the Gambia going on two and some months and have yet to write about the Gambia. For those unacquainted with my itty-bitty nation I will give a brief overview. If you look at the map of the African coastline where the title of this page lays, underneath it you see a large river heading inland, that is my nation, the land on either side of that river.

The Gambia is a former British colony and was colonized as the British did, which was making them a monoculture(?) economy but putting little cultural investment into their colonies, unlike the French. They, the British, taught the men of the Gambia to grow groundnuts (the European version of our peanuts, they are smaller and mostly used for oil--by the way if you are allergic to peanuts this country will probably kill you). Ironically this is pretty much the only crop the men grow, the women do all the other farming. The British thinking that farmers here followed their structures trained the wrong gender, but that is beside the point. In 1965 the Gambia finally gained their freedom after a long and relatively peaceful protest.

Gambia became a... republic which eventually expanded its main industries to groundnut exports and tourism. It is my understanding that the former President Jawara who assumed power at the time of independence kept his power until 1994 (I could be wrong about how long his term of office was). Jawara had done some improvements to the Gambian economy but the last 15 years have shown more improvement than the previous 30. President Yahya AJJ Jammeh assumed presidency in 1994 in a... peaceful and bloodless power transaction. President Jammeh has held elections (where competitors were running for office too) every four or five years in which he has been re-elected, every-time. I have seen President Jammeh, once, up close. He is the Chancellor of the University of the Gambia (UTG) and so during their convocation, graduation, he was present and made a very interesting and long speech which I can tell you about later if you are so interested.

The University of the Gambia was originally initiated by the St.Mary's University of Halifax, Canada. It has since left their administration, because it was seen as a type of neo-colonialism or some such, and is interesting. The University here operates like no American (or UK?) university, at least not yet though I get the feeling it is the one day goal. The UTG has only been in operation for about 10 years and is the highest institution in the country and one day hopes to rival the South African and Nigerian universities in prestige.

1 comment:

bellinghamster said...

I'm going to try leaving this comment again, because I don't think the first time I did it worked. Glad to see you're writing more about The Gambia (what's with the "The" before Gambia anyway?) It's very interesting to learn about a country that one never hears about otherwise. What is your daily schedule like? What classes are you taking? What's the food like?
Inquiring minds want to know!
Love you, Pat