The Gambia (Gambia)
The Portuguese in 1455 entered the Gambian region, the first Europeans to do so, but never established important trade there. In 1765, the Gambia was made a part of the British Empire by establishment of the Gambia. In 1965, the Gambia gained independence under the leadership of Dawda Jawara, who ruled until Yahya Jammeh seized power in a bloodless 1994 coup. Adama Barrow became the Gambia's third president in January 2017, after defeating Jammeh in the December 2016 elections. Jammeh initially accepted the results, before refusing to leave office, triggering a constitutional crisis and military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States that resulted in his removal two days after his term was initially scheduled to end.
The Gambia has been a member of the Economic Community of West African States since its conception in 1975 and is a member of the Commonwealth, with English being the country's sole official language, both legacies of its British colonial past. The Gambia's economy is dominated by farming, fishing, and especially tourism. In 2015, 48.6% of the population lived in poverty. In rural areas, poverty was even more widespread, at almost 70%.
The name "Gambia" is derived from the Mandinka term Kambra/Kambaa, meaning Gambia River (or possibly from the sacred Serer Gamba, a special type of calabash beaten when a Serer elder dies). Upon independence in 1965, the country used the name the Gambia. Following the proclamation of a republic in 1970, the long-form name of the country became Republic of the Gambia. The administration of Yahya Jammeh changed the long-form name to Islamic Republic of the Gambia in December 2015. On 29 January 2017 President Adama Barrow changed the name back to Republic of the Gambia.
The Gambia is one of only two existing countries for which the definite article is commonly used in its English-language name (the other is The Bahamas), aside from cases in which the name is plural (the Netherlands, the Philippines) or includes the form of government (the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic). The article is also officially used by the country's government and by international bodies. The article was originally used because the region was named after "the Gambia [River]." In 1964, shortly prior to the country's independence, the Prime Minister Dawda Jawara wrote to the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use requesting that the name the Gambia retain the definite article, in part to reduce confusion with Zambia which had also recently become independent. At present, both Gambia and the Gambia are in common use.
Currency / Language