The Gambia is a 4,127 square mile nation located in West Africa. It is the 159th largest nation globally. The Gambia has a population of around 2,051,363 people. People have lived within the Gambia's borders for an extended period with the Arabs providing the first written records about the people who lived in the region. Trade, particularly the Trans-Saharan trade, significantly shaped the nation's destiny as it contributed to the creation and growth of one of the region's most well-known kingdoms, the Mali Empire.
The Pre-colonial History Of The Gambia
The empire's most famous ruler was Mansa Musa whose activities brought great fame to his empire. The empire was particularly renowned for its wealth. The Mali Empire introduced a constitution that contributed significantly to ensuring peace in the area. Ibn Battuta, one of the most famous travelers of the ancient world, praised the peace experienced within the empire's borders which was vital to its prosperity. European interest in the Gambia began in the 15th century when the Portuguese began exploring the region. Apart from the Portuguese, the French and the British also had a significant interest in the territory with the French attempting to establish a colony in 1612.
The Colonial History Of The Gambia
The British government took control of the Gambia in 1766, and they consolidated their land in the region to create the Senegambia colony which lasted for approximately 18 years. The British later reestablished the colony, and their control lasted until 1965 when the Gambia attained independence. The present-day boundaries of the Gambia extend roughly 465 miles and only a single nation, Senegal, borders the country. The Gambia has a short coastline approximately 49.7 miles long along the Atlantic Ocean.
The nations of Senegal and the Gambia are separated by a boundary about 465 miles long which is Senegal's second-longest boundary. Senegal and the Gambia also share a maritime border in the Atlantic Ocean. Due to the Gambia's unique location, it is nearly surrounded by Senegal. The border between Senegal and the Gambia was defined during the colonial period when the Gambia was under British rule while Senegal was a French territory. France and Britain relied on traditional surveying methods to establish the boundaries between the two nations.
The Shared History Of Gambia And Senegal
Despite historical evidence proving that the colonial powers relied on surveying methods, a rumor spread that the position of the border was determined by how far a British canon could fire. Although the rumor proved historically inaccurate, it was widely repeated particularly among the Gambians. Due to their close location, much of the Gambia's and Senegal's history was considerably similar. Archaeological evidence is one of the most important sources of information on the two nations as for a significant period there were no written records in the area. The communities living in the two countries during the Neolithic period developed fundamental skills such as hunting and fishing. Burial mounds were discovered in river estuaries that linked the prehistoric communities that lived in Senegal and the Gambia. Some empires ruled over Senegal and their territory usually extended into the Gambia.
European Interest In Senegal And The Gambia
European interest in the region was mainly limited to the British and the French who would be locked in a struggle for dominance in the area for nearly 150 years. The British relied on trading companies such as the Royal African Company to gain control of the region. The colonial powers were involved in some conflicts which resulted in the losing British territory to the French. The British and French signed a treaty in 1713 that ensured the French recognized the British control of the region. British rule in the area was significantly hindered as the Royal African Company encountered severe monetary difficulties.
As the area became more economically viable, a confederation of Senegal and the Gambia was formed under British rule and was referred to as Senegambia. The British however, failed to maintain control of the region as they were preoccupied with the American Revolutionary War. After attaining independence, the two nations agreed in 1981 to revive the Senegambia confederacy. The Confederacy was reestablished in 1982; however, Senegal abandoned it citing Gambia's failure to improve the cooperation between the countries. The proximity and close social ties between the two nations present a significant risk, particularly regarding the security. The fear proved well-founded after a coup in the Gambia in 1981. The Senegalese government believed that as a direct impact of the coup attempt other governments would try and destabilize it. The government of Senegal adopted policies to improve the strength of its military to safeguard its sovereignty.
Ties Between The Senegalese And Gambian Governments
One of the most important economic activities between Senegal and the Gambia is trade — however, the two nations have vastly different trade policies. The Senegalese government implemented a system that ensured French goods were given preferential treatment over products from other countries while the Gambian government implemented a free trade policy with very few trade barriers. The differing trade policies led to the establishment of a vibrant black market along the border.0 of the two nations with vast quantities of manufactured goods being transported to Senegal. One of the most frequently smuggled products was groundnuts due to the delayed payment by the Senegalese government. The Senegalese government interfered in the internal affairs of the Gambia particularly in 2017 to ensure peace along the shared border. In 2018, the leaders of the Gambia and Senegal attended a summit in Banjul and signed a deal to cooperate in some areas, for example, sports, healthcare, and culture. During the summit, the two governments also agreed to collaborate on securing the border. The Gambia and Senegal maintain close diplomatic ties with the Senegalese government having0 a single embassy situated in Banjul. The Gambian government in Senegal is represented by an embassy located in the capital, Dakar.
The Social Impact Of Borders
Many of the world's borders particularly on the African continent were created without the contribution of the communities living in those areas. The boundaries established in such a manner usually resulted in communities and families being separated. The separation of communities usually creates security concerns for the countries involved. Borders are also centers of socio-cultural exchange as people living on either side of the border interact and exchange cultural practices and ideas.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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