The Imperial Act 1843 was passed in the British
Houses of Parliament to allow her majesty to provide for
her the settlements on
the west coast of Africa.
The monarch made laws known as Order in
Council for the settlements. The privacy council served as an advisory
body for making laws for the British settlements.
The monarch appointed governors, granted land to settlers,
constituted courts appointed judges, established executive and
legislative councils to advice the governors.
The settlements which were established through the consent of local Kings of the various
states in the
Gambia and elsewhere were seen
as colonial settlements.
The British settlements remained small in the Gambia until the end of
the 19th century.
Kombo was divided into a colonised Kombo and liberated
Kombo. The colonised Kombo was locally called "Kombo
Toubab Banko". The
colonialist used to call the liberated Kombo as "foreign Kombo".
The battle against Foday Sillah the King of Kombo in 1894 and that
against Foday Kabba Dumbuya led to the defeat, capture and exiling of
Foday Sillah and the killing of Foday Kabba.
This made it possible for the British crown to establish indirect rule
on the whole territory known as the Gambia as agreed between the
British crown and the French on 10 August 1889.
The governor had the authority to divide the country into divisions
and districts and appoint commissioners to administer divisions and
chiefs to administer districts. He could order the suppression of
military and banish Gambians into exile. His government collected
taxes and administered the country.
The movement for self government started as far back as 1920 and was
led by Edward Francis Small. Newspapers, Ratepayers Association,
unions, Farmers Co-operatives were utilised as instruments to mobilise,
organise and sensitise people for self government.
The struggle for self government was opposed by the colonial
administrators. However, town councils emerged with elected minorities
and official majorities as far back as 1930. Eventually this was
followed by calls for election to fill the posts in the advisory
bodies known as executive and legislative councils. This battle was
won and limited suffrage was introduced.
By 1950 the movement to establish political parties had emerged and
contested for seats in the legislative council took on a more partisan
character. The demand for universal suffrage intensified. A
constitutional conference was held in 1959 which gave birth to the
Universal suffrage was
introduced and 12 seats were allocated to the then protectorate
from the colony.
In 1961, the Gambia Workers Union which had developed a radical
agenda not only for higher wages but also for political
transformation of the country in line with trade unions in Ghana
and elsewhere in organised a successful strike in January 1961.
The whole country was put to a stand still at a time when the
trade season was supposed to have been in full force. Even the
once dormant court servants became more determined to wake up
from their political slumber. They began to agitate for the
Gambianisation of the public service.
Constitutional talks were held in 1961 to address the new
realities. The bitter rivalries between the political parties
delayed the enlightenment of the people. Political loyalty
centred around time, the rural/urban dwellers and personalities.
Hence instead of gaining
independence the constitutional changes
made room for internal self government in 1963.
A constitution came into being in 1963 which transformed the
executive council into a cabinet. The Queen still remained
The governor had control of defence and, the security forces,
public services and foreign affairs.
The Gambia is said to have become independent on the 18th
The fact of the matter however is that while the 1906
constitution gave authority for the
cabinet to be in charge of
foreign affairs defence executive power was vested in her
majesty the Queen of the U.K. Section 32 of the 1965
"There shall be a parliament which shall consist of Her Majesty
and a House of Representatives." Section 29 indicated that
"There shall be a Governor-General who shall be appointed by Her
Majesty and shall hold office during her Majesty's pleasure and
who shall be her majesty's representative in the Gambia."
Section 60 subsection (1) indicated that
"The Governor-General may at any time prorogue or dissolve
Parliament." Section 62 sub section (1) indicated that
"The executive authority of The Gambia is vested in Her
Majesty." Subsection (2) adds that "Subject to the provision of
this constitution, the executive authority of The Gambia may be
exercised on behalf of Her Majesty by Governor- General, either
directly or through officers subordinate to him.
Hence it is clear that Gambia was still a constitutional
monarchy on the 18th February 1965. It was not a sovereign
Republic. A sovereign Republic cannot owe any allegiance or
obedience to foreign power or state.
On the 18th February 1965 the Queen of England still held
executive power in the country.
The Gambia became a sovereign Republic on 24th April 1970. This
is why the 1970 constitution has no provision for a Queen's
representative in the country.