The pioneer and one of the original leaders on the so called
Road to Independence of The Gambia
from colonial Britain
was the Aku named Edward Francis Small. He was born in Bathurst
in January 1891. After finishing his education in Freetown
at the Methodist High School he gained employment in 1910
at the Post Office. After a number of job changes he became
a teacher in 1915. Later he became a clergyman with the Methodist
He was posted to Ballanghar Village in 1917 on a trial period
however, he was soon transferred to Sukuta following what's called the "Ballanghar Incident". He had
given an instruction for the campanile's bell to be rung to mark the
yearly "Watch Night Service" - the gathering of the faithful in church
on New Year's Eve. The ringing however, annoyed a British Merchant
living in the village called James Walker. After a heated quarrel the
two men started fighting. While at
Sukuta he became disenchanted and
criticized Reverend P. S. Toys who had transferred him. This friction
led to him being fired from the church.
The Ballanghar Incident
marks the commencement of Francis Edward Small's career on the
for Gambia's independence from Britain.
In 1920 Small attended
a conference in the Gold Coast at Accra in which he gave a speech
about the right of West Africans to independent self-rule. It was
called the National Congress of British West Africa (NCBWA) and after
Small came back to Bathurst he set up the Gambia chapter of the NCBWA.
In the decade that followed Francis Edward Small was both the editor
and publisher of a small publication titled "The Gambia Outlook and
Senegambian Reporter". It campaigned on issues of importance for
the citizens of Bathurst.
In 1928 the country's first trades union was established called
the Bathurst Trade Union (BTU) which managed to get together the
Gambia's first labour walk-out.
He realised that organisation and
motivation were the most useful traits for national liberation. It took ten years of discussions, fights
and strikes before bearing fruit, but in 1930, the first
representative institution was established called the Bathurst
Urban District Council and Board of Health.
elected to the legislative council in 1942. He went on to
represent the Municipal Council in the legislature between the
period 1942 to 1947. He became the first person to win a popular
vote in Gambia when he managed to beat I.M. Garba Jahumpa and
Sheikh Omar Faye to be the representative for Bathurst and the
Kombos in the Legislative Council. He continued his involvement
in political life until he died in early 1958.
In the 1950ís, colony based political parties emerged. The first
political party to be formed in The Gambia was in 1951 called
the Democratic Party under Reverend J.C. Faye. The Muslim
Congress Party was formed a year later in 1952 under the
leadership of IM Garba Jahumpa.
The year 1952 also saw the
establishment of the United Party (UP) under P.S. Njie which
managed to lead the poll in elections to the Legislative Council
in 1954. The Gambia People's Party (GPP) existed for a short
while under Saint Clair Joof but he soon died after he was defeated in
the 1954 polls. In 1959 the People's Progressive Party (PPP) was
formed (formerly known as the Protectorate People's Party) which
had a genuine grassroots programme and was formed by the people
of the colony. It coincided with the constitution of 1960 which
extended voting rights to the people of the colony. It was
led by a former veterinary officer from MacCarthy Island
Division (Janjanbure), David Jawara (Dawda
Elections & Assembly:
At the elections held in 1960 the two main contenders were the
United Party and the PPP with the result that the PPP won 8
seats while the UP also won 8 seats. Due to the lack of
provision of a Chief Minister to oversee the various new
departments of Government the Governor, Edward Windley,
decided to appoint P.S. Njie in 1961 when the majority of chiefs
showed their support for him.
This led to the resignation of Jawara as the Minister of
Education and precipitated a political crunch. The
government decided to assemble the Bathurst and London
constitutional conferences of 1961. The outcome of the talks was
the 1962 constitution that heralded the way for internal
The result of the General Election held in May
1962 the PPP beat its main contender the United Party by winning
17 out of the 25 Protectorate seats and 1 of the Colony seats
thereby giving Jawara and absolute majority in Parliament. This
result ushered in Jawara as the new Premier and led to the PPP
remaining in power for the next 32 years until the successful
coup led by Yahya Jammeh in
After the 1962 election DK Jawara went into a
coalition government with PS Njie of the United Party to form
the Gambia's first independent government.
Independence Day came
in 1965 when The Gambia was admitted to the Commonwealth as an
independent constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth II
being the nominal Head of State. Following on a referendum held
on the 24th April, 1970, The Gambia became a republic with
Jawara's title changing from Prime Minister to President.