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Gambia's Independence Day
 
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Independence Day celebrations are held every on the 18th February of each year which marks the day when Gambia gained full independence from colonial Britain in 1965. It is normally celebrated in Banjul at McCarthy Square with a march pass by school children, civil servants, the army, teachers and others in front of the President and other dignitaries.

Background:
The country had gained internal self-government earlier in 1963.

The Gambia Independence Act 1964 (1964 c. 93) was an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom. It came into operation on December 17, 1964.

The Act made provisions for the Gambia to gain full independence and become a member of the Commonwealth of Nations; prior to this, it had been a fully self-governing crown colony.

"1. Fully responsible status of The Gambia.— (1)
On and after 18th February, 1965 (in this Act referred to as "the appointed day") all those territories which immediately before the appointed day are comprised either in the Colony of the Gambia or in the Protectorate of the Gambia shall together form part of Her Majesty’s dominions under the name of The Gambia; and on and after that day Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom shall have no responsibility for the government of those territories."

"1965: Countdown to Gambian independence -
The Duke and Duchess of Kent have celebrated the end of 300 years of colonial rule in Gambia with 35 chiefs.  At midnight Gambia will become the smallest - and 37th - sovereign state in Africa and the last of Britain's West African colonies to gain independence.

It was the first African nation conquered by the British and will become the 21st member of the Commonwealth, as well as the 116th member of the United Nations.

Representing the Queen, the royal couple was escorted to the mansa bengo - gathering of kings - by Gambian Prime Minister Dawda Jawara and Governor Sir John Paul.

All the Gambian leaders showed their respect by removing their shoes before greeting the British dignitaries.

The oldest chief, Toure Sagniang, said: "It gives us confidence to know that as a monarchy we are members of that family of which the Queen is head."

And he thanked the UK for its assistance in making the transition to independence.

The traditional ceremony - in the village of Brikama, 22 miles from the capital, Bathurst - included soothsayers and standard bearers, accompanied by drumming and string instruments.

Guests from around 30 nations were present, including the US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, George Mennen, and the Soviet Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Grigori Pashchenko.

Flag up -
The major celebration will begin tonight when the Union Jack is lowered for the last time and replaced with the red, white, blue and green of the Gambian national flag.

Presentations from the Gambian and British delegations will complete the formal beginning of independence.

The British Government has promised to provide support for Gambia, valued at £3m for the next two-and-a-half years".

In 1965 the Gambia had a total population of 320,000.


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