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 struggle for Gambia's independence
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
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.
Small was 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 Kairaba Jawara).
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
This led to the resignation of Jawara as the Minister
of Education and precipitated a political crunch. The
colonial 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 self-rule.
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 1994.
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.