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
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.
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 1950抯, 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 him.
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