Sekondi Accra

President Yahya Jammeh is the clear favorite in the elections scheduled for September 2011 simply because there is little chance that Gambia's opposition parties will unite as they did in 2006 to field a joint candidate. The United Democratic Party led by Ousainou Darboe and which polled 26.7% of the vote in 2006, would like other smaller parties to join it to form a common front, but most Gambians seem unwilling to risk the trouble of supporting an opposition in what appears to be a fractious campaign.

President Jammeh's rule started 16 years ago as the result of a coup and he is wary that it does not end in the same manner. Often portrayed as a master of subterfuge, he has earned a reputation for constantly pitting potential challengers against each other. Even those in his closest are not above suspicion, as evidenced by the recent death sentence (July 2010) of former defense minister and leader of the country's Olympic committee, Lang Tombong Tamba, along with eight other officials for an alleged coup attempt in 2006.

All security agencies are closely monitored on a regular basis. Violent crime and drug trafficking are increasing. Former head of the National Drug Enforcement Agency Ibrahim Bun Sanneh and a former police chief, Ensa Badjie, went on trial in September 2010 on corruption and drug charges. The authorities seized over 2.1 tons of cocaine in June 2010 with assistance from the United Kingdom's Serious Organized Crime Agency, leading to charges against tweleve suspects. Tha National Assembly subsequently approved the death penalty for anyone convicted of possessing more than 250 grams of cocaine or heroin.

Western countries are dismayed with president Jammeh's purported herbal remedy for the AID's virus and his record on human rights. A billed entered before the US Senate in July 2010 sought to limit aid to $120,000 dollars for drug and law enforcement unless political prisoners, including journalist Ebrima Manneh, were released . In May 2010, the European Union (EU) froze a $25 million dollar disbursement of budget support because of concerns over human rights. The Commonwealth is undertaking quiet diplomacy to lobby for improved governance, but success has been miminal.However, additional aid continues from abroad. The Indian government has provided a loan for a $10 million dollar parliament building in Banjul, due for completion in 2011 while Arab donors have pledged $51 million dollars for a new campus for the University of the Gambia at Faraba Bantang.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), despite uncertainty at Gambia's finance ministry, predicts that the economy will increase by 5.4% in 2011, up slighty from 5% in 2010. Agriculture has been the primary driver of growth with farmers moving away from groundnut production towards rice. Areas under rice cultivation have doubled between 2007 and 2009. The expected privatisation of the Gambia Groundnut Company which was seized from the Swiss company Alimenta in 1999, has yet to materialize.

Rising exports helped achieve a balance of payments surplus of $48 million dollars in the first quarter of 2010 after a deficit in 2009. There was a decline in revenue from tourism and remittances, which had an adverse effect on the construction industry. The IMF criticized Gambia's level of fiscal discipline, especially the practice of using short-term treasury bills to finance costly debt. Year-on-year inflation rose to a 14-month high of 6.2% at the end of July 2010 and the increase of food prices in 2011 will most likely lead to more increases. Between 2007 and 2010 the number of banks doubled to 14, leading to increased compettition for deposits and loans. To strengthen the system, the government has started a two-step process to increase minimum capital requirements.


Official Data


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The U.S. Embassy in The Gambia is situated in Fajara on Kairaba Avenue, formerly known as Pipeline Road. Tel: [220] 4392856; fax [220] 4392475). The Peace Corps office also is on Kairaba Avenue near the embassy. (Tel. [220] 4392466). The international mailing address for the embassy is American Embassy, PMB 19, Kairaba Avenue, Banjul, The Gambia.
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