Gambia Country Report
Gambia's international image and attitude to investment are changing thanks to the installation of President Adama Barrow after the 22-year rule of the dictatorial Yahya Jammeh ended in exile in January 2017. The candidate of a united opposition then saw his United Democratic Party win an absolute majority in April 2017 legislative elections to strengthen his mandate. Barrow is also prioritising close relations with surrounding neighbour Senegal which helped install him in power, while China is being courted as the most likely source of major infrastructure, tourism and agriculture projects. Security services full of Jammeh appointees at senior levels still need careful restructuring to avoid further instability, and 10 soldiers were charged in November 2017 with treason and mutiny fora July plot to allegedly overthrow the government.
Industrial action has been rare due to former president Yahya Jammeh's threatening of union leaders and workers alike, and the habit of organising is likely to take time to acquire. Corruption is less significant than in most of West Africa, but is likely to ramp up gradually now the threat of possibly severe official retribution has been removed. Demands for facilitation payments had in any case remained common despite Jammeh's public claim of zero tolerance for such practices. Power and water shortages have become more frequent in the second half of 2017.
The Senegalese commander of the ECOMIG peacekeeping force in Gambia warned in July 2017 that exiled high-ranking former officials were plotting with hostile elements of the security forces still employed in Gambia. He added that members of death squads known as Jungulars have fled to Mauritania, Guinea, and Guinea-Bissau, and they would form the nucleus of a putative terrorist group aimed at destabilising the country. President Barrow has contended that such claims are exaggerated yet a group of 10 soldiers were charged with a treason plot in November 2017. The risk of kidnap, sporadic armed attacks, and robbery by Casamance rebels along southern highways is diminishing further.
The departure in January 2017 of Yahya Jammeh virtually eradicates any risk of uninvited military incursions by Senegal and promises a new era of co-operation with a country which facilitated the eventual installation of Adama Barrow. However, warnings from the head of ECOMIG in July 2017 that senior Jammeh loyalists were plotting to destabilise the country suggest that incidents of resistance to central government control will be organised in Jammeh's still volatile home region of Foni. This appears to be backed up by the charging of 10 soldiers in November 2017 with treason and mutiny relating to an alleged plot to overthrow the government the previous July.
Political protest and civil unrest have been rare because of fear of arbitrary arrests and prolonged detention without trial, and torture. A public liberated from the authoritarian Yahya Jammeh regime is likely to adjust slowly to the new freedoms. The advent of competitive democracy will see more political demonstrations in the capital Banjul, and demands articulated by unions. Attempts to hold protests in November 2017 over the poor performance of utility supplier NAWEC were dispersed by police citing security reasons, a spurious-seeming rationale that is likely to be increasingly contested by demonstrators feeling their actions are legal and legitimate.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required if traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission and over nine months of age.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).
Meningococcal Meningitis: For prolonged stays, or in case your travels will put you in close contact with a local population affected by an epidemic of the disease (for children over the age of two years).
Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - mefloquine (sometimes marketed as Lariam) or doxycycline (sometimes marketed as Vibramycin).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
Gambia's climate is subtropical and the country experiences two seasons. During the dry season (October to June), the Harmattan, a dry and dusty trade wind from the Sahara, often blows across the country between December to February. The rainy season lasts from July until November and often brings with it torrential rains and tornados. Temperatures are constant and high throughout the year and conditions are often sunny.
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