A Comparative Analysis of Dauda Jawara and Yahya Jammeh’s Foreign Policy in the Gambia (1965-2016)

Cite this article: Senghore, A. A. 2023. A Comparative Analysis of Dauda Jawara and Yahya Jammeh’s Foreign Policy in the Gambia (1965-2016). Sokoto Journal of History Vol. 12. Pp. 87-101. www.doi.org/10.36349/sokotojh.2023.v12i01.008

A Comparative Analysis of Dauda Jawara and Yahya Jammeh’s Foreign Policy in the Gambia (1965-2016)

Abubakar Abdullahi Senghore

Deputy Director General, IRCICA, Istanbul-Turkey 


This paper provides a comparative analysis of foreign policies of Gambia under President Dawda Jawara, from 1965 -1994 and Yahya Jammeh, Gambia’s Head of State and a civilian President from 1994-2017. The paper utilized secondary materials from journals, books, newspapers, government reports and other relevant secondary documents. The findings of the study show that the Gambia’s foreign policy under Dawda Jawara exhibits dynamism, in both formulation and implementation. However, evidence from the paper shows a radical transformation of Gambia’s foreign policy on the one hand and some kind of continuity, under the Jammeh administration. The paper also found that Gambia’s foreign policy under the administration of Dawda Jawara was largely pro-west, against its afrocentric claims. Gambia under Jawara relied heavily on handouts (foreign aid) from the West. However, evidence exist to show a paradigm shift and a radical transformation of the Gambia’s foreign policy under Yahya Jammeh that was engraved with anti-West and pro- Asia rhetorics, with considerable attention given to African Affairs. This treatise concludes that leadership personality and the type of government in power played a strong role in determining and shaping foreign policy direction of a state, as demonstrated in Gambian state under Dauda Jawara and Yahya Jammmeh.

Keywords: Foreign Policy, United States, China, Taiwan, Jawara, Jammeh, Africa, Asia


Presidents Dawda Jawara and Yahya Jammeh were Gambian leaders who ruled the country between 1965 and 2016. Dawda Kairaba Jawara was the Gambian president from 1965 to 1994, while Yahya Jammeh governed the country from 1994 to 2016. While Jawara ruled as a civilian President, Yahya Jammeh was both a military Head of State and a civilian President. These two personalities governed for a long period in the history of Gambia as a sovereign political entity.

While Jawara’s leadership qualities had played a key role in determining the Gambia’s foreign policy in giving it a measure of continuity, obviously Jammeh’s radical approach to foreign policy accounted for a change. No doubt, leadership plays a significant role in determining the process, direction and implementation of a country’s foreign policy and which to a large extent, remains a key function of the leader in power. Thus, the evolution and implementation of the Gambia’s foreign policy, like many other states has the imprint of the President or leader in power.

The Gambian foreign policy from 1965 (when it received political independence) and in line with section 219 of the Second Republic’s Constitution, is to achieve national interest of the state (government stability, territorial integrity, sovereignty, and equality of every state in the comity of nations); maintain just and equitable economic and social order; abide by the basic principles of international law and respect for every international organisation which the state is a signatory to. The effective operation of this foreign policy had meaningfully impacted on the growth, development as well as positive and negative image of The Gambia to the extent of catalyzing subsequent reforms and refinements.

This paper is therefore a comparative analysis of foreign policy of the Gambian state under the two logest serving leaders between 1965 and 2016. The paper thus analyzed the foreign policy postures of Gambian two epochs and examined what accounted for continuity and change in the context of radical departure from the pre-existing norms. Attention has been paid to the critical role played by Jawara and Jammeh’s personalities in alternating the country’s foreign policy during the two periods. Indeed, the role of leadership in foreign policy cannot be overemphasized. Political leadership of any country is important in the formulation and implementation of both domestic and foreign policies. As argued in this paper, Jawara showed, resourcefulness, political astuteness and strong judgment as a civilian President and personal qualities that are crucial to a dynamic a foreign policy regime .On the other hand, Jammeh took a revolutionary and uncompromising approach in the foreign policy direction of his government. The paper relied on secondary materials as major sources of its data. Using an actor-specific approach, and relying on Margaret Hermann’s Leadership Trait Analysis, the paper concludes that Jawara exhibited “high leadership skills and the ability to control events”, and “high need for power”, depicting how long he ruled the country. Jammeh on the other hand, displayed a hardline and sometimes Pan-Africanist or nationalist attitude as well as a high need for power in the foreign policy direction his administration.

Conceptual Framework Clarification

Even though scholars differ on the definition of foreign policy, that it has to do with the behaviour of a state towards other states. According to George Modelski (1962:6-7), “Foreign policy is the system of activities evolved by communities for changing the behaviour of other states and for adjusting their own activities to the international environment”. Therefore, Foreign Policy must throw light on the ways in which states attempt to change, and succeed in changing, the behaviour of other states. Along this line, the objective of foreign policy is not only to change but also to regulate behaviour of other states by ensuring continuity of their favourable actions. Also “Foreign Policy consists of decisions and actions, which involve to some appreciable extent relations between one state and others.” (Frankel, 1963:1). From the above definitions, the following facts are conspicuous; foreign policy is a state’s policy; it deals with the external environment; the core of foreign policy consists of achieving the national objectives of a nation by interacting with other states. With the term “foreign”, there is a clear distinction between foreign policy and domestic policy. “Foreign policy applies to policy toward the world outside states’ territorial borders, and “domestic” policy is meant to apply to policy regarding International Affairs and Global Strategy made for the internal political system. However, the forces of globalisation that have turned the world to a global village have blurred the distinction between foreign and domestic policies. This does not mean that there is no longer a marked difference between foreign and domestic policies and a distinction can be made based on the intended target of the policy. If the primary target lies outside the country’s borders, it is considered foreign policy, and if the primary target is inside the country, it is considered domestic policy.


Dawda Jawara’s Administrative Foreign Policy (1965-1994)

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) won the elections of 1962 which paved the way for Gambia’s self-government with Dawda Jawara as the Prime Minister. In February 1965, The Gambia became independent and in April 1970 a Republic, with Al-Haji Sir Dawda Jawara as its first president.(Gray,1940).He held the post for almost three decades; having successfully been re-elected in a country which embraced plural democracy from the moment of self-government. Independence naturally led to the creation of governmental machinery, which in turn necessitated the creation of relevant administrative structures to oversee the country’s relations with the outside world. The Gambia’s foreign policy since independence has been viewed from different perspectives. Wogu et. al. (2015), further contend that the Gambia’s foreign policy is constantly in a state of flux as a result of internal and external dynamics inherent in Jawara’s administrations. Some other writers however maintain that notwithstanding that Jawara ruled the country for twenty- nine years that the substance of Gambia’s foreign policy has remained the same. For instance, from 1965 to date, the Gambia has maintained a relatively consistent foreign policy considering the fact that the country had been ruled by one man for almost three decades. Right from independence, Africa was the centerpiece of Gambia’s foreign policy with emphasis on the emancipation, development and unity of Africa

Despite the divergent views of scholars about the nature of Gambia’s foreign policy, there are certain principles that have underpinned the country’s foreign policy. According to Janneh, (2017), Gambia pursued a non- aligned policy for most of President Dawda Jawara's tenure in office from 1965-1994. However, generic principles influencing and guiding the conduct of The Gambia’s foreign policy have been aptly captured: non-alignment (not successful as she unabashedly tilted to the West), the legal equality of all states, non-interference in the domestic affairs of other states, multilateral diplomacy and Afrocentrism (Olusanya & Akindele, 1986:3-5).

According to Saine (2008), since gaining political independence in 1965, the Gambia's foreign policy was driven by two interrelated objectives. The first, was the desire to maintain territorial sovereignty, and the second had to do with attracting external economic resources. A pro-Western foreign policy under Jawara (1965–94), enabled his government to extract considerable financial assistance from the West.

The Gambia government, like its counterparts in many other small states created out of randomly constructed former colonial dependencies, faced three major immediate and longer-term challenges: to defend the country's national sovereignty, to promote economic and social development, and to ensure its own survival, both as a government and a nation. An effective foreign policy was seen as an essential tool by which these challenges could successfully be met. The Gambia's foreign policy objectives have majorly focused to strengthen security, promote economic development and project a good image of the country to the international community. It maintained close relations with the United Kingdom, Senegal and other African countries.

Despite its unpromising political and economic situation at independence, Prime Minister (later President) Sir Dawda Jawara skillfully ensured that Gambia achieved its primary foreign policy objective of retaining its sovereignty, albeit with difficulty in the 1980s. Moreover, by gradually developing good relations with a wide range of countries, including fellow African and fellow Muslim states, as well as with developed countries and communist states, Jawara made a major contribution to Gambia's limited resources through securing substantial external aid; thus, the second foreign policy aim was also fulfilled. To some extent, the third objective was also achieved, since the government's foreign policy making generally buttressed its domestic political standing and, more specifically, ensured that Senegal dispatched troops to suppress the 1981 coup. But ultimately this objective was not met, since Jawara's high standing internationally failed to secure external intervention due to the fact that twice his government was confronted by a coup in July 1994 (Hughes & Perfect 2006).

However, The Gambia’s foreign policy principles and objectives have been articulated as follows:

the protection of The Gambia’s national interest; respect for, and protection of, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of The Gambian State; promotion of the socio- economic well-being of Gambia; Enhancement of Gambia’s image and status in the world at large; respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states; non-interference in the internal affairs of other states; promotion of the unity and solidarity of African States; total political, economic, social, and cultural emancipation and rejuvenation of Africa, an unflinching commitment to the liberation of countries still under colonial rule, as well as removal of remaining vestiges of colonialism in Africa, the promotion of world peace based on the principles of freedom, mutual respect and equality of the world (Akindele& Ate, 2000: 15).

After independence in 1965 from Britain, Gambia established diplomatic ties with the Republic of China (ROC, Taipei) until 1974 when Gambia broke ties with the ROC and established diplomatic ties with the People’s Republic of China (PRC, Beijing), which lasted until 1994, when Yahya Jammeh took over power of the country in a bloodless military coup, on the 22nd of July of that year. Since then, Gambia had had ties with Taiwan until 2013.

On foreign affairs, the government of Jawara adopted a pragmatic and gradual approach to opening diplomatic missions abroad. Within the first year of independence the country gained membership of the United Nations Organisation (UNO), Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and the Commonwealth of Nations. Immediately after independence, the first two missions were opened in London and in Dakar (Senegal) respectively, with the High Commissioners accredited to both their host countries as well as to neighboring countries in each of their respective regions. Under Dawda Jawara, while Gambia was under the influence of the British, her neighbor Senegal, was under the French, but President Jawara’s style of foreign policy for Gambia helped foster closer alliance between the two countries in order to enhance their economies, yet, he succeeded in resisting every effort to incorporate Gambia with Senegal.

The height of its relationship with Senegal metamorphosed into the Senegambia Confederation of 1982. It was a coalition for cooperation for defence, foreign affairs, bilingualism and overseas representation as the change least likely to jeopardize Gambian autonomy. Though Senegal and Gambia cooperated on several fronts, they retained different domestic economic agendas. Be it as it may,in 1989, the Senegambia Confederation collapsed as the new organization was regarded as a personal collaboration between two rulers (Abdul Diouf and Dawda Jawara, particularly the latter who benefited from the presence of the Senegalese army for his own personal security and for the stability of his government ) rather than as a friendly alliance between two independent countries. In August of 1989, President Diouf acknowledged the Confederation’s failure and proposed that it be frozen.

The country initially had a mutually robust relationship with Libya, until the Jawara administration suspected that Libya had recruited and trained some Gambian soldiers as mercenaries and funded the Movement for Justice in Africa, a small Gambian radical group. Consequently, Jawara broke his relationship with Libya. On July 30th, 1981, the Movement for Justice in Africa, attempted a coup d’état in Banjul, but was quelled by Jawara with Senegal’s military intervention, costing more than 600 lives and destruction of properties worth millions of dollars. Firmly in control, Jawara launched the reconstruction of a shattered Banjul and instituted a prudent curfew. Over time more diplomatic ties were established in tandem with the country's economic growth (The Gambia-Ten Years of Nationhood, 1975).

The drive for growth and development continued through the mid 1980s when the economy suffered major setbacks arising mainly from steep global recession following the second oil shock of 1979, persistent droughts, declining world market prices for the country's domestic exports and increased public expenditures. Working in close partnership with the World Bank, the IMF and other donors the crisis was brought under control through comprehensive and rigorous adjustments and reforms programs backed by a strong political will on the part of the government. The reforms enabled the government to reconfigure its development strategy and focus more on improving productivity and stimulating growth on a sustainable basis.

Indeed, the Gambia’s first Prime Minister and President, Dawda Kairaba Jawara played a significant role in the emergence and institutionalization of Gambia’s foreign policy. As a matter of fact, the foreign policy foundation that Jawara laid is what Yahya Jammeh and Adama Barrow built upon.

Yahya Jammeh Foreign Policy Administration

The spectacular rise of Yahya Jammeh from a junior army officer to Head of State, president and to the level of being branded a dictator by his critics in Gambia is one of the greatest phenomena in the history of the country (Nnaocha&Bojang 2019).On coming to power in a bloodless coup on 22 July 1994, Yahya Jammeh gradually established himself as a controversial leader. He was re- elected as President in 2001, 2006 and 2011, but lost to Adama Barrow in2016.During the last decades of his rule, he became known for his controversial speeches at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), AU and ECOWAS assembly of heads of states and government meetings and his anti-Western rhetoric.

Yahya Jammeh’s critics argued that his foreign policy posture was very erratic that lacked a sense of direction in many instances. They argued that it was very difficult to ascertain what constituted ‘national and personal interests’ under him because of his self- aggrandizing approach to foreign policy and his personalization of national resources. Coming from a military background coupled with his unpredictable approach to diplomacy and foreign policy related matters in an economically weak and poor country, such as Gambia Jammeh according to his critics, could not have been a major actor in foreign policy and diplomacy in the region and beyond. Thus, he was in sharp contrast to his predecessor, former president Sir Dawda Jawara.

On the other hand, Jammeh’s supporters sharply disagreed with his critics and political enemies on the way they described him (a dictator), and their negative description of his approach to foreign policy formulation and implementation. For them Jammeh was a pan- Africanist revolutionary leader, who stood against Western hegemony and imperialism and his 1994 takeover was a revolution, which had positively changed the country for good.

They made clear references to the vast infrastructural developments he achieved, the institutional reforms he succeeded in doing while serving as President in Gambia as well as his strong support and firm commitment in the promotion of women and youths, regional and sub regional peace, stability and development and people's religious beliefs and African cultures across the board.( AA Senghore2017.)

In any case, Gambia’s relationship with the international community; especially the Western powers, was always strained. Jammeh saw the West as ‘locusts’ and he often described them as ‘caterpillars who have come to devour African resources to develop their home countries. To him, the international power structure was not even; as it was lopsided and aimed at siphoning off natural resources of smaller and weaker nations .Jammeh saw Senegal as a very unpredictable, unreliable and dishonest neighboring country who harbored Gambia’s political dissidents. To Senegal also, Jammeh was a promoter of the secessionist movement led by MFDC fighting for an independent homeland in the Southern Senegal’s region of Casamance. This deeply seated mistrust between the two countries throughout Jammeh’s time, which shared everything in common except for their colonial legacies, had resulted into a strained relationship that led to constant border closures between Gambia and Senegal.

The European Union (EU) is Gambia’s main traditional aid donor. However, when Jammeh grew increasingly belligerent; and constantly accused of being authoritarian in nature, he became a target for critics in Europe and in the West in general, as he was berated for, what they called, his poor human rights records. The EU grew increasingly intolerant of his hardline attitude and of what they referred to as his iron-fist rule. Consequently, Brussels withheld millions of Euros to Gambia. Jammeh in turn,fired back by expelling the EU’s top diplomat in the country after he had accused the bloc of conniving to besmirch the image of his government for its stance on homosexuality.

The EU’s reform came at a time when the foreign aid landscape has been inundated with new players of different approaches. This includes but not limited to China, Qatar, Kuwait, to name but few. This puts many options on the table for aid recipient-countries like Gambia. This also came at a time when China’s material power was relatively growing, consequently, expanding the Communist state’s foreign policy ambitions. Furthermore, Jammeh broke ties with Iran amid Gambia’s deteriorating relations with Senegal, which is one of Saudi Arabia’s major development partners in Muslim Africa. Notwithstanding, Gambia succeeded in maintaining close ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia throughout the 22 year period of Jammeh’s rule. His declaration of intention to establish an Islamic political identity for Gambia was seen by his critics as an attempt to extract financial resources from the Arabian Gulf states and also to win local Muslim’s support for his re-election bid in 2016 (Dos Santos, 2016).

Under the constitution, state and governance system of Gambia, the country’s Foreign Minister oversees the foreign ministry and its institutions as well as the country’s external relations with foreign countries. However, this Ministry under Jammeh has probably been the most unstable and unpredictable ministry of The Gambian government during his twenty- two (22) year reign as president of the country. This is clearly evident from the high turnover of ministers who served the Foreign Ministry under Yahya Jammeh.

From 1994 to 2016 a total of twenty-three (23) Ministers served as Foreign Ministers of Gambia if we double count the few ministers who came in twice as Ministers of Foreign Affairs under Jammeh such as Bala Garba Jahumpa and the author of this article. Equally, Permanent Secretaries and Deputy Permanent Secretaries of the Foreign Ministry were also being frequently moved in and out of the Ministry.

This scary figures of high turnover of Ministers who served as Foreign Ministers under Yahya Jammeh is in sharp contrast to only six Ministers who served the same Ministry under Sir Dawda Jawara whose reign lasted for about thirty (30) years- i.e., from 1965 to 1994. This is also the case here if we double count Alieu Badara Njie who came in twice as an external affairs Minister under Sir Dawda Jawara. Otherwise, the figure goes down to five (5) ministers throughout the lifespan of the First Republic. Similarly, ambassadors, deputy ambassadors and other senior staff of Gambia diplomatic and foreign missions were constantly subjected to an arbitrary, irregular and unconventional pattern of hiring and firing or redeployments and recalls under Jammeh. This scenario clearly points out to the erratic, unstable and unpredictable nature of Gambia’s Foreign policy and diplomacy during the lifespan of the second republic. (22years- from 22nd of July, 1994 to December, 31st 2016).

President Yahya Jammeh broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan after two decades of a marriage of convenience; he became ever more hostile to the West; and sought cooperation with China and the Arabian Gulf states including chiefly, Qatar and Kuwait (Jeng, 2016). The aim of this particular section is to understand what state-level and system-level variables could have motivated the gradual shift in Gambia’s foreign policy under Jammeh, particularly in the period between 2006 and 2016. Why did Jammeh, despite depending so much on the European Union (EU) for financial support, grow increasingly belligerent and uncooperative, leading him to cut ties with the bloc, expel its top-diplomat, and shift Gambia’s foreign policy toward China and the Gulf? (Jeng, 2016). His paradigm shift in foreign policy and the diversification of the foreign aid landscape were primarily motivated by China’s relatively growing economic capabilities and Qatar’s financial and political influence especially after the latter was awarded the chance to arhost the 2022 World Cup. At the domestic level, he declared his intention to embark upon establishing an Islamic political identity for Gambia and at the same time trying to retain the non- alignment status of his government. This is an explanatory single case study of foreign policy strategies of the Jammeh administration.

For some scholars , there are three concepts that informed Gambia’s foreign policy shift at state- level under Yahya Jammeh: leadership: image, perceptions and misperceptions; this is perhaps, a direct reference to his declaration of intent to establish an Islamic political identity in Gambia in 2016; and the country’s domestic political and institutional setting (Jeng, 2016).

All this was happening at a time when the Jammeh administration was a subject of severe criticism and repeated accusations, by his political enemies of being dictatorial in character and bent on violating the fundamental human rights of the citizens, the principle of rule of law and above all, ruling the country with an iron fist, coupled with the fact that Some of the countries that Gambia shared diplomatic relations with were not comfortable with or supportive of Jammeh’s style of leadership. As mentioned earlier, the EU grew increasingly intolerant of the Jammeh administration and consequently, Brussels withheld millions of Euros proposed as aid to Gambia. Jammeh angrily fired back by expelling the EU’s top diplomat in the country after he had accused the bloc and human rights activists of conniving to besmirch the image of his government for its stance on homosexuality (Bennett-Smith, M. 2016). The EU’s call for political and governance reform in Banjul, came at a time when the foreign aid landscape has been inundated with new players of different approaches. This includes but not limited to China, Qatar, Kuwait, to name but a few. This new reality, as I already alluded to, puts many options on the table for aid recipient-countries, such as The Gambia.

The grand strategy of Gambia’s foreign policy during the Second Republic was basically African centred and officially espoused to a non-alignment foreign policy orientation. So, Pan- Africanism and non-alignment were among the chief foreign policy principles of the Jammeh administration. Nonetheless, Gambia’s foreign policy under Jammeh from 1994 to 2016 was empirically controversial and sometimes unpopular given certain foreign policy decisions that were often made.

It is therefore, apt to say that Gambian foreign policy under Jammeh had from time to time experienced some kind of paradigm shift from hard power to non-coercive soft power and became, sometimes whim - seeking approaches to basically, receive handouts from major actors in international diplomacy; This, admittedly, had in some instances served Gambia and Gambians though, in a very minute way. Shifting recognition and diplomatic relations from the People’s Republic of China to Taiwan immediately after the military takeover in 1994 and his sudden decision to break ties with the later and resumed normal relations with the former, is a clear example of that (Tseng, 2009)

The Foreign policy change during Gambia’s Second Republic rendered the core and career diplomats mere on -lookers and spectators, becauses the Presidency hijacked foreign policy formulation and implementation and effectively took control over the Foreign Ministry. Major decisions were often taken directly by the president without consulting or even informing the Ministers. This singular action led to harsh criticisms that foreign policies in the second republic were self-interest-serving and nothing else. Arguably, the foreign policies of small, poor, and weak states have largely escaped the attention of mainstream International Relations. However, Gambia under Jammeh was and perhaps, is still an exception to this.

This is because domestic intervening variables can and do alter states’ foreign policy behaviours as it happened under Jammeh. Thus Gambia’s foreign policy under president Jammeh clipped the hands of the citizenry as it did to the country’s Chief diplomats and team. His Foreign policies led to him being repeatedly subjected to severe criticism and branded as a dictator with his government constantly accused of widespread human rights abuses, including forced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, and other forms of human rights abuses such as arbitrary arrests and detentions.

President Jammeh’s foreign policy style led to a constantly strained relationship with the sole neighboring country of Senegal. He had very little, if any, trust in Senegal’s political leaders and their successive governments. Interestingly, Jammeh as President of Gambia worked with Senegal’s three presidents of Joof, Wadde, and Sall, the current one. His attitude towards Senegalese political leaders throughout his 22 year rule largely remained unchanged. In 2013, Jammeh withdrew Gambia from the Commonwealth of Nations (The Gambia later rejoined on 8 February 2018 under President Adama Barrow), and in 2016 he began the process of withdrawing the country from the International Criminal Court (later rescinded by the Barrow administration ).

Eventually, though, signs of domestic discord appeared, Jammeh’s rule and political authority became increasingly stronger , and by 1998,despite accusations that the corruption he had pledged to eliminate was evident in his own administration, most Gambians had no doubt that he was their right choice to lead and develop the country given several developmental projects that he started or even completed during the two years period he served as a Military ruler . Notwithstanding, Media freedom was restricted, and an increasing number of human rights cases or issues were cited by international observers as instances of disrespect and abuse .With all signs of domestic discord and accusations by international observers of his human rights records and democratic credentials, Jammeh was still re-elected in 2001,2006 and in 2011, in elections deemed generally free and fair, though with some minor irregularities that couldn’t in any way alter the outcome of those elections and their democratic character. However, his re- election in 2011 was denounced by the opposition, while the opinions of international organizations were mixed (Clark, 2016)

For instance, the African Union, while noting some shortcomings with the electoral process and evidence of a media bias in favour of Jammeh, still found the election to be generally free and fair. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), however, refused to even send a monitoring group to the election, stating that its pre-election fact-finding mission found evidence of intimidation and government control of the media and that a free and fair election would not be possible.

The Jammeh administration’s foreign policy, from all indications, is tilted towards the Asian countries, aside with the neighboring Senegal and other African countries. As alluded to above, the Senegal- Gambia relations were always subjected to tests as Jammeh was accused or to say the least, suspected of keeping close relationship with the Jola ethnic group in the Casamance region of Senegal, the MFDC ( perhaps because Jammeh comes from the same ethnic group) , and who, according to critics allowed him to "rule with impunity" or with adequate security . In turn, Jammeh supported the rebels in the Casamance conflict, by engaging in the trade of illegal drugs, small arms, and also money- laundering with the rebel groups. This brought about skirmishes between the Gambia and Senegal, for instance between August and October 2005, a border feud between Gambia and Senegal arose over increased ferry prices for crossings over the Gambia River to Southern Senegal. It was later settled.

On the other hand, Jammeh had persistently and vehemently denied providing support to or doing anything with the Casamance rebels or receiving any military and security support from MFDC by always arguing that he had a well trained regular professional army and therefore, did not need any support or to do anything with a group of rebels.

The advent of President Adama Barrow in 2017, improved The Gambia’s international reputation; in the eyes of Jammeh’s critics such as aid organizations that had left the country after the coup by Jammeh in 1914 and they began assisting The Gambia once again.

Despite the inconsistency with and sometimes the controversy surrounding her foreign policy, Gambia under Jammeh remained fully engaged in sub- regional, regional and global affairs. The country sent peacekeeping forces into war-ravaged Liberia and Darfur in western Sudan and worked hard on improving relations with Senegal, though areas along the border on the upper river regions remained in dispute. At regional level, in Africa, the country was engaged in mediation and peacekeeping roles. Shortly after the outbreak of the Guinea-Bissau Civil War in June 1998, Jammeh sought a peaceful resolution to the conflict. He personally canvassed regional opinion on the conflicts with su regional leaders in Cape Verde, Mauritania, Guinea, Mali and Senegal, and sent his Foreign Minister, to meet with the rebel leader in Guinea Bissau, Ansumane Mane to fruitlessly attempt to arrange peace talks in Banjul to end the conflict in Bissau Guinea.

Jammeh had relations with some Asian countries including Indonesia and Taiwan and had maintained strong diplomatic ties with the latter , to the extent that Taiwan then served as the financial lifeline for Gambia, as part of its campaign for international support at the United Nations. He later cut ties with Taiwan during the latter part of his presidency and shifted political recognition to China, despite the fact that the then President Ma Ying-jeouof Taiwan visited Gambia.

Jammeh later adopted Pan-Africanism, as the cornerstone of Gambia’s foreign policy. This was anchored on the slogan of ‘development at our own pace’ as against imposed western values and aid conditionalities that have no link or relevance with Africa’s socio-cultural development. In actualising this, any perceived pro-West position was always met with strong response. This was perhaps why his administration was accused of the incarceration of a journalist, EbrimaManneh, who is rumoured to have died in prison after being tortured by security agents for his publication of an article downloadedfrom the BBC website that was critical of Africa and The Gambian political system (Sowe, 2010).

To further his anti-colonialist stance, he changed the name of popular James Island to Kunta Kinteh, derived from The Root movie. To remain relevant in the comity of nations, Gambia foreign policy focused on Pan- Africanism and Jammeh’s Pan-Africanism was met with various coup attempts believed to have had the backing of the West and their multinationals, chiefly from the UK and USA (Amusan, 2018). For instance, Jammeh’s administration was the subject of coup attempts in 2000, 2006, and 2014 respectively, which, although unsuccessful, underlined the growing discontent in the country.

Jammeh’s status as a diplomatic superpower is perceived from his audacity to expel the Director of US National Democratic Institute, British Deputy High Commissioner, US Deputy Ambassador, UN Representative to The Gambia, UNICEF Chief Envoy, and the Iranian Government Representatives from his country with little or no consequences. Yet, it clearly indicated a personalized diplomacy and the fact that Jammeh’s influence was overbearing on Gambia’s foreign policy (Amusan, 2018).When Jammeh realised that he could get away with these, he went further to declare the EU envoy persona non grata and refused to receive a letter of credence from the newly appointed EU envoy to the Gambia . Instead, he directed his Foreign Affairs Minister, of the time to perform the diplomatic niceties because of his distaste for European diplomatic engagements.( Phatey, 2015).

While all this was going on, there was one genuine cause for concern for some Western European countries , such as Italy and Spain. They feared that economic hardship in Banjul might force the young able men and women to embark on illegal journeys through the Mediterranean in a bid to get into Europe. This fear in actual fact became a reality with a very sad and unfortunate outcome in Gambia- EU relations as many young people lost their lives while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe .

The Impact of Dawda Jawara and Yahya Jammeh’s Foreign Policy in Gambia

Since independence, the guiding principle of Gambia’s foreign policy and the pursuit of its national interests, in both its bilateral and its multilateral relations, have remained a reflection of its perception of the international environment. A constant feature that has remained central to the Gambia’s foreign policy architecture has been Africa, with pre-occupations concerning fighting colonialism, apartheid and discrimination of black peoples in the African continent and elsewhere in the world. More so, in all of those endeavours, Gambia is believed to have never benefited much from its external relations with states and non-state actors alike. However, with the advent of Gambia’s Second Republic under Jammeh, there was a paradigm shift to economic diplomacy, as a result of the lingering economic crisis and non – availability of capital to finance the country’s capital projects.

The impacts of the foreign policies of Dauda Jawara’s administration on Gambia, its people, and on the neighboring countries as well as the rest of the world have been resounding and far reaching. In international economic relations, the Jawara administration was able to pursue an independent policy despite pressure from the Capitalist West and its giant economic institutions such as IMF & the World Bank for the devaluation of the national currency - the Dalasi due to prevailing economic imbalance. Notwithstanding this pressure, the Jawara government was able to maintain the value of Dalasi against major international currencies such as the dollar and the Pounds and provide basic service for the populace until the 1980s. Moreover, the government was able to pursue an independent foreign policy without unnecessary influence from the former colonial power - the United Kingdom, or other western powers. Overall, Gambia under Sir Dawda was able to pursue a foreign policy which was relevant to the achievement of the country’s national interest through the instrumentality of international organizations such as ECOWAS, O.A.U, the Non Aligned movement and the U.N.

The Gambian foreign policy from 1965 (when it received its political independence) and in line with section 219 of the Second Republic Constitution, as highlighted earlier, is to achieve national interest of the state (government stability, territorial integrity, sovereignty and equality of every state in the comity of nations); maintain just and equitable economic and social order; abide by the basic principles of international law and respect and abide by its obligations in every international organisation which the state is a signatory to.

Despite his humble upbringing, Jawara’s foreign exposure and education at the University of Legon in Ghana and the University of Glasgow, Scotland, had given him a wider world outlook that went a long way in moderating influence in his country’s foreign policies. The influence of British colonialism also ensured that Gambia gave a soft side of policy consideration to the United Kingdom as well as other western superpowers. This afforded him the opportunity to receive about $53 million in annual foreign aid throughout the 1980s as well as loans from the World Bank, Africa Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank( IDB) and other Islamic financial institutions and ensured greater development across the country(World Bank, 1980).

The Dawda Jawara’s government adopted a pragmatic and gradual approach to opening diplomatic missions abroad. Within the first few years of independence the country gained membership of the UN, OAU and the Commonwealth. Immediately after independence, the first two missions were opened in London and in Dakar, with the High Commissioners accredited to both their host countries as well as to neighbouring countries in each of their respective regions. This afforded Gambia to contribute to the aspirations of the UN, OAU and the Commonwealth, especially in the promotion of regional integration, enhancement and stabilization of peace process, conflict resolution, promotion of international trade and commerce and partnership to develop the economy of the African continent as a whole.

Under Jawara, Gambia promoted viable cooperation with her neighbors to maintain good neighbourliness, regional and international peace, to enhance each other’s economies and the standard of living of their respective peoples.

The overall effects of the foreign policy approach of the Jawara administration contributed to boost the economy of the Africa continent. This perhaps was why Gambia changed her foreign policy toward Libya and several other countries promoting insecurity by training mercenaries, to help in no small measure stem the tide of arm struggles and insurgency in the region. The country initially had a mutually robust relationship with Libya, until she realized that Libya had allegedly recruited and trained some Gambian soldiers as mercenaries and funded the Movement for Justice in Africa, a small Gambian radical group. As a result, Jawara severed relationship with Libya.

The close partnership of Gambia with the World Bank, the IMF and other donours, under Dauda Jawara helped in no small ways to addressing the economic crisis, bringing it under control through comprehensive and rigorous adjustments and reforms backed by a strong political will on the part of the government. The reforms enabled the government to reconfigure its development strategy and focus more on improving productivity and stimulating growth on a sustainable basis. The people experienced an enhanced standard of living and a relatively better working condition. Thus, justifying most of the inputs in the Gambia’s foreign policies under the Dawda Jawaras’ administration.

There was a paradigm shift of Gambia’s foreign policy under Yahya Jammeh. The 22 years leadership of Yahya Jammeh witnessed oscillation of Gambia’s foreign policy from the doctrine of non-alignment to a shift to the Asian countries, particularly, Taiwan, China, Kuwait, Turkey and Qatar. Abnitio, Gambia, under Yahya Jammeh, had initially had a robust relation with the European Union, but the repeated accusations of human rights violations against his administration by critics had brought him into conflicts with the EU. He thus strained Gambia’s relations with the EU and the country lost millions of the block’s aid money.

The Gambia under Yahya Jammeh sent peacekeeping forces into various conflict ridden regions including war-ravaged Liberia in West Africa. He also worked on improving relations with Senegal, though areas along the border on the upper river region of Gambia remained in dispute. At regional level, in Africa, he was engaged in mediation and peacekeeping roles. Shortly after the outbreak of the Guinea-Bissau Civil War in June 1998, Jammeh sought a peaceful resolution to the conflict. He personally canvassed regional opinion on the war with immediate neighbors like Cape Verde, Mauritania, Guinea Conakry and Senegal, and sent his Foreign Minister, to meet with the rebel leader in Guinea Bissau, Ansumane Mané to fruitlessly attempt to arrange peace talks in Banjul.

As already alluded to, Gambia foreign policy in the second republic focused on pan-Africanism and Jammeh’s pan- Africanism was met with various coup attempts believed to have had the backing of the West and their multinationals, chiefly from the UK and USA. Jammeh’s Pan-Africanism was anchored on ‘development at our own pace’ as against imposed western values that have no link with Africa’s socio- cultural development. In actualizing this, any perceived pro-West position was always met with stiff resistance . In his Pan- Africanism posture of Foreign Policy, Jammeh was able to send military missions to Liberia and Sierra Leone respectively, as well as Darfour in western Sudan which contributed immensely in restoring peace and order to those troubled regions.

Jammeh’s sudden decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Nations was interpreted by his critics and political opponents as an act portraying Gambia as an unstable country. Their objective was perhaps just to scare potential investors away. No one can deny the fact that Gambia under Jammeh was very secured and stable, despite numerous coup attempts to unseat him. The West African nation branded the 54 member grouping, which includes the UK and most of its former colonies, a "neo-colonial institution"."Decisions on Commonwealth membership are a matter for each member government” theJammeh administration argued. This unpopular decision was lamented by the Commonwealth itself. “We would very much regret Gambia, or any other country, deciding to leave the Commonwealth." (BBC, 2013). This cost the investment climate of the country a huge set back. Nationally, the Jammeh government disagreed with the above remark.


The paper interrogated Dawda Jawara and Yahya Jammeh’s foreign policy in Gambia. Under Jawara the Gambia’s foreign policy experienced a lease of life and dynamism, and a golden moment in both foreign policy formulation and implementation. His foreign policy objectives and formulation tilted towards Senegal, UK and the USA. While The Gambia’s foreign policy under the administration of Dawda Jawara tilted to the West although it claimed Africa was the centrepiece of her projections and legal protection, the Jawara administration still relied heavily on and looked up to foreign aid from the West. However, one could notice a combination of continuity and change and a radical transformation and repackaging of Gambia’s foreign policy in Jammeh’s administration compared to the previous one under Jawara. Jammeh pursued a more radical foreign policy which was, for some time, anti-West and pro- African. While Gambia’s foreign policy under the administration of Yahya Jammeh tilted towards Asian countries. Although it argued that Africa was the centrepiece of her projections and legal protection, it still relied heavily on handouts and aid from Asian countries. Notwithstanding , the Jammeh administration was always fully engaged in African affairs as clearly demonstrated by the country’s participation in several peacemaking and peacekeeping missions in various troubled regions of the continent.

The basis for comparing the foreign policies of Dawda Jawara and Yahya Jammeh’s administration is to clearly bring to the fore that leadership plays an immense role in determining the process and direction of a country’s foreign policy. This is ostensibly because foreign policy objectives originate from the leaders table who determine how they are packaged and implemented. Overall, Gambia’s foreign policy, largely influenced by the leaders of the country, seeks to promote and protect the interests and sovereignty of the country, moving it towards the pathway to prosperity. Finally, it must be admitted at this juncture that the two administrations were respectively determined and worked hard to strengthen the rule of law, ensure internal security and increase accountability and transparency as another viable route and crucial steps toward sustainable growth.


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