The Gambia

  1. Gambia records first cases of UK Covid variant


    The Gambia has recorded its first two cases of a coronavirus strain first detected in the UK, news agencies report.

    Health Minister Ahmadou Samateh told lawmakers the strain was detected in two people entering the country, the AFP reports.

    A second official, director of health services Mustapha Bittaye is quoted by Reuters as saying the first case was a man who had travelled from the UK, while the other was a Gambian woman.

    The ministry said it was tracking down the origins of transmission.

    The World Health Organization in its latest update listed 50 countries where the variant had been detected.

    None of the 50 countries was in the African continent.

  2. 'Unique' Covid-19 variant detected in Kenya

    A woman walks past the graffiti mural related to the COVID-19 coronavirus painted by the residential art group, art360, at the Kibera slum in Nairobi on June 2, 2020.
    Image caption: Kenya has had nearly 100,000 cases of Covid-19

    A new variant of the coronavirus has been detected in Kenya, preliminary research by the state-linked Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri) has revealed.

    The variant, unique to Kenya, had been detected in the south-east of the country following a study done between June and October, Kemri said.

    More research needed to be done to asses the impact of the variant, it added. It is perfectly normal for viruses to mutate, scientists say.

    Kenya has so far recorded nearly 100,000 cases of Covid-19 and more than 1,700 deaths.

    Meanwhile, the faster-spreading South African variant has been detected in three African states - neighbouring Botswana, Zambia and The Gambia in West Africa, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said.

    Africa has now topped three million Covid-19 cases, and daily case numbers were exceeding the first wave peak, it said.

    An average of 25,223 cases were reported each day between 28 December 2020 and 10 January 2021 in Africa, which is nearly 39% higher than the July 2020 two-week peak of 18,104 daily average cases, the WHO said.

    "Revamped public health measures are ever more critical to avert a runaway surge in infections that could stretch health facilities to the breaking point," it added.

    Read more:

  3. The Gambia explains voter registration delay

    BBC Monitoring

    The world through its media

    A street in Gambia's capital Banjul
    Image caption: Gambians will elect their next president at the end of 2021

    The Gambian electoral commission has defended its decision to postpone the voter registration exercise ahead of the 4 December presidential election.

    It cited logistical challenges around "procurement of materials and equipment needed for the successful conduct of the vote registration", The Point news website reports.

    The commission has however assured citizens that the delay will not affect the electoral calendar, insisting that the December polls will still go ahead as planned.

    The decision to postpone voter registration sparked a lot of debate, especially among the political class.

    The Standard news website reported that President Adama Barrow advised the electoral body against delaying the presidential election.

    Civil society groups are demanding an emergency meeting about the postponement, the website reports.

    In December 2019 the banned "Operation Three Years Jotna" movement staged protests in the capital Banjul to pressure President Barrow to honour his 2016 promise to stand down after a three-year transitional period.

  4. Gambian trader learnt how to make chocolate online

    A local businessman in The Gambia taught himself how to make chocolate and is now selling it after more than two years of practice.

    Fady Hocheimy learnt the skill online and has been giving the chocolate for free until last month when he started selling it.

    "I Googled a lot, I YouTubed a lot. I started following people who do chocolate in their homes in Europe and Canada. Of course I had to learn it step by step. The chocolate I make today is not the chocolate I made three years ago," he said.

    He kept trying out different recipes until it got to a point where the people he had give to taste wanted more.

    "Every batch I make I learn something new. I'm listening to the people who taste it. I just started selling chocolate a month ago so for two and a half years I was giving it out for free letting people taste," he said.

    Mr Hocheimy hopes to inspire other farmers.

    "I want Gambia to export cocoa in 10 to 15 years. I want more farmers to plant it," he said.

    Here is his full interview on BBC's Focus on Africa:

    Video content

    Video caption: Fady Hocheimy learned how to produce chocolate
  5. Gambia government blamed for rejected draft constitution

    Ousainou Darboe
    Image caption: Ousainou Darboe wants to run for presidency in 2021

    Gambia's opposition leader has blamed the government for the rejection of a draft constitution that would have limited presidential terms.

    Parliament rejected the draft constitution on Tuesday.

    A clause that prevented President Adama Barrow from resetting the clock to make him eligible for two more terms appears to have been the biggest sticking point.

    The United Democratic Party (UDP) leader, Ousainou Darboe, said the rejection of the draft was not a good sign for democracy.

    The next general elections are scheduled for next year.

    Mr Darboe vowed to reintroduce the draft constitution if the opposition wins the elections.

    President Barrow came to power in 2016 - ending 22 years of dictatorship under Yahya Jammeh.

  6. US sanctions ex-Gambian First Lady Zineb Jammeh

    Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh and his wife Zineb Jammeh at the White House in August 2014.

    The US state department has announced economic sanctions against Zineb Jammeh, the wife of Gambia’s former President, Yahya Jammeh.

    Zineb is believed to have assisted or facilitated the corruption carried out during her husband's 22-year reign in the West African country, the department said in a statement.

    "Zineb Jammeh is designated for her role in materially assisting, sponsoring, or providing support to her husband. She utilised a charitable foundation and charities as cover to facilitate the illicit transfer of funds to her husband," the statement said.

    The former president ruled The Gambia for more than 20 years. He fled the country after losing the 2017 elections and now lives in Equatorial Guinea.

  7. Scores of Senegalese troops test positive for Covid-19

    A soldier of ECOWAS troops patrols in a street after the former President Yahya Jammeh fled the country, in Banjul, Gambia on January 22, 2017.
    Image caption: The peacekeeping mission in The Gambia, deployed by regional bloc Ecowas in 2012, mainly consists of Senegalese soldiers.

    The Senegalese army says about 100 of its soldiers from the peacekeeping mission in The Gambia have tested positive for coronavirus.

    The military contingent composed of 600 soldiers was returning home.

    They have been quarantined in Toubacouta, on Senegalese territory near the border with The Gambia, as a precautionary measure.

    Those who tested positive are asymptomatic. More tests are being done.

    The peacekeeping mission in The Gambia, deployed by regional bloc Ecowas in 2012, mainly consists of Senegalese soldiers.

    It was deployed to force former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to hand over power to his elected successor Adama Barrow and to assist the new Gambian administration to address security challenges.

    The mission's mandate was extended during the last Ecowas meeting at the request of President Barrow.

  8. 'A letter that was never sent'

    BBC Focus on Africa radio

    As Focus on Africa radio celebrates 60 years on air, listeners from all over the continent have reflected on their relationship with the programme.

    Ebrima Jallow in The Gambia got in touch, and shared a picture of a letter that he intended to send to the Focus team in 2008.

    In it, he tells of how he listens every day - so much so that his friends call him "PAL of the BBC".

    "I want to text you all the time... but I don’t have mobile. I just want to tell you that you have a big listener in The Gambia," the letter reads:

    The letter Ebrima Jallow never sent to BBC Focus on Africa

    He names his favourite presenters from the Focus on Africa team and explains that he'd like to meet them one day.

    But Ebrima never sent the letter. He says that when he went to the post office, the clerk looked at the address and advised him not to send it for his own safety.

    The Gambia was under the authoritarian rule of Yahya Jammeh at the time, and the clerk was concerned that the government would screen the letter and target Ebrima as a result.

    "She said: 'Young man, save your life'," Ebrima told the BBC years later.

    Hear more of Ebrima Jallow’s memories of listening to Focus on Africa:

    Video content

    Video caption: Friends nicknamed avid listenter Ebrima Jallow "PAL of the BBC"
  9. Free coronavirus tests in Gambian capital

    Azeezat Olaoluwa

    Women’s Affairs Journalist, BBC News

    A market in Banjul, the capital of Gambia
    Image caption: Banjul's mayor says the city is 'highly vulnerable'

    Up to 100 people are to be tested for coronavirus each week in The Gambia's capital city, Banjul.

    Mayor Rohey Lowe said the tests will be free of charge in the city that has a population of more than 400,000 people.

    "We must know our health status to protect our family, friends and community. We will be testing between 50-100 people weekly. We are not able to do daily testing due to human resource constraints," she told the BBC.

    The Gambia's weak healthcare system has struggled to cope with the pandemic. President Adama Barrow last week declared a state of emergency - shutting border crossings and airspace.

    He also imposed nationwide night-time curfew for 21 days that will end on 26 August.

    The country has recorded more than 1,500 cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, and the capital is thought to be at risk of recording higher numbers.

    "Banjul is highly vulnerable due to the ferry terminal and major public places. However, with the efforts that have been made since the declaration of the state of public emergency, we will continue the awareness creation and ensure that the regulations are followed," the mayor said.

  10. Gambia leader declares Covid-19 state of emergency

    A market in Banjul, Gambia
    Image caption: Markets and shopping places will close every Sunday for fumigation

    The Gambia's President Adama Barrow has declared a state of emergency and a nationwide night-time curfew for 21 days as coronavirus cases keep rising.

    The president said The Gambia's borders and airspace would remain shut except for cargo, diplomats and those seeking treatment abroad.

    He said the rising number of cases were "worrisome", Anadolu news agency reports.

    The Gambia - normally popular with tourists because of its beaches - has recorded nearly 700 cases and 16 deaths.

    The vice-president and three ministers are among those infected by the virus, while the president tested negative on Monday.

    Places of worship remain closed in the country and schools will only allow final year students to sit for exit examinations from 17 August.

    All markets and shopping areas will close every Sunday for cleaning and fumigation.


  11. Three Gambian ministers test positive for coronavirus

    Three cabinet ministers in The Gambia have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a statement from the presidency.

    President Adama Barrow last week went into self-isolation after Vice-President Isatou Touray tested positive for the virus.

    Finance Minister Mambureh Njie, Petroleum and Energy Minister Fafa Sanyang and Agriculture Minister Amie Fabureh have also contracted the virus, the presidency said in a tweet:

    View more on twitter

    The Gambia has so far confirmed nearly 500 coronavirus cases and nine deaths.

    The government has made the wearing of face masks mandatory in public places and has also prohibited social gatherings.

  12. Gambia leader isolates after deputy contracts virus

    The Gambia's President Adama Barrow has gone into self-isolation after his vice-president, Isatou Touray, tested positive for coronavirus.

    Ms Touray said she was in "good spirits and will be going into quarantine".

    President Barrow will isolate for two weeks, according to a statement from the presidency.

    View more on twitter

    The country has so far confirmed 326 coronavirus cases and eight deaths, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University.

    The Gambian government has been urging citizens to wear masks and maintain a distance of three steps between each other to prevent the spread of the virus.

    More about coronavirus:

  13. Policewoman promoted for dedication in a downpour

    Policewoman being decorated

    A Gambian policewoman has been promoted after showing "diligence and dedication" by continuing to direct the traffic in heavy rain, Gambia's police magazine reports.

    In a photo that emerged at the weekend Corporal Kaddy Jarju can be seen doing her duties having waded through the middle of a huge puddle without any boots, and with her trousers rolled up to her knees.

    She continued "to give signals to vehicles with unwavering passion", the police magazine says.

    Her efforts have now been recognised by the police chief, Alhagi Mamour Jobe, and she has been promoted to sergeant.

    View more on twitter