Threat level: Medium
On 30th December 2014 there was a failed coup in the country’s capital city, Banjul. A gun attack on the President’s residence was unsuccessful and a number of suspects were arrested, both in The Gambia and the United States.
Since the attack authorities have increased security surveillance and there are a number of checkpoints currently operating in and around Banjul. Vehicle searches are common place. Drivers should not reverse direction to avoid a road checkpoint or make any movements that security personnel may view as suspicious or provocative.
The country is reasonably stable, the present Government seized power in a coup in 1994. The President, Mr Jammeh, is well known for expressing bizarre views. In 2007, he claimed that he could cure AIDS with a herbal concoction – a view condemned by health experts.
Recent security risk events
In January 2017 a state of emergency was declared by Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, who refused to hand over power to opposition leader Adama Barrow, who won the general election in 2016. Many Gambians fled the country over the border to Senegal to escape a possible conflict but are now slowly returning. Former President Yahya Jammeh has now left the country.
As with many countries, The Gambia does have an issue with petty crime and scams. Please be very aware of this in and around hotels and areas with high populations of tourists. Avoid carrying large sums of cash and having expensive jewellery on display. Western tourists are thought to be high priority pick pocket targets because of their perceived wealth and thieves know that they often carry around valuables and cash during the day.
Demonstrations took place in April and May 2016 in Banjul. Political demonstrations can sometimes turn violent, and tourists in the Gambia have been known to get caught up in the violence. Avoid large public gatherings and monitor the local media. It is also advised that you avoid discussing politically sensitive topics in public.
Muggings involving tourists are increasing, the theft of passports and other valuables from hotel rooms has also peaked. Don’t take valuables or large sums of money to the beach especially. Take particular care when visiting isolated beaches and markets. You may want to consider making a copy of your passport or ID which you can carry on you, and leave your important documents at home.
Homosexuality is illegal in the Gambia and you should exercise extreme caution during your visit. There have been isolated incidents of foreign nationals being detained by the police in relation to homosexuality. There has also been a recent increase in homophobic violence across the country.
Gambia has maintained close relations with the United Kingdom, Senegal, and other African countries. It is a well established member of the Economic Community of West African States.
The country enjoys bilateral ties with 7 countries and is seeking to maintain friendly relations with a number of others.
Drivers who encounter a government motorcade should immediately pull completely off the road and bring the car to a complete stop until the motorcade passes. Roads are often very bad and full of potholes very notable on the Janjanbureh to Tendaba route.
Airport police and customs officials routinely inspect incoming and outgoing luggage. Airline passengers are required to put their luggage through an x-ray machine before departing the airport. Travelers in possession of prescription drugs should carry proof of their prescriptions, such as labelled containers.