Chiefs and Protectorate Administration in Colonial Gambia, 1894–1965

  • Hassoum Ceesay
Part of the Palgrave Studies in African Leadership book series (PSAL)


District chiefs represented a tangible example of African leadership during British colonial rule in Gambia. Even when the educated elite that comprised mainly Aku fell out of favor with the colonial rulers from the 1920s onwards, chiefs continued to play a very important yet little studied role in the strengthening and, ironically, the dismantling of colonial rule in Gambia. Through the Indirect Rule system perfected by Lord Lugard in Northern Nigeria from 1914, the British used the traditional leadership roles of chiefs to augment their minimal administrative capacity in their West African colonies such as Gambia. The abysmally low literacy levels in Gambia during the colonial era, coupled with the almost complete absence of communication infrastructure, such as roads or railways, and the peculiar shape of its territory, meant that British rule had to depend on traditional leadership agents, initiatives, and structures—including chiefs—to maintain a firm grip until independence in 1965.1


Colonial Rule Colonial Government Legislative Council Peace Research Colonial Authority 
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Copyright information

© Baba G. Jallow 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hassoum Ceesay

There are no affiliations available

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