Country Profile: The Gambia

This Country Profile provides a basic overview of the legal history and institutional structures of the Republic of The Gambia, based on research produced by GlobaLex at NYU Law School and the Library of Congress. Under Gambia's Constitution, Islamic law (sharīʿa or fiqh) has some legal status. 

Country Background

Gambia is a country located in Western Africa. It has a short coastline with the North Atlantic Ocean but is otherwise surrounded by Senegal. It is the smallest country on the African mainland. The capital of Gambia is Banjul. The official language is English. The country's population in 2017 was approximately 2.1 million. Gambia is a predominantly Muslim country, with about 96% of the population Muslim. Gambia is a member state of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Constitution & Legal Structure

Gambia is referred to as a presidential republic, in which sovereignty belongs to the people. The current Constitution of Gambia was adopted in 1996, and was most recently amended in 2004. The system of government is based on principles of separation and checks and balances and has three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. The legal system of Gambia mixed legal system of English common law, Islamic law, and customary law. 

Constitutional Status of Islamic Law

Islamic law has constitutional status in Gambia. It is administered in matters of personal status, and operates in the so-called Cadi Courts. This is established in the Constitution. 

Jurisdiction(s) of Islamic Law

Islamic law has official jurisdiction of operation in Gambia. It operates in the Cadi Courts, which "shall only have jurisdiction to apply the Sharia in matters of marriage, divorce and inheritance where the parties or other persons interested are Muslims" (Gambian Constitution).

Dominant School of Islamic Law

Gambia has no official school of Islamic law. The majority of the Muslim population in the country is Sunnī (adhering to the Mālikī school).

Sources of Law for Legal Research

Official Publications

Unofficial Databases

  • FAOLEX: Gambia (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) database of national laws and regulations on food, agriculture, and renewable natural resources.
  • NATLEX: Gambia (International Labour Organization) database of national laws on labor, social security, and related human rights.
  • RefWorld Legal Information: Gambia (UNHCR)
  • WIPO Lex: Gambia (World Intellectual Property Organization)


For an extended list of legal resources for this country, see the Library of Congress’s Research Guide, and for a narrative review, see the GlobaLex Foreign Law Research Guide (most updated version, where available). The Constitution is available in the LOC Guide in its original language and at Constitute in English. For full versions of past constitutions, amendments, and related legislation, see HeinOnline World Constitutions Illustrated or Oxford Constitutions of the World [subscription required for each].