Yahya Jammeh seized power in 1994 as a young army lieutenant and has won four widely criticised multi-party elections since then.
He won his fourth five-year term in November 2011 in elections to which the main West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, refused to send monitors. It described the political environment as not conducive to free and fair elections.
Mr Jammeh raised eyebrows early in 2007 when he claimed that he could cure AIDS. His cure involves a green herbal paste, a bitter yellow liquid and eating bananas and he says his methods produce positive results within days.
The country representative of the United Nations development programme in The Gambia, Fadzai Gwaradzimba, was told to leave the country after she expressed doubts about the president's claims and said the remedy might encourage risky behaviour.
Mr Jammeh's government has been criticised by international rights groups for its attitude to civil liberties, especially freedom of the press.
Among the most persistent critics has of his human rights record been the British government. Some observers say tension caused by this lay behind Mr Jammeh's decision to lead The Gambia out of the Commonwealth of Nations in 2013.
In 2012 Gambia resumed capital punishment, executing nine prisoners by firing squad. Mr Jammeh said he wanted to the remaining 47 death row prisoners killed within weeks, but suspended executions in response to international pressure.