While the border between Senegal and Gambia remained closed for traffic and trade, the impending negotiations to open up the borders between the two countries are now stalled. The Gambian delegation under instructions from Yaya Jammeh is refusing to continue the negotiations in the Senegalese capital which was the original venue for the initial meeting. They now want the talks to be held in Banjul for which the Senegalese Foreign Minister, Mankeur Ndiaye, is quoted in the Senegalese daily newspapers today as saying “this is not in Senegalese favor as they should respect the initial commitment to have the meetings in Dakar.”
It is obvious that by refusing to continue the negotiations in Dakar, the border impasse is set to continue indefinitely although 3 ministers from Gambia are presently in the Senegalese capital to attend three important meetings of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) since the 9th of May 2016.
Dakar presently hosting the ECOWAS 19th meeting of the Administration and Finance Committee (AFC), the 36th ordinary meeting of the Mediation and Security Council (MSC) and the 76th ordinary session of the Council of Ministers. The Gambia is being represented in these statutory meetings by Nenneh Maccdoull Gaye, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Ousman Sonko, Minister of Interior; and Abdou Colley, Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs. If Mr. Jammeh is interested in the opening of the borders this was a good opportunity to include the border issue in the itinerary of the three travelling minsters currently in the Senegalese capital to attend the ECOWAS statutory meetings due to end today, 13th May 2016.
Going by the statement that was issued by the government of Yaya Jammeh in reaction to the Ecowas, AU and UN joint mission to the Gambia on 4 – 5 May 2016, the Gambian team- comprising six cabinet Ministers, one Permanent Secretary and the Solicitor General- categorically stated that for any meaningful dialogue on the border issue to take place, the Senegalese must open the border first. The senegalese on the other hand are insisting that there must be dialogue first before the borders are open. It is now apparent that there is no end to border crisis between Gambia and Senegal.
The impact of the blockade is having more effect in the Gambia than Senegal because of the geographical location of each country. While the borders of Senegal with other countries are still open for trade and business (Senegal is externally bounded to the north by Mauritania, Mali to the east, and Guinea and Guinea-Bissau to the south) Gambia is landlocked and almost completely surrounded by Senegal except for the short Atlantic coastline in the mouth of the River Gambia.
The ongoing border standoff between the Gambia and Senegal is reminiscent of the horrible situation that occurred over 400 years ago in precolonial times when the two countries, divided by empirical rivalry between two antiquated Empires- the French and British Empires for supremacy over the Gambia River, had to negotiate an agreement in 1889 that defined the present boundaries between Gambia and Senegal.
Therefore by refusing to agree on a venue to continue the talks Gambian businesses will continue to feel the impact of the border crisis which ultimately could affect the budgeted revenues for 2016 in terms of Tax revenues, Excise Duties, Port fees and the incomes expected form the re-export trade.
Even if the border was open today it may no longer be business as usual. The Senegalese drivers and transporters’ Association have now adopted a common position to avoid the Trans-Gambia crossing and are being encouraged by the government of Macky Sall with good incentive packages to take the long journey via Tambacounda/ Kolda region to travel to the Southern region of Senegal.
Some of these incentives now included a discounted fuel pump price and a significant reduction in the boat, Aline Sittoe Diatta, for passenger travels. There is also a daily flight from Dakar to Cassamance at a fare comparable to hiring a taxi from Banjul to Dakar. Plans are also afoot to build a railway connecting the south to the north via the eastern part of Senegal. Now what measures are being taken by the government of Yaya Jammeh to fight this border threat in the next five years?
By refusing to negotiate with the Senegalese for the opening of the borders Yaya Jammeh is putting more pressures on the political and security situation of the country to which he will live to regret especially it has now emerged that the EU Parliament are recommending travel ban and embargo on him and his team of blinded enablers.
Written By Our Correspondent In Senegal