Stranded trucks at the Gambia-Senegal border@Sidi Sanneh blog

By Abdoulie John

A fortnight has passed since the closure of the Gambia-Senegal border and people hoping to travel between the two countries are faced with huge challenges, prompting mixed reactions from activists and politicians.

“I think it’s a drama for people from both countries,” Amnesty International’s Senegal Director, Seydi Gassama, told this reporter. “As you know, there are may be two separated States but the people are one and have a lot in common. For those coming from Casamance, the route to Dakar through Tambacounda is about 1,000 kilometers.”

The border closure becomes so disturbing that citizens of the two countries urge their governments to meet and put the impasse to an end.

Mr. Gassama condemned the Gambia’s unilateral decision to increase the cost of ferry tickets across its ferry crossing points by 1000% for Senegalese trucks.

However, Seydi Gassama called on the governments of Senegal and The Gambia “to meet and solve this problem once and for all.”

Gassama commented on reports that Senegalese transport unions closed The Gambia-Senegal border. He saw no reason why “private persons should be allowed to close the border. The decision to close the border is a sovereign act and should be carried out by a sovereign state,” he said.

He decried the Jammeh regime’s ‘delaying tactics” with regard to implementing the agreement on erecting bride on River Gambia. The bridge, which would have made the easy flow of goods, services and people. According to Gassama, “the bridge is not only needed by Senegal, but also by ECOWAS countries.”

But the leader of the opposition Gambia Moral Congress said  some non negotiable facts need to be cleared first before a bridge is erected.

“The Gambia is an independent sovereign country, not a province of any state,” Lawyer Mai Ahmed Fatty posted on his Facebook wall. He said the country “has the sovereign right to determine its own fiscal and monetary policies (economic policies) including levying taxes, duties, fines, etc. In imposing ferry crossing rates, The Gambia did what was her sovereign right, without contravening domestic or international law.”

Mai Ahmad Fatty said the rationality of the ticket price hike is subject to further debate. “Does a protocol or binding agreement exists that requires prior approval from any country or authority in determining the rate hike? The answer is NO. Now does the Government of The Gambia has the right to implement economic or foreign policies that have the capacity to endanger our economy or international relations? The answer is NO,“ Lawyer Fatty wrote.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce also raised concerns about the border impasse. Alieu Seck is quoted by local media as stressing the negative impact of the border closure on small and large businesses.

Reports from main border checkpoints have it that businesses along Farafenni and Amdalai are going down. “Some shops have been closed due to the continued closure of the border,” a resident of Farafenni, located along Trans-Gambia highway.

“I think Gambia will have to blink or the economic consequences might be dire,” said the Chairman of Senegambia Human Rights Defence League Malick Kah who spoke to this reporter.

Mr. Kah blamed Gambian authorities for the border closure and the disastrous impact on the country’s economy. “Technically, the Senegalese government did not impose any restrictions, they leave the matter entirely with the transport union, while The Gambia acted unilaterally without any notice to the Senegalese authorities about the tariff increment, hence its going to be difficult unless Gambia reverse its action and consultation begins.”

Ends

12 Comments

  1. Deyda Haidara says:

    Mai Fatty is the stupidest opposition and most selfish politician I have heard of. Mai Faty is mad because president Macky Sall refused to meet him on the grounds that he is a nano political party and more over not present on the ground. Mai and Hamat are in the business of begging money from ECOWAS presidents are turn around and eat the donations without their parties seeing a penny.
    If Mai Fatty wants to please dictator Jammeh, let him come clear, it is his right. What is sure is that ferries are becoming outdated and out of fashion when a bridge can be built.
    Mai should know that Senegal does not need the Gambia for anything. Plying 1000 kms will not deter them from reaching destination.
    Is Mai thinking of the business loses, the revenue loses and the employment loses that Gambians face with the border closure?

    • Hydara , both Senegal and Gambia need each other . The building of this bridge is beneficiary to both countries while border closure is also detrimental to both . It cost Senegal a lot of money to take long route to southern Senegal . Gambia will suffer greatly because of Closure of businesses along the border town especially farafenni which is second large commercial town . This issue needs to be resolved politically . This is Jammeh’s continuous provocation and his desire to create friction between the two countries . He should be blamed entirely even though Gambia has sovereign rights to determine its own policies and laws despite whatever consequences we may get. Increment of tariff is used as economic tool for cash starved regime to sustain its daily functioning though it is facing greater consequences because businesses which are source of revenue for the government in terms of taxes , are closing along the border . Remember that Gambia is tax-base economy as we speak . This has serious impact on small businesses in the country as well as our international trading or relationship . Without free flow of transportation between two countries , Gambians stand to loose more in terms of business or revenue production in the country while Senegalese will also face similar effects .

  2. I think Mai Fatty is talking from nationalistic and legal perspectives respectively and I believe he is right because Gambia is sovereign country which should make policies based on the interest of our people as long as those policies do not contravene international laws and protocols.
    Politically and economics point of view, Senegal government has upper hand because Gambians will suffer as a result of this border closure. This is the type of scenario which makes it absolutely necessary to have good political leadership in our country so that we can have peace, stability and excellent brotherly relationship with our neighbor. Macky Sall acted as a responsible elder who will not deal with Jammeh’s rude and stupidity, hence he has left the matter to transport union who are teaching both our crazy president and Gambian people a lesson. This is an area where sovereignity takes great impact and Jammeh understand this very well because, he wants Gambians to feel like they are the victims. He wants Gambians to feel that he is empowering them while he is selfishly making his good image among his supporters before the election. This is his way of playing nationalistic card as commander of most brutal militia forces.
    Building bridge is good thing for our country. If Jammeh is smart politically, he can build this bridge and Senegal pay for it by using the tariff or levy payment on people using this bridge . It will make transportation easier, business will boom in our country and at the time serve as internal revenue for the country . Jammeh is bushman and unexposed idiot who do not listen to any idea except his own stupidity. Senegal has finally been pushed to the edge and now the ball is in their court.

  3. Deyda Haidara says:

    Mai Fatty said “The Gambia is an independent sovereign country, not a province of any state,” Has Senegal or any other nation tried to INVADE or annex the Gambia for what ever reason, the answer is NO NO NO. Then what is the rational behind this statement??

    Mai again said “ The Gambia has the sovereign right to determine its own fiscal and monetary policies (economic policies) including levying taxes, duties, fines, etc. In imposing ferry crossing rates, The Gambia did what was her sovereign right, without contravening domestic or international law.” Mai should also flip the coin and say the senegalese transport union also has a SOVEREIGN right to bypass the trans-gambia if they feel the levies and taxes imposed on them by the idiotic and arrogant Gambian president does not make economic sense if they compare the cost of changing route.
    And specially so when the decision was not proposed as in any trade agreement or business agreement but imposed. Remember that many a time, taxes, levies, fees and commissions are always subject to adjustments and negotiations amongst all nations on this world and Gambia is not an exception to the rule. WTO existence speak volumes.

    Mai said ” some non negotiable facts need to be cleared first before a bridge is erected.”
    Again Mai speaks as if the bridge issue, has not gone thru the finest scrutiny before even Mai was born. Mai wants to tell us he is smarter than ALL Gambians who sat on the bridge building negotiations in the past up to recent ones in 2014. This why I said if Mai is an apologist of Jammeh let him come clear instead trying to hide under a seeming NAIVITY of Gambian professionals and Civil Servants. What does Mai know that these people don’t know??? absolutely nothing.

    Mai said again ““Does a protocol or binding agreement exists that requires prior approval from any country or authority in determining the rate hike? The answer is NO. Now does the Government of The Gambia has the right to implement economic or foreign policies that have the capacity to endanger our economy or international relations? The answer is NO,“ Lawyer Fatty wrote.” Even a high school graduate knows that no party locks himself in a possible future re-negotiations should the dynamics change in the future. But Civilize nations bring past parties on the table for re-negotiations. That why Arbitrations clauses exist in protocols and agreements.

    Finally what strikes me is that Mai as an opposition leader should know that Jammeh is always trying to play on Gambians against Senegal. Mai is better off fighting the high deposit fess levied on politicians candidates WITHOUT CONSULTATIONS with the sole aim stifling the opposition and draining their meagre resources instead entertaining his facebook followers with Jammeh’s BS.

    Really!

  4. I think Mr. Fatty has got it wrong. And this is why:
    Sovereign right to determine it’s own fiscal and monetary policies – both don’t apply in this case. A one sided imposing of ferry rates on vehicles, plying 2-points via Gambia, of a sisterly country like Senegal contravenes fair treatment of all ferry users especially in the interest of fringe economic activities enhanced by the mass plying of senegalese commuters and transport on our roads. Our geographical uniqueness makes it a natural consequences that senegalese commuters and vehicles crossing the country are treated under the restrictions of commensurability. Exorbitant pricing up to 1000% is just not inexplicable.

    Citing some”non negotiable facts” as precondition to “erect” a bridge, to me , is an intellectual dishonesty. Will the bridge benefit foremost Gambia or is it entirely in senegal’s interest?
    The bridge would be foremost in Gambias interest. 1 in every 2nd Gambian use the Bambatenda (correct me ) crossing to either get to Jarra or head to Casamance for business, cultural or tourism related visit. A bridge will lighten the difficult reality of crossing that small stretch of gambia river.

    A bridge will bring the people of northern senegambia and the southern senegambia together. The distance and time will be shorter to travel from southern gambia and casamance to Dakar or other cities in the north of senegal. What are exactly these “non negotiable facts” that should hold progress at ransom? The benefits for Gambia in erecting a bridge there will lure more commuting via Gambia and Gambia can still levy road/bridge tax at a commensurable price while the economies of scale that will come with enhance trading ans services, compensate for the cost of erecting the bridge and its maintenance. Further more the town of Farafenni can grow her strategic location as a hub for incoming and outgoing traffic to all directions. As an intersection and with a linking bridge to the southern Senegambia, Farafenni can become a business hub for all kinds of transactions.

    Such is the situation with a bridge that the chances and opportunities possible cannot be quantified in monetary term alone. You must acknowledge also the fact that Gambia, is sandwiched into Senegambia and we are condemned to work together. A one side degree forcing vehicle owners to pay exorbitant prices is in no one’s interest except a seemingly cash strapped administration in the Gambia. Confronting Senegal like this, is not in the long term interest of Gambia – particularly at a time when we are badly isolated. Using such upsurge of prices to provoke nationalistic sympathy in Gambians is outdated. What we need is a responsible Gov’t , in the position to professionally manage the relationship with such an indispensable partner as Senegal. There is no other way around it. Except of course if one day the Atlantic ocean can sit at the negotiation table.

    • Deyda Haidara says:

      Kinteh, thank you so much for telling the TRUTH and nothing but the truth. Inshallah it will only be when Yaya Jammeh is gone for good that we can repair the many damages he has done in the past 5 years to our beloved country.

  5. I fully endorse your take on this matter. There is some sort misconception in Gambian nationalist folklore that a bridge across Banbatenda-Yelitende crossing is entirely favoring Senegal. This is absolutely not true.

    Gambia needs to do what it can to make this short stretch of river crossing feasible and efficient. Whether this is going to be a bridge or newer and faster ferries is their discretion. But the situation as presently exist is unattainable for both Gambia and Senegal.

    People have been paying tariff at this point since time immemorial, and still the crossing has not improved in any way. The ferries are a serious danger to public safety.

    Vehicles from Gambia and Senegal are marooned on either side of the short crossing for days, negotiating and bribing mafias to get a spot on the ferries. There is a class of people raking millions of Dalasis from the public.

    To just do nothing and think Senegal is going to suffer or use it as political football is not an option for Gambia ‘s development any longer.

    • Deyda Haidara says:

      Thank you Modou, am proud to hear Gambians transcending micro-nationalist sentiments and thinking global.

  6. Gentle men Mai fatty only spoke his mind. This should be allowed in any civilized setting.

    Any one be it a politician or otherwise should have the right to oppose popular ideas etc and be allowed to defend him or her self instead of been called the stupidest man ever etc etc…

    It’s about exchanging ideas…

    Peace

  7. I think Mr Mai Fatty is right to say that The Gambia, as a sovereign state, does not require permission from anyone to pursue and implement policies that are related to its internal affairs…

    I think he is also right to say that The Gambia has NO right to implement policies that will affect its economy and people… So I agree with Mr Fatty on both counts…

    My disagreement is his approach to this border closure issue and the timing of his statement. As an opposition politician, I think Mr Fatty’s approach should have been to use this incident to expose the incompetence of the APRC regime and its impact on the country, rather than an approach that seems to lend support to the regime’s actions…

    The issue between the two countries is not about sovereignty but the senseless decision to hike taxes to an unreasonable level (1000% it is claimed) by the APRC regime…That should have been the focus of Mr Fatty’s statement, as an opposition politician, in my humble opinion..

    The difficult issue of bridging the Yelli Tenda/ Bamba Tenda crossing is not a new one and has dogged even the previous PPP Administration too. Any sensible person can see that erecting a bridge at that crossing can only be beneficial to both countries and the sub-region.

    Caution, though, need to be exercised to make sure that The Gambia secures the right deal for itself in any joint contract venture with any third parties because it is a revenue generating point for the country…And unless we know what the real bottlenecks are, we shouldn’t apportion blame on any party…

    In my view, it is not only the Yelli Tenda/Bamba Tenda crossing point that needs a bridge, but building bridges across several crossing points over The River Gambia, should be a priority of any government that is seriously committed to laying the foundations for sustainable development..

    Without the freedom to move goods, people and services across the country with reasonable ease, any talks of developing the country would amount to cheap propaganda and a waste of valuable time and resources.

  8. Hi Everyone,
    Apologies if this is the wrong forum to be asking this question but I have been trying to find information on the internet about the border crossing and whether they are completely restricting any non commercial vehicles and people also? I am flying from Ireland to Gambia this weekend and a friend is supposed to come down from Dakar to meet me in Banjul…it’s sounding like it won’t be possible for him to cross the border, is this true? Also if I try to cross from Gambia into Senegal will I be stopped also? Any info would be much appreciated. Many thanks

    • Deyda Haidara says:

      Pixie, people can cross the borders anytime they want provided they use the vehicle registered in that country. This means when a person is coming to Gambia, he will use a senegalese vehicle up to Karang and change to a Gambian vehicle to come to Barra and beyond and vice versa.
      The closure in other words concerns only vehicles but not people.
      Hope this is clear.

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