BorderTalks1BorderTalks2By Abdoulie John

Resumed border blockade talks between the Gambia and neighbouring Senegal ended in the early hours of Monday with a note of uncertainty after delegates of both countries failed to reach an agreement.

“We are compelled to live together because of our geographical location. We should strive for an harmonious, peaceful coexistence through dialogue, permanent and constructive consultation. It is our common destiny,” Senegal’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mankeur NDIAYE told newsmen at the end of a 14-hour marathon meeting held in Dakar.

Last Sunday, Gambian Foreign Minister Neneh Macdouall Gaye held talks with her Senegalese counterpart Mankeur Ndiaye over the 12-week blockade that has left many businesses in dire shape.

In February this year, President Yahya Jammeh took a ‘controversial decision’ to increase the cost of ferry tariffs across all the country’s crossing points. The decision gave rise to significant political and public reactions in Senegal, with the national transport union deciding to block the traffic within the borders in protest.

Mankeur Ndiaye revealed that the Gambia and Senegal have agreed to meet in July in order to overcome obstacles and stumbling blocks. He welcomed the decision taken by Gambian authorities to rescind ferry crossing ticket prices which jumped from 4000 to 400000 CFA francs thanks to the Gambian leader whose self-bestowed nickname is Babili Mansa, “Bridge Builder”

On allegations made by his Gambian counterpart that ECOWAS transporters were being charged exorbitantly in Senegal, prompting Banjul to increase tickets prices in reciprocity as there have been instances where Gambian drivers paid up to 400, 000 CFA francs, Senegalese Foreign Minister said “an investigation was carried out and we were able to confirm that these allegations are unfounded. They are not true.”

The crippling trends regarding the construction of the bridge have compelled many experts to say the bridge on river Gambia that President Yahya Jammeh is not interested in the project endorsed by African Development Bank (ADB) to the tune of 50 billions CFA, is the way to resolve issues of integration, regional trade and free flow of people, goods and services.

When asked by this reporter whether the construction of the bridge poses a threat to Gambia’s sovereignty, Neneh Macdouall Gaye dodged the question, but was quick to reiterate remarks made in plenary session indicating that the main problem for the Gambian side is about the navigability of river Gambia. “The design of the bridge does not allow navigability,” she told reporters.

The final communique that was issued at the end of the meeting remained mute over the Banjul-based Senegalo-Gambian Secretariat tasked with the responsibility to address issues affecting the interests of both countries.

The two foreign ministers reiterated their resolve to strive for the end of the border blockade. But their call is yet to be implemented as the standoff stillcontinuess.



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