Monday, April 21, 2014

After Commonwealth, Taiwan, and Senegal: A comment

Karang Police Post
Gambians were again caught unawares, this time, about the Gambia-Senegal border closure, a unilateral decision by the Gambian dictator.

An anonymous official of the Gambia Transport Union confirmed on Sunday that an executive order was issued for the closing of the border near the border town of Amdalai which came into effect Saturday 19th April.  He claimed that no reasons were given for the closure, except to insist that these orders from the leadership, meaning Yaya Jammeh.

The closure comes about 4 months after the regime of Yaya Jammeh decreed that henceforth all ferry fairs by non-Gambian users at the crossing points ill be in CFA francs or any other convertible currency.   The Senegalese Transport Union reacted to, what they consider to be a contravention of an Accord reached in 2005, brokered by former President Obasanjo of Nigeria.

Senegalese transporters called for a boycott of the Gambian ferries, denying million of dollars in revenue to the Gambia Ports Authority and Gambia's central treasury.   Jammeh expected that the dispute which he initiated by unilaterally demanding payment in foreign exchange will not last this long.  Just as he has miscalculated the severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan, his misjudgment of Senegal's reaction to the demand that Senegalese trucks pay in CFA franc has severely impacted Gambia's economy by denying it much-needed revenue.

Jammeh's physical health has always been open to speculation.  What is not in dispute, however, is Jammeh's mental state.  He idiosyncratic and erratic behavior has convinced many that he is delusional that borders on paranoia.  He explains his Commonwealth withdrawal by accusing the organization of being a neocolonialist outpost that it out to exploit The Gambia, and did not bother to give reason for severing ties with Taiwan except to say that he was driven by "strategic national interest:" only to be told by Taiwan that it was because he was refused a cash demand in excess of $10 million, apparently for his personal use.

In both instances, as it appears to be the case in the latest border episode, his Foreign Minister was not even aware, much less consulted.  Gambians were unaware of the border closure until those who thought were on their way to Dakar were greeted at the border by barricades announcing the closure.  Jammeh likes flying solo, and hardly seeks clearance from the tower.  No wonder, he always crash lands, and always manages to survive.  

It is evident that these are not normal times, both in the Gambia and the region, and the continued and sustained erratic behavior is increasingly becoming a threat to both The Gambia and the region.

The withdrawal of Gambia's membership from the Commonwealth, the severance of diplomatic ties with Taiwan and the boycott of the Gambia's ferry services by the Senegalese Transport Union have a cumulative effect that is costing the Gambian economy, leaving a population more disillusioned than ever before, resulting in erosion of political support for Yaya Jammeh.  How long this "idiosyncratic leader", as he was described recently by a Taiwanese Foreign Ministry official, can continue to act recklessly at the expense of the economy, the Gambian people and against good neighborliness remains to be seen.