Sunday, April 27, 2014

Border closure : Much ado about nothing, ferry fares remain the same

The Jammeh regime announced Friday 25th April that the borders have been opened effective immediately, after causing havoc to the economies of both Senegal and The Gambia, not to mention the citizenry whose daily lives have been unnecessarily inconvenienced.  Families have been separated and businesses disrupted because of Yaya Jammeh decided to "teach Macky Sall a lesson" for blocking his path to the nomination to contest the election to head ECOWAS.

As we have stressed in previous blogs, the security argument advanced was a smoke screen.  There were no threats coming from Gambian dissidents based in Dakar.  The Senegalese government would not entertain any overt challenge to Jammeh's power in The Gambia from within Senegalese borders.  If the security threat was real which led to the border closures, Jammeh would not have opened while he's still on his 21-day tour of the provinces, and currently in Basse but will be in Soma, Pakalinding and Mansakonko for two days starting tomorrow.  If Jammeh was so scared of spending the night in Farafenni for fear of Gambia dissidents, he faces similar threat in the southern flank of the Soma/Senoba border posts.

The cause of the border closing in the first instance was the ferry fares which remain unchanged.  Trucks are charged 800 franc per tonne, buses 13,000 franc per bus and individual passengers 200 franc.  Nothing has changed from what obtained on 31 December, 2013.  Senegalese truck drivers are not obligated to pay in CFA if they so chose.  They will continue to pay the same fares as before until a new proposed fare structure, reported to be 15,000 franc per bus and 1,000 franc per tonne for trucks, is put in place as signed by the two parties.

What Youssou N'doure's trip to Banjul was able to achieve was to provide Jammeh with safe-saving channel to extricate himself from the box he locked himself in.  Dakar ignored his threats since January this year at tremendous cost to the Gambian treasury and the GPA.  It reduces Jammeh's bargaining power in the process.

The two sides are to meet "in the next few days"to finalize the new fare schedule, something that could have been achieved under the existing Agreement between the countries signed in 2005 which Jammeh elected to ignore in putting new fares in place without consulting his Senegalese counterpart.  The closure was deliberate and part of Jammeh's way of "teaching Macky a lesson" at tremendous cost to The Gambia as well as Senegal.