Sunday, April 20, 2014

Did Yaya Jammeh capitulate on the border issue

Gambia - Senegal border post 
It is now official,  The borders between Senegal and The Gambia have closed effective Saturday 19th April by unilateral action of one man - Yaya Jammeh.  

Prior to Saturday when the orders came from Jammeh, who is presently on tour of the provinces, the borders were not closed as we tried to distinguish border closing from the boycott action by the Senegalese Transport Union against the ferry services operated by Gambia Ports Authority. 

The orders from Jammeh were made without reference to existing bilateral processes put in place since the 2005 border closing, and without explanation to the Senegalese authorities as to the rationale for the closure who are trying to find reason(s) for the decision. 

According to website, the decision to close the border came on Saturday 19th April "just days after the opening of the TransGambia" route.  Jammeh's decision came as a surprise to both Gambian and Senegalese transport operators who thought the fare and tax disputes that led to the boycott in the first place is now "old story." 

The fact that the borders were opened a "few days ago" is news to many, because it was never announced officially, neither in the Daily Observer nor in the Office of the President's website.  The Senegalese boycott of the Gambian ferry services has taken its toll on the revenue of the GPA and the Gambian economy.  Jammeh has miscalculated once again.  Senegal's reaction to the boycott has been what can be referred to as 'benign neglect' which is seen in Dakar as industrial action by an independent union of transporters.  The strategy of the Sall's government seemed to have worked in this particular instance. 

Did Jammeh back down from his demands for payment of fares and taxes in CFA? Did he reduce the fares? Why would Jammeh withdraw his Ambassador from Senegal only to plunge The Gambia into yet another period of uncertainty when the relations have been the two countries are at their lowest ebb in almost a decade?  Is the border closing a ploy to divert attention from what appears to be capitulation on the border dispute if reports from Dakar are correct that the TransGambia route was opened "a few days ago" only to have the borders closed without notice. 

We will spend the next days and weeks trying to make sense of a dire situation where the main character is as unpredictable as the London weather.