Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Blame Jammeh for the border closures

 For two weeks running, a local newspaper affiliated with one of the opposition parties in the Gambia called FOROYAA has been reporting on the border closing between Senegal and The Gambia and how it is adversely affecting not only the economies of the two countries but also their trade and diplomatic relations.

The editorial stance of the paper from the unset of the border closures has been the use of, what we consider to be, false equivalencies by blaming both Senegal and The Gambia for the crisis to appear fair and balanced.

The paper didn’t stop its search for another boogieman which it found in the Senegalo-Gambian Secretariat.  The paper questioned the Secretariat’s utility or raison d’etre for not playing an active role in resolving the crisis.  The question is three decades late when the organization was active and relevant because President Senghore (and Diouf, to some extent) and Sir Dawda Jawara wanted the Secretariat to play a meaningful role by according it a high diplomatic profile which it lacks today.   In fact, many citizens of the two countries are unaware of its existence.  

The first step in an conflict resolution is to identify by defining the problem.  In this case, it was triggered by a unilateral decision by the Gambian dictator to increase by 1,000% the tariff paid by trucks using the TransGambia highway to cross into and from the southern Senegal region of Casamance.

The unilateral decision contravenes every protocol that the two countries have signed – be it bilateral, regional and international.  Although ECOWAS protocol calls for the free movement of goods and people, bilateral agreement between the two countries further calls for “prior consultations with and notification of” the other party before any tariff increase.   Approval of the other party is not required but consultation and notification are.   Jammeh did neither.  And this is what FOROYAA fail to mention in its reporting.

Jammeh caused the problem and it is Jammeh, in this instance, who must take full responsibility  for the mess and not Senegal or the Senegalo-Gambian Secretariat that exists only in name with little power to intervene.   To absolve him (or even the appearance of absolving him) of blame by acting as if the problem emanated from or was caused by both countries is only going to prolong and add to the suffering of ordinary Gambians and Senegalese alike resulting from restricting commerce.


Postscript :  As we go to press, we've learned through reliable sources that the Gambian dictator has dispatched a delegation headed by the Imam Ratib of Banjul, Alh. Cherno Kah, to Touba, Senegal, to seek the intervention of the spiritual leader of the Mourid sect in the crisis by appealing to the Senegalese authorities to open the borders.   We will be following developments.