Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Jammeh options narrow as border problem deepens

The Sene-Gambian border closure is on its third week with little sign that it will open soon.  

Unscientific but credible on-the-spot observations and interviews of ordinary citizens on the Senegalese side of the border seem to suggest the end of the crisis is not in sight.   

Ordinary Senegalese interviewed expressed their frustrations at the frequent traffic increases by Jammeh which usually result in the temporary closure of the borders. 

Travelers complains include arbitrary rules imposed at the Gambian side of the border by authorities that limits accessibility by imposing a 7:00PM daily closing of ferry services, forcing them to spend the night around mosquito-infested areas in the open air.   This inconvenience and uncertainty of travel , not knowing when to arrive in the capital city of Dakar has forced many interviewed to embrace the longer route at greater expense but with a greater degree of certainty of arriving at your final destination. 

There is also an element of nationalism displayed by some borne as a result of the constant threat of closure by the Gambian dictator which he uses as a cudgel against his neighbors.   Freeing themselves from the hassle has become, it seems, not only the official position of the Senegalese government but also of the general traveling public.   

The Executive Secretary of the Senegalese Transport Union is echoing similar sentiments but much more forcefully with a degree of belligerence never seen before thus signaling an end of an era when Jammeh sees the Trans-Gambia highway not as an integral part of a regional integration strategy of ECOWAS but as a national strategic military-cum-security asset that is used increasingly as leverage against a bigger neighbor. 

The endless postponements and/or interference in implementing the bridge project across the River Gambia in spite of its multinational character - with Senegal putting up two-thirds of the cost, and rightfully so -  is seen as a manifestations of Jammeh’s intent to continue using it as leverage to gain concessions from Senegal, be it political, diplomatic or economic. 

It appears that Senegal has finally grown tired of being blackmailed by Jammeh and it intends on putting an end to it with the enthusiastic approval of both the transport union and the Senegalese traveling public.   

Senegal has rebuffed several attempts at negotiations.  The latest victim of Senegalese resolve to maintaining the current status quo was the proposed mission comprising the Director of Gambia Revenue Authority and the Managing Director of the Ports Authority to negotiate terms to resolve the stalemate which was emphatically rejected by Senegal.  Jammeh’s next move is anybody’s guess as his options narrow.