Friday, April 1, 2016

Gambia apologizes to Senegal, Foreign Minister Macdoull-Gaye requests a meeting for 5th April to discuss border closure

Senegal's Foreign Minister, Mankeur Ndiaye
Mrs. Neneh Macdoull-Gaye, Gambia's Foreign Minister has written to Mankeur Ndiaye, Senegal's Foreign Minister apologizing to Senegalese authorities, for what appears to be a breach of diplomatic protocol, on behalf of a Gambian delegation, led by the country's Trade Minister, who were in Dakar to procure and urgently ship a consignment of engine lubricant to Banjul.

Gambia's National Electricity Company (NAWEC) is not only running out of fuel but its stocks of lubricants, essential for the smooth running of its generators, are running dangerously low too.  It was this NAWEC delegation that resided at the King Fahd hotel.  When we asked why Gambia's Trade Minister headed the delegation and whether his presence in Dakar was necessary given the current tense diplomatic atmosphere that exists between the two countries as a result of the 5-week old border closure.

It turns out that the Trade Minister and the NAWEC who were mistaken for the Gambian ministerial delegation, did not meet his Senegalese counter-apart, and had to rush back to Banjul to attend "an extra-ordinary emergency session" according to the letter written by Gambia's Foreign Minister.

The extra-ordinary emergency session Foreign Minister Macdoull-Gaye was referring to was the State Opening of Parliament which was neither an extra-ordinary nor an emergency session of Parliament.  The session is a fixed item on the legislative calendar.  So it is incomprehensible as to why she will deceptively characterized a parliamentary session in this way.  She excused the delegation that had to rush back to Banjul and for this she apologized to the Senegalese Foreign Minister.

In apologizing for the breach in diplomatic protocol, Gambia's Foreign Minister formally requested a new meeting date of Tuesday 5th April, a day after Senegal's Independence Day, which could pose a problem.  In all likelihood, the meeting, if it's going to be held in the near future, will not be on the proposed date.  The proposed 5th April meeting is a preliminary and low-level meeting to set the agenda for a high-level meeting that will be schedule at a future date, according to Gambia's letter to Senegal.

It just so happens that the Minister of Trade issued a notice convening a town hall meeting of "all government stakeholders, commercial vehicle owners, transport associations and transport unions among others on Tuesday the 5th April - same day that Gambia is proposing to meet with Senegalese authorities - "to discuss issues affecting the transport sector and map out an approach on the way forward."
Gambia's Foreign Minister, Macdouall-Gaye 

The dilemma facing the Jammeh regime is that the Gambia National Transport Control Association (GNTCA), the premier transport union that has acted as intermediary between the Senegalese Transport Union and the government has since been banned and members of the executive charged with economic crimes.

It was while in custody that one of its executive, Sheriff Dibba, died under suspicious circumstances, leading to the call by the London-based International Transport Federation and the International Labor Organization - a UN Agency.

A second executive, Mr. Moumini Sey, who was arrested, charged, held in custody and subsequently released has not been heard from since. The Senegalese Transport Union, in solidarity with its Gambian counterpart has been insisting on an investigations into the suspicious death of their colleague with whom they have collaborated in the past.

The clumsy manner in which the border closure crisis is being handled from Banjul is further indication that the regime has lost both direction and the will to govern.  It also shows the total lack of expert advise in general and the area of foreign policy and international relations in particular. Another striking revelation brought on by the crisis is the isolation of the Jammeh regime in the absence of any offer of mediation by Gambia's neighbors in the region such as Guinea-Bissau or Nigeria.

A source sums up the unpopularity of Yaya Jammeh in Senegal and the region when he said "who cares about Jammeh's complaint in a situation where only Faure Gnassingbe (Togo's president) is his ally in the community', responding to a question I posed regarding the status of Gambia's complaint reportedly filed with ECOWAS.