Saturday, April 9, 2016

"Jammeh reverts to old tariff structure, he's come to his senses" reports Senegalese media

Senegal - Gambia border closure 
According to media reports emanating from Senegal, Le Quotidien,a daily paper is reporting that that Jammeh has "returned to his senses" and has revisited his unilateral decision and has reversed himself by rolling back his CFA 40,000 per truck in tariff for Senegalese trucks using the Trans-Gambia highway. Official confirmation from The Gambia is still not forthcoming.  

Effective immediately, the old tariff will be applied across the board, according to reports from Senegal. Meanwhile, the ECOWAS mission that visited The Gambia to collect information on the circumstances leading to the border stand-off is currently in Dakar meeting with government officials as well as union leaders.  Senegal's Foreign Minister, Mankeur Ndiaye, has said early in the week that the government of Senegal will wait for the mission's report and recommendation before they will decide what steps to take next. Jammeh's decision to file a complaint to ECOWAS instead of handling the problem bilaterally may have shot himself in the foot because the move will inadvertently prolong the crisis.

The precipitous drop in government revenue appears to be the main reason why Jammeh dropped the idea like a hot potato.  In fact, there are unconfirmed reports that Gambia's Finance Minister and the Governor of the Central Bank has signed a joint letter to the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund applying for 25% of the country's allocated Special Drawing Rights, estimated to amount to US $ 11 million, to enable the regime to meet its salary obligation.  Without it, the regime will not be able to meet this months salary.   There are already delays in paying salaries.  It is reported that in some cases salary arrears have already started to accrue.

Information reaching us is that Senegal is not going to relent that easily.   Both the Transport Union of Senegal and the government of Senegal see the border fracas as an opportunity to find a more permanent solution to Jammeh's unilateral, cavalier and frequent increases, without notice, of tariffs. The occasion provides Senegal the opportunity to extract definitive and unambiguous set of operating rules, including tariff increases, governing the use of the Trans-Gambia highway.

The Yelli Tenda - Bamba Tenda bridge project, abruptly suspended by Jammeh without explanation will be an issue that must be resolved, an understanding reached and a new implementation schedule agreed upon by the two countries as condition for opening of the border.  Financing of the project has already been secured and contracts issued when Jammeh fired his Transport Minister who signed on behalf of the Gambia.  The Minister has since been charged with "economic crime".

Jammeh has always been reluctant to have the bridge built because once built, he will lose the leverage he currently has of closing traffic at will because it is easier for Jammeh to deem the ferries inoperable than to close a bridge.  Once built, the bridge will assume an extraterritorial character as part of an international (ECOWAS) roadway which cannot be justifiably closed as well.