Sunday, May 15, 2016

Senegal should call Jammeh's bluff

Sidi Sanneh 
The border closure negotiations have barely opened in Dakar this morning before the Gambian dictator uttered provocative comments designed for his local audience in The Gambia, even though it has the potential of negatively impacting the negotiations.

Jammeh was quoted by AFP to have said prior to the opening of the negotiations :"I have no intention of going to settle the issue of the border because our border is opened"  

Jammeh continued his tirade but apportioning blame of the border closure to Senegal by claiming that "they (Senegal) closed the border and I will not negotiate with someone who closed the border."

The question then becomes what are Jammeh's ministers of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Interior doing in Dakar if not to negotiate.  It is open secret that Jammeh is racing against the clock because if the borders remain closed beyond June 6 - 7 when Ramadan commences, he will be in grave trouble politically.  

Shortages of food stuff, especially sugar and other basic commodities, could give rise to people, especially women, taking to the streets to join opposition party members and their supporters who have been demonstrating since last month against Jammeh tyrannical rule.  Blackouts due to fuel shortage is already a permanent fixture in the daily lives of Gambians in the urban areas.

Jammeh's rule is already on the brink of collapse.  Food shortages during the month of Ramadan will add fuel to a fire that is already raging for weeks with dozens of opposition politicians in jail for peacefully demonstrating against Jammeh's dictatorship, among other issues relating to the death in custody of Solo Sandeng, a youth leader and executive member of the largest opposition party whose leader is also in jail.

Gambia's Foreign Minister has been instructed before leaving Banjul that she should do everything possible to secure an agreement that will lead to the re-opening of the border before the commencement of Ramadan.

Jammeh's public utterances on state-controlled media are meant for local consumption by continuing to give the impression to Gambians that he is no push-over.  Privately, he knows he is negotiating from a position of weakness but would like to project strength to his Gambian audience. If I were Senegal's Foreign Minister, I'd call Jammeh's bluff - which can take many forms.