Senegal is taking a bold step to bypass the constraint of getting to its southern province of Cassamance through The Gambia. The inconvenience of avoiding to succumb to the unpredictable and chaotic Gambian authorities will be a welcome news many people. The protracted Cassamance insurgency is prolonged due to strategic hold The Gambia, a tiny strip of land which lies between Senegal and Casamance, have on the southern region. Senegal has been playing ball with the Jammeh dictatorship because they want easy access to Cassamance and without appeasing President Jammeh, Senegal can’t have their way into Cassamance. Is that about to change? Will Senegal now take the Gambian crisis seriously? Will Kochia, the comedian on TFM now realises that the Jammeh dictatorship is not a subject of joke or comedy? Time will tell but the RFI story below gives a vital hint.
Senegal’s President Macky Sall Thursday, February 19, inaugurated two boats that will ply between Dakar and Ziguinchor, the capital of southern Senegal province of Casamance. With these two South Korean ships, Senegalese authorities want to open up this region which produces most of the country’s fruits and vegetables. Tourism is also in crisis in the province. President Sall announced the government’s willingness to subsidise the boat ride by 50 percent to encourage travel to Casamance.
One orchard farmer in the outskirts of Ziguinchor explains his plight to transport his produce to Dakar. Every week, Donatien plunges into a puzzle of negotiating a truck to transport mangoes and cashews to Dakar, which sometimes becomes an unpredictable business. Apart from taking several days before the produce gets to Dakar, the producer can pay up to one million CFA francs for transport cost.
With the arrival of two new ships, farmers and fishermen have more choices to get their goods to Dakar. Both boats can carry up to 13 trucks of 35 tons each and 200 people. Eventually, there should be at least one boat per day rotation.
Jean Diatta, President of Casamance Tourism Office also hopes that the boats will attract more tourists to the region. “Customers who came to Senegal and wanted to spend two or three days in Casamance could not come because the boat was always full. All this was the cross and the banner. Today, I do not think there’s any worries instead. This will be the end of a bottleneck ,” he said.
Still, according to tourism professionals, there is a detail on tourism that needs to be addressed. The price of air tickets between Dakar and Ziguinchor is too high, which has become another barrier to tourism development in Casamance.
President Sall on Thursday announced his government’s plans to introduce a bill, aimed developing tourism development. The legislation, among others, will establish tourism facilities and give tax exemptions where necessary.