By Abdoulie John
A fortnight has passed since the closure of the Gambia-Senegal border and people hoping to travel between the two countries are faced with huge challenges, prompting mixed reactions from activists and politicians.
“I think it’s a drama for people from both countries,” Amnesty International’s Senegal Director, Seydi Gassama, told this reporter. “As you know, there are may be two separated States but the people are one and have a lot in common. For those coming from Casamance, the route to Dakar through Tambacounda is about 1,000 kilometers.”
The border closure becomes so disturbing that citizens of the two countries urge their governments to meet and put the impasse to an end.
Mr. Gassama condemned the Gambia’s unilateral decision to increase the cost of ferry tickets across its ferry crossing points by 1000% for Senegalese trucks.
However, Seydi Gassama called on the governments of Senegal and The Gambia “to meet and solve this problem once and for all.”
Gassama commented on reports that Senegalese transport unions closed The Gambia-Senegal border. He saw no reason why “private persons should be allowed to close the border. The decision to close the border is a sovereign act and should be carried out by a sovereign state,” he said.
He decried the Jammeh regime’s ‘delaying tactics” with regard to implementing the agreement on erecting bride on River Gambia. The bridge, which would have made the easy flow of goods, services and people. According to Gassama, “the bridge is not only needed by Senegal, but also by ECOWAS countries.”
But the leader of the opposition Gambia Moral Congress said some non negotiable facts need to be cleared first before a bridge is erected.
“The Gambia is an independent sovereign country, not a province of any state,” Lawyer Mai Ahmed Fatty posted on his Facebook wall. He said the country “has the sovereign right to determine its own fiscal and monetary policies (economic policies) including levying taxes, duties, fines, etc. In imposing ferry crossing rates, The Gambia did what was her sovereign right, without contravening domestic or international law.”
Mai Ahmad Fatty said the rationality of the ticket price hike is subject to further debate. “Does a protocol or binding agreement exists that requires prior approval from any country or authority in determining the rate hike? The answer is NO. Now does the Government of The Gambia has the right to implement economic or foreign policies that have the capacity to endanger our economy or international relations? The answer is NO,“ Lawyer Fatty wrote.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Gambia Chamber of Commerce also raised concerns about the border impasse. Alieu Seck is quoted by local media as stressing the negative impact of the border closure on small and large businesses.
Reports from main border checkpoints have it that businesses along Farafenni and Amdalai are going down. “Some shops have been closed due to the continued closure of the border,” a resident of Farafenni, located along Trans-Gambia highway.
“I think Gambia will have to blink or the economic consequences might be dire,” said the Chairman of Senegambia Human Rights Defence League Malick Kah who spoke to this reporter.
Mr. Kah blamed Gambian authorities for the border closure and the disastrous impact on the country’s economy. “Technically, the Senegalese government did not impose any restrictions, they leave the matter entirely with the transport union, while The Gambia acted unilaterally without any notice to the Senegalese authorities about the tariff increment, hence its going to be difficult unless Gambia reverse its action and consultation begins.”