In the wake of the reopening of the border between the Gambia and Senegal, the Trans-Gambia bridge project seems to be on the verge of entering the phase of construction, although it raises a lot of expectations and questions about its impact on people’s lives and communities across the West African sub-region.
“The building of the bridge over the Gambia River has always been a central issue well before the boycott of the Trans-Gambia route. The history of the bridge dates back to the late 1970s when it was initially conceived as Bridge and Barrage Project – a combination of a road and irrigation project,” said former Foreign Affairs minister Sidi Sanneh in an interview with this reporter.
Over the past decades, the project of the bridge on River Gambia has been a subject of discord between the two countries. During the Dakar talks held on May 15, Gambian Foreign Affairs minister Neneh Macdouall-Gaye and her Senegalese counterpart Mankeur Ndiaye reiterated both countries’ commitment to achieve the project which already got funding from the African Development Bank (ADB) to the tune of 50 billions CFA francs.
In an attempt to set the record straight, Sidi Sanneh recalled that Gambia lost interest in the project when the barrage component, which was the main interest of the country, was dropped for environmental reasons.
He then made it clear that the project was kept alive by Senegal for over three decades until fairly recent when it emerged as a Bridge Project.
“It is important, at this stage for Gambians to familiarize themselves with the genesis of the project to better appreciate the geopolitical importance as well as its implications,” he emphasized..
The former diplomat, whose blog is among the most visited in Gambian media landscape, acknowledged the genuineness of the objections made by Gambia Foreign Affairs minister Neneh Macdouall Gaye who deplored the fact that the design of the bridge does not allow navigability.
“The late objection should not be an excuse to proceed without a satisfactory review of the problem because the River Gambia is the single most important natural resource which must be protected and preserved for future generations yet unborn.”
When asked whether there is a ploy by the Jammeh to later make a devastating U-turn against the Trans-Gambia bridge project, the former minister said “Whether Jammeh will be true to his word is anybody’s guess. Given his unpredictable behavior, my bet is he will not. You must recall that, at the start of the negotiations, Senegal presented what amounted to an 11-point demand,” he said.
He raised suspicions about the way the Gambian leader Jammeh reportedly instructed his delegation at the Dakar negotiations to accede to all of Senegal’s demands so that the reopening of the borders can be accelerated,
“It is highly likely that Jammeh will renege on some of the issues. Senegal, on the other hand, will try to hold Jammeh’s feet to the fire. How successful they will be is also open to question.”