By Abdoulie John
Officials of the Gambia and Senegal are gearing up for a second round of talks to resolve their unresolved issues. The talks, scheduled to take place in July 2016, will chart a way forward for the two neighbouring countries that have been designed to get get along.
President Yahya Jammeh’s unilateral increase of ferry tariff resulted to the closure of Senegal-Gambia border for more than three months. The border was opened after several hours of talks involving foreign ministers of both countries. But some thorny issues remain on the table.
“You cannot expect our country to endorse the entire points highlighted in the final communique without assessing how this would make a positive impact on the lives of Gambians,” a top government official told this reporter under conditions of anonymity.
On May 15, Gambia Foreign Affairs minister Neneh Macdouall Gaye met with her Senegalese counterpart Mankeur Ndiaye in Dakar to find ‘lasting solutions’ to a border crisis that occurred for the tenth time. A final communique was endorsed by both foreign ministers with some unresolved issues including the case of Senegalese fugitive Baye Modou Fall nicknamed Boy Djinné. During the Dakar talks, Minister Ndiaye made reference to Boy Djinné’s case and reiterated his government’s demands.
But a Gambian official who begged for cover said it would be naive to believe that Baye Modou Fall, who made headlines in escaping from Senegalese prisons, will be extradited. “As long as Senegal will continue to harbour Gambian dissidents, the Gambia will continue to be a peace haven for Baye Modou Fall,” he said.
The Secretary General of the Dakar-based human rights watchdog RADDHO decried the way the Gambia government is using the Senegalese fugitive case as a political bargaining chip. Aboubacry Mbodji said the Gambia should unconditionally extradite Boy Djinné. “You cannot compare the cases of dissidents, journalists and activists who fled the Gambia for fear of persecution to the case of Senegalese criminal who was serving a jail-term,” Mbodji said.
Senegalese music icon Ouza Diallo, who is well known for his support to President Yahya Jammeh, favours calls for Gambia to extradite Baye Modou Fall.
“Boy Djinné does not worth anything and should not be allowed to cause diplomatic row between Senegal and the Gambia,” Ouza Diallo said.
Mr. Diallo said he still cannot understand how Boy Djinné case has become one of the most fertile sources of discord between the two countries. “Why it continues to cast a shadow of uncertainty on Gambia-Senegal relations?” he quizzed with exasperation in his tone.