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Barrow urged to engage Senegal on hot pursuit agreement

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By Omar Bah

Lamin Keita, a Gambian scholar in the United States, has urged President Adama Barrow to engage his Senegalese counterpart to review the controversial hot pursuit security agreement signed between the two countries.

The hot pursuit agreement between The Gambia and Senegal is considered a threat to national security.

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Experts say hot pursuit on land is a grey concept which has no global legal basis with some critics even seeing it as an unhinged usurping of Gambia’s territorial integrity by Senegal.

 In his argument, Mr Keita said the two governments should also focus on ‘fence-mending’ diplomacy to address security and economic challenges in Senegambia.

“The two governments should consciously explore opportunities to problem-solve dichotomies that exist between the two nations for mutual growth, national development, and regional peace,” he said.

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He said the Senegalese president’s recent visit to The Gambia is a pragmatic foreign policy approach that could benefit both countries.

“This is a good time for us to address and close the gaps of aged-long legacies of democratic erosion, economic deprivation, and deteriorating security in both countries. It also necessitated the quest for formal diplomatic dialogue to promote functional integration of shared culture, language, history, and democratic values, which can further strengthen the economic exchanges between the two countries,” he said.

Keita said the primary objective of the visit might be to secure some form of cooperative benefits like trade, risk pooling, and information transmission.

“But in theory the new leadership in Senegal is intelligent and pragmatic because they understand the significance of the concept of bilateral relations, which must start with your next-door neighbor. By all indications, President Faye wants to undo any bad blood between the two countries and, at the same time, try to learn from the past mistakes of the previous government,” he said.

He said the bilateral relations between The Gambia and Senegal, that strained during President Jammeh’s rule, have significantly improved since 2016.

“The relationship has become more productive and smoother, based on mutual interests and efforts influenced by geographical, security, socioeconomic, and political factors,” he said.

Over the years, he added, these underlying forces have put the security and economic dichotomy in check and become issues of interest to the Senegalese government.

“Equally, The Gambia, in particular, considering its geographic proximity to Senegal, should guard its sovereignty and economic interest in the sub-region. Barrow’s government should be awake to the realities of international and domestic power politics. The Gambia’s internal and external bilateral relations have no utility of morality,” he said.

He added that the government should spread its multilateral diplomatic arms with Senegal through dynamic foreign policies and replicate a similar democratic dispensation “our neighbors have recently adopted”.

“The process should not be implemented through the self-perpetuation metaphor of democracy and politics of patronage, which the Senegalese have rejected. More interestingly, Senegal’s continual presence and political intervention in Gambia since 2016 portrays political control and interference. As a result, President Barrow should take that up with President Faye. Otherwise, the growing suspicion of Senegal’s political and economic motive in The Gambia may engender public opinion and plant seeds of discord between the two countries,” he added.

Human rights activist, Pa Samba Jaw, said the most pressing issue facing the two countries is the spillover of the Casamance crisis.

“It is an affront to our sovereignty for Senegalese soldiers to cross into the Fonis to pursue suspects. I hope that the two governments will come up with concrete policies to solve this problem. I know that some people are hoping that Senegal will withdraw its soldiers from The Gambia, but I seriously doubt that will happen any time soon. Actually, there will be very little or no changes in the diplomatic relationship between the two countries,” he observed.

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