A 4-day Senegambia civil society forum on Wednesday opened in Senegalese capital of Dakar.
The Gambia is being represented at the forum by a 17-man delegation led by Mr Nfamara Jawneh, executive director of Beakanyang.
The forum is being organized by a renowned Senegalese movement called Yena Marre in collaboration with two Gambian organizations namely Beakanyang and Team Gomsabopa with support from NED foundation.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mr Alieu Thine, a prominent civil rights activist in Senegal lauded the meeting.
According to him, the MBOKA project being implemented by Yena Marre and its Gambian partners is unique and important.
He said the initiative is in line with the ECOWAS vision of people and it also indicates that the two countries have already started the integration that the regional bloc is advocating for.
“At the level of Yena Marre we have been initiating series of projects that seek to bring our people together but this MBOKA project is unique as it’s designed and initiated by the youth and I wish the authorities of the two countries are here today listening to your deliberations,” he said.
For his part, Fadel, coordinator of Yane Marre welcomed the Gambian delegation to the forum and urged them to feel at home.
He noted that the two countries are more or less the same only divided by colonial masters for their selfish interest.
“The food, culture, religion and dialects spoken in the two countries are the same so we are the same people and we don’t need the unnecessarily border harassments our people experience when crossing to each other’s country,” he said.
The cultural exchange, he said, would bring the people of the two countries further closer.
On his part, Nfamara Jawneh, head of the Gambian delegation thanked Yane Marre for the warm welcome accorded to his delegation.
He also stated that no one could divide the people of the two countries even though in the past political elites have tried but could not succeed.
“With me in the delegation, we have 17 members drawn from 11 civil society organizations in The Gambia some of these organizations are involved in activities such as human rights promotion, good governance, migration, peace education, musicians etc,” Jawneh said.
He assured the gathering of their commitment towards the success of the MBOKA initiative whish he said is apt and long overdue.
Meanwhile, the objective of the visit was to promote cultural, economic, political and social ties between the people of the two countries.
The Senegambia CSO forum seeks to provide an opportunity for the CSOs of the two countries to interact, exchange ideas, best practices and to learn from each other. While in The Gambia, the team had successful meetings with various Gambian CSOs and local authorities who expressed their happiness with their visit.
It could be recalled that a 6-member delegation from the Senegalese civil society under the auspices of Yena Marre first visited The Gambia in November 2017 to introduce the MBOKA project to their Gambian counterparts.
The term MBOKA or MBADING refers to the fact that Senegalese and Gambian citizens belong to the same linguistic and cultural territory thus given the closeness of the region, there is a real kinship between people living in The Gambia and Senegal. The MBOKA project’s goal is to open several Mboka spaces (number and location would be defined), in Gambia and Senegal. These spaces in the Senegambia region will be centers that allow for sharing culture, promoting the arts and stimulating local level civic education.
It would also aim to make Senegambian citizens aware of the crucial issue of establishing a strong common citizenship culture; Mobilizing citizens to invest in the arts through the Mboka’s area that promotes interculturality and experience sharing; encouraging citizens’ initiatives in favor of good governance and working with leaders to benefit local communities and to engage Senegambia youth in positive and meaningful ways that allow them to contribute to the development of their society. When realized the spaces would serve as a reference point in the sub region in terms of promoting Senegambian culture, observation of good governance and maintaining a peaceful environment in the two countries.