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City of Banjul
Thursday, February 25, 2021

Letters: Gambia-Senegal unresolved boundaries disputesan existential threat

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Dear editor,
In an earlier letter to the editor entitled “Love Your Neighbour but Put up a Fence”, I underscored The Gambia’s irrevocable sovereignty and indivisible territoriality which were established legitimately at independence on 18 February, 1965, after which sceptics were proven wrong over the claim that the newly independent micro-state of The Gambia would not endure the inevitable political, economic and militaryintrigues of its larger sisterneighbour, Senegal.

In fact, despite the Treaty of Association signed in Banjul (then Bathurst) on 19 April 1967 between The Gambia and Senegal, the latter’s political, economic and military intrigues towards The Gambia began when, on 11 January 1969, President Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal accused The Gambia of economic aggression and thereafter unleashed a tacit policy objective of economic strangulation characterised by infrequent trade and commercial vehicular blockadestargeting The Gambia that lingerson to this day. Then in July 1974, following different boundary disputes, 20 Gambians were arrested by Senegalese troops.

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Over a century and a quarter later(129 years to be exact) after the marking of The Gambia’s boundarieson 9 June 1891, episodic boundary disputes and unrelated incursions, assault and abduction of Gambians by Senegalese troops continue to surface up to this day and year 2020, threatening our territoriality and the livelihood of Gambian communities settling in seemingly unmarked and therefore unknown Gambia-Senegal boundaries. Pundits advance that it was only as a result of the skillful political and economic maneuverings of the post-independence governmentsthat somehow put a check on deliberate attempts by Senegal to stranglethe Gambia’seconomic securityas well as threatening our territoriality.

That notwithstanding, the vexing and persistent eruption of land disputes in the village of Darsilami in the Kombo Central District of the West Coast Region, which stem from extant uncertainties surrounding the Gambia-Senegal boundary there and elsewhere across the country is not a trivial matter that warrants nothing except the dragging of feet and inordinate dilly-dallying, but shouldinstead be in the front-burner of any resolution framework mechanism. The sooner the source of trouble and deprivation is expunged, the better for the community of Darsilami and elsewhere along the length and breadth of the country.

In this context, it should be safe to submit here that any attempt at resolving the recurrent boundary disputes must adopt a historical methodology, given that Anglo-French agreements fixed the present Gambia-Senegal frontiers as far back as 10 August 1889, following which British and French Commissioners signed an Agreement on 9 June 1891marking (my emphasis) The Gambia’s territorial boundaries.

In conclusion and on a tangential but related matter, just as the Maritime Boundaries Treaty of 4 June 1975 that fixed the maritime boundaries between the Republic of The Gambia and the Republic of Senegal is quite explicit and as such nouncertainties or disputes have ever emanated from it, (insofaras my experience in conducting coastal defence patrols, fisheries protection and search and rescue operations as a naval ship’s captain is concerned), so too must no disputes or uncertainties emanate from the agreement markingour territorial boundaries insofar as the Gambia Armed Forces’ fundamental activity of familiarising itself with its area of responsibility (AoR) and Limit of Exploitation (LoE) are concerned.

Joseph P Jassey, Capt(rtd)
Executive consultant
West Atlantic
Security Risk Assessment and Management) Consultancy

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