By Omar Bah
President Macky Sall has strongly emphasised that the relationship between his country, Senegal, and The Gambia is based on mutual respect.
Addressing the 3rd Senegalo-Gambia Presidential Council Meeting yesterday at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara Conference Centre, President Sall said his country has no ulterior motive in pursuing close bilateral relations with The Gambia.
“Senegal is not looking for anything in The Gambia apart from peace and mutual cooperation. We don’t have any other ulterior motive apart from building on the already existing mutual respect between the two countries,” President Sall told delegates.
He went on: “Senegal’s main interest is in its security; we all know what is happening in Casamance, and we have made it clear that we will never allow any country to harbour people and allow them to use their territory to attack us. We will not tolerate or accept anything like that, but apart from that, we have no problem in The Gambia.”
Sall said in every relationship there will be times when “you encounter issues, but we should make sure if those issues arise, the ministries responsible act on them quickly before they reach the level of the presidents. The ministers and ambassadors should be able to communicate among themselves to ensure issues are addressed at their level.”
He said the two countries should loosen all protocols that make communication difficult between them.
The Senegalese leader also expressed gratitude for the hospitality accorded to him by his Gambian counterpart and urged citizens of the two countries to always preach peace and build mutual relations between themselves.
Also addressing the meeting, President Adama Barrow commended the relationship the two countries continue to share under its current presidents.
He said the council meeting provides the two countries with a valuable opportunity to review the agreements and commitments concluded during the Second Presidential Council Meeting held in Dakar in 2020 and foster a more robust and mutually beneficial relationship.
In the area of security, President Barrow said practical steps have been taken to cooperate better and address regional and cross-border security issues.
“A closer look at the impact of our joint initiatives indicates that, once there is commitment, we can both derive substantial outcomes from our joint ventures,” he said.
He added that the meeting represents the two leaders’ collective commitment to consolidate the peace, security, stability, and prosperity of the Senegambia subregion.
“In view of the opportunities available through the Banjul-Dakar transport corridor, we should now redouble efforts for more significant results,” he added.
Mr Barrow said there is strong evidence that the free movement of people and transport resulting from the Senegambia Bridge supports more fluid trade between the two countries.
“The lesson is that intensifying trade could be a major game-changer for the prosperity of the two nations. Essentially, therefore, we must continue to address trade-related barriers and the occasional issues that disrupt the smooth conduct of business across our borders,” he added.
He said both he and his Senegalese counterpart have recognised the importance of accountability and follow-up.
“Our governments are duty-bound to ensure that the promises made translate into tangible actions that positively impact the lives of our citizens. By working closely, we will surely make a real difference in honour of the trust our people place in us,” he said.
He commended President Sall on his recent move to not contest the 2024 presidential election.
“This move has revitalised the democratic aspirations of the people of Senegal, and other African leaders should follow suit. You have set an example for many African leaders to follow, especially for those whose constitution has a presidential term limit,” he said.