The Gambia and Senegal are almost molded into one territorial distinction. Although both were colonised by the French in the case of Senegal and the English in The Gambia, they share deep historical, cultural and ancestral ties. In the words of many it is the question of two nations, one people, physically divided by the cruel vestiges of a colonial past.
The zone referred to as the Senegambia region is culturally rich with a great diversity of people which includes the Wolof, Serere, Peul, Tukulor, Mandinkas, Soninkes, Jolas, Bainunkas and so on. The unity underlying the diversity of the people of Senegambia came from centuries of living together.
What symbolises the region’s geographical unity are the two rivers of The Gambia and Senegal and their many tributaries (bolongs) and beautiful deltas, all getting their source from the highlands of the Futa Jallon of Guinea Conakry and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.
Nowhere is this unity in diversity spelt out more clearly than in the border regions surrounding the countries of Senegal and The Gambia. Here people move freely between the two countries sharing in their traditions and other business engagement under the sign of “Boka Hol”.
One of these border areas is the Niumi Region which stretches from the mouth of The Gambia River on the North Bank, Barra to the north-eastern villages of Juffureh and Albreda. In Senegal it covers the border village of Karang to the towns of Tubakuta and Sokone. The Mandinka tribe forms the majority of Niuminkas followed by the Serere, Wolof, and Fulas. The residents are mostly farmers and fisher-persons due to their location at the crossroads of the Atlantic Ocean and the River Gambia with its many tributaries including part of the Sine Saloum Delta.
It is the need to preserve such cultural values allowing our communities to live in peace and harmony that the Senegambia Cross-border Friendship Festival, locally known as the Niumi Badiya Festival, was conceived.
This is the second edition of the festival and both countries were well represented.
The Delegation from The Gambia was led by Abdoulie Bah, the Mayor of Banjul, who delivered a unifying statement that was welcomed by all. Other members of the delegation are Ebou Ndure, The Gambia’s ambassador to Senegal, the seyfolu of both Lower and Upper Niumi, the deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Youths and Sports, representatives from the private sector such as Mr Adama Bah of Camp Africa and Mr Sheikh Tijan Nyang. Among the Gambian contingent were cultural groups from Niumi and many other private citizens.
The mayor of Tubakuta, who is also a Member of the National Assembly of Senegal was the host. The Senegalese Minister of Culture, Hon. Abdul Latif Coulibally was also in attendance and other Senegalese dignitaries. The next edition of the Niumi Badiya Festival will be held in The Gambia next year around the same time.