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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

There is no permanent friend but interest in global politics: ‘Security Dilemma’ in Gambia-Senegal relations

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With Essa Njie

Great scholars of International Relations including Professor Joseph Nye, have lucidly offered us an understanding of international politics; an arena where friendship is never permanent but momentary in the presence of ‘national interest’. From the eon of the Peloponnesian War between city states of Athens and Sparta where alliance formation or security reliance on Sparta by Melos massively failed for the latter when it warned Athens that they were neutral in the conflict and if they are attacked, Sparta was going to respond, the Athenians famous declared:

When you imagine out of very shame that they (Sparta) will assist you, we congratulate you on your blissful ignorance but we do not admire your folly. For the part of expediency is safe where as justice and honour involve action and danger to which none are more averse to facing than Sparta (see the Melian Dialogue).
As Melos refused to heed to the warning of the Athenians to surrender, the former was disappointed as it eventually faced destruction without any security guarantee from Sparta.

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When Hitler became so ambitious in Europe, some European powers became afraid of his growing strength and decided to appease him as a strategy to prevent him from becoming so powerful. As an ambitious German leader at the time, he signed the Molotov treaty (a non-aggressive pact with Stalin) only for the Soviet leader to realise that his counterpart (Hitler) would attack him later-a treaty seen by Hitler as a temporary tactical manoeuvre. Germany’s ambitious position of a ‘policeman’ in Europe at the time did not only make Hitler to enter into an alliance with Benito Mussolini’s fascist Italy called the Rome-Berlin axis (1936), later expanded to incorporate Japan called the Anti-Comintern Pact against soviet power, but also pursue the policies of rearmament and military expansionism which ultimately led to the outbreak of the second global war (WWII) in 1939.

Mr President, these and other events in international politics teach us that there exists no permanent friend but interest; that 21st century global politics just as the previous centuries is highly characterise by ‘security dilemma’ where no one is safe from each other especially neighbours. An argument that can add up as a condition in explaining the possibility of conflict between two states is the issue of proximity. European powers at the time prefer to attack those countries that were closer rather than distance ones. Since no one can guarantee that you are safe from your neighbour’s harm, countries are warn not to trust each other (see the Prisoners’ Dilemma of the Game Theory).

To get to the point, you ought to realise that the Gambia can never be safe when Senegal which made herself the ‘police man’ of the region, pretending the Gambia is insecure. It is indeed understandable why we have Senegalese forces present in our land, but I am very much afraid that we are giving them so much room to know a lot about our security weaknesses which is undoubtedly extremely dangerous in this 21st century global politics for a tiny country like the Gambia.

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I can certainly say that there exists very little if any, security intelligence in the Gambia that Senegal is not privy to. Today, the Senegalese are closer to the presidency than even our Gambian security agents, knowing every detail. This is indeed the greatest insult to the sovereignty of The Gambia. I am not in any way trying to insinuate anything negative but trying to utter the bitter fact which may not go down well with many including you. But indeed one cannot remain silence over this since the Gambia is a sovereign state and must put limitation to everything it does with other countries especially our only neighbour.


The point here is, Senegal is being glorified with the belief that they made you take the presidency. No way, Gambians voted you and without them you would not have been in the presidency. Without doubt, Senegalese intervention in the Gambia was motivated by geostrategic interest base on security of the Cassamance region. One must awake and stop living in the ideal world, that the two countries are friends and shall remain one without any problem. Hey! We live in a period of uncertainty where offensive realism has become the order of the day. We may not pursue the offensive approach but the defensive one may work.


If we are to ascertain why Senegal intervened in 1981, we would come to the conclusion that it was in the best interest of Dakar if Kukoi was not in power and the Senegambia Confederation was established. In 1994, Dakar had no interest because the confederation had collapsed which was the reason why they did not intervene. Certainly, Jammeh was a threat to the peace and stability of Cassamance, Senegal had to fight tooth and nail to make sure he was gone in 2016. All three events tell us that national interest supersedes every other thing.

In addition Mr. President, you have recently made a statement that is so worrying. Saying that Senegal has qualified to the World Cup and that they will be taking the Gambian flag to the global football event in Moscow is an insult to both our football fraternity and the sovereignty of The Gambia. This indeed shows how you are glorifying Senegal which you and any other Gambian must be cautious about. Such statements can make the Gambia lose its respect especially from Senegal.
This piece only serves as an advice for you to be cautious and not a deliberate attempt to make your government see Senegal as an enemy. Certainly there is no permanent friend in international politics but interest.

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