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Friday, September 18, 2020

Saidou Nourou Bah Senegalese diplomat (Part II)

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Sainey Darboe: Which brings me to your point of the need for closer ties between The Gambia and Senegal. This has sadly not been the case with frequent border closures. Some months ago, The Gambia closed the border citing the unruly behaviour of the Senegalese Transport Union which arbitrarily closed it earlier? 

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Ambassador Ba: I do not have all the details but I can say that within a family and even between couples disputes are sometimes very frequent. When you share the same bedroom, the same lunch and the same cup even the way you have your breakfast can cause disturbance or the way you sleep. This is very frequent but you resolve those problems in a family way. That is very important. It is important to resolve those disputes in a family way instead of going outside and saying what your wife told you or your husband. It should be a close family. 

 

Why does the problem always have to emanate from the Senegalese end? 

It is the responsibility of each government to monitor its borders but do you think Gambians with relatives won’t find a way to visit their families even if the borders are closed? They can go into Senegal by not crossing the official border. Likewise, if The Gambia closes its border, I am sure we cannot have policemen at each kilometer of the border and people will enter. I am sure if we discuss any kind of problem, we can solve it. The coup d’etat just blocked the secretariat but the confederation lived for nine years after which it was dissolved and we came back to the secretariat which means 30 years ago the way the confederation was built might not be the best way. It was a ready-made suit instead of being a tailor-made suit. 

 

What informed that opinion of yours? 

Because if the two countries have been making progress since 1967 up to 1981, which is 14  years during which we were doing good things and some small bad things this would not happen. But in general we were really improving and all of a sudden the coup happened which led to a shift in the confederation .The question I would like to ask is what are the positive and negative things done by the secretariat? That is what I mean by tailor-made suit not ready-made suit. 

 

But at the time there was the pervasive perception that Senegal wanted to annex The  Gambia. 

No. In my understanding if we go back to history to the empire of Kaabu we were all the same people sharing the same culture, wealth and poverty because we were interrelated. This is a fact but when the colonial system came Senegambia ceased to exist for us and we have The Gambia colonised first of all by the Portuguese and then the British while Senegal was colonised by France. The colonialists came and said we are not the same people. The Portuguese went to Guinea Bissau and said the same thing. So, in a small area we had to manage three different colonial systems which is very complicated. For example, in France you drive right hand and in the UK you drive left hand and The Gambia and Senegal followed that. So if you are used to driving in Senegal and come to The Gambia and have to drive left you get confused. That confusion is also mainly the source of misunderstanding between the police in The Gambia and Senegalese drivers. 

The same misunderstanding happens between Gambian drivers and Senegalese police. I am not saying all our problems derived from colonisation but most of our problems derived from different forms of colonisation. But after 53 years of independence for Senegal and almost fifty years for The Gambia, we cannot say the colonial system is responsible up to now. 

 

Why is it that when Gambians go to Senegal their goods are confiscated in breach of Ecowas protocols, while The Gambia accords better treatment to your citizens? 

We did better before Ecowas. The way Gambians complain of harassment in Senegal is the same way Senegalese citizens complain of harassment in The Gambia. As I said earlier, if you are neighbours and share the same room, bed, lunch and breakfast after a long time problems come up. At the end of the day, what is important is what is in the interest of the majority of Gambian and Senegalese people. If we follow what the colonialists have drawn on the map we will divide a mosque, house and a bed. When I visited the border once with Gambian and Senegalese counterparts I said this cannot happen. The people asked us what we were doing and then they said ‘after 50 years of independence you want to divide us?’ The people of the two countries are far ahead of their governments in terms of integration of Senegambia. I am glad that the two countries are now on the path of building new Senegambia relations. 

 

With all due respect, the progress you are talking about is not manifested in reality.

If you go into details you go into negative things. Why don’t we go into positive things which is much bigger than negative details. For example, the first visit of Macky Sall as an elected head of state was to The Gambia. He did not go to France, Mauritania, Guinea or Mali but The Gambia which was a very good and big sign.  When we had the Senegambia socio-cultural integration conference, I am sure it had the blessing of the president himself. The vice president was supposed to be there but because Women’s Day was being celebrated she was in charge of matters as the minister and it was also the birthday of President Jammeh which was why he could not come. Even if there was a negative aspect we should learn from the lesson. 

 

Don’t you think the choice of The Gambia as his first destination by Macky Sall was all sushi no substance because afterwards he could not bring himself to call the transport union to order who arbitrarily closed the border? 

I would say that the trade unions in The Gambia and Senegal are part of our countries. In any country, you have people who are for something and you have people who are against something. You cannot put focus on negative things, as I mentioned earlier. Why don’t you recall that from 1967 to 1981 we had good relations. We had cooperation at a parliamentary committee, private sector, youth and intellectual levels. Even if we have dark spots we have lit the way where we should go. We have a shared space of peace, stability and prosperity. The Gambia cannot move next to Europe and Senegal cannot moved next to Japan. I am not saying that we are condemned to live together because there is no condemnation; we have to live together as brothers and sisters. That is what is in the interest of the majority of Gambians and Senegalese. 

 

The former Gambian president, Sir Dawda Jawara, ascribed the failure of the confederation in his book Kairaba to the Senegalese propensity to dominate? 

That is what I told you before that it was a ready-made suit rather than a tailor-made suit. It was not meant to be run in a way that somebody felt dominated. The Gambia is a small country but there are no small people. If you have one million inhabitants and the other has hundred million you should not have the impression that the amount of population is a sign of domination. I respect the former president but I do not share his point of view entirely in my own analysis. I share his point of view but I can’t share it all the way. In a common way of life solidarity means if I have I should share with you. When you put together your eggs you should be managing the basket because if one eggs scrambles the whole baskets scrambles. We should be interrelated and interdependent. It is not about who is dominating and who is dominated. 

 

What’s your take on former president Jawara? 

I have full respect for President Jawara. My wife had the honour to visit his wife and they were very close. When he comes from golf and I come from tennis we used to meet at a supermarket in Bakau. He gave me the honour to speak to him. He is a big man but very simple. The last time I came here I was very impressed when I went to the mosque on Friday and I saw him come to the mosque as a former president. That he is able to move in the country freely as a former president is really good. So I have a great respect for him. We need enlightenment from wise people like him. 

 

Finally, if you were a future teller what future do you see for Senegambia? 

I am proud and confident of the future of Senegambia because what presidents Jammeh and Sall are doing need the support of everybody especially the press. 

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