By Omar Bah
The Senegalese High Commissioner in Banjul Bassirou Sène has said he is surprised that some Gambians, who are complaining about the presence of foreign forces, could easily forget that without those forces Yahya Jammeh would have still been here.
A survey conducted in May by Afrobarometer revealed that an overwhelming majority of Gambians want the Ecomig troops to leave to allow Gambia’s military and police to take charge of the security needs of the country.
However, the Senegalese diplomat said: “We should not forget that these forces were deployed to The Gambia for a reason and without them Jammeh would have still been here. So those who are saying the Senegalese security forces should go must have forgotten so easily.”
High Commissioner Sène added that Senegal has “no ulterior motive in the Gambia”, as he laughed at suggestions that the former French colony would jump at every chance to annex The Gambia.
“I don’t understand why my Gambian brothers and sisters are only concerned about Senegalese troops in the Ecomig. Why not other security forces? These troops are here at the Gambia Government’s wish. They are not here because of President Macky Sall. This is an Ecowas decision requested by the government and if Ecowas or Gambia decides that the troops should leave, the Senegalese forces will leave immediately because Senegal has no other interest apart from helping The Gambia sustain its peace and democracy,” High Commissioner Sene said.
He added: “This why when the voter registration was about to start, I took advantage of my countrywide tour to ask Senegalese living in the country to stay out of Gambia’s internal affairs. These days you hear people talking about the presence of the Senegalese troops and associating it to the December election. I want to make it clear that Senegal has great respect for Gambia’s sovereignty and we will never attempt to interfere in its internal matters.”
The diplomat said the Senegalese and other Ecomig forces are “not going to vote or interfere in the process.
“These forces are not here to cause any harm to Gambians. Their mission and preoccupation are to provide security and there is no crucial time to do so than this election period,” he said.
Reacting to suggestions that Senegal could have supported Gambia in a more useful manner by intervening in the country’s education and health sectors, rather than sending troops, Commissioner Sène contended: “The Gambia is a sovereign state and Senegal cannot just come and impose things like that but we are always willing to help when the government requests it.”
He said when The Gambia confirmed first case of Covid-19, Senegal sent five senior doctors to the country upon request of the government.
“Since then, a Senegalese Covid-19 specialist has been coming in and out of the country sharing his expertise with Gambia’s health authorities. The Senegalese government also donated 10,000 Covid-19 vaccines to The Gambia,” he said.
In the areas of education, Commissioner Sène added: “We have Senegalese schools here and one of our well-known and recognised institutions, Supdeco, has opened a campus in Gambia. The ultra-modern campus is designed to offer a high level of education exactly similar to that provided in Dakar.”
Commenting on the UDP visit for the first time, Ambassador Sène said: “Yes, a UDP delegation visited me but they only expressed their concern about Senegalese interference in the previous Gambian election. They told me they were worried that it could happen again. But they didn’t give me any instructions. I only receive instructions from Macky Sall. That should be made very clear”.
He said the countrywide tour he embarked on was meant to deliver consul cards and birth certificates to Senegalese nationals.
“We used the opportunity to advise our nationals against interfering in Gambia’s internal affairs and to thank them for being law abiding because as we speak out of the 500, 000 Senegalese living here, only 102 are currently in detention for being in conflict with the law,” he said. Mr Sène expressed gratitude to the Gambian people and the government for the hospitality accorded to his people.
“The Gambia and Senegal are the same; from the same blood and that is natural.
There is nothing we can do about it,” he said.