The Gambia shares a long 740km border with Senegal and although most of it is porous and easily crossed by people on foot or carts, the major motorways linking the transnational grids used by haulage trucks are policeable.
Since the period of early independence during the era of Senghor, Senegal has been playing the diabolical game of closing the border with The Gambia citing all kinds of justifications. Well aware of the importance of the re-export trade to the Gambian economy, they have used border closures and the threat of border closures to ‘punish’ us and bring us into line.
However, of recent, the closures have not only become more common, but the periods of closures have become inordinately long and they are unilaterally dictated by the Senegalese transport union. We all know the powerful leverage trade unions wield in countries like Senegal but it defies all reason that they can repeatedly close important transit borders continually without their government lifting a finger to do anything about it.
The disruption caused to commerce and the inconvenience to ordinary travelers is incalculable. Is this going to go on indefinitely? That is why it is imperative for the Gambian and Senegalese transport unions AND more importantly, Gambian and Senegalese governments to sit and do the tough talking, resolve the problematic issues and let the borders open and stay open for the mutual benefit of the Senegalese and Gambian people.
We understand the reasons that influenced the decision the Gambia government took last week when it closed the border after the maverick Senegalese transport union head decided to reopen it after another long closure. It shows that The Gambia too can play ball. If anything, it would only strengthen our hands in any future negotiations. The border closures only result in mutually assured losses. No one wins.
It should also be realised that actions such as the perennial arbitrary closures of international borders do not just hurt governments but the generality of people and they would only generate hate and other ill feelings in the populace. The Gambia and Senegal are tied by tradition and kinship. If anything was going to strengthen our relationships, it should be a sense of defiance against borders that were created by colonialists.
The government of Senegal should put an end to this madness. Every year hundreds of thousands of Gambians travel to Senegal to pay homage to their numerous marabouts and in the process contribute millions of dalasis to the Senegalese exchequer and the local economy. Now here is a very important opportunity for the serigns to do their bit in concretising the solid bonds between the two countries.
One telephone call from Touba, one telephone call from Tivaouane, one telephone call from Ndiassane to Mr Sall at Palais Presidentiel in Dakar and sanity will ensue.]]>