By Musa Bah
The Wolofs have a saying that ‘Wakhtaan Wakha Degga Chala’ that is, (telling each other the truth is part of a conversation). It was reported in the local newspapers yesterday that the first ever meeting of experts between the Senegalese and Gambian governments in Banjul ahead of the presidential council meeting started at the Kairaba Beach Hotel. In the discussions, Sir, I suggest your government make a case for Gambian businessmen/women entering Senegal to sell goods. We know that Senegalese do a lot of business in the Gambia. They bring things here all the time and sell it without let or hinderance. Some Gambians also go to Senegal to buy merchandise and bring it to the Gambia for sale. Thus, Senegal is gaining a lot of economic benefits in these transactions.
However, if, and when a Gambian departs here for Senegal without any thing (goods for sale), s/he is subjected to a lot of trouble and the payments of money at the Senegalese border. Even something as simple as sugar, or a piece of cloth for a relative, could be seized unless one pays a huge amount of money to the customs officers at the border.
Mr President, both Senegal and the Gambia are sovereign states, and each should respect the territorial integrity of the other. When we have a relationship, it should be based on mutual respect and benefits. It should not be that because one is bigger it should benefit more than the other. International relations and corporations are based on mutual benefits. Thus, there is no lasting friendships on diplomacy; only aligned benefits or interests exists. No matter how close two countries are, once their interests differ, they will move apart in no time. Thus, the relationship must be based on truth and equality.
Mr. President, another point is that currently, there is a lot of talk on the arrangement for Senegal to supply the Gambia with electricity. There is no doubt that this has brought some relieve in terms of the provision of power to rural Gambia as some – or many – folks now enjoy at least twenty or so hours of uninterrupted power supply. However, the agreement and how it was reached is still murky to many Gambians. I dare say most Gambians do not know what exactly the arrangement is. In fact, some people are even saying that the deal with the Senegalese is not at all beneficial to the Gambia; that there was one which would have been more beneficial to us but was rejected in favour of this one. The other side of it is that energy is a potential national security issue. If our energy is supplied from outside, they could easily plunge us in darkness at the click of a button.
Whatever the case, Mr President, I think there was a lack of clear-cut communication with the public with regards to this agreement. Everything a government does should be for the benefit of the general population. And as the agreement was for the benefit of the public, it would have been good if they were kept in the loop, so to speak. If the people had been consulted on some of these issues, they would have given their suggestions and that would have been more productive for all.
Whatever the case is on that agreement – whether it is beneficial or harmful to the country – the government, through the National Water and Electricity Company should come out and explain it in detail to the public. Government serves the people, and at the people’s pleasure. The government is accountable to the people who voted them into office. So, we demand that you and your government explain this to us. Now!!!
Have a good day Mr President.