TRANSPORT UNION SAYS SENEGAL STILL BLOCKING BORDER TO GAMBIAN COMMERCIAL VEHICLES

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By Olimatou Coker

The president of the Gambia Transport Union has expressed frustration over Senegal’s insistence that no Gambian commercial vehicle should directly take passengers to Dakar except GTSC buses.

Currently, all Gambian vehicles must drop their passengers at the border for them to continue their journey into Senegal on only Senegalese vehicles.

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“They would not allow Gambian vehicles to take passengers to anywhere in Senegal except the national bus company GTSC.

Even GTSC can only deploy just two buses a day.  This is not only contradicting the Ecowas protocol on free movement of people but also the inter-state road transport agreement signed between The Gambia and Senegal in 2018,” Omar Ceesay noted.

He said failure to implement the Inter-State Road Transport Permit (ISTP) between The Gambia and Senegal is making business and life very difficult for both drivers and passengers going to Senegal.

Mr Ceesay said under the agreement, all vehicles from each member state carrying passengers or goods are permitted to enter and stay in another member state for 15 days and 90 days for commercial and private vehicles, respectively.

According to him, and in view of the regulations, the inability of Gambian commercial vehicles to transport people to Senegal is a “huge concern” to his union and all commercial transporters in The Gambia.

“The sad thing is that Senegal do this to only Gambian vehicles. Guinea Bissau passenger vehicles are transporting passengers and goods to Senegal, likewise Malian passenger vehicles, Guinea Conakry and even Mauritania which is not in Ecowas can send passenger- carrying vehicles to Senegal,” Ceesay said.

Mr Ceesay added that even though the Gambia government has made several attempts to implement this agreement, there seems to be an unwillingness on the Senegalese side to honor the agreement. “As a follow-up to implement the agreement, the government of the Gambia engaged the government of Senegal from the 4th to 7th of June 2018, and also on 25th February 2020 and even the two heads of state President Adama Barrow and President Macky Sall met again at the presidential council meeting in Senegal in March 2020 and the matter was brought as an agenda, but still Senegal is not honoring the argument,” he added. He said what is baffling is that no individual or group has any power to block the national roads in Senegal without the approval of the government.

“So while we acknowledge the efforts by the government of the Gambia for the scheme to be implemented, we called on the government to do everything possible to put an end to the blockage at the Senegalese borders,” he said.

Ceesay also called on all CSOs and Gambian residents to come together and demand for an end to the blockage affecting our economy as a country.