By Momodou Darboe
The United Democratic Party (UDP) has said reports of incursions into the country by the Senegalese security forces and their involvement in fracas with the locals are concerning.
“These reports the Senegalese military or security personnel would come into The Gambia and there would be fracas, push and pull [between them and citizens] are worrying. These are things that are not neighborly behaviors; these are not things that inspire confidence in the mutual respect for each other’s sovereign rights,” the spokesman of the main opposition party said in the aftermath of a friction between some villagers of Garawol in URR and the Senegalese security last week.
Almamy Taal told The Standard in an interview that aggression or assault on people anywhere is condemnable.
He added that the UDP believes the government is doing a poor job in enlightening citizens about some of the security arrangements it had with its Senegalese counterpart.
“We should not feel that Senegal is interfering in the affairs of The Gambia like that. They are involved in these activities pursuant to agreements…the policy of Hot Pursuit, having the right to follow criminal activity or criminal enterprises in each other’s country,” Taal pointed out.
He asserted that security agreements are integral aspects of international relations but that there needs to be a level of disclosure so that people feel things are happening in a context of agreements and arrangements.
“There should be a framework to resolve whatever citizens of the two countries are feeling,” he added.
Taal explained that the UDP is of the belief that the relationship between Banjul and Dakar should be hinged on values, economic interest and peaceful co-existence of the two peoples.
“Our relationship with Senegal has to be based on agreement, the international law and bilateral arrangements that we have with Senegal,” he added.
Taal said The Gambia and Senegal have lot of security arrangements, terms of which should be ‘clearly’ known to citizens to forestall repeated incursions or attempts to interfere with the sovereignty of ‘this country because people of sovereign equality is extremely important to us.’
He stressed that government should ensure the sovereign equality of the two republics is paramount in all the dealings with Senegal.
“The values we really need to cherish are good neighbourliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of each other’s country’s activities,” the UDP mouthpiece said.
Taal underscored the importance of getting facts about the nature of ‘our important’ relationships with Dakar whilst trying as much as possible to respect the national security issues involved.
He continued: “We shouldn’t get to the point where -The Gambia and Senegal- is perceived that there leaders are involved in a relationship that is not in the best interest of the citizens because they are complaining about security incursions, feeling harassed or getting some aggressive behavior from Senegalese security personnel. This is not boding well for the historical relations and the good neighbourliness between The Gambia and Senegal.”
“Whatever agreement there is, they must be known by and large to the people so that when these incidents happen, we know that it’s happening in the context of a security arrangement or bilateral relationship between The Gambia and Senegal. It should not be only confined to the two presidents and governments. People also have a stake in a working Senegal/Gambia relationship.”
The UDP spokesman contended that firing shots even in Senegal is not going to be something to be taken lightly unless situation demands it and must be based on law.
He concluded: “The relationship between The Gambia and Senegal is the closest relationship between two sovereign nations anywhere in the world. We are by history and by geography one and the same people. As a result of colonial rule, we were divided into two different republics but up to today the relationship continues to be very mutually beneficial to all of us. We should try to move our relationship beyond blood ties to relationship of values of respect for fundamental human rights…”