It seems the mistrust between the governments of Senegal and the Gambia has gone from bad to worse as the land borders between the two countries have been closed to all kinds of vehicular movement affecting thousands of small scale business operators who crisscross the open markets of both countries on a daily basis.
The current situation has been triggered by a unilateral decision by the government of the Gambia through an executive order from Dictator Yahya Jammeh to levy a compulsory fee on all Senegalese vehicles using the Gambian ferry crossing points to more than 150%.
The decision came at a time when Gambia is starved of funding from external partners pitting its economy on a continually spiral freefall. Since then, The Gambia government has resorted to domestic tax increases and even resorting to unusual measures of taking over collection of fees levied on commercial vehicle drivers from the transport union.
The Senegalese transporters and their union angered by the unilateral move by Dictator Yahya Jammeh, has swiftly urged all its members to boycott the Gambian frontiers….a typical retaliatory measure used by Senegal to force Gambia to reduce crossing fees levied on its transporters to access the Southern Senegalese Province of Cassamance.
Although previous border closures normally lasted just few days or at most two weeks, if there is anything to go by, it seems this other one may last much longer. Senegal transport union which is in the lead in forcing the border closure according to our sources, is demanding this time the Gambia should provide tangible proofs of sincerity of non-interference in the free flow of vehicular movement between the two countries.
Speaking on The Fatu Network’s popular Today Show program on Tuesday February 24th, a former president of Senegal’s Transport Union, Mr Alassane Ndoye who is also a member of Parliament and Deputy Mayor, said this time “Senegal would not be in the rush to open the borders because Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has continually been using increase in fee levies at border crossing points to punish Senegalese transporters.” He added: “your that President has never been a trustworthy partner when it comes to mutual agreements he signs with people.”
The border closure itself has started to pinch the Gambia more. Since Monday, prices of consumer goods have started going up and the construction industry is also greatly hit. Gambia virtually imports all of its construction materials from Senegal and now that the border is closed to all vehicular movements and goods, many of the ongoing construction works needing basalt for concrete are halted.
The already weakened local currency, the Dalasi, has also started going down further against all major international currencies. As one source in the Gambia told The Fatu Network: “Currently I want to tell you that what we are witnessing in this country is that the economy is taking a nose dive deep into the abyss and as it is, it seems there is no end in sight to this madness caused by dictator who everyone now knows has gone insane.”
At the height of the unrestricted vehicular movements between the two countries, Senegalese vehicles were pumping more than $50 000 a day into the Gambian economy through fees levied for using Gambian ferries to access the Southern Senegalese Province of Cassamance.
The Gambia Ports Authority that manages the Gambia Ferry Crossing Points is said to be losing almost a quarter of its daily revenue forecast due to the border closure. Before the border closure, the ferry crossing point in the Gambian border town of Farafeni used to bring in the economy a minimum of $15 000 a day but today that crossing point is collecting not more than $1000 a day. The other crossing point in Barra also in the North Bank Region of the Gambia which used to bring into the Gambian economy a minimum of $7 000 is only able to collect not more than $500 a day.
One source has told The Fatu Network that currently the Gambian Dictator has no money and the current border closure will only add to his woes. The Fatu Network will continue to follow the developments regarding the border closure and the impact it is having on the economy.