The border between The Gambia and Senegal has been the scene of numerous frictions between these two West African neighbors. The dispute over tariffs is seemingly the core of the problem, but upon close scrutiny, the fact that President Yahya Jammeh is the main culprit using it as a ploy to settle any scores he has with Senegal and her President, Macky Sall becomes apparent. Jammeh has made it a habit to instigate trouble with Senegal because he believes it makes for good politics back home. It gives him the constant distraction he needs for the Gambian public so as to deny them any focus on the daily hardship his rule has inflicted on them. It seems he is at it again – the border has been closed for almost a month – thanks to yet another tic-for-tat game yet again orchestrated by Jammeh.
This time though, Senegal seems to not want to have any of it – this country that borders Gambia on all three sides, almost circling it, is finally putting its foot on the ground. Fatu Network was reliably informed by insiders within the corridors of power in the Gambia that Yahya, just as he has done in the past after playing the same politic trick, has decided it is time to reach out to the neighbor to end the closures, but the Senegalese have made it categorically clear, on no uncertain terms will the border on their side be opened. Macky Sall has referred the matter to the powerful Transport Union which in turn is insisting that it has to see concrete measures in place before even considering a negotiation. Key among the demands being made by the Union is the building of the Yeli Tenda-Bamba Tenda bridge to ease transportation between Northern and Southern Senegal. The Unionists insist they want this done because they are tired of always playing into Jammeh’s hands in the past when they would reopen the border after similar crisis instigated by him – because they feel sorry for the innocent Gambians, only to see him repeat it again causing massive sudden disruptions in Senegal’s economy and huge unforeseen loss of income for the truckers and business owners.
This latest move by the dictator came as no surprise to observers who have contended from the beginning that a prolonged border closure between Gambia and Senegal could have a devastating impact on the Gambia’s economy and by extension make life miserable for the already traumatized population because of Jammeh’s reign of terror. This is also one of the main reasons why some of these observers question why Jammeh thinks provoking Senegal for his own political gain is a good idea in the first place. But then as one of them put it “He just continues to use poor Gambians as pawns in his evil games of deceit knowing fully well these actions could have serious consequences for the suffering nation. He just doesn’t care about the welfare of his people; otherwise he would consider the impacts of such actions before starting trouble with our neighbors.”
In the meantime, concern in the Gambia regarding the fast dwindling stock of basic commodities is growing. According to business owners in the country who wish to remain anonymous, petrol will soon run out threatening to cause massive disruptions in transportation, builders have stopped building because there is no ‘Basalt’ (black stones used for building), not to mention most basic food commodities. Jammeh, according to State House insiders, is considering to seek Mauritania’s help in securing petrol and many of these commodities but the concern there too is those can only be transported to the Gambia through Senegal, which Macky Sall will not allow. So Jammeh is now stuck and confused as to what to do.
So observers found it amusing that The Gambia government’s mouthpiece, DailyObserver Newspaper, recently ran a story claiming the Senegalese have sent letters of congratulations to Jammeh on the occasion of Gambia’s Independence. They opined that even if this were true, it should be noted that it is very normal for countries to send such letters to each other even under the most unpleasant of circumstances, and so this does in no way indicate Senegal is softening its position regarding the border.
Fatu Network is closely monitoring this gathering storm and will update readers as more information becomes available.