The intermittent border crisis between Gambia and Senegal – two economically inseparable nations is going out of control. The tension between the two nations have increased ever since President Jammeh accused Senegal of harboring Gambian dissidents who are hostile to his regime. The tension dates back to Wade’s administration which was equally suspicious and accused Gambia government of alleged involvement in harboring Casamance separatists who are fighting for independence from mainland Senegal.
Despite the fact that both nations are signatory to ECOWAS economic treaties for the free movement of goods and services between member States, both States seems to be acting irresponsible by arbitrarily closing the borders. Gambia acts without consulting its immediate neighbor and Senegalese authorities treat the issue as an isolated incident which needs to be handled by transport Unions. When did any responsible leadership with clear understanding of the short and long term economic impact of border closures authorize their ports and transport unions to order the border to be closed for no apparent reason?
President Jammeh’s dictatorial tendencies, insecurity and personal suspicion towards the Senegalese authorities does not give him the right to close the country’s borders without adequate evidence of national security threats. On the other hand the Senegalese authorities and President Macky Sall’s silence on the matter leaving the issue to transport unions to negotiate is equally irresponsible and shows lack of concern for the long term economic impact on both economies and how it affects individual citizens and businesses. It appears that Macky Sall’s government has hit a dead end and has no idea how to deal with an erratic Gambian President who has no respect for international and regional treaties governing free economic policies and territorial integrity.
President Sall’s fear in openly confronting the Gambian leader in fear of failure to resolve the Casamance crisis is making him look like a weak leader who cannot use his political leverage to put a stop to this irresponsible border closure. There is no evidence that President Jammeh would ever be willing to work with Senegal to resolve the Casamance crisis. He has openly threatened to ignore the issue if Senegal continues to grant asylum to Gambian dissidents and that is exactly what he is doing – sabotaging any economic and political harmony between the two nations. The sooner President Sall comes to terms with the reality of dealing with President Jammeh the better results he will get on both the border closure and the Casamance conflict. Yahya Jammeh neither knows diplomacy nor does he respect diplomatic protocol. The only language he understands is the one he imposes on his people – threat and intimidation.
The solution to putting a permanent end to the irrational border closure which amounts to nothing but economic sabotage on both Gambia and Senegal is to get real and blunt with President Jammeh. First, President Sall must publicly get involved and make it clear in no uncertain terms that border closure between Gambia and Senegal without evidence of national security threat must come to an end forthwith. Any further imposition of border closure must be met with severe consequences. Second, he must sermon the Gambian authorities before the ECOWAS commission and work with regional partners to impose economic sanctions on President Jammeh and his Government should they continue to obstruct the free movement of goods and services as agreed by ECOWAS member states. Third, he must bluntly confront President Jammeh and ask why he thinks Senegal grants asylum to Gambian dissidents and why Senegalese citizens does not seek refuge in Gambia? President Sall must tie Senegal/Gambia economic progress to Gambia’s democracy, Human rights and good governance. These are directly interrelated to influx of Gambian dissidents in Senegal. The time to shy away from addressing Senegambian issues in fear of being seen as meddling with Gambia’s internal affairs is over. Gambia’s economic and political freedom cannot be separated from that of Senegal. The border crisis requires direct leadership involvement and failure to take the lead will lead to serious undesirable conflict sooner rather than later between these two integrated nations and people.