Mboka CSOs Forum II ‘Where there were barriers now we have a bridge’

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By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT

Context

On 21st December 2018, Senegalese and Gambian youths converged at Baobab Hotel to convene the second edition of the SeneGambia Civil Society Organisations forum dubbed ‘Mboka’. The first Mboka forum took place earlier in May 2018 in Dakar and saw up to 17 Gambian delegates travel to their counterparts in Senegal. Mboka means family in Wollof, a language used widely in both countries.

The movement aims is to bring SeneGambian people together by strengthening cultural ties and exchanging ideas, experiences, best practice and organising events. According to Y En A Marre’s Thiat, Wollof is not a majority tribe in Senegal but the language is used nationally. In The Gambia, however, the use of the word Mboka draws acrimony from those who see it as a defiant stance to ignore the majority Mandinka tribe.

Nonetheless, Mboka is proving its longevity spearheaded by SeneGambian Youths namely; Y En A Marre and their partners, Beakanyang and Team Gom Sa Bopa. The forum hosted up to 50 delegates including representatives from the Gambia Transport Union, Gambia Police Force, National Youth Council, Occupy Westfield, Gambia Press Union, Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry and more.

Killa Ace – Team Gom Sa Bopa

Ali Cham commonly referred to by his stage name Killa Ace opened the second session by explaining how “Y En A Marre inspired a lot of people like [him], Awa Bling and many others to speak up for themselves.”

He then delved into the session saying that “the role of Civil Society is very important locally and internationally. CSOs in Senegal and Gambian need to establish the relationship that will build stronger CSOs between both countries. We all have the same situations we’re all fighting against injustice, we’re all fighting against police brutality, and we’re all fighting against corruption. When we come together as different CSOs then we can address this situation.”

Watch more of Killa Ace’s speech here >>

Thiat – Y En A Marre

Speaking to the delegates, Thait, the Keur Gui crew rapper and activist highlighted that “before we had barriers now we have a bridge to bring the people closer. This is something very good. As a group, Y En A Marre continues to look for ways of collaborating with other groups in Senegal. We try to make sure that Mboka is not just a Y En A Marre project by collaborating with other activists and bloggers to help strengthen the project. An important thing we wish to promote is the SeneGambian identity. We introduce ourselves by saying I’m Killa Ace, a SeneGambian from Team Gom Sa Bopa as opposed to I’m a Gambian or a Senegalese.

A good way of strengthening our SeneGambian ties is by celebrating each other’s Independence Day. Gambians can attend Senegal’s Independence Day and likewise we can attend Gambia’s Independence Day. We want a SeneGambian Day to be official on the agenda of both Governments. Today is a SeneGambian Day because we are all gathered here, but we demand for an official SeneGambian day. We should go beyond requesting for it. We need to learn from the mistakes of the past by breaking down the stereotypes between the two countries.”

Watch more of Thiat’s speech here >>

Conclusion

One of the key outcomes of the forum was the presentation of the SeneGambian Citizenship Card and a workshop where delegates contributed to the drafting of a SeneGambian Citizenship Bill. This ambitiously bold move drew applause and some concerns as to how it could be implemented. It was recommended for the bill to be presented to the Constitutional Review Commission, however, one of the delegates recommended for it to be presented to the SeneGalo-Gambia Commission.

This bill demonstrates the resolve of SeneGambian youths to bridge the divide that currently shackles the progress of African countries. We have freedom of movement in writing but dare to travel from Senegal to Gambia and one can count the number of checkpoints stopping citizens from progressing on their journeys. At times these checkpoints can prove costly to travelers who may not have budgeted for this. How can the free movement of people and goods between the two countries be facilitated to strengthen our African Economy in such conditions? This is the conundrum we must overcome.

Some of the recommendations that were mentioned during the conference include the possibility of a;

  • Means to consolidate and coordinate CSOs,
  • SeneGambian sports team similar to Great Britain in the Olympics
  • Encouraging more sports, musical and cultural activities between the two countries,
  • SeneGambian Taskforce, probably in the form of a Parliament to address common issues and facilitate communications between the two governments,
  • Ghana / Togo style of border control which will eliminate duplication of immigration departments on both sides of the SeneGambian border, and
  • A SeneGambian Day by the year 2020

For more videos here is a Mboka Playlist on YouTube >>

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