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THE GAMBIA AND US
04/05/2016 | 09H29 GMT
 
The same people separated by an artificial border : that is the case of the Gambia and Senegal.
 
One day, over 30 years ago, I landed in Banjul by plane. That evening, I attended a concert hosted by the Senegalese singer Youssou Ndour. At the sign of Gambians dancing and singing just like we did in Senegal, I felt no difference between Banjul, Thies or Kaolack. 
 
Yet, despite our common culture such as Wolof, Diola, Mandingo as well as the failed attempt to create the Senegambian confederation, the border drawn by European colonizers still separates us. However no one will ever prevent neither the inhabitants or Nioro du Rip, Medina Saback, Farafenni and chant religious songs, or present condolences the same way that reflect rituals old of many centuries and which have existed in both countries way before the physical boundaries were drawn.  It also happens that the current globalization era, only large groups can survive and successfully take part in economic competition.
 
This is what America, the world first power understood by building an alliance with Canada and Mexico under Nafta to benefit from economies of scale within their region. Similarly, Europe tries to unite to form an economic unit constituted by 27 countries of over 400 millions people way more developed than us.  Obviously in this context, a country like Senegal with 14 million inhabitants and 200000 square km, looks like a small fish that may be eaten by the giant creatures in the sea. With a population of 2 millions people spread over 11.000 square km, in other words a twentieth of Senegal’s space, the Gambia is clearly more vulnerable. Its vulnerability is enhanced by the river which prevents its territory to spread over and stops its inhabitants from enjoying a continuous interaction.
 
 Therefore, the Gambian people will be the first to benefit from a bridge if one or many were to be built over the river.  It seems, in order to achieve the West African regional interaction referred to in most of our constitutions, the Bignona- Banjul-Bissau axis would be crucial channel.  In fact, the regional interaction should logically lead to the united states of Africa, which I, think is an urgent matter for all Africans.
 
Despite the apparent mistrust of the Gambian authorities towards Senegal, it is clear that the thought of invading their country never occurred to us as we believe that all people shall freely dispose of their inalienable right to sovereignty.  This is why the Senegalese have not seized the opportunities that both history and geography have offered to us to occupy this country.  Indeed, in the early 1980’s as we recall Gambia witnessed a period marked by a coup and Fode Kaba’s two military operations. In fact, then president Diawara requested assistance and protection from Senegal and even to be reinstalled to power in Banjul.
 
That moment Senegal played the role of the liberator was a perfect opportunity for our army to occupy that country and to make province. I do remember in fact a former western ambassador in Senegal who, after retiring from his duties criticized us for not having done it in order “to simplify the problems”.  But because of our culture of democracy, the idea of occupation has never been I our thoughts neither at the political level nor within the army.
 
However, let us tell each other the truth. Senegal has often suffered with passivity, the erring ways not of the Gambian people but those of their authorities.  I remember in particular the serious incident of the arrival of Iranian weapons destined to Banjul, the quantity and characteristics of which were far beyond our neighbor’s security needs. Needless to say, the Mfdc has benefited from this excessive weaponry.  Gambia had no army in the early 80’s.  It only had then a small police and a national band for official ceremonies. Senegalese officers trained the Gambian army and gendarmerie.  This is another proof of Senegal’s good will as well as its great sense of neighborliness. Unfortunately, in return it has been a victim of its neighbor’s blackmailing.
 
 The construction of the trans Gambian bridge has still not started although it’s first stone  was laid a year ago and Senegalese vehicles have difficulty harboring the farefenni ferry. Yet we are not short of assets in this confrontation. First, we can block the border and economically stifle that country.
 
Then, in addition to the restoration of the road Tamba-Kolda-Ziguinchor, we can increase the frequency of the boats trips between Ziguinchor and Dakar.  It is even interesting to recall that during our intervention in the 80’s, our mastery of the border enabled the Senegalese customs to increase its revenues.
 
Finally without seeking it, we have an archive of Fode Kaba’s operations that are easier to update if our country felt that its major national interest is at stake. Although the teeth continuously bite the tongue within the same mouth, the fact remain that they are condemned to live together.  It is therefore time to make a definitive clear choice.  I am strongly inviting our Gambian “Mbokas” to join us in playing the rules of the game, but fairy.

General Mamadou Mansour Seck
 
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