After over 14 hours of talks, the much awaited negotiation on the border closure between the Gambia and Senegal failed as parties did not agree on several points key among which is the building of bridge at Farrefenni (Bambatendea-Yellitenda) ferry crossing. Four months ago, the borders between the two countries were closed when drivers from Senegal decided to boycott passing through The Gambia following President Jammeh’s unilateral decision to increase the tariffs to an exorbitant amount from CFA 4000 francs to CFA 40,000 Francs. The Senegalese drivers decided to detour through Tambacounda to reach the Senegalese southern region of Cassamance.

Several attempts were made over the past months to negotiate the crisis but concession of the venue delayed the talks. Finally, on Sunday, May 15th, both countries agreed to meeting in Dakar, Senegal. After hours of discussion, there was neither a report nor a communiqué issued but a mere sheet of paper containing only the minutes of the negotiation. The Senegalese delegation led by Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye laid several points that it said must be agreed upon by The Gambia before any negotiation and/or reopening its side of the border takes place.

Bridge or no border opening

Senegal imposed that The Gambia agrees that the Trans-Gambia Bridge project which is the Farrafenni ferry crossing (Bambatendea-Yellitenda) start as soon as possible, the foundation stone of which was laid in 2015.

Top Videos of the Day

The project whose funding amounting to UA 67.36 million (EUR 75.02 million) had already been secured from the Africa Development Bank with contributions from the two participating governments is for the construction of the 942-meters-long bridge over the River Gambia at Bambatenda-Yellitenda crossing, to enhance overland traffic flow between The Gambia and Senegal. The project will also include the building of two joint border posts on either side of the bridge, at Misira-Senoba near Soma in Gambia and Kerr Ayib in Senegal.

Senegalese, Gambian transportation unions a key decision maker

Senegal further insisted that the discussions must be inclusive and involve transport unions from the two countries and all stakeholders, therefore, initially refusing to accept The Gambia’s pressing request to immediately reopen her side of the borders. Also requested by Senegal as a  condition before reopening its side of the borders were serious discussions and agreement on road transit, bilateral trade relations and mutual legal assistance on maritime, inland fishing and migration.

Senegal also asked for judicial cooperation particularly insisting on the extradition of a Senegalese fugitive Modou Faal alias Boy Djiné, who escaped from a prison in Diourbel, Senegal, and ran into hiding in The Gambia. Ever since, Senegal accused The Gambia of harboring him and requested for his extradition. Upon arrival in The Gambia after days on the run, Faal was arrested and detained for few days in Mile II prison and later released and freely living in the country.

Senegal has also requested that The Gambia regime provides sufficient guarantees about its goodwill and sincerity over the various agreements that will come out of the negotiations and other previous bilateral agreements signed over the years.

Border remains closed until next round of talks

With a lineup of concerns from Senegal, The Gambian delegation led by Foreign Minister Neneh MacDouall-Gaye was only able to accept discussions on joint border custom and excise control posts and not the other points raised by Dakar. After hours of talks, the two parties could not reach on any definitive conclusion especially on reopening the border for the meantime to allow business flows, ahead of the next round of talks. The border remains closed. Senegal therefore imposed a time frame on The Gambian Foreign Minister Neneh MacDouall Gaye's led team and asked them to link in July after they do their homework.