By Mustapha Jallow
The situation at the Amdalai/Karang and the Giboro/Selety border points remain calm as registered saloon cars, small private vehicles ply the routes across the borders freely.
The crisis came when some Gambian commercial buses were stopped from continuing their journey to Dakar after crossing the border at Amdalai. Representatives of Senegalese road transport unions say they want what was happening in those days between the two nations to be re-established. The reaction of the Gambian transport union in retaliation to the stoppage action of the Senegalese unionists was to restrict all Senegalese vehicles entering Gambia through the border points. They had planned such action to take place yesterday 19th February, 2020 but the plan was put to a hold to allow negotiation to take place.
It was apparent at the Barra ferry terminal that transports were crisscrossing the border as many private and commercial vehicles with Senegal & Gambia registration number-plates were seen onboard the ferry. At the Amdalai-Karang border crossing point, at 10am, there was no sign of restriction of Senegalese vehicles to entering Gambian territory. It was also noticed that the crossing-border was teeming with vehicles and people moving across the border freely.
Canteen owners, fruits sellers and foreign exchange dealers were seen actively attending to their customers who were travelling to Senegal or Gambia.
While at the border, a GTSC bus carrying passengers was seen coming from Dakar and crossing the border to head to Banjul and offloading its passengers.
Faye Colley, a driver of the Gambia Transport Service Company (GTSC) confirmed that they were allowed only morning shift to go to Dakar by Senegalese unionists.
He remarked: “I’m just coming from Dakar. Things were not like this. Before this we were allowed to go in the morning and afternoon. So, we have no other option but to comply for the sake of our customers.’’
Colley said the decision by the Senegalese unions has affected them. He called on both authorities to look for a solution and resolve the matter.
Jim Nogum, a representative of the Senegalese road transport union and President of Karang ‘chef de garage’ said they have not received any complaint that their vehicles were sent back to Senegal.
“Everything is normal here. As, you can see both Gambian & Senegalese private vehicles are plying freely. The problem is, we want the authorities of Gambia to understand our position, if not our drivers would not work and it would affect us a lot,’’ he said.
He added, “Everyone has a family in Gambia or Senegal, so what are we fighting for,’’ he asked. “Let the two authorities sit and address the matter once and for all,’’ he said.
According to Nogum peace is better than conflict because it affects the lives of people from both countries.
“We want dialogue on the matter. Both nations want peace, safety and better lives,’’ he said.
A senior customs official of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA) stationed at the Amdalai border, who is also part of the stakeholders mediating, said the members of the border security were informed not go ahead with the blockage of Senegalese vehicles.
He said the matter would now be discussed by the authorities of both countries at the highest level, adding that vehicles are moving in and out freely.
For his part, Omar Ceesay, the President of the Gambia National Transport Union (GNTU) said: “We seriously discussed with government officials on 18thFebruary and they said they will go to Senegal today (19th February). So, we will give them another chance and upon their arrival we will know our status.’’
According to him, they have cancelled their idea of the blockage since Wednesday night – at 11:30pm. This came, when the officials intervened and promised that they will go to Dakar and meet with their counterparts.
He remarked: “So, we are going to give a last chance, if nothing is done then we will continue our protest. We are also ready to dialogue with Senegalese unions’’
“We engaged them so many times but they are not willing to show-up for the meetings.’’ He alleged.