The Gambia and Senegal: One people one destiny

Monday, February 20, 2017

The enthusiastic and tumultuous welcome accorded to President Macky Sall by Gambians when he arrived in the country on Friday to attend Gambia’s 52nd Independence Anniversary was not only a demonstration of affinity but also a show of gratitude for the pivotal role he played in resolving the post-electoral impasse, which potentially could have sparked a violent conflict in the country.

Tens of thousands of the people lined the route from the airport through Yundum, Abuko, Tallinding, Westfield, Kairaba Avenue, and Traffic Lights to Coco Ocean Hotel where President Sall was lodged.

The people were waving the national flags of The Gambia and Senegal and banners of WELCOME and THANK YOU as the presidential motorcade passes and it took more than three hours to navigate the crowds from the airport to the visiting president’s lodge.

On Saturday, 18 February 2017, President Macky Sall joined his host, President Adama Barrow, and other heads of state and governments, and other foreign dignitaries and diplomatic missions as well as a crowd of countless Gambians to commemorate the country’s 52nd Independence Anniversary.  The event was marked by an impressive parade of contingents from all arms of the security forces including the ECOMIG forces. 

Before the Gambian nation, the Chief Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow administered the Oaths of Office, Allegiance, and Secrecy, to President Adama Barrow.

Kudos to Minister James Gomez and the entire inauguration team for the meticulous planning to make the event such a success.

But to most if not all the people who attended the ceremony, the most important highlights were the statements of the Gambian head of state and that of President Macky Sall, who was also the chief guest of honour.

President Barrow hailed his inauguration and the independence anniversary celebrations as a victory for democracy.  He expressed gratitude to all countries and people of goodwill who stood by The Gambia in its hour of need. He paid a special tribute to President Macky Sall and the people of Senegal for their affinity, solidarity and brotherhood. 

He also renewed his commitment to freedom of the press, improvements in health, free education, civil service and political reform, respect of rule of law, improvement of energy services, and better infrastructure, among others.

President Barrow also revealed that his first trip as the president of The Gambia abroad would be to Senegal to work out a road map for cooperation on key issues such as the Trans-Gambia Bridge.

Meanwhile, President Macky Sall also congratulated Gambians on the 52nd Independence Anniversary of the country and saluted the people for their determination, calm disposition and maturity with which they averted potential violence during the political impasse.  He also called for closer cooperation between Senegal and The Gambia.

The central thesis in the statements of the two presidents is that the people of Senegal and The Gambia are bound by blood and history; that the separation into two countries is the result of colonialism, which led to division of countries and separated kith from kin.

In the case of The Gambia and Senegal, the need for good neighbourliness is compelling because the countries are one and the same; they are made of the same stock, have the same culture and tradition and religion are all the same.  Therefore, each of us should be a brother’s keeper.

Senegal’s role in resolving the recent political stalemate in The Gambia, in particular, President Macky Sall’s demonstration of strong character and willingness to back peaceful negotiations with military muscle shows the need to consolidate our bonds of brotherhood and solidarity in order to survive in a world that is politically complex and polarised, and economically unstable.

For us, the people of the two countries should support the shared vision of our two leaders.  Indeed, the first president of The Gambia, Alhaji Sir Dawda Jawara saw the importance of Senegalo-Gambian relations when, after independence in 1965, he appointed the late Gambian legendary politician, Alhaji A.B. Njie as Resident Minister in Senegal.

Even after that mission was completed, the two countries diplomatic representatives in Dakar and Banjul were designated as High Commissioners instead of Ambassadors to highlight the special relationship that exists between us.  It would not be mere symbolism if the two governments elevate our present embassies to High Commissions to send a signal that Senegalo-Gambian relationship has entered a new phase of deeper and more meaningful cooperation. 

We suggest, for immediate action, the two presidents should install a “hotline” between State House in Banjul and the Palais in Dakar for constant contact to ensure consistency and cohesion in our relationship. 

Furthermore, the two presidents should work out an arrangement for alternate working visits once every three months.  This will not only build trust and confidence between the two governments, but would also consolidate and encourage joint programmes and actions for our mutual benefit.

We have in existence the Senegalo-Gambian Secretariat but its importance and roles were stifled and down-played by the former regime on the false notion that cooperation with Senegal would lead to the eventual integration of The Gambia and the demise of the country’s sovereignty.   Now is the time to re-invigorate the Secretariat. 

As a matter of priority, exchange programmes between schools and colleges, municipalities, cultural groups and sporting bodies should be re-launched.  The two national broadcasters, GRTS and RTS, should be mandated to launch joint programmes that would revive our common history and heritage, and promote cooperation and concord between the two countries.

In this vein, the media, as the Fourth Estate, should use the new press freedom and devote part of its energy and expertise to the promotion of peace, unity, cooperation and good neighbourliness between the two countries. 

These may be small initiatives, but should be seen as incremental steps for the building of trust and a sound and solid foundation that would usher in cooperation in more advanced areas such as economy, security and defense. 

President Adama Barrow and President Macky Sall have mooted their ideas and desires for a closer and mutually beneficial relationship.  We have no reason to doubt their resolve and commitment. 

Indeed we believe that both presidents share the same vision and passion of selfless service to their people.  We have worked together to give peace a chance, now let us work together to uplift the welfare and wellbeing of the people of The Gambia and Senegal.

"There is more power in unity than division."