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Senegal-Gambia Integration Association launched

Sep 30, 2013, 10:25 AM | Article By: Lamin Cham

Abi-lateral grassroots organization, aimed at fostering economic and social integration of the people of Senegal and The Gambia, came into being last weekend with the successful signing of the protocols and friendship charter between its Gambian and Senegalese founders in the town of Mbour, Senegal.

Called The Senegalese-Gambian Association for Integration and Socio- Economic Development (SGAISD), the organization, also known in Senegal as L’Association Sénégalo-Gambienne pour L’intégration et le Dévelopment Socio-Économique (ASGIDS), is already hailed as the most strategic platform to bring the people of the two countries together at local or grassroots level.

Saikou B. Jarju the president of the Gambian chapter said SGAISD was conceived and inspired by the spirit of the Senegalo – Gambian Permanent Secretariat, which has integration of the two people as its central mandate.

‘The good thing about SGAIDS is that with its national and regional structures, it would be well placed to directly work with the two people from the local level, sensitizing and together exploring and indentifying the many potential areas of integration that can bring about economic, social and cultural gains to the people of this two countries,’’ Jarju noted.

Mr. Jarju who is also the Secretary General of the National Inter-departmental Sports Association (NISA), said the key areas they would target in their work are communities that live right by the border on both sides.

“We shall strive to ensure that the lives of these people are not disturbed by the feeling of being in a different country, when in fact they are all the same people separated by an artificial border,’’ Jarju said.

He disclosed thatSGIADS is represented in all the 14 regions of Senegalincluding those communities directly on the border, while, so far in The Gambia, theywill maintain a single national office with good programmes that can reach all parts of the country placing great emphasis on border villages.

‘’Our objective is to supplement the efforts of the two governments on one hand and the Senegalo-Gambian Permanent Secretariat on the other hand, in their drive to bring our two peoples together. For example, there is a joint Border Commission set up by both governments to identify and demarcate the areas of the border that require definition.

“Our organization could be useful here to sensitize the people who live on or around the border lines to know the significance of the exercise, so that they could be adequately informed and be prepared for it,’’ he said.

“The concept of ‘two countries-one people’, is our motto and we plan to address matters that are of shared economic and social interest for the people of both countries, especially on areas of cross-cultural exchange, commerce and trade, as well as technological transfer”.

He said the signing ceremony in Mbour provided a strong platform where many speakers, among them, a well-versed Senegalese historian, Professor Ibrahim Thioub from Sheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, who stressed the need for the people of Sene-Gambia, who have been historically known to be one people, to start removing the artificial feeling of being in different countries.

‘’At SGAIDS we have a strong passion to serve as a pressure group to convince our governments to implement policies that would see the removal of many of the policies that hinder rapid socio economic integration of the two people, such as the taxes and other controls that exist in international trade relations. You see our mantra is one people in two states, and we see things in that parameter’’, Jarju said.

According to the SGAISD Gambian president, many Senegalese at the Mbour signing ceremony felt very strongly and even deplored the decision to play Senegal’s World Cup matches in Morocco or Guinea, when they are guaranteed a home and a packed stadium in Banjul, home to hundreds of thousands of Senegalese.

‘’If the pitch condition needed upgrading what could stop Senegal from helping Gambia upgrade its grounds, given the understanding that we are one and the same,?’’ he said, quoting speakers at Mbour.

In the same spirit, Jarju went on, many experts on both sides observed that air transport between The Gambia and Senegal is ridiculously expensive, largely owing to tariff levied on airlines. ‘’These levies could be mutually waived for Gambian and Senegalese airlines plying the two capitals to make travelling cheaper for the two people.

“Equally, loads of fish more than needed is landed daily at the Tanjie beach, and sometimes left to rot when there is a growing need for it just across the border in Senegal where there is in fact a bigger market. All these are areas that SGAIDS would endeavour to work with the two governments to bring the objective needs of the two people together’’ he concluded.

The SGAISD Senegal chapter is headed by Doudou Diakhiteh and the signing ceremony was attended by the Mayor of Mbour Fallou Sylla and other dignitaries. The signing coincided with a festival which featured musicians from both The Gambia and Senegal, including Jaliba Kuyateh, Fafadi, amongst others. Also present was the Senegalese wrestling champion and King of the Arena, Balla Gaye II.