Authorities call for dialogue as timber saga grips Senegambia

Jan 22, 2021, 11:29 AM | Article By: Abdoulie Nyockeh

The chairman of the Association of Forest Users in The Gambia, Lamin Barrow, has called on the government of The Gambia and Senegal to come to a discussion table to amicably resolve the timber saga between the two neighbouring countries.

He made this statement in an interview with this reporter recently at his office.

According to Chairman Barrow, “there are lots of timber issues going on between the two countries. In fact, it’s among the issues hindering the business between the countries. What we want is for The Gambia government to dialogue with the Senegalese government to ensure that the timber saga is addressed for the benefit of both countries.”

Since the change of government in 2016, dozens of Gambian trucks loaded with timber have been intercepted by Senegalese authorities especially those at the Bwiam Military Checkpoint, mounted by the Senegalese forces. The Senegalese forces believe the woods are being smuggled from Cassamance.

According to Chairman Barrow, the timber business is not functioning as expected because of the continued closure of the business borders by the two governments. He said: “When there is closure of borders every time, that doesn’t help The Gambia and even the Senegalese government as well as the timber associations of both countries.”

“We want the government to meet with their Senegalese counterpart including the timber dealers of both countries to discuss on issues affecting the business. In fact, it’s part of our plan to ensure that we have a joint-tree-planting exercise where the Senegalese timber dealers and the Gambia timber dealers would meet every year during the rainy season to do afforestation to replace the lost trees.”

On the bilateral agreement meetings, Chairman Barrow challenged the Gambian government to change its direction on that, citing that “the government should try whenever they are going on any bilateral agreement to involve the Gambian businesspeople in their delegation so that the businessmen can have a clear feature of what is possible and what is not possible.”

He noted that Senegalese normally invites the businesspeople whenever they go on bilateral agreements, further urging that The Gambia government should also consider travelling with businesspeople in future. 

Barrow acknowledged that coronavirus has affected the whole world, saying that even the Indians who  bought cashew nuts ‘were not here due to the closure of shipping and airlines.’

“They were in their country paying the cashew prices in The Gambia, in their own prices which was very low.”

He thus expressed hope that in 2021 they will recover once covid-19 drops.

He also challenged the government to reduce tax in 2021, citing that covid-19 cases are still increasing in some countries and that if taxes are not reduced investors might not be willing to come to the country.