By Abdoulie Dibba & Mustapha Jallow
The Gambian and Senegalese authorities together with the Senegalo-Gambian Joint Border Commission have met on Wednesday, 7th October 2015, at the Tranquil, in a bid to finding a lasting solution to the ongoing dispute over which side of the two borders the village is located.
Addressing the meeting, the representative of the Alkalo of Touba said Tranquil and Bantanyima are part and parcel of Touba village which is in the Republic of Senegal and that the heads of the two villages are not Alkalolu but Kabilo heads because the two settlements are kabilos of Touba village.
For his part, the Alkalo of Tranquil maintained that his village is in the Republic of Senegal. He further said that this was the case until when the Gambian military had a base in Darsilami and who had approached him to ask which side of the border is Tranquil situated at and that his response was that it is in Senegal and not the Gambia. He said they continued asking him this question until at one point when he went with them to the Darsilami Alkalo and where he also maintained that Tranquil is in Senegal.
He said when some armed personnel from the Senegal military visited him at the village the Gambian soldiers told them that they should not come there armed as Tranquil is within the territory of the Gambia.
He said this incident was very tense but expressed his relief that the authorities of both countries are there with the joint border Commission to address the issue. “We are appealing for the border to be demarcated to ensure peace in the area,” said the Tranquil Alkalo.
Musa Tabally Bojang, the representative of the Darsilami Alkalo, said the area now called Tranquil was initially called Kabayorr-ya.
“I do not want to go into the history of the area but the person who called the area as Tranquil came from Darsilami but since the technicians are studying the area with a view to drawing the demarcation, I am hopeful that justice will be done,” said Mr Bojang.
The Deputy Governor of West Coast Region (WCR), Musa Amoul Nyassi said nobody can divide Gambia and Senegal.
“If I want to enter into Senegal, no matter what law they have in place, I’ll definitely be there and if I have some goods to bring into the Gambia from Senegal I’ll will be able to do so even if others do not want it,” said the deputy WCR governor.
Mr. Nyassi said people should not be spreading discord, adding that if the civilians were not spreading rumours there would not have been the need to have the presence of both the Gambian and Senegalese military posts near the border of the two countries. He added that the two governments have seen both the Gambia and Senegal as one and are therefore working for the two countries to live in peace.
He however added that if the border is demarcated those civilians who do not want to see the two countries to be at peace should decide on which side of the border they would want to live as no one can live in two countries at the same time.
Professor Saliou Ndiaye, the High Commissioner of Senegal to the Gambia, described the meeting as very important. He said having a meeting to resolve a border dispute is not unique to Tranquil alone. He said such a meeting has been done in Cameroon and elsewhere. He said he has been to a country where the border is in the capital in which the distance separating the countries is only 10 metres and that one is notified of entering the other country.
The Senegalese High Commissioner said they should be thankful to God for making them to share a border with a country like the Gambia where you cannot find any surname that is not found in his country, adding that the same is with the religions and the socio-cultural practices which are all the same.
He described the relationship between The Gambia and Senegal is like a mobile (cellphone) and a sim card none of which can go without the other.
“We should maintain peace because none of the authorities in the two countries have time for war. We want our children to be educated and our countries to develop to benefit all our citizens,” said the Senegalese High Commissioner.
Ambassador Daouda Salla Diop of the Senegalo-Gambian Secretariat said he does not see the Tranquil border issue as a problem but rather as a concern.
He stressed that the Senegalo-Gambian Secretariat is a neutral institution that attends to the concerns of both countries.
Ambassador Sowe reiterated that the peoples of the two countries are the same as they share the same culture, but added that this does not mean that the sovereignty of each of the two countries should not be respected.
He said they assigned their technicians who have started working on the proper demarcation of the border and that once this is done, the people should try and maintain the peace at all times.
Mr. Gaye one of the technicians from the Gambia said they have been to the area and have it, adding that based on their own observation there is no problem at all.
“The reason why we cannot demarcate the border today (Thursday) is precisely because of the difference in the equipment we are using. The colonialists have left us with an equipment called UTM-200 and now we are using WGS 84. The difference between the two equipment is not the degrees and minutes which are the same, but it is seconds and the work on this border requires an exact demarcation,” said Mr. Gaye.
He called on the authorities to allow them to go back and convert the WGS 84 to UTM 200 to arrive at the exact demarcation.
The border crisis meeting was also attended by other senior government official and military officers from the two countries in the presence of armed soldiers.