TRAVELLERS, TRADERS DECRY BORDER CLOSURE

Mustapha Jallow

Vehicle owners, passengers, traders and other operators from both the Gambia and Senegal are decrying the border closure and Vendors waiting for customerscalling on the authorities in the respective countries to urgently resolve the issue in an amicable manner.

The official entry points or border crossings of the Gambia and Senegal, in the form of a contagion, have started closing since 16 February 2016 with Amdalaye – Karang being the first and then followed by Farafeeni – Kerr Ayib, Jiboro – Seleti and Sabi – Vellingara. These closures were prompted by the introduction of a new tariff of 400,000 CFA francs or more than D26, 000 which the Senegalese road transport unions claimed is being imposed by Gambian customs on all Senegal registered trucks entering the Gambia. The unions described this charge as ‘exorbitant and unacceptable’ and have asked all the truck drivers not to enter the Gambia but take the Tambacounda route until the matter is resolved with the Gambian authorities.

 While on a mission to assess the impact of this said ‘new tariff’ and border closure on the movement of people and economic activities, this reporter started with the Banjul – Barra ferry crossing yesterday, 24 February, which marked nine days since the Amdalaye – Karang border was closed. It was noticed that unlike before, there were few vehicles, mostly small trucks and passenger vehicles, which are all Gambian registered. Most of the vehicles seen on board were not carrying goods and the passengers were also limited in numbers.

Upon arrival at the Amdalai – Karang border crossing, there were also no sign of any trucks forming a queue on the Senegal side to wait for their turn to enter as has been the case before. There was only one Gambian registered truck loaded with bags of fresh oranges and bound for Senegal but which was denied a laissez passé by the Senegalese border authorities, according to the driver.

While at the border, some Senegal registered saloon cars or small private vehicles were seen trying to come into the Gambia but were denied entry by the Senegalese police stationed at the border.

Abdoulaye Cisse, a Senegalese national, who owns one of the vehicles that was denied entry, said he arrived at the Karang post from Dakar around 3am since Tuesday, 23 February, with his white friends from Europe but was not allowed to enter with his car. He said he had to ask his friends to proceed with the journey by hiring a Gambian vehicle and for him to join them later. “Since I cannot leave my vehicle at the border, I have to call someone all the way from Dakar to come and collect the vehicle and take it back to my home,” disclosed Cisse.

He said he is appealing to the leaders in the two countries to address this border issue which should not be allowed to continue as it is affecting the people from both countries.

Fama Ly, a fruit vendor, who is residing in Karang but sells in Amdalaye every day, said the border closure is hurting those petty traders like herself whose livelihood is entirely dependent on the free movement of people and the flow of border traffic.

“Since the closure of the border, my earnings from selling fruits to travellers have significantly dropped as few people are now travelling,” she revealed.

She further explained that it is from this petty trade that she feeds the family and pays the school fees of her children.

“Because of the crisis now I don’t go home with anything more than D50 as profit every day unlike before when I could sell hundreds of dalasi to passengers and drivers who are crossing the borders,” said Madam Marietou Senghore, a fruit seller who resides in Amdalaye.

An official of the Gambia Revenue Authority (GRA), who prefers anonymity, claimed that they have received instructions from headquarters that there is a directive for them to charge every Senegalese registered truck to pay 400,000 CFA francs. He admitted that the border closure is going to affect their revenue collection but added that the impact would be felt by both countries.