By Rohey Jadama
The Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), on Friday 26th February, convened a press briefing on the border closure at its office in Bijilo.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GCCI Mr. Alieu Secka said during the last few weeks, the GCCI had received several enquiries from its membership about the border closure by the Senegalese transport unions. He said they have further noted the various reports in the local newspapers and especially followed some of the stories in the Senegalese media but which unfortunately were mostly misinformed and sensational.
“GCCI wishes to clearly confirm that it has no responsibility on this sovereign matter which is the prerogative solely of the Government of the Gambia and as responsible citizens we respect totally. The business community appreciates the tremendous support and partnership that government has extended through its regular engagement with the GCCI and particularly its numerous declarations of the private sector as the engine of growth in all its policy documents. While the public may not hear us every day, we want to re-assure you that we work constructively with the public sector and many times find very good solutions together,” said the GCCI CEO.
Mr Secka said he can confirm that he and the GCCI President, Mr. Muhammad Jagana, had both visited the Amdalai/Karang post last week and that the Gambian side of the border is open and free to all. He said when they visited the Senegalese side at Karang, the police and the customs officials informed them that whilst they are open and ready to process goods and persons, the Senegalese transport union had blocked the roads to all Gambian vehicles and that the same applies now at Kerr Ayip.
“We have contacted the Dakar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which is the national chamber representative, and informed them of these incidences and are awaiting their feedback. We are further in touch with the Ziguinchor Chamber of Commerce, where most transit passes, and as part of our regular consultations, including other stakeholders, had planned a meeting for this weekend which is postponed,” he disclosed.
The GCCI CEO added that ECOWAS guarantees the free movement of persons and goods in the region and free of any charges.
“There are several other protocols similarly including Inter State Road Transit (ISRT) to facilitate and grow trade amongst member countries and our economies and there should be total free movement of trucks/goods until they reach their final destination,” said Mr. Secka.
He said regrettably at the end of last year, the Senegalese authorities decided to introduce the processing of all transit documents which now takes place in Dakar and has causes many days delay at all border posts, as economic operators and truckers can wait for up to 7 days before going to collect such authorization.
Mr. Secka continued “Economic operators have reported being made to pay informally and without receipts for escort fees of 75,000 FCFA, processing fees of 300,000 CFA and exit fees of 26,000CFA, totaling some 400,001CFA en-route amongst others.”
The GCCI CEO said despite the signing of the ECOWAS ISRT protocol, Senegal has not yet ratified its bilateral agreement with the Gambia, even after they made two visits.