Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jammeh, Wade urged to end Senegambia border blockade

Jammeh & Wade
The President of the Dakar-based National Organisation for Human Rights (ONDH) Mr. Djibril Aziz BADIANE has called on The Gambian President Yahya Jammeh and Senegalese President Abdoulie Wade to resolve the “unofficial” border blockade.
Mr. BADIANE, who is heading a six-month project on “Human Rights Approach in the Process of Regional Integration in West Africa”, was in Banjul, where he held a day long workshop on April 29, as part of the project initiated in Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and The Gambia.
During a press conference at the Baobab Holiday Resort, Bijilo on April 30, he told journalists that “If things like this (border blockade) happen, the leaders of both countries should talk to their people and between themselves as well in order to resolve the problem as soon as possible”.
The Senegambia border has been unofficially closed allegedly by the Senegalese Transport Union for three weeks now, with the movement of vehicles in and out of both countries restricted, the impasse does affect the movement of goods and services as well.
However, it does not affect the movement of people across borders, and Mr. BADIANE who believes that things may get out of hand if not quickly resolved, admitted that on his way to Banjul, his car was impounded at Karang, a Senegalese town north of The Gambian border.
He said, these two countries share a lot in common and as a head of the ONDH Project on Human rights and regional integration, I think there should be dialogue and mutual understanding between both sides preferably led by influential people in society, for instance, religious leaders.
“Things are getting out of hand and I feel threatened as the head of a project aimed at achieving regional integration,” he said, while acknowledging efforts by president Jammeh to remove the too many security check points across the country.
Mr. Sheikh Lewis of the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) and the Interim Secretary General and Focal Point for ONDH in The Gambia, said the facts behind the blockade have not been brought to the fore.
He lamented that the blockade has left people who knew nothing about it and have done nothing wrong to be held at ransom. “The leaders of both Senegal and The Gambia should be able to tell the people exactly what is happening and pave the way for resolving the problem,” he said.
“It is undeniable that both leaders have relatives in both countries, so why do they have to keep quiet for three weeks now. We in this sub-regional workshop are calling on the two leaders to bring an end to the issue immediately.”
He added: “We have seen what President Jammeh and President Wade have done (development) in their countries, but over the years, we have not seen them doing enough to protect the citizens of Senegambia.” 
According to him, if Gambia and Senegal can put aside all differences and come to terms with each other in all manners, the Senegambia region can be a decisive example of a united Africa.
While hoping that the issue will be settled in a peaceful manner, he said he is optimistic as well that the impasse will come to an end before or by May 15, 2011.
Meanwhile, Mr. BADIANE believe that it is good to manage crisis, but it is better to avoid them, saying “prevention is better that cure”. He also stressed that where there is no integration, there cannot exist a develop economy.
On ONDH’s project, he said they believe that the four countries: Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal and The Gambia, all have varying approaches to regional integration and we want to ensure that there is a synergy between all countries.
It takes Europe 50 years to become what it is today, it is a gradual process and we in the ECOWAS sub-region should be able to step up our efforts to achieve the provisions of the Protocol on the Free Movements of Persons, Goods and Services, which is the basis of integration.

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