Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Senegal demands have been met, but the border blockade persist

Jammeh & Wade
The Secretary General of The Gambia National Trade Union Congress Mr. Ebrima Garba Cham has told The Voice Newspaper that all the demands of the Senegalese Transport Union have been met but the “unofficial” closure of the border to vehicles continues.
The Senegalese Union decided to put up a blockade, restricting the movement of vehicles across the borders between Gambia and Senegal after a Senegalese cement-loaded truck sank in Gambian waters at the country side town of Farafenni in the North Bank Region in February 2011.
As Mr. Cham explained, the truck drowned while attempting to board the ferry at the Yeli Tenda-Bamba Tenda. However, he revealed that the Gambia Ports Authority has paid 12 million CFA to the Senegalese Transport Union as compensation for the incident.
According to him, the Union has even confirmed that its’ demands for compensation has been met.
Mr. Cham, who is also the Secretary General of Gambia Workers Union, said the Senegalese Union has also been complaining about the numerous police check points in The Gambia and the harassments of their members by Gambian police.
However, he said at present there are limited check points within the country except the border, as borders must be controlled.
He also noted that the Senegalese truckers do complain that at ferry crossing points in the Gambia, the Ports Authority gives priority to Gambian vehicles, and in this regard, Mr. Cham said such an act is not authorized and it should be stopped if its is happening. 
According to him, the Senegalese have also complained about been over charged by Gambian authorities after one of their drivers knock down a electricity pole around Farafenni, owned by the National Water and Electricity Company (NAWEC).
Nonetheless, Mr. Cham said even Gambian drivers are subjected to such demands in accordance with NAWEC’s regulation, so no one is an exception.
He argued that a Union is an advocacy group but cannot put on such powers to the extent of restricting the movement of vehicles.
He said: “There is a hidden agenda behind the blockade, but efforts are ongoing with their counterparts in Senegal to ensure that the border is reopened as soon as possible.”
It must be noted that both governments have not announced that they’ve officially closed the borders between Gambia and Senegal, and the blockade affects only the movement of vehicles, goods and services across the borders, but the movement of people is not restricted.

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