Senegal and The Gambia should always be the closest ally, but that expectation has not been met since President Yahya Jammeh came to power 22 years ago, but the outcome of December 1 presidential elections is set to reignite the special relations that have been strained by border closures and political tensions.
President Yahya Jammeh has been defeated in polls and The Gambia’s President-elect Adama Barrow said Senegal will be once again The Gambia’s main ally in the global stage.
The people of The Gambia and Senegal share the same culture. The two were separated after the British stroke a deal with the French to secure the River Gambia, the country’s namesake. Senegal, a country of 15 million people, surrounds The Gambia on all three sides except for the West that has a short 50-mile Atlantic coast strip with golden beaches.
“Senegal is going to be our number one ally. We share the same borders. Charity begins at home. Before befriending other countries, why not our next-door neighbors Senegal? Both countries stand to benefit from our friendship,” said President-elect Barrow.
Senegal’s President Macky Sall is was the first world leader to congratulate Barrow. Senegal is set to be the first country that President-elect Barrow will visit when he takes office in January.
“I look forward to President Sall’s guidance and advice,” Barrow said.
Of course, Senegal prefers the outcome of The Gambia’s elections. There is no disguise that there are existing issues that most be addressed, including the construction of a bridge over a strategic crossing point in Bambatenda-Yellitenda.
The reality of this and dispute over a border settlement will sink in. There is no escaping them now. They are existential crisis and a solution to them is paramount. But all is not lost. These crucial issues, however, are expected to be diplomatically resolved instead of the use of the more rhetoric approach taken by the Jammeh administration.
Inwardly-looking, Senegal, and The Gambia have common economic interest and security concerns. Unlike President Yahya Jammeh who has eroded faith in the value of the Senegambian foreign policy by using the Casamance crisis as a leverage, Barrow and Sall seem to see things through a similar prism and will cooperate to address the crisis in Casamance and the threats of terrorism and coup d’etat.
In 1981, Senegalese troops thwarted a coup in The Gambia and reinstalled then President Sir Dawda Jawara. A confederation integrating the economy and security forces of the two countries failed, but many believed if it had been in place, Jammeh’s 1994 could have been averted.
Countries follow their interest and The Gambia and Senegal have so much in common. Although Senegal’s foreign policy and international cooperation are unequal to that of The Gambia as of now, It is expected that Banjul and Dakar will be steadfast in acting together rather than acting alone.
The quick reaction of the international community, especially the European Union to the coalition government’s winning of the elections and their willingness to end the “civilized sanctioning” of the country will put The Gambia back as a global player in partnership with Senegal.