Gambia’s President Adama Barrow has arrived in neighboring Senegal’s capital Dakar on Thursday on his first official visit since taking power in January.
It is customary for new Senegalese and Gambian leaders to first visit each other before going to any other nation.
Barrow had been in safety in Dakar when former President Yahya Jammeh refused to cede power. Senegal led regional troops to flush Jammeh out of power.
Gambia-Senegal relations were bitter during Jammeh’s rule – border closures were a norm and Jammeh’s unpresidential approach to minor issues led to the stalling of Bambatenda-Yellitenda bridge construction and the continuing of the minor crisis in southern Senegal’s Casamance region.
The two are top on two leaders agenda but the Trans-Gambia bridge, across the River Gambia to link Senegal’s north and south through the Gambia is the priority in talks to be held by Barrow and Sall.
Funding for the bridge, 942 meters (less than 0.59 miles) at US$65 million has already being provided for and it will connect to a major highway, which seeks to connect West African nations.
Jammeh has always used the bridge as a leverage when dealing with Senegal. He sees the Bambatenda-Yellitenda as a strategic security checkpoint that prevented an attempted coup in 1995 from becoming successful.
At least three coups against Jammeh were launched from Senegal and he has accused Senegalese authorities of harboring his enemies, mostly former military officers, journalists and political opponents.
Senegalese authorities, on the contrary, accused Jammeh of funding and arming separatist rebels in Casamance.
Resolving the low-level crisis south of the Gambian border is important to both nations.
The democracies and economies of Gambia and Senegal are interdependent. A crisis in one can support destabilization is another.
Barrow and Sall are attempting to build a legacy by using the Senegal-Gambia relations as a model for other African nations.
Sall’s administration was instrumental is ending the political impasse in the Gambia. Foreign Minister Mankeur Ndiaye led a delgation to secure the support of the UN Security Council, and contributed the most troops and resources in the regional force.