Gambia is now ready to go into talks with neighboring Senegal to end the eight-year border standoff between the two West African nations.
Talks on the border crisis were the core of national security talks during a cabinet meeting between Gambia’s President Adama Barrow and his cabinet on Wednesday.
Gambia’s ex-President Yahya Jammeh, in 2009 ramped up rhetorics, warning of ‘unavoidable circumstances’ sending the country’s small military to annex a village on the southern border with Senegal.
Gambia’s army occupied Tranquil Touba, which was Kabayorya in Senegal’s Casamance region in 2009 sparking diplomatic tensions between the two nations.
Senegal’s former President Abdoulaye Wade avoided military confrontation to maintain peace by declining to deploy Senegalese forces to retake the village.
Wade has held off sending troops to chase out Gambian forces in the hope Jammeh, who had kept up a barrage of hostile commentary, would see reason.
Diplomatic efforts to end the crisis in 2010 hit a roadblock, and military confrontation became evident with the coming of Senegal’s President Macky Sall to power.
In 2015, Sall deployed troops to Tranquil Touba and built a highway link the border village to key cities like Jululu.
Jammeh had lashed out at Senegal over the border dispute and construction of the road in Tranquil and Bantang Nyima, insisting that Senegal unilaterally withdraw its troops.
In low-key diplomatic maneuvers that took place outside the public eye, hey agreed to a common platform for the demarcation of the border, a decision that Jammeh later ignored, forcing the situation to nearly spiral out of control.
Several villages around Senegal’s borders with its neighbors, including Tranquil, are claiming not to be part of the French-speaking West African state.
Senegal is also in similar disputes with Mauritania. Villages that share borders with Gambians towns of Dimbaya and Darselameh are accusing Senegal of ignoring their plights.
People on the Senegalese side of the fence said they have no access to good education, health care and clean drinking water, which they only get from across the border in The Gambia’s Foni region.
The road built by the Sall government in Tranquil Touba now divides the village into North [occuppied by Senegalese army] and South [occuppied by Gambian forces] until January.
Senegalese troops are currently in Gambia helping stabilize the security of The Gambia following Jammeh’s defeat in the elections and his forceful ouster from power.
The military of the two nations are working together and had signed several agreements since Jammeh’s exile, creating a pathway to finding a last solution to the border crisis.
Border disputes are not new between Senegal and The Gambia. The borders between the two countries have been closed nearly a dozen times in two decades.
The 2016 impasse followed by The Gambia’s decision to slap a hundred-fold hike on fees for trucks entering its territory caps a year of souring diplomatic ties between the two neighbors, even though trade was fast growing in a rapidly rising African region.
Provocative comments by Jammeh overshadow talks with Senegal aimed at resolving a three-month border blockade that nearly forced Gambia’s economy to its knees.
There were shortages of essential daily items on both sides of the frontier, triggering Guinea’s Alpha Conde to intervene.
Although Jammeh said Senegal’s population suffered the most, The Gambia’s landmass is completely surrounded by Senegal, and reliant on its larger neighbor to import many essentials.
Gambia is repairing its diplomatic relations with Senegal, which had played a leading role in garnering military support from other West African nations to send Jammeh packing to Equatorial Guinea.