EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: Gambia’s transport authorities said they are disappointed by Senegalese and Gambian authorities for remaining silent while Senegalese continue to violate the rights of Gambian transporters despite a signed agreement between the two Presidents in 2018 and the 1975 ECOWAS protocol on Free Movement of People among the Member States.
Reports indicate that this year alone, Gambia Transports Service Company (GTSC) were impounded at the Senegalese border post of Karang and banned from entering into Senegal on two occasions.
Gambia Transport Service Company’s traffic officer, Ahmadou Drammeh told Eye Africa on Friday that the problem has been happening in the past but the recent one commenced on Sunday when GTSC buses were stopped by some individuals at the border who ordered that only one bus would be allowed to enter into the country.
He said Gambia and Senegal have earlier signed an accord that would allow them to operate in each other’s country without permit and the same right is given by the ECOWAS protocol which was signed in 1975.
The 1975 ECOWAS protocol on free movement recognises the need for economic integration including free flow of persons, goods and services and the right of residence which stimulated its enactment. The first phase of the Protocol guaranteed free entry of citizens from Member states without visa for ninety days and it was ratified by all member states in 1980. The second phase of the protocol, right of residence became effective in July 1986 and all member states ratified it. However, right of establishment is yet to come into force
Mr Drammeh said GTSC decided to include Sunday service to Dakar after receiving some fleet of buses but some individual Senegalese at the Karang border said the buses will not cross into Senegal. He said that action strongly shows that Senegalese are not abiding by the March 2018 agreement that was signed by the two Presidents.
According to reports, Senegal’s transport union and the its Gendarmerie insisted that the GTSC buses were not going to be allowed to proceed to Dakar, claiming that it was communicated to Gambia government that only one bus would be allowed to enter in the country every day. The second bus was banned from entering the country and the driver was ordered to return to Banjul upon arrival in Karang.
“The restriction affects only The Gambia while Mali, Guinea Bissau and Conakry vehicles are making easy passage into Senegal. The restriction of GTSC buses is unlawful,” he said.
Mr Drammeh said they are exploring all possible ways and agencies have been engaged in an attempt to come to terms with the Senegalese Transport Agency, but said the longer it takes the matter to be solved the more complicated it will be.
Gambia Transport Union president, Omar Ceesay said his office has been engaging the Senegalese Transport Unit to remedy the situation, even though the rights are entrenched in both the ECOWAS and the documents signed by the two head of state.
He said Senegal has many Transport Unions who are excluding themselves from the matter and playing games with The Gambian Transport Union.
With the coming into force of the Ecowas free movement protocol, the member states abolished visa and other entry requirements for citizens traveling to a sister country. This means that a citizen of ECOWAS member state who possesses a valid traveling document and international health certificate can spend a period not exceeding 90 days in another state.
Notwithstanding the protocol, a member state has the right to deny entry of any immigrant considered to be inadmissible by its laws (Article 4). In 1986, the second phase of the protocol (right of residence) was ratified by all member states.
Mr Ceesay said since the matter broke, they have tried and continue to try to engage relevant authorities and agencies, but the respond they have so far is that they have nothing to say which clearly indicates that they are in support of the ugly scenario.
The transport union president accused Senegalese Government of being in support of the blocking of the GTSC buses, saying that no Transport Agency has the right to block the road without being backed by its Government. He said Gambia Government is also silent about the matter as it is still yet to make solid decisions.
Story written by Binta Ceesay