By Samsudeen Sarr
That said, I still want to maintain my inflexible position that Gambia cannot do much without Senegal freeing us to manage our own affairs. Like many disappointed Gambians, I was also not thrilled about President Adama Barrow’s initial reactions towards the emergence of the pandemic.
He should have expressed his concern to President Macky Sall about his untimely invitation to meet him in Dakar for a relatively insignificant political meeting after the Senegalese president a day before appeared on TV wearing protective mask and announcing the first case of an infected French man in Senegal. Rather than counseling Sall to postpone it for a better day when the virus is contained, Barrow showing blind loyalty and having none of his advisers to warn him against the trip, risked it to Dakar taking along over forty senior members of his government who sheepishly followed him for the juicy per diem paychecks. I can bet that none of them warned him about the danger. I don’t know about the rest of you folks, but frankly speaking, thank God and the Coronavirus for grounding our per diem hunters abusing their office privileges to amass personal wealth at the detriment of poor Gambians.
It is said that a week before President Sall summoned President Barrow to meet him in Senegal “ASAP”, the Foroya Newspaper had reported a Senegalese minister cancelling an official visit to the Gambia because of the virus alarm. If that is true then how smart were members of our government in going to Dakar under even worse conditions?
The Dakar conference, dubbed the “Presidential council Meeting” organized in what they said was a biannual thing, accordingly aimed at reciprocating the first one held in Banjul in 2018 to consolidate stronger bilateral ties between our two countries but above all to also find a way of resolving the border-shut down crisis that I know will never be fairly implemented; and for whatever they were promised at the meeting, I know for sure that the situation will continue to favor Senegal and not the Gambia.
I think there was a communique after the meeting earmarking March 29, 2020 to be the day of normalizing our border problem, a chronic abnormality since 1989. Normalizing the situation means respecting cross border business, allowing free movement of both people and goods.
Well, I can understand the non-commercially-allowed free-movement of people across our borders that has in fact never ceased; but when it comes to goods, Senegal will never tolerate the way their goods flow into the Gambia to proportionally flow into their country. If you doubt it, wait until March 29, 2020 and try to take a bag of sugar from the Gambia as charity to your aunt in Senegal and see what will happen, much more if you wanted to sell a dozen bags in Kaulack. You will be lynched by their border law enforcement agents.
However that is not even what bothers me most in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The comprehensive preventive measures necessary in the Gambia right now must include Mr. Tombong Saidy’s recommendations calling for the closure of all entry points across our land, airspace and sea routes, allowing only the delivery of essential goods such as medical, food and fuel supplies. That is exactly what every nation is doing right now all over the world.
Well trained and properly equipped professionals composed of medics, security personnel and government agencies will work at all entry points at least to monitor the body temperature of visitors and if found abnormally high among non-Gambians will be denied entry. Gambians will of course be quarantined in habitable places if diagnosed with symptoms or coming from high risk areas.
But the million dollar question is will Macky Sall allow the Gambians to be monitoring the 1500-plus-Senegalese troops stationed in the Gambia, rotating frequently to give chance to their fellow-fortune seekers at home receiving fat salaries paid by the Europeans or France to keep the nation’s peace where there was no war until now? The Gambia has no control over the movement of these troops in and out of the country. We cannot also use them in this kind of war that we can only fight effectively by us.
According to the European representative in the Gambia, to maintain the foreign “peacekeeping” forces they were providing funds in excess of D700,000000.00 per annum. The investment was for them to come and wage war in the Gambia to “save” us from a “bad” government. The government left peacefully without a war but the combatants stayed scaring the Barrow government for three years now with the possibility of an outbreak of a war if they should leave prematurely. It is all nonsense.
But with the Coronavirus being globally viewed as a bigger war to be fought, why not send these useless troops back to their infected countries to help there, and divert the 700 million dalasis for the immediate needs of Gambians to purchase very essential medical equipment? We need tents for combat-like fields hospitals, hazmat suits, ventilators, desensitizers, and adequate testing kits since we only have the MRC lab for testing. And from what I heard today, the MRC is overwhelmed with backlog of samples and can no longer keep up with the volume and are now contemplating to send patients to Dakar.
For lacking proper testing means, it is possible that even Barrow and his ministers who visited Dakar after the virus appeared there are carrying it. People can be infected and may never know while spreading it everywhere.
If France is now funding ECOMIG with so much money and wants us to believe that they have the interest of the Gambian people at heart, then we need the money to fight the virus more than paying it to the useless forces doing nothing in the country other than intimidating us.
The GAF can do a better job but they need the resources and the motivation to deploy them in the frontline. It is now or never. If the Gambians cannot trust their own security forces in these trying times, then we might as well disband them and surrender everything to Senegal once and for all.