By Muhammed L. Bojang
The Gambia Transport Union (GTU) on Thursday accused its Senegalese counterparts of ignoring the ECOWAS conventions and protocols of free trade and movement of vehicles within the sub-region at a press conference held at its headquarters in Banjul.
The press conference followed a recently concluded nationwide tour by the union to reach out to its memberships on challenges they are faced with on daily basis.
Omar Ceesay, president of the union said, Gambian vehicles face serious challenges to enter Senegalese territories with Senegalese authorities levying unjustifiable charges on Gambian vehicles such as ‘Pass Avant’ which last for only ten days. He said the ECOWAS protocol stated that all member states are free to travel within the sub-region without any discrimination and can stay in a country for 90 days.
“Senegal makes it very difficult to access their markets”, he went on, saying for example, the cashew trade from Guinea Bissau through southern Senegal to Banjul is blocked by Senegalese authorities. He noted that this is discouraging businessmen to invest in The Gambia which is against the ECOWAS free trade, WTO, and AfCFTA.
He said, the 10 days Pass Avant is renewable twice after 15 days at the border point of your entry or one of their major towns, he explained, adding that failure to do so they levy huge amount of fines on the vehicle for overstaying beyond the specific period. “You might even lose your vehicle to them and the signed MOU with Gambia government permits you to stay in their country for 2 years”.
He further said that Senegalese authorities further demand original ID Cards of vehicle owners which is impossible as most of the drivers do not own vehicles they drive.
He described the move as a tactic to block them or discourage them to access Senegal.
He described their actions as a disrespect to the MOU sign between the two countries to access each other’s economy since 2018 at the presidential council meeting held in The Gambia.
Mr. Ceesay calls on government of The Gambia to re-engage its counterpart on an operational MOU that will also allow borders to be operational throughout.
He went on to say that Senegalese authorities close their borders at midnight with their custom officers asking Gambian drivers to produce their vehicles loading bills or they will not be allowed to enter their territory.