Gambia reopens borders with Senegal

2014-04-26 10:29
Gambia President Yahya Jammeh (Picture: AFP)

Gambia President Yahya Jammeh (Picture: AFP)

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Banjul - The Gambia reopened its borders with Senegal on Friday, ending a week-long diplomatic stand-off between the west African neighbours, officials said.

The move came just four days after security sources told AFP that President Yahya Jammeh had ordered the closure of all official crossing points into the Gambia's only neighbour.

No explanation was given for either decision.

"The orders were given this morning by the government. That's all I can say. For now, I cannot tell you why they were opened," a government official said on condition of anonymity.

Jammeh made the decision to close the border during a 21-day "country-wide dialogue with the people tour" launched on 17 April, an official from the National Intelligence Agency told AFP on Monday.

The Gambia, a country of about 1.8 million, is a finger of territory flanking the Gambia River, with Senegal on either side and a narrow Atlantic coastline.

"We just saw [Gambian border police] lift up the barrier and vehicles started going in and out. There are no strange conditions," said Ousman Drammeh, president of the Gambia Transport Union, of the re-opening.

The closure came less than a week after Senegalese hauliers ended a month-long border blockade against Gambian vehicles in protest over transit rights which they say have been decided unilaterally by Gambian authorities.

Jammeh, 48, is often pilloried for taking unilateral and seemingly impetuous decisions as well as for rights abuses and the muzzling of the press.

In March, he said the former British colony would be dropping English as its official language and in 2008, he gave an ultimatum to gays and lesbians to leave his country, saying he would "cut off the head" of any homosexual found in the Gambia.

Two years ago, the European Union cancelled $30m of aid because of concerns over human rights and governance issues.

Read more on:    yahya jammeh  |  senegal  |  gambia  |  west africa
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