Gambia: New Unit to Harness Banjul-Bissau Trade Relations

A unit for cooperation, trade and investment has been created at the Guinea Bissau Embassy in The Gambia with the objective, among other things, of harnessing economic opportunities between the two sister Republics, the Daily Observer has gathered. The initiative formed part of the new ambassador's resolve to strengthen robust economic activities between the two nations while enhancing their political and diplomatic ties.

It further seeks to facilitate free movement of goods and services between the two countries as well as put in place stringent control measures against any means of illegal entry or trading of goods and services; money laundering amongst others. The unit will discourage any form of activity with the potential of discolouring relations between the two countries.

Speaking to the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview, Ambassador Idrisa Diallo, who replaced Francisco Mario Vaz in February 2013, affirmed that the new unit would strengthen ties between the two countries. "The relationship between Gambia and Guinea Bissau transcends economic and political ties. These two countries share so many things in common and one thing I know is that the relations between the two have improved significantly. Anything that will affect the security of the two nations will not be taken lightly. We are working very hard to ensure that this relation grows stronger and stronger," he said. Ambassador Diallo, who spoke about the prospects the two countries stand to benefit from this initiative, also hinted that a possible deal with a major airline that would fly from Banjul to Bissau is in the offing, but was quick to seek the Gambian leader's intervention so as to make it happen sooner rather than later.

Security measures

Highlighting some of the issues relating to peace and security between the two nations, the Bissau-Guinean diplomat, indicated that they have drafted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that seeks collaboration between the National Drug Enforcement Agency (NDEA) of The Gambia and that of his country to curb the menace of drug trafficking.

"We have also put up a mechanism with The Gambia Police Force (GPF) to ensure that no vehicle from Banjul can be sold in Bissau without any valid ownership documents, because we want to make sure that all businesses between the two countries go through the right channel," he remarked.

Registration for March elections

Shifting his comments to matters concerning the forthcoming polls in his country, the top diplomat said his office is working hard to register all Bissau-Guineans residing in The Gambia for the March 2014 presidential election, which the transitional government said, "must be held in spite of all the challenges". "This means it must be held," he said, while thanking the Bissau-Guineans in The Gambia for being cooperative and law-abiding.

"Our laws allow all nationals of Guinea Bissau to vote anywhere they are and I want to assure that there will be a peaceful election in The Gambia. We have started the sensitisation programme to enable us locate all Bissau-Guineans to vote peacefully in The Gambia," he told the Daily Observer. Ambassador Diallo spoke of their commitment to ensuring that there is "no room for instability in our country", something he opined, could only be made possible by the citizens of Guinea Bissau."We can do this by peaceful elections, bringing in democratically elected government to steer our affairs. This would also create more rooms for development in our country," Diallo, a veteran soldier-cum-diplomat said. More appeal to President Jammeh

The former army colonel used the opportunity to appeal to The Gambian leader to continue to support their cause for lasting peace in Bissau.

Acknowledging that President Jammeh is very concerned about the situation in Guinea Bissau, the diplomat however affirmed that they want more of his interventions. "We Bissau-Guineans are in acknowledgement of the support he has rendered to us. [We] are very concerned with our situation because we want to have a stable government that will steer our affairs as a people and as a government. Whether good or bad we are going on elections in March and we want this to be the best ever," he said.

He concluded by indicating that efforts are being made by the interim government to ensure peaceful elections in March.

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