The Gambia - Foreign policy



During the first weeks of military rule in 1994, Senegal distanced itself from the new regime, particularly as rumors developed of a Libyan connection within the AFPRC. Since then, President Jammeh has helped the Senegalese government mediate the protracted Casamance (Senegal) secessionist movement led by members of the Jola ethnic group. However, relations with Senegal remain problematic, and Presidents Wade and Jammeh disagree over the construction of a bridge across the Gambia River that Senegal wants to build. Relations also have been strained by Casamancais rebels of the Mouvement des Forces Démocratiques de Casamance (MFDC), who have been using The Gambia as a staging ground to launch their attacks. Senegal occasionally has pursued rebels into Gambian territory, and Jammeh has accused the Senegalese of doing too little to prevent the necessity of crossborder pursuit. Similarly, Guinea-Bissau's president Kumba Yala has complained that The Gambia has harbored insurgents hostile to his government, but a meeting between Yala and Jammeh in July 2002 resolved the dispute.

The Gambia is an active member of the Interstate Committee on Drought in the Sahel (CILSS), a regional body established in the early 1980s to combat drought and famine in the semidesert fringe bordering the Sahara in West Africa. It also belongs to the Gambia River Basin Development organization, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the African Union (AU). However, Jammeh has been a vocal critic of the AU-related New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), which he has dismissed as weak and a nonstarter. A key NEPAD provision calls for a peer review mechanism by which member heads of state hold each other to strict governance standards, a provision which could frustrate Jammeh.

Relations with the United States have improved in spite of Jammeh's human and civil rights abuses, and alleged 'blood' diamond trading with Liberia and Sierra Leone. The Gambia was one of the few African countries that supported the U.S. proposal for an All-African peacekeeping force to help resolve conflicts on the continent, and in 1999, Jammeh sent 140 peacekeepers to Guinea-Bissau. Based on the conduct of the 2001 elections, the United States lifted sanctions in March 2002 and through the auspices of the Corporate Council on Africa, held an investment forum in Banjul in September 2002. The 2002 U.S. State Department Human Rights report criticized The Gambia for its poor record on rights such as freedom of speech, but if improvements in these areas and in the rule of law continue, the country is expected to be certified by the end of 2003 for duty-free export of textiles and other goods under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Owing to late and irregular rainfall and expected food shortages, The Gambia was to receive 1,000 metric tons of U.S. wheat valued at US $558,000 in 2003.

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