Saturday, July 26, 2008


The Center for Democracy and Development (CCD) & West African Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) organize a two days regional consultative meeting on conflicts in the Senegambia zone of West Africa in Banjul The Gambia from the 24 -25 July 2008 at the Kairaba Beach Hotel. The meeting which is a regional one brought together civil society organizations in the region under one roof. The meeting aimed at discussing at length with the view of resolving issues of conflict in the zone, comprising, the Gambia, Senegal, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde.

Professor Boubacar Barry, a theoretician of Senegabia and a thinker of integration, born in Guinea but a Senegalese, teaches at Chiehk Anta Dioup University, since 1972.He is involved in the initiations of several networks, who are working on a Center of Integration which will be base in Praia soon.

In his keynote address said Senegambia is wider than the defined ECOWAS zones which was limited to only four countries, why not include Mali and Guinea Conakry which are also part of this wider region.  He said there are no limits historically speaking to the tribes in the region.

 Therefore his first conclusion is West Africa is indivisible. “We should move from these nation states which we wanted to build for the past 15years” said Professor Barry. He said the crisis in Casamance, Liberia, Sierra Leone, so on are all internal crises, this goes beyond the nation states, he said the nation states spills over the West African region so why cant we go beyond the nation states, he asked.

 We must come back to this internal dynamics to solve this crises and conflicts. Why can’t we solve these developing crises, rather than allowing them repeating themselves? He pointed out that there is a conflict in development in Guinea and we are not doing anything about it, are we going to wait until it blow off, before we act?

 Fragmentation is another area where Barry dilated on.  He said is one thing that affects our developments. He said one takes a flight to Guinea or Mali each has their own flags and other national identities, why? ,

 He indicated that Cape Verde is one of the smallest countries in our region, but it’s now a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), so it’s not the size that matters but governance structures.

He referred to fragmentation as two separate fragmentations; one of knowledge, which is the languages of the colonial masters, the second fragmentation is about religions be it Islam and Christianity. Again it is either in French or Arabic when it comes to religion. How can we be fragmented to such a level and yet solve such problems? It’s true that at elections we speak to our electorates in our local languages just to get votes. “We cannot solve conflicts with a fragmented knowledge or religion” said Professor Barry. It is his opinion that the Senegambia zone will continue to be the losers under such fragmentation. He said it is because of such fragmentation that we cannot bridge the river Gambia, thus making communication impossible.

Dr. Siga Jagne Director of Pro-PAG and co organizer of the conference in her remark indicated that Gambia is a critical country as far as conflict resolution is concern.  It is one country where all the countries in the neighborhood run to when there is disturbance. In this regard she said it’s important that we sit to discuss so that peace prevails in the sub-region and hope Gambia will soon set up its own network to join the rest.

The Center for Development and Democracy, (CDD) Director Dr. Jibrin Ibrahim in his remarks said one of the things they in the civil society cherish is our participation in activities like early warning and prevention mechanism in conflicts preventions. He said part of the limitation in our democratic development has been the excessive conflicts in the areas.

By ECOWAS definition of Senegambia zone, includes The Gambia, Senegal, Bissau Guinea and Cape Verde. The meeting will not only look at the conflict resolution in this zone but as well to find solutions to it. ECOWAS has a mechanism with regional organizations like, WANEP, which feeds it with early warning signal of conflict, a mechanism that help us act promptly.

Dele Sonubi, of the West Africa Civil Society Forum (WACSOF) deputizing for the General Secretary, told the conference that WACSOF is an umbrella organization of civil society organizations in our region, and there head office is in Nigeria due the proximity to the ECOWAS head office. He said this meeting’s recommendation will not gather dust as WACOSOF will definitely push it to make sure that actions are taken. He invited all to take active interest in WACSOF.

ECOWAS regional office coordinators, Moussa Dabal, welcomed and thank on behalf of the Secretary General of ECOWAS all who come here. He said this is a commitment shown by the civil society organizations in the region. Dabal noted that there have been a lot of conflicts in the region; on 28 May 1975 ECOWAS was founded with the primary role of economic affairs, the political issues were not part of the agenda at the time. But with experience today, development cannot take place in the absence of good governance and democracy.

The early warning system is in four zones, zone one is the Senegambia zone with head offices in Gambia. Zone two is based in Liberia, zone three is based Burkina, and zone four has its head office in Benin.








Author: Madi Ceesay
Source: conference