Tuesday, 22 January 2019

The Untold Story About The Newly Inaugurated Trans - Gambia Bridge. (Part. 131)

The last time I checked it was in 1976; that former President Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara proposed to kick-off the building of a bridge between YelliTenda - Bamba Tenda and named it the Trans-Gambia Bridge with a length of 1.9 kilometres.

On 11 November 2014, the said project was officially signed, a contract awarded to two companies: JV Corsan Corvian of Spain and Arezki S. A. of Senegal, which was expected to last 36 months, according to the contract agreement.

Readers could recall that on Friday 20 February 2015 the then Vice President Isatou Njie-Saidy under Jammeh’s administration and Senegalese Prime Minister Momodou Dionne laid the foundation stone for the commencement of the construction of the Trans-Gambia Bridge at the YelliTenda - Bamba Tenda.

The project is being financed by the African Development Fund (ADF) with a grant to the Gambia of Unit of Account UA 63.55 million equivalent to D4 billion, aimed at reinforcing the economic cooperation and integration between the Gambia and Senegal and ECOWAS community as a whole. (the Point, 2015).

Besides, the ECOWAS Protocol on the Free Movement of People and Goods ensures free mobility of the community citizens i.e. citizens of member states. The Protocol on free movement conferred on Community citizens the right to enter and reside in the territory of any member state, provided they possessed a valid travel document and international health certificate.

Surprisingly, a press release issued on 17 January 2019 by the Ministry of Transport, Works, & Infrastructure has it that the Trans-Gambia bridge will be open to light traffic effective, January 2019 and not Minibus, Bus, not exceeding 35 Passengers. The release also added, ‘‘The above Vehicle categories allowed and prescribed time to use the bridge will be maintained until July 2019, when all ancillary works on the bridge and access roads are completed’’.

The question is why should be an incomplete bridge be inaugurated considering the risk involved when an accident occurs. On a similar note a $10 million Chinese-built Bridge in western Kenya, personally commissioned by President Uhuru Kenyatta, has collapsed. At least 27 workers were injured when the bridge broke on Monday 26 June 2017. The collapse occurred less than two weeks after President Kenyatta visited the site as part of a campaign tour before general elections in August 2017.

In Turkey on December 2017, the bridge which cost 100 million Turkish Liras and has been under construction since 2013, collapsed just as the final sections were being built. Nearly 200 construction workers on the site witnessed one-eighth of the bridge collapse at its final phases.

Could the immature inauguration of the bridge have to do with Senegal’s Presidential elections which will be held on 24 February 2019? Ahead of the election, two opposition leaders Khalifa Sall and Karim Wade were barred from participating because of convictions for misuse of public funds. The country's Constitutional Court has preliminarily authorised five candidates, including incumbent president Macky Sall who was present at the inauguration of the said Bridge.

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