By David Kujabi January 24, 2022
Lying on the border between the Central River Region – North of The Gambia and Senegal is a village called Ngunta. The village is right at the border of both countries with little distinction to show between each other. The predominantly Tukulor village of a population of about one thousand (1,000) residents, is said to be one big family perched between two villages. The village has two village heads, one for the Senegalese side and another for The Gambia. A resident told me that the village was founded by two brothers who were both resident in Senegal.
However, during the wars when French colonialists conscripted young men into the army, the brothers decided to part ways; one moving to the Gambia side of the border. This way, young men could easily flee into The Gambia and from Gambia into Senegal. He added that most of those within The Gambia part of the community have their farms in Senegal. He also said that they use both the CFA and Dalasi currencies for business transactions.
The people of the village live as one and hardly see themselves as people of different countries. However, one cannot fail to recognize a difference in government services to its people. The Senegalese side of the village has electricity and a school. That side of the village is where you find most of the shops, milling machines and a welding workshop.
I had a stroll around the village walking in and out of the Senegalese side with no care. I found the people to be very friendly, accommodating, and willing to chat. Hence the village has two Alkalolu (Village Head), one for the Gambia and the other for Senegal, I asked how disputes were resolved and I was told that irrespective of the difference the elders of the village come together to resolve it. For a moment I thought of what a wonderful experience it would be to just live there for a few days, integrate and be a part of the community.
Ngunta for me was a revelation of the true meaning of Senegambia. A people divided by lines drawn at the Belin Conference of 1884-1885. These lines may seek to divide people and even succeed in creating a difference but what has been proven over time, is that the people will remain true to themselves and their blood relations. This is the same for many Senegambians who despite the boundaries that divide relatives, look beyond the politics, and see each other as one people. No wonder the saying, Senegal ak Gambia bena bopa la. [ The Gambia and Senegal are all but one nation]