Senegal and Gambia announce new era of ties

Senegalese president Macky Sall (L) shakes hands with his Gambian counterpart Adama Barrow upon his arrival at Dakar airport for a three-day official visit to Senegal, on March 2, 2017

Senegal and The Gambia on Saturday affirmed a "new dynamic" between the two countries since the fall of former Gambian leader Yahya Jammeh, and vowed to strengthen economic and military co-operation.

New President Adama Barrow has described French-speaking Senegal, which almost entirely surrounds his Anglophone nation, as The Gambia's "best friend", breaking with fractious years under his predecessor Yahya Jammeh.

Barrow's three-day visit to Senegal at the invitation of President Macky Sall wound up on Saturday and was his first foreign outing since becoming president in January.

An agreement was signed to work together on tourism, a key industry for both nations, according to a joint statement issued at the end of a series of meetings between the two heads of state.

Greater defence co-operation was also agreed as The Gambia attempts to reform its army, and as Senegalese troops remain on Gambian soil to assure security while suspected Jammeh loyalists are investigated.

Sall and Barrow also agreed for top Gambian and Senegalese officials to meet every six months to discuss ties, the statement added.

The two west African nations already share deep cultural ties and most families have relatives living in both countries, but Jammeh was long accused of supporting Senegalese separatist rebels and of blocking a bridge project over the River Gambia.