Thursday, January 10, 2013

European Union may cut aids to Gambia

Euro Banknotes: Source: Gophoto

The Gambia could lose a lot of million Euros from its main donor, the European Union, as a result of President Jammeh’s outright rejection of the governance reforms that they, the EU, has demanded The Gambia government to undertake in order to improve the country’s governance and human rights situations.

The European Union has presented a 17-point demand to The Gambia government which are strongly condemned and rejected by President Jammeh forthrightly.  The EU has also scheduled a meeting - EU Article 8 Intensified Political - with the government slated for 11th January 2013 during which the demands are to be discussed. 

In a cabinet meeting on Tuesday, President Jammeh denounced and rubbished all the demands by the EU saying that there is no need to meet with the EU because “none of their demands is subject for discussion”.

The EU says it demands are prompted by the significant deterioration in the human rights situation in The Gambia in recent months, notably the execution of nine death row inmates, the forced closure of independent radio stations and newspapers, the trial against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and the arbitrary arrest and detention of journalists and human rights defenders.

Among the reforms that they are demanding from the government are: the upholding of moratorium on the death penalty with immediate effect, revision of laws on freedom of expression and media regulations within 24 months, provision of information regarding the recent executions, including location of burial to the families.  [See below the story all the 17-point demand of the EU.]

However, the strong refusal of President Jammeh of these reforms could have some chilling effects on the government and The Gambia as a whole because the EU is the country’s main donor and it is an open secret that most or all the aids by the multilateral agencies are tied to some conditions like the ones demanded by the EU to The Gambia. 

For instance, the EU has cut financial aid to Kabul due to inefficiency and lack of progress in governance and justice system reforms in Afghanistan.

Again, it has cut aids to Bulgaria due to the government’s little progress in the fight against corruption and organized crime in the country. 

So could it also cut aids to The Gambia for Jammeh’s refusal to improve the governance and human right situation in the country?  It is worth noting that human rights, democracy and the rule of law are core values for the EU and these determines to a large extend the Union’s external relations policy and support to any country.

The Gambia continues to benefit millions of Euros donation from the EU in form of projects in different areas like infrastructure, rural development, food security, climate change, water and sanitation all of which continue to positively touch the lives of thousands of Gambians both in rural and urban areas.

For instance, the country is benefiting a lot under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), which is EU’s main instrument for providing development aid in the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the overseas countries and territories (OCTs).  Under the 10th EDF, the EU is assisting The Gambia government to address the key issues that are hampering economic and social development.

For the period 2008-2013 (10th  EDF), €70.6 million was allocated to The Gambia with two priority intervention sectors: transport as a focal sector, with a broader emphasis on infrastructure and regional interconnectivity, and governance, in order to help the government in undertaking reforms at the macroeconomic level as well as in the judiciary.

The complementary objectives of the 10th EDF Country Strategy for The Gambia is reforming and improving governance, human rights and the rule of law situation in the Gambia and which areas the government is not even entertaining the least of reforms.

As for now, efforts to get to get comment from the European Union office in Banjul, as to what next after President Jammeh rubbishes their demands, proved unproductive.  However, we wait and see the official position to be taken by the Union.

Below are the reforms demanded by the EU, as published by The Point Newspaper.

1. Commitment of Government of the Gambia to allow the free operation of independent media in The Gambia within a deadline of one month;

2. Removal of restrictive barriers/monetary/regulatory to registration and licensing of the media;

3. Removal of restriction on accessing and sharing information electronically within one month;

4. Revision of provision in the criminal code that allow for prosecution on the charges of sedition, libel, false publication to a public servant within 6 months,

5. Revision of laws on freedom of expression and media regulations within 24 months

6. Upholding of moratorium on death penalty with immediate effect

7. Provision of information regarding the recent executions, and including location of burial to families within one month

8. Review of the death penalty by the National Assembly within 12 months

9. Review of the death penalty by the National Assembly and to propose to introduce a de jure moratorium within 24 months

10. Review of the provision of the death penalty in the element of the criminal code and other laws for most serious crimes within six months

11. That the Government signed and ratified the second optional protocol to the international covenant on civil and political rights within 18 months

12. Conclusion of an MOU with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to allow them access to prison facilities on regular basis within 3 months

13. Provision of regular and timely access for diplomatic corps within one month

14. Presentation of costed proposals to improve prison detention facility condition within 12 months

15. Provision of information on the UN Convention against torture ratified on June 6th 2006 within 3 months

16. Signing of the optional protocols to the convention against torture within 6 months

17. Establishment of the Human Rights Commission proposed by the Commonwealth secretariat 

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