The APRC and nominated members of the National Assembly have unanimously claimed that The Gambia is ready and willing to forgo the millions of Euro donated to the government by the European Union than to implement the 17-point reforms the EU demanded the government implement.
One after the other, the parliamentarians on Monday, during an extraordinary session of the National Assembly, strongly condemned the EU.
For them, the EU already knew that the government “will not accept” to implement the 17-point demand, so in that case they can cut aids to the government, but the government is ready to weather the storm.
The extraordinary session was convened for the parliamentarians to discuss the demands of the EU to The Gambia government.
In a 17-point demand presented to The Gambia government, which are strongly condemned and rejected by President Jammeh forthrightly, the EU demanded the Gambia government to undertake some reforms in order to improve the country’s governance and human rights situations.
Among the reforms 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.
“Gambia is willing to forgo any kind of aids than to implement these kinds of demands,” said Fabakary Tombong Jatta, member for Serrekunda East and majority leader.
He said the government will be glad to get the EU funds with respect and dignity, but not under servitude, or slave-master relationship, though he acknowledged that the EU contributes to the socio-economic development of the country.
These kinds of things are done with a pre-conceived mind, Hon. Tombong Jatta says, adding that the EU did this so that if the government refuses, they can take the next action.
For Abdoulie Saine, member for Banjul Central, the country has been surviving without EU aid.
However, over the years, the EU has provided millions of Euros to the government in supporting several areas of the economy.
Some of the major roads in the country are constructed by EU grant.
The Gambia continues to benefit millions of Euros donated by the EU in form of projects in different areas, such as 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 National Assembly Member for Tumana, Netty Baldeh, for him, the EU’s demand to the government is a calculated move as the timing is meant to affect the next EDF whose negotiation is underway.
Member for Foni Bintang, Bintading Jarju, said the government and the country, by extension, should close its eyes to these kinds of aids.
“We better crawl and eat leaves in the bush than implement such reforms,” she said.
“Let them take their money, let them cut their aids,” said Dr Njogu Bah, minister for Presidential Affairs and secretary general and head of Civil Services, who was also at the National Assembly.
“We are saying we have God and by God’s power, we will continue to survive,” he added.
The Gambia Government’s position is loud and clear that sovereignty of the nation cannot be compromised because of EU aid, said Dr Bah.
Hon. Samba Jallow, a member for Niamina Dankunku who is also the minority leader, EU is a long-time partner in development.
He suggested that the government should look for a way to solve the issues diplomatically rather than chaotically.
Hon. Jallow, an opposition National Assembly representative of the National Reconciliation Party (NRP), challenged the government to treat the EU matter diplomatically.
“We cannot call the EU funding chicken change considering the various projects they are funding which Gambians are benefiting from,” he said.