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Sunday, 10 November 2013 00:00(JollofNews) – The European Union, through the European Development Fund, has withheld 10 million euros of aid money meant for Gambia citing President Yahya Jammeh`s poor human rights record, JollofNews has learnt.
Sources within the Gambian government indicated the decision by the EU body was reached after a vote held by member countries on 30 October. The money withheld was part of 13 million euros identified for the Gambian government for various development projects.
Our sources within the Foreign Affairs ministry said a number of member countries of the European Union feeling averse by the deteriorating human rights situation under the Jammeh regime opposed the disbursement of the whole money.
The member countries are scheduled to vote on the issue on November 21 to decide on whether to issue out the remaining money. Our source said the 10 million euros deducted was intended for the construction of roads “and if the government does not receive the money by the end of the year then it will be retained within the EU budget and the money will not be given to the Gambia as it has to be distributed before the end of the year.”
With an average GDP growth rate of 5%, Gambia has been tipped as one of the most liberalized and best performing economies in West Africa. But poor infrastructure, coupled with an undiversified economic base as well as low level of human capital and governance-related issues have slowed the development process and makes the realization of this dream a distant reality. The EU remains one of Gambia`s major donor partners.
Gambia’s national development plan [Country Strategy Paper for Gambia (2008-2013)] serves as the strategic framework for its co-operation with the EU under its 10th European Development Fund (EDF). Governance, infrastructure and regional interconnectivity constitute the major priority sectors for this.
The overall spending by the EC on Gambia under this 10th EDF funding (2008-2013) is €60.8 million. The EC also support the country in poverty-related issues, including gender equality, HIV/AIDS, environmental sustainability, good governance and human rights. Yet President Yahya Jammeh is on record referring to western aid money like the EU`s as "Chicken Change", and he has on several occasions damned western powers to keep their money instead of dictating to him about his human rights obligations.
Jammeh’s government continue to attract worldwide criticism for the worsening of Gambia`s rights record, including detention and persecution of political opponents. The present persecution of members of the main opposition UDP is fresh in minds. That followed the recent detention and release of Imam Baba Leigh, and several other inhuman treatments meted out to innocent Gambians.
Many observers both within and outside the Gambia who spoke to JollofNews on this issue have urged the EU not to grant the remaining money as it would only “bolster the tyrant`s grip on power”, as one of them put it. Gambians will be closely watching this development.
Written by Kemo Cham
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