Jean Claude Juncker, EU Commission President/Guradian Image

Jean Claude Juncker, EU Commission President/Guardian Image!

The European Union has held its ground on withholding aid to The Gambia. The bloc was contemplating on unblocking aid to a country whose government would not blink on improving its poor human rights credentials.

The Gambia got the angry side of the EU a fortnight ago when it expelled an EU diplomat without providing explanations. The Gambia’s failure to address its appalling human rights situation forced the Union to free the $37 million earmarked for 2015-2016 development projects in the country. Brussels officials were shocked by The Gambia’s expulsion of their Charge d’Affaires on June 5. Agnes Guillaud’s unexplained June 5th expulsion came hours after EU officials met President Yahya Jammeh.

“There’s no way the money will be unblocked now,” one Western diplomat told Reuters. “Talks with Gambia were about potentially reopening the (aid) tab,” said another, describing the expulsion “a disaster.”

EU officials express concern about the Jammeh regime’s blocking of consular access to foreign nationals in jails. They also questioned President Jammeh’s deliberate interference in foreign currency exchange.

Despite the government’s repeated denials, United Nations report in May established significant violations of human rights in The Gambia. The Jammeh government said the allegations are “unsubstantiated.”

EU members debated on whether to place sanctions or an aid freeze on The Gambia for failing to upholding the principles of democracy or the rule of law. Some members fear the application of Article 96 of the Cotonou Agreement would be detrimental to The Gambia’s 1.8 million people, especially at a time when the country’s economy is going through major shocks.

But the European Commission spokesman told Reuters that the previously approved 4 million would still be disbursed to the West African country. It is not clear whether this will be directly channeled to civil society groups or nongovernmental organisations.

Ends

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