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The Desk Officer for The Gambia at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London has said The Gambia’s 2016 presidential elections must be credible. In a response to concerns raised by Sidia Bayo of a Gambian opposition group abroad, Theodore Baizos said credibility is essential for a successful election.

Read below Mr. Baizo’s response in full:

Dear Mr Bayo,

Thank you for your letter of 12 June to the Prime Minister regarding your concerns about the human rights and political situation in The Gambia. I am replying as Desk Officer for The Gambia at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

As you are no doubt aware, the last three Presidential elections won by Mr Jammeh have all been recognised by the international community as reflecting the will of the people. Although there are no plans to deploy UN forces to The Gambia during the Presidential elections of 2016, the elections must be credible if they are to be successful.

Looking beyond the elections, the British Government also shares your concerns about a number of President Jammeh’s policies, especially with regards to human rights, governance and rule of law.

The UK is currently the only EU Member State represented by an Ambassador in The Gambia. We therefore have a leading role in campaigning for human rights and in ensuring the issue remains prominent on the EU’s agenda. The British Ambassador regularly raises our concerns with the Gambian government while our Embassy continues to fund specifically targeted, high impact human rights projects in the country. Many of these are focused on priorities such as women’s and children’s rights, access to justice and prisoner rights.

UK lobbying was integral in ensuring The Gambia resumed its dialogue with the EU under the Cotonou Agreement from which the Gambian government withdrew last November following criticism of its human rights record. President Jammeh now has until September to provide us with tangible progress on our concerns; if there is no progress then EU Development Funds scheduled for 2014-2020 will be re-evaluated.

We have also taken the time to voice our concerns in multilateral fora such as the United Nations when The Gambia’s human rights record was evaluated as part of the Universal Periodic Review. More recently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office focussed on The Gambia’s record on LGB&T issues in its Annual Human Rights and Democracy Report which was published on 12 March. This report is HMG’s flagship publication on human rights around the world.

You correctly note that an attempted coup took place against President Jammeh on 30 December. In the immediate aftermath, the Gambian authorities made a number of arrests, including family members of the coup plotters. The British Embassy in Banjul immediately raised our concerns with the Government of The Gambia regarding their unlawful detention. Although most have since been released, between March and April a Gambian military tribunal sentenced three coup plotters to death, and a further three to life imprisonment. The British Ambassador has since called on the Gambian Foreign Minister to express our opposition to the death penalty in all cases. The sentences are currently being appealed. We will continue to monitor developments closely.

In your letter you also raise the issue of economic mismanagement by President Jammeh. This is clearly an issue of concern, and although some of the causes of The Gambia’s economic downturn, such as the Ebola outbreak and poor rains, are beyond the President’s control, there is no doubt that his mismanagement, and interference in the exchange rate has contributed significantly to the current situation.

The UK position on human rights is firm: human rights are universal and must apply equally to all people. The UK will continue to work with the Gambian government to urge them to fully guarantee the fundamental rights of all Gambian citizens.

Kind regards,

Theodore
Theodore Baizos | Desk Officer for Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Burkina Faso & Cape Verde | Sahel & West Africa Team | EG.12 | Foreign & Commonwealth Office | King Charles Street | London SW1A 2AH
* email: theodore.baizos@fco.gov.uk : url: www.fco.gov.uk

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