Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Gambia-EU Dialogue Is Off Says President Jammeh

President Jammeh says dialogue with European Union is "dead and buried"

Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh on Tuesday declared an “impromptu end” to a proposed discussion between the European Union (EU) and his Government under the EU Article 8 Intensified Political Dialogue. 

The decision was taken during an emergency cabinet meeting held at State House in Banjul, the capital, where the subject of discussion was centered on a list of recommendations for reforms from the EU.

The European Union’s 17-point reform plans set for the Government of The Gambia to adopt, include upholding a moratorium on the death penalty, revision of laws on freedom of expression, allow the free operation of independent media, revision of provision in the criminal code that allow for prosecution on the charges of sedition, libel, and false publication, and provision of information regarding the recent executions.  

“So this dialogue is off. This is insulting and it is unacceptable,” Jammeh said ahead of the planned EU-Gambia Government political dialogue scheduled for Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 in Banjul.

He said those who break the law will be dealt accordingly “journalist or no journalist, nobody is above the law.” 

“If a journalist causes an offence, we will detain and prosecute him. They are not better than other Gambians,” he said amid backing from his ministers. “Those newspapers that are being closed, we are going to keep them closed because now that they (EU) are talking about it they will remain closed. That is my message to them.”

He also said the EU is in the wrong place if they think that Gambia would sacrifice the wellbeing of the majority of the population for the interest of the minority. 

He said his government can’t be blackmailed by a group with “chicken change” (little money) to accept what is not in the interest of the Gambian people. 

“Let them go to hell because it is not going to happen here,” he said. "“It is unacceptable, and if that is the dialogue they are talking about, the dialogue is dead and buried.”

President Jammeh also accuses the EU of trying use the media to destabilise The Gambia.

The EU has expressed a series of concerns over the “significant deterioration” of human rights situation in The Gambia in recent months, saying it looks forward to discussing human rights issues during its next political dialogue with the Gambia Government.

But Jammeh said there will be no discussions on this.

The EU is the main aid provider for Gambia, with a total of 65.4 million euros of grants allocated for the period 2008-2013.

But concerns over human rights and governance forced the EU to cancelled 22 million euros ($26 million) in budget support to Gambia in 2010.

Since 1994, the Gambian Government under the leadership of Yahya Jammeh has been constantly accused by some regional blocs, like the EU and international agencies, like Amnesty International, of human rights abuses.

The tiny West African nation of 1.7 million population, is ranked among Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs).

Written by Modou S. Joof

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