Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gambia’s National Assembly To Debate On Petition Against EU Jan. 21

The Gambia’s National Assembly is to convene an extra-ordinary session on a petition against the European Union (EU) submitted to it on Jan. 11, 2013 by Gambians who protested against EU’s recent proposed 17-points political reform plan for the tiny west African country.  

On Friday, the demonstrators handed petitions to the country’s President Yahya Jammeh and the National Assembly in protest against a proposed meeting on political reforms under the EU Article 8 Intensified Political Dialogue of the Cotonou Agreement.
Lawmakers have since decided to sit on the issue on Jan. 21.

The EU’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, lift the ban on independent newspapers and radio stations, revision of draconian media laws on sedition, libel, and false publication, and provision of information regarding the recent executions of 9 death row inmates.  

At an emergency meeting in Banul, the capital, Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh on Jan. 8, 2013 called-off the proposed dialogue with the EU that was initially set for Jan. 11, saying it is “insulting and unacceptable”.

The National Assembly will convene an extra-ordinary meeting to debate on the petition to the European Union, the clerk, Dodou Kebbeh confirmed in a statement.

The Assembly will convene to consider the motion, be it resolved that this August Assembly do consider and approve the petition by the Gambian people on the European Union’s Article 8 Political Dialogue with The Gambia Government, he said.

The general public is invited to attend the sittings that will commence at 10:00am prompt, the release added.

On Friday, a spokesperson for the EU’s chief diplomat Catherine Ashton said “the EU attaches importance to its partnership with the Gambia and hopes that the Government will allow the resumption of the political dialogue as soon as possible.”

The EU also expresses regrets that the political dialogue with the Gambia has been suspended by the Yahya Jammeh-led government. It warns that if it proves impossible to discuss the issues with Gambian authorities, there are other provisions of the Cotonou Agreement, which apply to situations where dialogue on important commitments is no longer possible.  

The warning open room for speculations as to whether the EU would decide to punish the Gambia over this stalemate.   

Concerns over human rights and governance forced the EU, the main aid provider to Gambia with a total of 65.4 million euros of grants allocated for the period 2008-2013, to cancel 22 million euros in budget support to Gambia in 2010.

The EU said it remains concerned about the deterioration of the human rights situation in the Gambia, including the whereabouts of Imam Baba Leigh who disappeared allegedly in the hands of state intelligent agents on Dec. 3, 2012.

Meanwhile, the tiny West African country’s main opposition said “the concerns raised by the EU should not be brushed aside by the Gambia Government that is imbued with any modicum of respect for democracy and human rights.”

“Most of the issues put forth by the EU are the same demands that the opposition in The Gambia have been fighting very hard to get the government to address,” the party said.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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