Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Gambia’s National Assembly Minority Favours EU Reform Plans



The Gambia’s National Assembly Minority Leader has spoken in favour of the European Union’s demands on rights and governance reforms which has since been rejected by the Gambia Government


Hon. Samba Jallow, a member for the Niamina Dankunku district said the EU’s 17-points dealing with human rights and governance are “facts” happening in The Gambia.
 Some sections of ruling party members of the National Assembly believes the demands emanates from Gambia’s opposition but Jallow objects to such comments during Monday’s extra-Ordinary Session called to discuss a petition by Gambians against the political reform demands of the EU.
The EU demands are facts happening in the country whether we like it or not, he argued while citing the closure of media houses, detention without trial among other things. “But the question is how can we solve it,” he adds.
The EU and the Gambia Government had set Jan., 11, 2013 to hold a meeting under the EU Article 8 Intensified Political Dialogue, but the Jammeh-led government has since pulled-out of the talks on reform, calling it “insulting and unacceptable”.
EU is a long time partner in development. If this happen we should look for a way to solve it diplomatic rather than chaotically, Jallow stressed at the Jan., 21 meeting in Banjul, the capital. 
Jallow, also an opposition national assembly representative of National Reconciliation Party (NRP) challenged president Jammeh and his allies who had called EU funding “chicken change.”
“We cannot call the EU funding chicken change considering the various projects they are funding which Gambians are benefiting from,” he said.
He argued media houses simply wanting to inform the general public and hold government accountable are shut down. The Constitution has given rights to the media to hold government accountable to its people.
As a result most of the radio stations are not informing people about the burning issues in the country. They only venture into entertainment broadcasting, he said.
“We have seen people recently hold peaceful demonstrations without been arrested, while others who applied for a permit to hold peaceful demonstrations were arrested and detained.
Does that means only the ruling APRC party has right to demonstrate peacefully, he asked.
Hon. Fabakary Tombong Jatta, the Majority Leader and Member for Serekunda East said The Gambia is a sovereign state open to dialogue for the interest of Gambians.
Jatta, who hailed shutdown radio station Taranga FM as doing “good work” last month, admitted that EU is a partner in development, but said the country’s respect and dignity will not be compromised.
“Other governments in the world face governance challenges and Gambia is not an exception and we will be glad with those funds given by the EU if the country’s dignity is recognized as a sovereign state,” he stressed.
Gambians felt insulted by EU’s demands and protest against it to find a better way of dialogue, he claims.
The Gambia Government’s position is loud and clear that sovereignty of the nation cannot be compromised because of EU aid, said Dr Ngogu Bah, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Head of Civil Service, who local journalists said was only given a chance to speak.
“We are pulling out from EU Article 8 Dialogue and its affiliated body because we found it very insulting and lack of respect to our independence,” Dr Bah said.
He said the EU doesn’t have the morale to dictate the laws that are in place in the country as they intend to bring about chaos.
“They could have talk about our educational system, agriculture, or ways to improve it for the betterment of the people, but they did not talk about all these areas,” he said.
If the EU wants Gambia to work with them they need to respect Gambia as a sovereign nation, he said. 
“Let them take their aid we will continue to survive,” he concluded.
After both sides of the debate argued their case, the National Assembly which is overwhelmingly dominated by the ruling APRC party approved the petition submitted to it by Gambians who demonstrated against the EU demands on Jan., 11.
Following the impasse on the proposed dialogue, the EU warns it is may activate other provisions of the Cotonou Agreement, an EU-Africa, Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Countries Development Cooperation legally binding document, which apply to situations where dialogue on important commitments is no longer possible.  
Concerns over human rights and governance forced the EU, Gambia’s main aid provider with a total of 65.4 million euros of grants allocated for the period 2008-2013, to cancel 22 million euros (over$26 million) in budget support to Gambia in 2010.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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