The EU has said it is ready to release tens of millions of aid money blocked to Gambia due to concerns over human rights.
Attila Lajos, the ambassador and head of European Union delegation to The Gambia, has told The Torch that they are “absolutely” ready to release development aid to the small nation that was frozen due to concerns over human rights violations by ex-president Yahya Jammeh.
The European Union had earmarked 33 million euros ($37 million) for development projects in Gambia for 2015-2016 but froze the funds due partly to concerns over human rights after a tough new law against homosexuality.
“As I said, if President Barrow’s government delivers on its programmes as we believe they will and they already started. The more they deliver the more will be available from the European Union’s side. In fact, I think very soon we will be able to make announcements in that regard. This is just the beginning of a very meaningful partnership,” Lajos said.
President Jammeh, a throwback dictator who claims to have derived his mandate from Allah, has ruled Gambia for 22 years during which he was accused of severe human rights abuses including killings and disappearances.
For more, read: Irony of amnesty in Gambia: Memories of death, torture reawaken
Lajos who was at Barrow’s office at Kairaba Beach Hotel on Tuesday morning also said “… it is a fundamental concern of the European Union to support this democratic process in this country…”
In 2015, Gambia expelled EU charge d’affaires Agnes Guillaud on June 5, hours after the first meeting in months between the two parties at which diplomats raised the law and President Yahya Jammeh’s criticism of EU migration policy.
“It is a fundamental concern of the European Union to support this democratic process in this country… We are at the start of a completely new chapter of the history of the EU-Gambia relations… I also delivered the message to the President that the European Union is ready to support this process,” he added.
“The EU is eager to support President Barrow’s government in achieving their development goals…So we are very much looking forward to a very fruitful and meaningful partnership with the new government…”