(JollofNews) – President Yahya Jammeh’s decision to cancel talks with the European Union was sparked by the 28-member block’s criticism of recent anti-gay law, which increase the punishment for “aggravated homosexuality” to life in prison, JollofNews can reveal.
In the past weeks Mr Jammeh came under a barrage of criticism after he assented to the controversial law which the EU and rights organisations says discriminates against gay people in the country of 2 million people.
The EU heads of mission accredited to the Gambia last Wednesday issued a statement urging Mr Jammeh and his government to respect human rights for all individuals, including the rights of LGBTI persons in the Gambia, and not to discriminate against any persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The European Union said it is committed to the principle of universality of human rights and non-discrimination.
“We promote equal rights for all people around the world regardless of sexual orientation, religious beliefs or cultural background and we work to fight discrimination and promote human rights for all individuals, Ms Agnès Guillaud, Chargée d’Affaires said.
Not happy with the statement, Mr Jammeh who says homosexuals are “vermins” and are one of three greatest threats to human existence, on Saturday decided to walk away from talks with the EU on democratic reforms and accused the 28-member block of trying to impose an ‘acceptance of homosexuals’ as a precondition for aid.
In a statement issued on state television the Gambia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said: “We the government and people of the Gambia hereby make it very clear to the European Union and any outside bloc that wants to impose acceptance of homosexuals as a precondition for aid that we will never accept that conditionality no matter how much aid is involved. As from today, we are no longer going to entertain any dialogue on the issue with the European Union or any other foreign power for that matter.”
The EU is the Gambia’s biggest donor and has pumped some 75 million euros of aid into the West African country over the past six years. It is also planning to double aid to the Gambia to 150 million euros (£122.8 million) over the next seven years.
The partnership between the EU and the Gambia is guided by the principles and objectives laid down in the Cotonou Agreement, the institutional framework which governs the relationship between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.
The agreement which the Gambia is a signatory is aimed at supporting democracy and pluralism, eradicating poverty through attaining the Millennium Development Goals, consolidating democracy, the rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
As part of the agreement, regular political dialogue is held to exchange information and foster mutual understanding in promoting the key elements of democracy. The EU also consults regularly on relevant issues with non-governmental institutions, the media, and other stakeholders in the country.