DIALOGUE OR RHETORIC: WHAT DOES THE GAMBIA GOVERNMENT WANT IN ITS RELATION WITH THE EU?

The Gambia Government in its statement on what it perceives as exploitation by ‘white Europeans’ vehemently denounced the EU for wishing to twist its arms and dictate to the Gambia Government. The statement, which was read by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Bala Garba Jahumpa, indicated that the intention of the EU is to undermine ‘our African heritage and Islamic values’ which ‘is unacceptable.’ It described the death at sea of Africans who use the back way as ‘racist genocide’ and called on all Africans to “stand up shoulder to shoulder to put up a definitive end to this humiliating vision.” This is funny to say the least.
Needless to say, the Gambia Government is part of the European, African, Caribbean and Pacific countries that signed the Cotonou Agreement in 2000 which was subsequently amended in 2005 and 2010.
The relevant parts of Article 8 of this Agreement, which provides for political dialogue, states:
“1. The Parties shall regularly engage in a comprehensive, balanced and deep political dialogue leading to commitments on both sides.
2. The objective of this dialogue shall be to exchange information, to foster mutual understanding, and to facilitate the establishment of agreed priorities and shared agendas, in particular by recognising existing links between the different aspects of the relations between the Parties and the various areas of cooperation as laid down in this Agreement…
4. The dialogue shall focus, inter alia, on specific political issues of mutual concern or of general significance for the attainment of the objectives of this Agreement, such as the arms trade, excessive military expenditure, drugs, organised crime or child labour, or discrimination of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. The dialogue shall also encompass a regular assessment of the developments concerning the respect for human rights, democratic principles, the rule of law and good governance.”
Article 9 of the Agreement deals with the essential elements regarding human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, and fundamental element regarding good governance. The relevant portion states:
“1. Cooperation shall be directed towards sustainable development centred on the human person, who is the main protagonist and beneficiary of development; this entails respect for and promotion of all human rights.
Respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including respect for fundamental social rights, democracy based on the rule of law and transparent and accountable governance are an integral part of sustainable development.”
It is clear that discussion on human rights and fundamental freedoms is part of the political dialogue provided for in the Agreement. Our advice is that the Gambia Government gets on with the political dialogue which resumed earlier this year but was subsequently suspended. The amount of assistance from the EU is quite substantial and significant and failing to act maturely would tantamount to toying with the lives of the people.
Why the need to engage in rhetoric when you can raise your concerns during the political dialogue? Gambians must not be carried away by the rhetoric of the government. It is simply blowing hot air for nothing. Prices are skyrocketing, businesses are collapsing, unemployment is rife, especially among the youth forcing them to take the back way to Europe, human rights are violated daily and hourly, the Constitution is treated with disregard, the rule of might takes precedence over the rule of law and so on and so forth. Gambians should be focused and regard the latest statement of the Government as empty words, a diversionary tactic.