Gambians Protest Against EU Demands

Thousands of peaceful demonstrators took to the streets last Friday strongly condemning the interference of the European Union(EU) in the internal affairs of The Gambia.

The peaceful procession in solidarity with the Gambia government that kicked-off at the Arch 22 in Banjul through Independence Drive to the gates of State House, accorded protesters the opportunity to present to the president of the Republic, His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya, a declaration condemning the 17 Points EU demands issued to the government for implementation.

Drawn from every region of the country, the demonstrators some of whose banners read "No to the EU demands" were also heard chanting, "developing nations should be encouraged to develop and not to be confronted", in a show of solidarity with the Gambia government. Some of them were too emotional to control themselves when they came face-to-face with their leader while others carried banners to show their indignation to the EU's 17 Point demands which imposed conditionalities on the Gambia government. They issued a declaration at the end of the procession which culminated in a brief meeting when they came face-to-face with President Jammeh who had earlier condemned and rejected all the EU's demands during a meeting with his Cabinet last week.

Addressing the gathering shortly after receiving the declaration, President Jammeh thanked the Gambian people for showing solidarity and patriotism. He warned the EU to stop meddling in Gambia's domestic affairs while emphasising strongly that the country's independence will never be compromised.

"The reason why we attached [the 17 points political dialogue] that nonsense from the EU is for everyone of you to scrutinise and see what they are proposing. One, they didn't mention anything about education, health and agriculture and all that they are talking about is the freedom of criminals," he said.

He added: "I don't think I need to tell anybody whether Asian, European, Latin American or African or whatever you are, who I am and what I stand for. I am Yahya AJJ Jammeh born in 1965 in Kanilai, a few months after independence. That tells everybody that I didn't want to be born under colonialism and I want to also tell you, the same Yahya AJJ Jammeh that risked his life as a Lieutenant in 1994 to liberate this country is the same Yahya Jammeh who is here to die for Africa and for The Gambia. If I was ready to die for Gambia when it was the most backward and dilapidated country before 1994, today after 18 years of progressive development, I am ready to die now for The Gambia."

Handing over the declaration to President Jammeh, Saihou Sanyang, permanent secretary No.1, Ministry of Regional Administration, Lands and Traditional Rulers said: "The people of The Gambia acting in solidarity with you, Your Excellency, hereby show our grievances and total disagreement with the European Union's unwarranted and pre-empty strive through this popular demonstration. Considering the fact that The Gambia gained her independence since 1965 followed by a positive revolution in 1994, which further guarantees as registered not only a sovereign nation but a people who will determine their future forever and ever to the community of nations and the world over. This group of demonstrators coming from every region of The Gambia, hereby therefore resolve that we solidly stand behind you and fully support your position and the government in relation to the so-called 17 Points EU proposed political dialogue with the Gambia government."

He continued: "We do not agree with the conditionalities laid by the EU just to say the least and their letter to the Gambia government on the basis of substance, intent procedure and very obviously neocolonialist cover intent. It has acted beyond the limits of genuine and balance dialogue laying their conditionality with time frame prior to consultations on such measures which are seen as both arbitrary and high handed."

According to Sanyang, the EU's action indicates a direct interference in the domestic affairs of The Gambia, which he condemned in strong terms. He said the move by the EU is also an attempt that undermines the peace and stability being enjoyed in the country."The EU should have known better that any society where there are no checks and balances with regulatory framework, such a society is bound for destruction and anarchy. In light of the above, we the Gambian people hereby demand that the National Assembly take up the matter with the European Union Parliament," he concluded.

Meanwhile the demonstrators shortly after meeting President Jammeh later proceeded to the National Assembly where they presented the petition letter entrusting the people's representative to take up the matter with the EU Parliament.

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