A few days ago the European Union addressed a 17 point memorandum on the situation in the Gambia to the government which it insisted needed to be addressed. These points dealt with issues of democracy, good governance and the rule of Law which in normal situations sound obvious and reasonable to any responsible government. However, we are living in very fluid times and what is normally unexpected is now the expected. Indeed the President reacted in his characteristic manner
President Jammeh in his usual television appearances, surrounded by his ministers and officials, spared no words to lambast and vilify the European Union for blackmailing the country, calling the aid this country gets from the EU as chicken change. These statements from the president are very unfortunate and misguided. We all know that long before his military takeover, the EU and its former body the EEC had given assistance, within the framework of the Lome Convention and within bilateral cooperation between the Gambia and individual member countries. The health, fisheries, water resources and other sectors have all received major assistance that have contributed to the development of this country and the alleviation of poverty. Such assistance continues to be given to The Gambia. It is not in the best interest of the country that our head of State would openly show such intransigence towards a development partner whose track record of cooperation with our country is exemplary and glaring for all to see.
The concerns raised by the EU which is the subject of the dialogue under Article 8 should not be brushed aside by of a government that is imbued with any modicum of respect for democracy and human rights.. After all we still host the African commission on Human and Peoples Rights and the least expected of our government is to show a good example and lead the rest of Africa in the adherence to and promotion of the rule of law. Our constitution provides for due process of law for people accused of committing offences and we are well endowed with infrastructure and facilities to implement this provision. There is therefore no need for arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention incommunicado.
The time has come for us all to do some soul searching. What is all this high handedness and recalcitrance leading us to? The EU is our major development partner and we can ill afford to do away with what the president calls "Chicken change". We are a small nation trying hard to develop under terrible conditions of underdevelopment. We are not blessed with any resources that can make us stand on our own. We live in a global village in which interdependence is an absolute imperative. This is not the time for gratuitous conflict with our traditional partners.
It is a truism to say that this country belongs to all of us and we in the United Democratic Party will not allow this unfortunate situation to continue. Most of the issues put forth by the EU are the same demands that the opposition in The Gambia have been fighting very hard to get the government to address. The United Democratic Party will therefore consult with other opposition parties to forge a common strategy that will address the interest of the majority of the Gambian people.
Rene Blain St
Friday, January 11th, 2013