Gambia lost EUR 22m of EU support over rights concerns
(BANJUL) - The European Union cancelled 22 million euros ($26 million) in budget support to Gambia in 2010 due to concerns over human rights and governance, a report released Thursday showed.
"The 22 million initially allocated for general budget support was cancelled on the basis of concerns over human rights and governance in the country," according to the 2011 European Union-Gambia cooperation report.
The report had been handed to President Yahya Jammeh in May.
An EU official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that new EU guidelines adopted in May "foresee an even stronger link between budget support and the commitment and record of countries to democracy, human rights and rule of law."
The European Union remains the leading aid provider for Gambia, with a total of 65.4 million euros of grants allocated for the period 2008-2013.
The west African nation, the smallest on the mainland, has long been dogged by rights concerns under Jammeh's administration.
The regime of the man who says he can cure AIDS is often pilloried for human rights abuses, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, torture and the muzzling of journalists.
Jammeh has woven an aura of mysticism around himself. He dresses in billowing white robes, never lets go of his Koran and brooks no dissent, heaping derision on criticism from the West.
Elections in November last year were boycotted by observers from the main west African bloc which reported "an unacceptable level of control of the electronic media by the party in power ... and an opposition and electorate cowed by repression and intimidation."
Gambia, which has a population of 1.8 million and per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of $485, survives mostly off tourism, luring sun-worshipping Europeans to its sweeping, palm-fringed coastline, and agriculture.