Major funding commitment to help ‘virtually bankrupt’ country shake off legacy of dictatorship, as President Adama Barrow promises better life for Gambians.
The EU has pledged its support to the new leaders of the Gambia with hundreds of millions of euros, shoring up a country that is “virtually bankrupt” after two decades of Yahya Jammeh’s rule.
Aid to the Gambia dried up under Jammeh, whose record of human rights violations, along with his habit of pulling out of international institutions and throwing out diplomats, alienated donors.
Now, after promises from the new government to defend human rights, protect media freedom and rejoin the international criminal court and the Commonwealth, the EU has become the first to commit major funding to what has become known as “the new Gambia”.
After a rollercoaster transition period during which Jammeh accepted electoral defeat before performing a U-turn – he refused to leave State House, and finally conceded only under pressure from a phalanx of African presidents – there will be no respite for the country’s new president.
Having beaten the eccentric autocrat despite the odds, largely on a promise of a better life for Gambians, Adama Barrow now faces the challenge of living up to his people’s hopes.
The EU has pledged €75m (£64m) in immediate funding and €150m in the longer term to help “make sure that the new Gambian state can deliver as it should … that it can stand up to the high expectations of the population”, said Neven Mimica, the commissioner for international cooperation and development, who met Barrow on Thursday. “There is no time to lose.”
The former estate agent-turned-coalition leader told Mimica that his country was “in need of immediate rescue”, particularly emergency budget support.
“We have just assumed the task of governing the country after decades of dictatorship and self-imposed isolation,” Barrow said.
Jammeh expelled the EU’s charge d’affaires in 2015, giving her 72 hours to leave Banjul, with no explanation. “We had a dictatorship that thrived on bad governance, human rights abuses, bad policy choices, and violation of the rule of law. A dictatorship that cost us our friends. A dictatorship whose conduct deprived us of our development and aid. A dictatorship that was brutal toward its citizens,” said Barrow.