Gambia expels top EU diplomat as rights spat grows | News | DW | 06.06.2015
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Gambia expels top EU diplomat as rights spat grows

A spokeswoman says the European Union has summoned Gambia’s ambassador to the bloc after the country expelled the EU's top diplomat late Friday. President Yahya Jammeh did not immediately give a reason.

On Friday, Gambia ordered EU Chargee d'Affaires Agnes Guillaud to leave within 72 hours. Though officials gave no reason for expelling the French diplomat, it followed the EU's blocking of some 13 million euros in aid to Gambia in December.

The EU blocked the disbursement because of Gambia's poor human rights record, and anti-homosexuality laws in particular, and has debated whether to release some 150 million euros ($185 million) in aid this year.

In 2010, the EU annulled another 20 million euros in aid over allegations of violations of human rights and standards of good governance.

"There appears to be no justification for the decision by the Gambian authorities," an EU foreign affairs spokeswoman said on Saturday. "We are astonished by this announcement, which came with no explanations."

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh, 50, has not shied from fear tactics to back up his rule of the West African nation of 1.9 million and regularly been condemned internationally for human rights abuses since he came to power in a coup 21 years ago. He first won the presidency democratically in 1996 and has been re-elected three times.

This year, Gambia celebrated 50 years of independence. In 2013, the country withdrew from the British Commonwealth, with officials saying that the institution represented nothing more than prolonged colonialism.

'Not be tolerated'

Jammeh has stifled dissent in the former British colony and faces increased criticism from abroad over issues ranging from human rights to claims that he can cure AIDS. He has also criminalized homosexuality.

On Friday, Jammeh's office issued a statement condemning comments made lost month by US National Security Advisor Susan Rice, in which she called Jammeh's threats against homosexuals "unconscionable" and a violation of human rights. The statement called Rice's accusations part of a systematic US campaign aimed at denting the image of Gambia and demonizing its leadership.

"The government reminds all that homosexuality is totally against the religious, cultural and traditional values of the Gambia and would thus not be tolerated," it read.

In January, police arrested two Gambian-Americans for allegedly conspiring to overthrow Jammeh last year.

mkg/sgb (Reuters, AFP)

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