By Omar Bah
The European Union Ambassador in The Gambia, Attila Lajos has disclosed that the EU has since March stopped funding the West African troops stationed in the country.
“The European Union entirely funded all the mandate of the Ecomig forces from the beginning in 2017, until end of March this year. So since April, we are not contributing into the mandate of the Ecomig forces simply because Ecowas Headquarters has not approached the European Union with a funding request,” he told The Standard.
The troops were deployed in the country in 2017 to restore democracy. The intervention was launched to resolve a breakdown of internal order in the government that resulted from a dispute over the country’s presidency. The dispute had led to a constitutional crisis in the country.
According to EU HQ/Brussels, the total EU financial support authorised for funding the Ecomig mandate in The Gambia, in the period of 21/02/2017 to 31/03/2020, amounted to EUR30,292,120.00. Out of this amount, EUR26,271,306.50 was the actual expenditure, as declared spent by ECOWAS report.
Ambassador Lajos said the difference is due to certain planned but not implemented Ecomig activities (ie. trainings for Gambian security forces.)
“The final auditing of all these expenditures is ongoing as per relevant EU rules,” he said.
The EU representative said the Security Sector Reform is seriously lagging behind and that the government should come up with a new strategy on how to expedite it.
“We expected tangible results to make sure that by the time the Ecomig troops leave, the sector would have been reformed. But as we speak, for the average Gambian, there is no tangible result,” he argued.
Lajos said the EU Delegation will review the reform process during a political dialogue they are hoping to have with the government before end of year.
“We are now in a particular moment when very regrettably the parliamentary scrutiny of the draft constitution has been prematurely dominated by the lawmakers not being in favor of the New Constitution. It created a new situation that is regrettable but democracy in practice. We have to accept that and look forward,” he said.
He said the rejection of the draft should serve as a wakeup call for Gambians because “for any New Constitution to pass in any part of the world, you need a national consensus and national compromise to make sure that all the relevant parties who are stakeholders in the process accept it. Obviously, this was not the case.”
The Ambassador urged all political stakeholders to set aside their political and partisan agendas to go back to the drawing board and look for a national consensus.
“The EU is very committed to make sure that this process is very successful but ultimately, it is going to be Gambians fixing this problem and not the international community,” he said.
He said the international community is now looking forward to hearing from the government on their next plan, regarding how they intend to promote and bring further the reform process they started.
“We believe that the government should find a solution to ensure the next election cycle is based on a new constitution,” he resolved.
The EU, US, UK and German embassies recently came under criticism for interfering after they issued a joint statement urging lawmakers to pass the draft bill.
Reacting to the critics, Lajos argued: “If someone has got a problem with the international community lobbying for letting the people to decide, then I think those people represent very different values than what we do. They are obviously not in favor of democracy.
I do believe the ultimate lawmakers of this country are the Gambian people. We lobbied for them to be able to decide for themselves without any influence or whatsoever. So I do believe those critics are pretty much rhetoric of the Jammeh regime who are still living in the old times of dictatorship,” he said.
He concluded: “Let me say this, I consider myself very much close to Gambia and I already consider myself half Gambian but ultimately the Gambian people have to decide what path they want for themselves after Jammeh’s autocratic regime.”