EU Human Rights Chief Reaffirms Continued Support For Gambia

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Fajara, 31 October 2017  Press Release The Gambia has received assurances of continued support from the European Union Monday as President Barrow welcomed a delegation from the European Union Human Rights External Action Service.    The EU Special Representative for Human Rights Stavros Lambrinidis who was also the head of delegation, congratulated President Barrow for what he described as the remarkable democratic transition in the country and the bravery of the Gambian people. He reassured the President that the EU would remain a steadfast partner of the Gambian government and people in the transition.    Discussions with the visiting delegation covered governance, including the  country’s Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission, engagement of Gambian youth in politics, both constitutional and security sector reforms, and female genital mutilation  among others.    President Barrow acknowledged the confidence and support that he received from the European Union during the political impasse. He told the EU Special Representative that upholding human rights remained one of the biggest issues of his government, which he is optimistic and willing to learn from others’ experiences.     The President spoke about the comprehensive reforms underway in different areas, including the security sector. He told Mr Lambrinidis that his government Is working towards a new and all-encompassing constitution for the Third Republic.  President Barrow said Coalition members would continue to work together to nurture the change that they all fought for, despite the fact that they come from different ideological leanings.       President Barrow said supporters of the former regime are part of Gambian society and like everyone else they are stakeholders in the reforms taking place. He added that some of the former president’s supporters hadsembraced the change of regime and are supporting his government. Mr Barrow said: “In politics there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies. One has to be courageous to take criticism.”    Discussing the issue of female genital mutilation (FGM) President Barrow said his government would uphold the law banning FGM, and stressed the need to raise more awareness about the practice and the law against it.    Mr Lambrinidis said the EU respected President Barrow’s leadership for the inspiration he had given to many during the impasse. He acknowledged that it was not easy to build institutions, instill a culture of freedom and security, and at the same time secure a presence for one’s country in the international community all at once.  He said The Gambia, through its example as a human rights leader, could continue to inspire many countries on the African continent and around the world, and demonstrate that it is possible for human rights, security and development to all work together.  The EU special representative commended the Gambian leader for signing five United Nations treaties at once at the UN General Assembly in September. He commended Mr Barrow for demonstrating leadership, and urged The Government of The Gambia to go further, beyond the signing of the treaties.  Mr Lambrinidis said he appreciated the efforts of the government to change policies, hearts and minds, and integrate human rights in its reforms.  He added that the Barrow administration has encouraged many with the inclusion of members of civil society in its endeavors. He assured the President of EU’s commitment to support an exchange of ideas and practices with other countries.    “Focus on human rights as your new stamp, and keep in mind that you are an inspiration to many others,” he told President Barrow. Also discussed during the meeting were plans for an upcoming donor’s conference in February 2018, and an African Union/European Union continental meeting on youth and job creation.     Speaking to the press after his audience with the President, Mr Lambrinidis told reporters that President Barrow is working on various key challenges which includes youth unemployment, prison conditions, rehabilitation, and security reforms....

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