|Stravros Lambrinidis, EU Special Rep. for Human Rights|
The Lambrinidis-led delegation congratulated Barrow and the Gambian people in what they characterized as "the remarkable democratic transition in the country and the bravery of the Gambian people."
The discussions of the delegation centered on the soon to be launched The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparation Commission (TRRC) as well as the urgent need to engage the youth of the country through employment creation. This is an obvious reference to the series of EU initiatives relating to and/or tied to the repatriation of thousands of Gambian migrants who escaped the 22-year dictatorship. The $13-million EU Emergency Trust Fund has recently come under criticism for lack of ownership with the implementing agency, based in Dakar, only recently opening offices in the country.
The proper utilization of the resources committed by the EU to the reentry program has also been a recent concern and has generated lively debate within and outside Gambia. The concern is that the monies will probably go to travel, study tours, impact assessment studies, workshops and financing the Project Implementation Units instead of going to directly assisting returnees in the form of appropriate training and seed money to start their own businesses.
The EU delegation was also brought up to speed on the pending review of the Constitution and the reforms slated for the security sector, including the issue of FGM. Speaking to the media, the leader of the delegation outlined some of the challenges facing the Barrow government such as youth unemployment, rehabilitation of the prison facilities and security reforms that President Barrow has promised to achieve through human rights-based policies.
President Barrow, ever so conscious of the human rights situation in the country, reassured the EU delegation that the rights of every Gambia continues to be guaranteed under his government including supporters of the previous regime despite the human rights abuses the country underwent under Yaya Jammeh.
Barrow informed the delegation that some of Jammeh supporters have embraced the change and some are supporting his Coalition-led government. It was in this context that he said that "there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies." He added that "one has to be courageous to take criticism." The comment will undoubtedly invite the attention of pundits.
While imploring the leadership in Banjul to focus on human rights as the country's new flagship and to act as the inspiration to other, Mr. Lambrinidis encouraged the Barrow government to exchange ideas and good practices with others in the region and Africa.
The upcoming Donor's Conference scheduled for next February and an African-European Union continent-wide Conference on youth employment and job creation was discussed.