Gambia swears in new cabinet as EU pledges to release funds

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Gambia has sworn in a new government and the European Union (EU) has pledged to release development aid funds following the return of President Adama Barrow and the forced departure of former dictator and president Yahya Jammeh.

Jammeh was driven out of the country by Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) forces who invaded The Gambia shortly after he refused to step down after his presidential mandate ended on January 19.

His exit meant that Barrow, who won last year’s presidential elections with 45% of the vote, was able to return to The Gambia.

He had earlier fled to neighbouring Senegal and was inaugurated there because of the deteriorating security situation on the ground in Gambia.

Governmental spokesman, Halifa Sallah told a press conference in the capital Banjul on Wednesday that 11 people were sworn in as ministers in the new government, Gambia’s Standard newspaper reported.

Another seven people are expected to be appointed in the next few days.

“The president has the duty to appoint a vice president and ministers based on their competency and qualifications. The ministers have been appointed and they have been given their appointment letters after careful consideration,” Sallah said.

As soon as the swearing-in is finalised the new government is expected to get down to business.

Meanwhile, the EU ambassador to The Gambia, Attila Lajos, has confirmed that $37 million that had been earmarked for development projects in the country for 2015-2016 was to be released.

The funds had previously been frozen due to human rights abuses under Jammeh, specifically the law he passed against homosexuality.

Lajos said that if President Barrow’s government delivered on its programmes, which they believe it had already started to do, more help would be available from the EU.

“In fact, I think very soon we will be able to make announcements in that regard,” Lajos said. “This is just the beginning of a very meaningful partnership.”

Lajos earlier stated that supporting the democratic process in The Gambia was of paramount importance to the EU.

The EU’s charge d’affaires Agnes Guillaud was expelled from the country in June 2015 hours after the first meeting in months between the two parties at which diplomats raised the law and President Jammeh’s criticism of EU migration policy.

– By African News Agency (ANA)