Gambian Foreign Minister Bala Garba Jahumpa said the country would sever all dialogue with the EU over what he said were attempts by the bloc to use its aid budget to force Banjul to revoke a tough new law against homosexuality.
Jahumpa said that Gambian President Yahya Jammeh — a former military officer who seized power in a 1994 coup — would not allow foreign nations to use aid to impose policies on his government.
Jammeh signed legislation last month that introduced the crime of “aggravated homosexuality,” making it punishable in some cases with life in prison. The definition covers cases such as homosexual relations with someone under 18, or a person with HIV having homosexual sex.
The crackdown comes as the EU is due to decide this month whether to release 150 million euros (US$186 million) worth of development aid to the Gambia, a matter that has been up for debate because of its poor human rights record.
“Gambia’s government will not tolerate any negotiation on the issue of homosexuality with the EU or any international block or nation,” Jahumpa told state TV. “We are no longer going to entertain any dialogue with the EU either directly or through sub-regional, regional and international blocks to which we are members.”
Jahumpa said homosexuality was “ungodly” and against African tradition, and said the Gambia would work with other countries on the continent to oppose it.
Disapproval of homosexuality is widespread across most of socially conservative sub-Saharan Africa.
Lawmakers in Uganda have said they will pass a revised anti-gay law by Christmas that will punish gay sex with long prison terms.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein has said the Gambia’s new law violates fundamental human rights and has called for its repeal.
Amnesty International says more than a dozen people have already been arrested under the law.
In a heated statement, Jahumpa accused European governments of allowing thousands of African migrants to die attempting to reach the bloc, dubbing it a “racist genocide.”
He said Banjul will not participate in the Economic Partnership Agreement to open up West Africa to free trade with the EU.
“The Gambia will never be a party to the so called Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union as it is designed to continue the same exploitation and impoverishment of the African continent,” he said. “We will rather die than be colonized twice.”
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