Gambia to start receiving U.S. foreign aid after decade-long suspension

Gambia to start receiving U.S. foreign aid after decade-long suspension

Gambia will be eligible for the Millennium Challenge Corporation after it was yanked out over human rights abuses committed by the regime of former President Yahya Jammeh.

Jammeh was ousted after losing elections to new President Adama Barrow, who has made respect for human rights a cornerstone of his administration’s transition to democracy.

The tilt towards a return to the Millennium Challenge Corporation came after President Adama Barrow approved the establishment of a human rights commission. The country’s Attorney General Aboubacarr Ba Tambadou will send a bill to Parliament, which is expected to pass.

“The Gambia is also to be listed on the Millennium Challenge Corporation [a bilateral US foreign aid agency] and the USAID will start engaging the government and plans are already on the way,” said Amie Bojang Sissoho, State House Press Secretary.

A report to Congress identifying nations that are “candidate countries” for Millennium Challenge Account assistance during the fiscal year 2018 listed The Gambia under its low-income category, setting the tone for its eligibility.

The U.S. decision to remove The Gambia from the MCC angered former President Jammeh, whose anti-western rhetoric spiked, accusing them of unfairly targeting him.

The U.S. said it has documented evidence of human rights abuses and increased restrictions on political rights, civil liberties, and press freedom by the Jammeh government, as well as worsening economic policies and anti-corruption efforts.

But Jammeh said he’s being punished for having invited the leaders of Iran and Venezuela — the bêtes noirs of U.S. foreign policy — to an African Union summit that took place in Banjul just days after the suspension was announced.

“I’m not claiming we’re saints; we do have our hiccups now and then,” says Dodou Bammy Jagne, the country’s ambassador in Washington at the time. “But there was nothing new…that could have triggered this situation.”

Mr. John Danilovich, then-CEO of the MCC says the suspension had nothing to do with foreign-policy tensions and everything to do with the Gambia’s increasingly dictatorial regime.

“We’re not a reward program for countries that support the United States,” he says. “If the Gambia becomes close with whomever they become close with, that’s the Gambia’s business.”

The Millennium Challenge Corporation is a U.S. government corporation designed to work with some of the poorest countries in the world. Most of Washington’s foreign aid is channeled through the Corporation.

The aid is given to nations deemed to be most effective when it comes to reinforcing good governance, economic freedom, and investments in people that promote economic growth and elimination of extreme poverty.

The new government of Adama Barrow has been enforcing fiscal discipline since coming to power, the economy is growing at three percent, senior officials that are implicated in financial mismanagement were sacked and is probing former President Jammeh’s financial activities.

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