Gambia has threatened to sever all dialogue with the European Union, accusing the bloc of attempting to use its aid budget to force the government to revoke a tough new law against homosexuality.
In an interview with state television, foreign minister Bala Garba Jahumpa said that President Yahya Jammeh 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 the age of 18, or a person with HIV having homosexual sex.
The crackdown comes as the European Union is due to decide in December whether to release 150 million euros ($186 million) worth of development aid to Gambia.
‘Gambia’s government will not tolerate any negotiation on the issue of homosexuality with the EU or any international block or nation,’ Jahumpa said.
‘We are no longer going to entertain any dialog 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 Gambia would work with other countries on the continent to oppose it.
Disapproval of homosexuality is widespread across most of socially conservative Africa.
Lawmakers in Uganda have said they will pass a revised anti-homosexuality law by Christmas that will punish homosexuality with long prison terms, after an earlier version was quashed because of legal technicalities.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has said Gambia’s new law violates fundamental human rights and has called for its repeal. Human rights group 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 Gambia would not participate in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to open up West African economies to free trade with the European Union.
‘The Gambia will never be a party to the so called EconomicPartnership 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 colonised twice.’