The Taiwanese embassy in Banjul, Gambia, has donated US$500,000 toward renovation and rehabilitation work for soldiers’ residences at the Yundum Barracks, reports said earlier this week.
Taiwanese Ambassador to Gambia Richard Shih (石瑞琦) handed the check for 15 million Gambian dalasi to permanent secretary of the Gambian Ministry of Defense Harry Sambou at a ceremony at the barracks, the Daily Observer reported on Tuesday.
My article, published today in the Taipei Times, continues here.
While it is encouraging to see Taiwan continue to engage its diplomatic allies and offer development assistance in various areas, what is more contentious with this aid package is that it is intended for the armed forces in a country whose human rights track record under President Yahya Jammeh (who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1994) is less than enviable. As Freedom House wrote in its Freedom in the World 2010 report:
Jammeh has drawn criticism for erratic statements and behavior. He has claimed that he can personally cure HIV/AIDS using traditional herbs, and in 2008 the president threatened decapitation for any homosexuals who remained in the country. In September 2009, he publicly warned against causing instability through human rights activism, reportedly saying, “If you think that you can collaborate with so-called human rights defenders, and get away with it, you must be living in a dream world. I will kill you, and nothing will come out of it.” Also in 2009, the president continued his practice of arbitrarily replacing top government officials, sacking the chief justice, the speaker of parliament, and a number of cabinet ministers in June. Dozens of military officers were reportedly arrested in November on suspicion of planning a coup.
The Gambia is not an electoral democracy. The 2006 presidential election was marred by serious government repression of the media and the opposition, and Commonwealth observers found similar flaws in the 2008 legislative elections.
Impunity for the country’s security forces, particularly the NIA [National Intelligence Agency], is a problem. A 1995 decree allows the NIA to search, arrest, or seize any person or property without a warrant in the name of state security. In such cases, the right to seek a writ of habeas corpus is suspended.
Torture of prisoners, including political prisoners, has been reported. Diplomatic relations with Ghana have been strained over The Gambia’s failure to investigate the 2005 deaths of 50 African migrants, including 44 Ghanaians, reportedly while in Gambian custody.