Despite warning from the International Monetary Fund against borrowing money to ease the burden on debt stock, Gambia gleefully accepted 30 million euros ($34 million) of aid from France to “consolidate democracy and stability”.
The small West African country suffered an economic downturn after the ousting of former leader Yahya Jammeh who is under investigation for using state funds for personal gains. Its debt stock reached 130 percent of gross domestic product at the end of last year, a record high which is raising concerns among analysts.
The financial aid follows the visit of French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian to the Gambia and it comprises 5 million euros for budgetary support, 20 million for drinking water projects and 5 million for agriculture, reports Reuters.
France has interests in The Gambia which was colonized by Britain but surrounded by former French colony Senegal. Gambia gained independence in 1965 and has since become one of Africa’s tourist havens and top groundnut producer.
France has decided to exert influence in Anglophone African countries after recent visits by President Emmanuel Macron who is building strategic partnerships and relationships. Already, French firms such as Bollore and energy group Total are vying for contracts in Gambia.
Gambian President Adama Barrow won the December 2016 election after beating Yahya Jammeh who fled the country following a military operation to prevent him from staying in office. His luxury properties were confiscated by the state and put on sale to pay the huge debts he left behind.
Jammeh is accused of summary executions, disappearances, torture, rape and other crimes during his 22-year rule and the victims are seeking some closure, justice and possible prosecution of those responsible including the former president who flew into exile in Equatorial Guinea in early 2017.
The West African country has sworn in an 11-member truth, reconciliation and reparations commission that will unravel the abuses perpetrated by the dictator.