OSI commends the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) recent decision to suspend The Gambia’s eligibility for Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) assistance, in light of the country’s blatant backsliding on democratic governance over the past few years. Under the leadership of President Yahya Jammeh, who seized power in a coup in 1994, the country has suffered a progressive decline in human rights, freedom of expression, and rule of law. Gambian civil society operates under intimidation, fear, and brutality. Human rights activists and opposition politicians have disappeared. Intimidation of journalists is coupled with the banning of credible media institutions, as noted by human rights organizations such as Freedom House and Amnesty International.
About This Report
The Open Society Institute and the Soros foundations network spent $417,585,000 in 2006 on improving policy and helping people to live in open, democratic societies. OSI worked on issues ranging from human rights, to access to education, to freedom of information, to public health in a variety ways. These pages describe some of OSI’s methods, including advocacy campaigns, court cases, public education, and support for direct services. Mostly the 2006 annual report, in brief items or longer articles, focuses on telling the stories of people who are helped by OSI’s work or who are doing the work of helping.
In its statement of notification to Congress, the MCC cites “growing human rights abuses, increased restrictions on political rights, civil liberties and press freedom, as well as deteriorating economic policies and anti-corruption efforts” as the impetus for The Gambia’s suspension. The MCC’s statement goes on to note anticipated backsliding on several other indicators in 2006 such as trade policy, regulatory quality, cost of starting a business and fiscal policy. However, it seems clear that the overriding rationale for The Gambia’s suspension was its dire performance on key indicators of democratic governance.
Any decision to renew The Gambia’s eligibility should only come after significant progress on policy reforms in the areas of human rights promotion, freedom of speech and the press and respect for the rule of law. Countries that become eligible for MCC assistance must maintain the policy standards and performance that initially qualified them or lose their eligibility.