February 9, 2017 / 2:05 PM / in 9 months

EU pledges $80 million aid to Gambia after two-year suspension

BANJUL (Reuters) - The European Union pledged 75 million euros ($80 million) on Thursday to Gambia’s new government, two years after suspending aid due to human rights abuses by former President Yahya Jammeh.

European International Cooperation and Development Commissioner-designate Neven Mimica of Croatia addresses the European Parliament's Committee on Development at the EU Parliament in Brussels September 29, 2014. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

The EU froze 33 million euros in aid to Gambia, one of the world’s poorest countries, after Jammeh’s government introduced a tough law against homosexuality in late 2014.

Adama Barrow, who defeated Jammeh in a December election, has pledged to respect human rights and rebuild foreign relations. Jammeh refused to accept the election result and went into exile last month after regional forces entered the country.

Following a meeting with Barrow in the capital Banjul, the EU commissioner for international cooperation and development, Neven Mimica, said the aid package would to be used to increase food security, rebuild roads and boost jobs.

“The visit is a clear signal of the EU’s readiness to provide immediate financial and technical support to the democratic process in The Gambia,” Mimica told reporters.

The EU is also preparing a medium-term assistance package of 150 million euros, he said.

Jammeh took power in a 1994 coup and his government established a reputation for torturing and killing opponents - charges he denied. He repeatedly fell out with the EU, expelling its charge d‘affaires in 2015.

A weak economy and political repression in the West African country has made it one of the continent’s leading sources of migrants trying to reach Europe by sea despite a population of only 1.9 million.

Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Edward McAllister and Robin Pomeroy

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