The Gambia rejoined the Commonwealth on February 8, 2018 after 5 years’ absence from the organisation
The Gambia rejoined the Commonwealth on February 8, 2018 after 5 years’ absence from the organisation.
A flag-raising ceremony at the London headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat marked the return of the West African nation, with Secretary-General Patricia Scotland and High Commissioner to The Gambia Francis Blain in attendance.
The Gambia first became a member of the Commonwealth in 1965 following its independence from Britain.
The country was withdrawn in October 2013 by former President Yahya Jammeh, who accused the Commonwealth of being an “extension of colonialism”.
Jammeh had ruled Africa’s smallest country since 1994 and has been criticised internationally for flagrant rights abuses and worsening its impoverished state.
In December 2016, President Adama Barrow won a democratic election and began the readmission process to the Commonwealth in February 2017, as part of efforts to end the state of crisis and fear in the country.
The Gambia’s parliament unanimously confirmed the desire to rejoin the organisation in December 2017, as one of the final steps in the membership process.
Their application was then unanimously supported by the 52 member states and The Gambia was invited to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April as its 53rd member.
The Gambia is the fourth country to rejoin the voluntary association of mostly former British imperial territories, following South Africa, Pakistan and Fiji; Ireland, the Maldives and Zimbabwe have also withdrawn from the group, though the latter has expressed interest in returning to the organisation following the ousting of Robert Mugabe.
At the ceremony, Secretary-General Scotland said: “When The Gambia left in 2013, the heads of government expressed their regret in its leaving the Commonwealth family.
“We’ve looked forward to The Gambia’s return and were delighted when, after his election victory in December 2016, President Barrow pledged to return.
“The Gambia’s application to rejoin has been unanimously accepted by all 52 member states, who welcome back their brothers and sisters to again play their full part in the Commonwealth family.”
Following his promotion from Ambassador to High Commissioner for The Gambia, Francis Blain said: “I am thrilled to represent my country as it formally rejoins the Commonwealth after an absence of several years.
“The Gambia looks forward to being able both to contribute to and benefit from the collective wisdom of the Commonwealth family of countries, and to playing an active role in supporting the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the many other organisations and initiatives that flourish as expressions of Commonwealth connection.
“The Government and people of The Gambia will also draw on all that the Commonwealth collectively has to offer, assisting in practical ways to address a wide range of pressing issues – including protecting the environment and tackling climate change, and the empowerment of women and young people.”
In a statement, the Gambian government said: “Gambia is ready to regain its former glory on the international stage and reiterates its commitment to the fundamental values of the Commonwealth Charter.
“It is the fervent desire of this government that our membership to the Commonwealth will usher in an era of socio-economic development to complement the government's ongoing efforts, especially for women and youth.”
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “This shows that when a country commits to strengthening democracy, governance and the rule of law, it is welcomed back to the international community and the Commonwealth family.”
Read More: The Gambia Ambassador Francis Blain has presented Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland with a formal application to re-enter the Commonwealth, marking the final step of the country’s bid