Gambia returns to the Commonwealth

By ANA On 2018-02-14 12:32:06

Gambia’s new government led by President Adama Barrow returned the country into the Commonwealth, reversing the unilateral decision of his predecessor to withdraw the country from the community some five years ago. The former Gambian dictator, Yahya Jammeh in October 2013 unilaterally took the tiny West African country out of the Commonwealth which he branded as “neo-colonial institution.” “The Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism," the Jammeh government said while announcing the withdrawal. Prior to the withdrawal, Commonwealth and the British government had persistently criticized Jammeh’s government over its poor human rights and governance records. Jammeh was repeatedly accused of repressing dissent, muzzling the press, disappearing opponents and critics, among other things. He was challenged to implement democratic reforms which he was not ready to do. Angered by such criticisms, the former Gambian dictator who had ruled the country for 22-years decided singlehandedly to withdraw from Commonwealth.  A success for Barrow In January 2017, Jammeh was forced out of power after his electoral defeat by Barrow and he subsequently fled into exile in Equatorial Guinea. One of Barrow’s campaign promises during the presidential election in December 2016 was that he would return Gambia into Commonwealth if he won. President Barrow did not waste time when he upon assuming power last year as he promptly called on Commonwealth to readmit Gambia and henceforth started the process of readmission. Boris Johnson, British Foreign Secretary flew to Gambia last year which expedited the process of The Gambia’s return to Commonwealth. Meanwhile, the Barrow government came up with an announcement of Gambia’s return shortly after Foreign Affairs Minister; Ousainou Darboe Thursday (February 8) received the 54-member organization’s charter from Commonwealth officials in Banjul, Gambia’s capital where a symbolic ceremony was held. According to Mr. Darboe, the move by former President Jammeh to withdraw Gambia from Commonwealth had far reaching effects on the country and its people. “It diminished The Gambia’s voice on pertinent issues at the global platform such as climate change, economic development and South-South Cooperation, which are vital to the development of this country,” he said. Mr. Darboe was upbeat over his country’s return to Commonwealth calling it as “a great moment” especially for young Gambians. Being a member of this international organization, the Gambia derives lots of benefits like immigration privileges given to its citizens in the United Kingdom, recruitment of judges from Commonwealth countries into Gambian judiciary, scholarships offered to Gambian students among other things. “We also hope to tap into the trade and investment opportunities that the Commonwealth offers so that The Gambia can expand its economy and effectively participate in the global marketplace,” the Foreign Minister remarked. “Therefore, the Gambia is ready to regain its former glory on the international stage and reiterates its commitment to the fundamental values of the Commonwealth Charter,” Darboe added.  The Gambia wants to defend its interests  Reacting to the news of the return, Madi Ceesay a parliamentarian discloses that Gambians are happy that their country is back into Commonwealth. “The Gambia government now should forge ahead and be on top of issues, representing citizens’ interest. Rejoining the commonwealth should not just mean that we must accept everything but rather as an equal member the best interest of the country must come first.” Gambia is not joining the Commonwealth for only what we can get from the body but also what we can give as a nation. We as a nation have a lot to give in terms of   human resource,” Ceesay noted.

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