Former Gambian dictator, Yahya Jammeh, now in exile in Equatorial Guinea
LONDON, UK––The Gambia, a tiny West Africa nation, was on Thursday readmitted to the Commonwealth, after its sudden pullout in 2013 by ousted dictator Yahya Jammeh who instead took his country into the membership of the Organization of Islamic States.
The move to rejoin the Commonwealth followed last year’s democratic election that ushered in reform and liberal president President Adama Barrow.
Former Gambia’s military dictator turned civilian leader president Yahya Jammeh radically withdrew the deprive West African nation in October 2013, branding the Commonwealth as an “extension of colonialism”.
In a statement on Thursday, the Gambia’s Foreign Affairs ministry confirmed that the country had been readmitted to the Commonwealth.
According to sources, the re-entry was approved after the Commonwealth heads of government unanimously accepted The Gambia’s application to return to the organization.
“The Gambia government recognizes the role of the Commonwealth as an intergovernmental champion of small states, advocating for their special needs. It provides policy advice on political, economic and social developmental issues,” the foreign ministry statement stated.
In a strongly worded statement, The Gambian government maintained that rejoining the Commonwealth will at the country’s former glory in international matters.
“It is the fervent desire of this government that our membership will usher in an era of socio-economic development to complement the government’s ongoing efforts, especially for women and youth,” the foreign ministry’s statement concluded.
Incumbent President Adama Barrow started the readmission process in February last year, barely two months after his inauguration in a presidential election in which Jammeh initially refused to acknowledge and give up his 22-year rule.
The Gambia’s representative in London, Francis Blain, said: “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.”
The West African first became a Commonwealth member on its independence from Britain in 1965 and has since had a standing position and integrity in the organization until Jammeh pulled the plug based on economic incentives from the Islamic encouraging him to declare The Gambia as an Islamic state, which he subsequently did without a referendum.
The Commonwealth’s Secretary-General Patricia 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… 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,” Scotland added.