Gambia To Rejoin The Commonwealth Boris Johnson Announces Ahead Of Trip
Gambia is to rejoin the Commonwealth, Boris Johnson will announce on Tuesday as he declares that Britain’s influence is “growing” in the wake of the Brexit vote.
The country’s new president, a former Argos security guard is expected to fulfil a campaign promise to return Gambia to the group with months.
Gambia will become just the fourth country to return to the Commonwealth after leaving it, following South Africa, Pakistan and Fiji.
Mr Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, heralded the return as he set off for a two-day visit to Gambia and Ghana.
“I am very pleased that Gambia wants to rejoin the Commonwealth and we will ensure this happens in the coming months,” Mr Johnson said.
“The strength of our partnerships show that Global Britain is growing in influence and activity around the world.”
Gambia withdrew from the Commonwealth in October 2013, with the country's ministers at the time dubbing it a “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", a statement at the time said.
But the surprise election victory of Adama Barrow, a 51-year-old former UK resident who has never held public office, last year in the presidential race has triggered a reverse in policy.
Mr Barrow used to work as a security guard in an Argos store in Holloway Road, north London, where he once made a citizen's arrest on a shoplifter, resulting in a six-month jail term.
He is also an avid Arsenal supporter, recently tweeting a photo of himself in their shirt with the words: “You can change your politics, but never can you change your favourite football team!”
During his successful campaign to defeat Yahya Jammeh, who had ruled the country for more than two decades, Mr Barrow pledged to take Gambia back into the Commonwealth.
Just three countries have left the Commonwealth and returned before now. South Africa withdrew in 1961 when it became apparent its membership application on becoming a republic would be rejected. It re-joined after democratic elections in 1994.
Pakistan left in 1972 after the recognition of Bangladesh but returned after elections in 1989. Fiji’s membership lapes in 1987 after a military coup, but the country returned in 1997.
He will meet President Barrow and President Akufo-Addo of Ghana and praise the impact of recent elections as proof of the “continuing strengthening of democracy in West Africa”.
Mr Johnson expressed his belief in the Commonwealth within months of taking office when the Maldives announced it would be leaving.
“We believe in the Commonwealth and its commitment to improving the lives of people across all its member states,” Mr Johnson said last October.
“The Commonwealth is an organisation dedicated to developing free and democratic societies, and to promoting peace and prosperity.”
Eurosceptics repeatedly argued that Britain leaving the EU could help forge greater links with the Commonwealth during the referendum campaign.
Leading Leave figures have also argued that citizens of Commonwealth countries should be given more favourable rights to move to Britain after it leaves the EU.