Gambia pulls out of British Commonwealth

Tony Gosling tony at
Sun Oct 6 19:15:10 BST 2013

Gambia pulls out of  British Commonwealth

on October 03, 2013   /   in 
pm   / 

BANJUL (AFP) – The Gambian government announced 
Wednesday that the former British colony is 
pulling out of the Commonwealth with immediate 
effect, saying it would “never be a member of any neo-colonial institution”.

“The general public is hereby informed that the 
government of the Gambia has left the 
Commonwealth of Nations with immediate effect,” it said in a statement.

“(The) government has withdrawn its membership of 
the British Commonwealth and decided that 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 Commonwealth bloc is a voluntary association 
of more than 50 countries, many of them former 
territories of the British empire.

No further details were given but a foreign 
ministry official, speaking on condition of 
anonymity, told AFP that the decision came after 
the government rejected a proposal by the 
Commonwealth last year to create commissions in 
Banjul to protect human rights, media rights and fight against corruption.

The proposal followed an April 2012 visit to the 
Gambia by Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh 
Sharma, during which he met with President Yahya 
Jammeh and other top government officials.

Jammeh, who is regularly accused of rights 
abuses, has ruled mainland Africa’s smallest 
country with an aura of mysticism and an iron fist since seizing power in 1994.

Earlier this year, the Gambia was singled out for 
its poor rights record in Britain’s annual Human 
Rights and Democracy report, which cited cases of 
unlawful detentions, illegal closures of 
newspapers and radio stations and discrimination against minority groups.

A spokesman at the British Foreign and 
Commonwealth Office said early Thursday: “We 
would very much regret Gambia, or any other 
country, deciding to leave the Commonwealth.”

He noted however that “decisions on Commonwealth 
membership are a matter for each member government”.

The Gambia is a tiny sliver of land wedged into 
Senegal. It suffers from widespread poverty but 
its miles of palm-fringed beaches are a favourite 
among sun-seeking European tourists

The west African anglophone nation, the smallest 
on the mainland, has long been dogged by rights 
concerns under Jammeh’s administration.

Jammeh, who seized power in a 1994 coup, brooks 
no criticism. He has been re-elected to power three times.

The man who claims he can cure AIDS and other 
illnesses is often pilloried for rights abuses and the muzzling of journalists.

In 2010, the EU, the country’s top aid donor, 
cancelled 22 million euros ($30 million) in 
budget support for Banjul because of concerns over human rights and governance.

In August 2012, Jammeh came under attack from 
Amnesty International and others for sending nine 
prisoners to the firing squad and promising many more would go the same way.

Many top officials have found themselves charged 
with treason, often related to coup plots which 
observers have said are a sign of paranoia by 
Jammeh, who has woven an aura of mysticism around 
himself, dressing in billowing white robes and always clutching his Koran.

Last year he warned foreign diplomats that his 
country would not be “bribed” with aid to accept homosexuality.

“If you are to give us aid for men and men or for 
women and women to marry, leave it. We don’t need 
your aid because as far as I am the president of 
the Gambia, you will never see that happen in this country,” he said.

In January this year Jammeh accused the European 
Union of trying to destablise Gambia, after the 
EU set out a 17-point checklist of demands for reforms.

They included calls for Gambia to abolish the 
death penalty and to re-open newspapers and radio 
stations closed down by the authorities.

The president regularly insists that he will not 
bow to external pressures for reform.
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