Commonwealth welcomes back The Gambia after five year absence

The Gambia's President Adama Barrow
The Gambia’s President Adama Barrow

The Commonwealth on Thursday welcomed The Gambia back as a member after 5 years, having quit under the authoritarian rule of former president Yahya Jammeh.

A flag raising ceremony was held at the Commonwealth headquarters in central London to mark the occasion, officially signaling the West African country’s return into the body.

The Commonwealth is an intergovernmental organisation made up of 52 member states that are mostly former territories of the British Empire.

Jammeh, while pulling his country out of the organization in 2013, called the Commonwealth an “extension of colonialism”.

The now-exiled former leader was forced out of power in January 2017. He lost the presidential election in 2016 but refused to step down. Jammeh ruled the West African nation for 22 years but lost to current President Adama Barrow.

The Gambia’s application to re-join The Commmonwealth was backed by all member states.

The body’s Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said the member countries “welcome back their brothers and sisters to again play their full part in the Commonwealth family.”

The Gambia’s ambassador in London, Francis Blain, said the West African state looked forward to contributing and benefiting from the “collective wisdom” of the nations which make up the body.

Fellow African country Zimbabwe is also reported to be considering rejoining The Commonwealth after President Emmerson Mnangagwa took office last year following the resignation of Robert Mugabe, who had ruled the Southern African country for 37 years.

Zimbabwe left the organization in 2003, after then-ruler Robert Mugabe accused the body of being hijacked by the UK and plotting against his government.