Friday, October 11, 2013

‘Bad human rights record’ led to Gambia’s Commonwealth exit’



While reports link Gambia's Commonwealth exit to a New York hotel protest, the Hamat Bah-led NRP says the regime is aware of a possible backlash at  the Commonwealth summit next month and decided to pull out (Photo/SoutAfrica)
The opposition National Reconciliation Party, NRP, has said “The Gambia’s exit of the Commonwealth of Nations is as a result of the country’s bad human rights record” and has condemned the act.

“Knowing the Commonwealth summit will be taking place next month in Sri Lanka and The Gambia will be among subject(s) of discussion, the NRP party learns with utter dismay the decision taken by the government,” NRP leader Hamat Bah said on Monday.

On October 2, the government announced the country was withdrawing its membership of the Commonwealth “with immediate effect”.  

“(The) Government has withdrawn its membership of the British Commonwealth and decided that The Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution, and will never be a party to any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 statement read.

However, Mr Bah told journalist on October 7, that the move threatens the overall interest of the Gambian people and Gambia as a nation, when he spoke at his party’s head office on Kairaba Avenue.

“No matter what happens at the Commonwealth (summit), the Government of The Gambia should be brave enough to go face the Commonwealth and defend its position and the nation,” Bah said.

He said the NRP have been saying this, that “the human rights record of The Gambia Government is one of the worst” you can find. “It is extremely bad, and the government cannot escape from dealing with these issues with the international community,” Bah added.

The third largest party advice the President Yahya Jammeh-led government to do whatever possible to rejoin the Commonwealth. The Gambia cannot escape from the Commonwealth because “there are issues they are trying to avoid”, he indicated. 

The Commonwealth, he said, has been a useful institution to The Gambia. It has benefited a lot of support from the Commonwealth, said Bah who is of the view that 95% of Gambians are against the decision to pull out of the Commonwealth.

“The decision was taken without due process and consideration of the Gambian citizenry,” Bah said while citing countries like Canada, Great Britain, Australia, India, and Nigeria as some of the biggest democracies in world who are all part of the Commonwealth.

According to him, if the government runs away from the institution those issues (human rights) will still follow it to other bodies like the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU).

Commonwealth member states are also part of the UN, and the EU, with the exception of the African Union (AU), which seems like “an organization of birds of the same feather flocking together”, he said. 

“Probably, the government does not know how much Gambians benefit from consular services at Commonwealth embassies in other parts of the world,” he said. “Gambia also knows very well that the Commonwealth has sponsored many Gambians in the form of scholarships, civil service reform, governance and development of the press.”

Early this year, the Jammeh government pulled out of talks with EU over an Article 8 political dialogue on reforms, however, the tiny West African country returned to the table for talks with EU in June 2013.

They should able to face the Commonwealth and take up the matter with them, Bah said. However, he admitted that “It would be difficult to defend a country that had (its image) badly tarnished of bad human rights record and governance”.

Since coming to power in 1994 in a bloodless military coup, President Jammeh had been blaming the colonialists over exploitation of The Gambia in particular and Africa in general.
But Mr Bah said blaming the colonialists is not acceptable anymore. “You cannot be blaming somebody for your failure after nearly 50 years of independence. Those days are gone, people have gone out of that era,” the NRP leader argued.

Withdrawal is not the solution to the problem. The fact is that The Gambia Government must rethink its decision, rejoin the Commonwealth, attend the upcoming Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka and defend their position, he advised.

Written by Modou S. Joof
 

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