Thursday, October 3, 2013

Gambia pulls out of Commonwealth citing 'neo-colonialism'

The West African nation said it "will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism".

The Gambian President identified “excessive greed”, “obsession with world domination”, and“homosexuality” as the three biggest threats to human existence - as he addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly on Friday Sept. 27, 2013 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Andrew Burton,Pool)
The Yahya Jammeh-led Government of The Gambia on Wednesday announced it was pulling out of the Commonwealth, a 54-member organization mainly of former British colonies.
A four-line statement on State TV, GRTS, stated the withdrawal was with immediate effect, but fall short of giving details as to what prompted the move. 

"(The) Government has withdrawn its membership of the British Commonwealth and decided that The Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any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

Gambian-born Sulayman Nyang, senior professor and former chair of the African Studies Department at Howard University in Washington, D.C. said some western governments’ rejection of Jammeh’s anti-gay rhetoric and dismal human rights record might be two reasons behind his decision.

“If he [Jammeh] made this statement, there are two underlying reasons behind the decision. One, in my opinion is the fact that when President Jammeh went to the UN, he came out categorically against the gay movement. So for that reason, he is definitely at loggerheads with the Prime Minister of Great Britain who has been very strong in support of gay groups,” he is quoted as saying by the VOA. 

The Gambia became a member of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1965, the year it gained independence from colonial master, Britain. 

It has seen a cut in aid from the European Union over a poor human rights record, but Jammeh has said he will not accept western imposition of homosexuality in exchange for aid money which he called "chicken change".

His government has since resume talks over reform with the EU in June following a break-up in late 2012.

In 2003, President Mugabe pulled his country Zimbabwe out of the Commonewalth, citing  threats to his country's sovereignty.

Meanwhile, the UK Foreign Office has said it "very much regret" The Gambia's decision to withdraw. Commonwealth officials said they only heard about the move through the media and had not yet been contacted by The Gambia, according to BBC reports.

The North Bank Evening Standard (TNBES) understands countries seeking withdrawal from the Commonwealth group are obliged to write to the Secretariat in that regard.

In April, The Gambia earns specific mention in a Foreign and Commonwealth Office report that highlighted serious human rights violations in the country. 

The British High Commissioner in Banjul, David Morley expressed personal disappointment that “for the first time ever, The Gambia earns a specific mention in its pages by way of a specific case study”. 

In response, the Government of The Gambia said "Britain has no moral authority to dictate moral standards of rectitude and democracy to any former colony in Africa”.

The Gambia Government described Morley's attitude as “provocative, disruptive and undiplomatic design” in the wake of the launch of the FCO report, and said "Britain has no “moral authority to dictate moral standards of rectitude and democracy to any former colony in Africa” in reaction to the annual human rights report of the United Kingdom.

Written by Modou S. Joof
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