Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Gambian President: ‘Commonwealth withdrawal is non-negotiable’

Jammeh says the “Commonwealth remains at best a neo-colonial institution and at worst an animal farm, an idea which The Gambia will never subscribe to”. (Photo/EPA)
 “Our decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Nations is final and not subject to negotiation,” The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh said on Monday.

“We have reached a point of no return in our decision to leave the Commonwealth and this is non-negotiable,” he added in an October 7 statement aired on State TV.

The West African nation left the 54-member Commonwealth, mainly of British former colonies, on October 2 describing it as a “neo-colonial institution” or an “extension of colonialism”.

It reiterated that “the decision to leave the Commonwealth was made based on the principle that we do not want to be part of any colonial or neo-colonial institution”.

The Gambia also told its allies “there is no point sending special envoys to Banjul for us to reconsider this decision” (Commonwealth withdrawal); two days after Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan sent his Foreign Affairs Minister Nurudeen Mohamed to the country as a “special envoy”.

There is no further information as to whether Mohamed’s visit was linked to the country’s shock withdrawal from the body known as the “Family of Nations”.

But the statement issued by the President’s Office stated: “We urge all African countries planning to send special envoys on this matter not to waste their taxpayers’ money.” 

It says the “Commonwealth remains at best a neo-colonial institution” and “at worst an animal farm, an idea which The Gambia will never subscribe to”.

While making reference to George Orwell’s literary fiction ‘Animal Farm’, the presidency said “changing our decision is far-fetched”. 

However, he assured The Gambia’s allies that the decision to leave the Commonwealth “is not against any individual member state” and this would not affect bilateral relations.

Meanwhile, the UK has said it “very much regret” Gambia’s decision to leave the Commonwealth. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office said it has not been officially contacted by The Gambia about the decision.

Three days after its withdrawal from the Commonwealth, The Gambia Government accused Britain and the United States of America, USA, which it called “enemies of The Gambia” of sponsoring Gambians and non-Gambians to set up organizations with media facilities outside the country to mount “shameless campaign of lying” against it.

“These people and institutions specialize in lying and providing false attestations for would-be asylum seekers using the main opposition party (UDP) as a platform for such nefarious activities thereby casting a very bad and negative image of both the Government and noble people of The Gambia,” it stated allegedly.  

The Gambia, the smallest country on mainland Africa, has a population of 1.7 million. Its current government has been repeatedly accused of human rights violations.

However, the President Yahya Jammeh-led government argues the country's human rights record since 1994, the year he took power in a bloodless coup, is “better than that of the United Kingdom and the United States put together”. 

"Certainly the British Empire was founded by extraordinary brutality and the massive looting and shedding of the blood of Africans, Asians and others. “Its’ only legacy is exploitation," it said.

“The USA is a country lifted from backwardness, poverty and violence to superpower status as well as the largest economy in the world by the sweat, blood and tears of millions of African slaves,” it added.

President Jammeh’s recent trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York was greeted by protests by Gambian dissidents outside a hotel where he stayed. 

In his Sept., 27 address, he criticised Western powers and identified “excessive greed”, “obsession with world domination”, and “homosexuality” as the three biggest threats to human existence.

Written by Modou S. Joof
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