The West African nation of the Gambia has formalized its return to the Commonwealth of Nations four years after departing from the organization to break from its colonial past.
The Gambia has been a member of the Commonwealth until 2013 when ex-autocratic ruler Yahya Jammeh unilaterally withdrew from the group calling it a “neo-colonial institution.”
The decision raised concern in the U.K. and was part of a general anti-Western stance adopted by Jammeh, who in 2016 also withdrew Gambia from the International Criminal Court (ICC), which his then-information minister Sheriff Bojang described as an “international Caucasian court.”
Gambia’s Foreign Secretary Ousainou Darboe was at Marlboro House where he signed the formal documents for The Gambia’s return on Friday.
While he was President-elect, Gambia’s new leader Adama Barrow has vowed to return the former British colony to the Commonwealth.
Since Jammeh’s departure, Barrow’s administration has reversed some of the former ruler’s critical decisions, including his attempt to withdraw the country from the International Criminal Court and naming it an Islamic Republic.
Gambia will become just the fourth country to return to the Commonwealth after leaving it, following South Africa, Pakistan, and Fiji.
Rejoining the Commonwealth has been one of President Barrow’s top priorities as it is part of a wider process of rebuilding ties severed during Jammeh’s 22 years in power.
Membership of the Commonwealth brings with it a certain prestige. Member states receive political and economic support, and a forum for Gambia to have a louder voice on issues affecting it, such as climate change.
Gambia has been feted as an example of democracy taking root in Africa after peacefully negotiating its way through a post-election crisis.