Photo: Ambassador Francis Blain presents Secretary-General Patricia Scotland with his country’s formal application to rejoin the Commonwealth
The Gambia re-joins the Commonwealth family this Thursday, almost five years after leaving it.
A flag-raising ceremony, at Marlborough House, the London headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat, which will mark its return, takes place about midday today, says a press release from the Secretariat.
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland, the chair of the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors, Norman Hamilton, members of the Committee, and The Gambian high commissioner, Francis Blain, will attend the ceremony.
The ceremony takes place just two months before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, which is taking place in London for the first time since 1986, and for the first time in the United Kingdom since the 1997 Edinburgh summit.
The decision to begin the process of applying for readmission was made in February 2017 by President Adama Barrow, who came to power following elections in December 2016.
Last December, the parliament of The Gambia unanimously affirmed the country’s desire to rejoin the Commonwealth, thereby fulfilling one of the final steps in the organisation’s membership process.
Its application was unanimously supported by the current 52-member states and The Gambia will now be invited to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April in London.
Secretary-General Scotland said, “When The Gambia left in 2013, the heads of government expressed their regret in its leaving the Commonwealth family. We’ve looked forward to The Gambia’s return and were delighted when, after his election victory last year, President Barrow pledged to return. The Gambia’s application to rejoin has been unanimously accepted by all 52-member states, who welcome back their brothers and sisters to again play their full part in the Commonwealth family.”
The High Commissioner to be of The Gambia, Francis Blain said, “I am thrilled to represent my country as it formally rejoins the Commonwealth after an absence of several years – and to become High Commissioner rather than Ambassador. The Gambia looks forward to being able both to contribute to and benefit from the collective wisdom of the Commonwealth family of countries, and to playing an active role in supporting the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the many other organisations and initiatives that flourish as expressions of Commonwealth connection. The Government and people of The Gambia will also draw on all that the Commonwealth collectively has to offer, assisting in practical ways to address a wide range of pressing issues – including protecting the environment and tackling climate change, and the empowerment of women and young people.”
The Gambia first became a member of the Commonwealth in 1965, when it gained independence from Britain.
There are now 53 members of The Commonwealth, representing more than 2.4bn people.