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Commonwealth reacts to Gambia’s withdrawal

Oct 4, 2013, 9:43 AM

The Commonwealth of Nations has issued a short statement pointing out that it was in contact with the authorities in Gambia over media reports suggesting that the country was withdrawing from the organization.

The statement by spokesman Richard Uku posted on its website on Thursday disclosed that Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma was dismayed by media coverage on the reported announcement of Gambia’s withdrawal from the mainly English-speaking club of countries with past colonial ties to Britain.

“We are in touch with the Gambian authorities to follow up on the media reports in order to establish the facts clearly. When clarification is received from the government of The Gambia, the Commonwealth Secretariat will issue a further statement accordingly” Uku’s statement said.

In a statement issued late on Wednesday, the Government of the Gambia announced that the country was withdrawing from the Commonwealth of Nations with immediate effect.

‘‘Government has withdrawn its membership of the British Commonwealth and decided that The Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution, and will never be a party to any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 said, without elaborating further.

Britain has also reacted swiftly to Gambia’s decision to quit the 54-member organization, describing it as regrettable.

A statement from the UK Foreign Office on Thursday declared: “Decisions on Commonwealth membership are a matter for each member government. We would very much regret Gambia, or any other country, deciding to leave the Commonwealth.”

Britain said it hoped the leadership in Banjul would reconsider its decision to withdraw membership from the mainly English-speaking Commonwealth, which had championed various development projects in the West African country.

Although the UK had scaled back its diplomatic presence in Gambia and stopped direct bilateral aid to the government since 2011, it still disburses some £8 million in yearly aid to development NGOs operating in the country.

The last time a nation left the Commonwealth was in 2003, when Zimbabwe withdrew.