Gambia Quits Commonwealth After President Slams Colonialists

Gambia withdrew from the Commonwealth, a group of mainly former British colonies, saying it won’t accept any form of foreign domination.

The termination of the West African nation’s membership takes effect immediately, according to a government statement broadcast yesterday on state-owned Gambia Radio and Television Service. The decision was announced five days after President Yahya Jammeh criticized former colonial powers for prescribing democracy, human rights and good governance on the continent.

“Present day Africans cannot be hoodwinked anymore and we are determined to defend our independence and dignity, and take control of our natural resources at any cost and by any means necessary,” Jammeh said in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 27.

Gambia joined the Commonwealth after gaining independence from the U.K. in 1965. It’s the smallest country in mainland Africa and has a population of 1.8 million people, according to the World Bank. The $920 million economy is forecast by the International Monetary Fund to expand 8.9 percent this year.

The country ranks 168 out of 187 nations on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, which measures social and economic indicators such as education, health and income.

Excluding Gambia, the Commonwealth has 53 members of which 18 are in Africa, according to the organization’s website.

Commonwealth ‘Regret’

“Decisions on Commonwealth membership are a matter for each member government,” the U.K. Foreign Office said in an e-mailed statement. “We would very much regret Gambia, or any other country, deciding to leave the Commonwealth.”

Jammeh, 48, came to power in a 1994 coup. He won a fourth term in office in elections last year that were rejected by the Economic Community of West African States for being held in a political environment not conducive to free and fair polls. His rule has been faulted by groups such as Amnesty International for alleged human-rights violations including unlawful arrests and unfair trials.

In 2007, Jammeh’s claim that he could cure AIDS with a herbal treatment was rejected by groups including the World Health Organization. In his speech to the UN General Assembly last week, Jammeh also criticized homosexuality, calling it a threat to “human existence.”

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