The Gambia: UK ‘very pleased’ about Commonwealth return

Billboard announcing President Barrow's inaugurationImage copyright
AFP

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Adama Barrow will have an inauguration ceremony on Saturday

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who is in The Gambia, has said he is “very pleased” the West African state is rejoining the Commonwealth.

His visit, the first to The Gambia by a British foreign secretary, comes weeks after long-time ruler Yahya Jammeh went into exile after losing elections.

Mr Jammeh took The Gambia out of the Commonwealth in 2013, calling it a neo-colonial institution.

New President Adama Barrow had promised a return to the 52-nation grouping.

Before leaving for Banjul, Mr Johnson said: “We will ensure this happens in the coming months.

“The strength of our partnerships show that Global Britain is growing in influence and activity around the world.”

Last week, the European Union promised The Gambia an aid package of nearly £65m ($81m) – almost three years after freezing its assistance to the West African nation.

Mr Barrow, who was sworn in last month, has also said The Gambia will reverse its move to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).

‘Return from 22 years in exile’

The Foreign Office said as well as holding talks with Mr Barrow, Mr Johnson would visit the UK-funded Medical Research Council and speak to Chevening scholars and workers and employers in the tourism industry.

The West African state is a popular holiday destination for Britons. Thousands had to be evacuated last month because of security concerns when Mr Jammeh was refusing to hand over power after losing December’s elections.

Image copyright
Reuters

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The Gambia’s beaches make it a popular destination for British tourists

Mr Barrow, whose swearing-in was held in neighbouring Senegal, is to be inaugurated as president in a ceremony at the national stadium on Saturday.

Several heads of state are expected to attend. Local dignitaries may include former Vice-President Alhagie Saihou Sabally, who local media said had returned to the country on Monday after 22 years in exile.

Mr Jammeh, who took power in coup in 1994, is now in exile in Equatorial Guinea after West African leaders deployed troops to The Gambia to ensure he left power.

Mr Johnson will go on to Ghana for talks with President Nana Akufo-Addo on Wednesday.

Referring to him and Mr Barrow, Mr Johnson said: “Their elections highlight the continuing strengthening of democracy in West Africa.”

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