By ABDOULIE JOHN*
Gambia will soon return to the Commonwealth under its new government, Britain’s foreign secretary said Tuesday after meeting with President Adama Barrow and pledging London’s support for this small West African nation following the departure of its leader of 22 years.
Barrow has vowed to reverse actions taken by his predecessor, Yahya Jammeh, who announced last year that Gambia would withdraw from the International Criminal Court. Three years earlier Jammeh Gambia from the Commonwealth, a 52-nation group made up mostly of former British colonies.
“We are here to help. The United Kingdom has a close relation with The Gambia,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said after his private meeting with Barrow.
The visit comes after longtime ruler Jammeh flew into exile last month under international pressure and the threat of a regional military intervention after refusing to accept his December election loss to Barrow. Jammeh, who seized control in a bloodless coup in 1994, is accused of overseeing an administration that tortured and imprisoned opponents.
Barrow’s new government promises democratic reforms, freeing political prisoners and a truth commission.
Johnson said after meeting with Barrow that the countries would “build on longstanding friendship and partnership.” He said key areas such as education, health and security would take center stage.
Last week, the European Union announced an $80 million package of support for Gambia as nations warm to the new government.
The United Nations has received the Gambia government’s formal notice reversing the country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq announced earlier Tuesday.
Gambia was one of three African countries that informed the U.N. chief last year that they were withdrawing from the court. The others were South Africa and Burundi.