The Gambia intends to rejoin the Commonwealth, UK’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who is in the West African country, has confirmed.
Boris Johnson’s 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.
Yahya Jammeh took The Gambia out of the Commonwealth in 2013, calling it a neo-colonial institution.
Newly-elected President Adama Barrow had promised a return to the 52-nation grouping.
Before leaving for Banjul, Boris Johnson said: “We will ensure this happens in the coming months.
The Commonwealth secretariat said it welcomed the news, saying the formal process of rejoining would have to be agreed by the 52 heads of government.
A spokesman said: “When The Gambia left the Commonwealth in 2013, the heads of government… noted its decision with regret. We looked forward to the country’s eventual return because it was part of our very close knit family and our doors have always remained open.”
Last week, the EU promised The Gambia an aid package of nearly $81 million – almost three years after freezing its assistance to the West African nation.
Adama Barrow, who was sworn in last month, has also said The Gambia will reverse its move to withdraw from the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In a statement on February 13, the government said it had written to UN chief Antonio Guterres to inform him of its decision “to discontinue the withdrawal notice”.
In 2016, a former Gambian information minister had referred to the court as “an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans”.
The move is a blow to Africa’s anti-ICC lobby – which includes South Africa, Namibia and Burundi.
At the annual African Union summit held this month, leaders called for a mass walk-out from the ICC, but faced opposition from other countries, including Nigeria, Senegal and The Gambia.
The Foreign Office said as well as holding talks with Adama Barrow, Boris Johnson would visit the UK-funded Medical Research Council and speak to Chevening scholars and workers and employers in the tourism industry.
The Gambia is a popular holiday destination for Britons. Thousands had to be evacuated last month because of security concerns when Yahya Jammeh was refusing to hand over power after losing December’s elections.
Adama Barrow, whose swearing-in was held in neighboring Senegal, is to be inaugurated as president in a ceremony at the national stadium on February 18.
Several heads of state are expected to attend. Local dignitaries may include former VP Alhagie Saihou Sabally, who local media said had returned to the Gambia on February 13 after 22 years in exile.
Yahya 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.
Boris Johnson will go on to Ghana for talks with President Nana Akufo-Addo on February 15.