Gambia withdraws from the Commonwealth
President Yahya Jammeh said Gambia no longer wished to be part of a "neo-colonial institution"
GAMBIA has announced that it is withdrawing from the Commonwealth with immediate effect. Explaining the decision on state TV, President Yahya Jammeh described the organisation as "an extension of colonialism".
It will become only the third country to leave. Zimbabwe severed links with the group in 2003 after it was suspended indefinitely and South Africa was absent for 33 years during the apartheid era.
Why has Gambia decided to leave?
Officially, the government has said only that it no longer wishes to be a member of a "neo-colonial institution". Most commentators believe that Gambia's swift exit has been prompted by mounting criticism of the country's human rights record. The Commonwealth has accused the Gambian government of human rights violations including unlawful detention, torture, unfair trials and extrajudicial executions.
The BBC reports "a history of tension between President Yahya Jammeh, who came to power in a 1994 coup, and the UK."
But why now?
The Telegraph suggests that President Jammeh made the announcement "on a whim". The sudden decision "is in keeping with the way he has governed his tiny and tormented nation," it reports.
Does he have a point?
"The Commonwealth may have its roots in colonialism but it has long since transcended this", Professor Tim Shaw, director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, told the BBC. He argued that it provides a "forum for ideas that often do not get onto the mainstream agenda."
Although the vast majority of members were formerly part of the British Empire, Mozambique and Rwanda have both joined despite having no colonial relationship with the UK.
What are the advantages of membership?
Supporters of the Commonwealth say that it helps to foster relationships in trade and aid relations. The Rwandan government spoke of the "economic, political, cultural and other opportunities offered by the Commonwealth network." However, its critics argue that the Commonwealth "has been unable to significantly influence world events in any way". ·