Gambia Announces Surprise Withdrawl From Commonwealth

Gambia Announces Surprise Withdrawl From Commonwealth

From Business Day Live

By his own mercurial standards, President Yahya Jammeh’s abrupt decision to withdraw The Gambia from the Commonwealth was nothing special.

True to form, he gave no notice, no reason and apparently no heed to the damaging consequences for the 1.8-million people living in mainland Africa’s smallest country.

“I’m sure his cabinet ministers didn’t even know what he was going to do. It’s just another demonstration of the terrible leadership we have,” a Gambian resident in Johannesburg told Business Day on Thursday.

A government statement in Banjul on Wednesday said the West African country was pulling out of the 54-member grouping of Britain and its former colonies.

“The Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism,” the statement said without being more specific.

In the view of Gambian exiles, Mr Jammeh is a maverick despot who runs The Gambia — the country’s official name has historically included the definite article — like his personal property.

For years he ran a weekly surgery where he “cured” HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses. When a United Nations (UN) diplomat suggested scientific proof would be helpful, he ordered her summary expulsion.

Most memorably, he suddenly decided in August last year to execute the 40-odd prisoners on death row. He stopped after the first nine. Three months ago he banned village football, saying rural boys should focus on farming. Anyone who takes to the internet to criticize the government or any public official is liable to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Read more at Business Day Live.