Thursday, October 15, 2015

Is the Commonwealth on Jammeh's mind?

Ghana Speaker Edward Doe Adjaho and Gambian Speaker Bojang
A curious story appeared in today's Standard newspaper purportedly originating from the Ghanaian Speaker who is reported to have urged The Gambia, through his Gambian counterpart, to return to the Commonwealth fold.

Reports say the Ghanaian Speaker, Edward Doe Adjaho, asked The Gambia to reconsider its decision to withdraw its membership of the British Commonwealth. It is reported that the Ghanaian Speaker made the request during a courtesy call of the Gambian Speaker, Abdoulie Bojang, on his counterpart.  Speaker Bojang is reportedly on a one-week study tour of Ghana.

The article is deliberately vague as to the context within which the conversation between the two Speakers took place.  What is not vague, however, is the intent of the story which is a lame attempt by the Gambian Speaker and some of his colleagues to get the Gambian dictator to rethink his unilateral decision to withdraw The Gambia from the Commonwealth.

Gambians are not notified much less consulted prior to the decision being taken.  Indeed, the move is unconstitutional because the Gambian leader lacks the power to withdraw the country from any international organization without parliamentary approval.  At least, the single member of the opposition would have demanded explanation and reasons for the withdrawal.

The only official reference to Gambia's withdrawal came in the form of a Commonwealth Secretariat's press statement issued on the 4th October 2013 following a short remark by the Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma expressing regret "at an Executive decision...taken by the Government to withdraw from the Commonwealth..." We also recall Jammeh's statements following the withdrawal suggesting that the Commonwealth is a "neo-colonial institution" and promised that he will "never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism."

As far as we are aware, nothing has fundamentally changed to warrant a reassessment by Jammeh. He still views the Commonwealth as a relic of colonialism and thus a neo-colonial institution. Therefore using the occasion of a courtesy call on the Ghanaian Speaker to float the idea of returning to the Commonwealth family is disingenuous on the part of Speaker Abdoulie Bojang or it is that Jammeh is looking for an indirect way of saving face by acting on advise of the Ghanaian Speaker.

With the World Bank and the African Development Bank withholding budget support to join the European Union only adds to the regimes financial woes.  We will, therefore, not be surprised if a return to the Commonwealth is actively being considered.  The diplomatic isolation is also taking its toll on a regime that is desperately looking for friends.