West African Nations Gabon and Togo Join the Commonwealth
On Saturday, June 25th, it was announced that the nations of Gabon and Togo would be entered into the Commonwealth of Nations, becoming the newest members, with no historical ties to the United Kingdom, to join the English-speaking club headed by Queen Elizabeth II.
On the last day of the leadership conference in Rwanda, the 54-nation group—most of which were formerly British colonies—accepted Togo and Gabon’s applications for membership.
At the closing press conference, Rwandan President Paul Kagame declared, “We have admitted Gabon and Togo as new members, and we all welcome them to the Commonwealth family.”
Togo’s Foreign Minister, Robert Dussey, said that “joining the Commonwealth provided access to 2.5 billion consumers, increased educational opportunities, and tapped into a ‘craze’ for English among his people”.
Dussey told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) that Togo’s ambition to join was driven by a desire to “extend its diplomatic, political, and economic network… as well as to become closer to the English-speaking world.”
He added, “Looking at the aftermath of Brexit, this has enabled the developing nation of 8.5 million to redefine bilateral ties with the UK outside of the European Union.”
According to analysts, other Francophone nations have applied for Commonwealth membership recently. This is part of an effort to veer away from France.
The decision has been well received, according to Togolese political scientist Mohamed Madi Djabakate, citing that Togo frequently attributes its economic problems to French influence.
For many people, he said, Togo joining the Commonwealth is preferable to sharing the French language and culture, which hasn’t helped Togo’s progress.
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When Rwanda joined, there was a great deal of tension between Kigali and Paris. Since then, the East African nation has developed strong relations with the UK, including a contentious migrant deal reached this year. Nima Yussuf, a senior project manager at an investment fund for entrepreneurs in Gabon, said, “People are extremely excited. They see the likes of Rwanda, which used to be Francophone but is now part of the Commonwealth, and the sort of benefits that it has had for the country. They are excited about investment, visibility, and partnerships.”
President Ali Bongo of Gabon has declared that by joining the alliance, his country was “creating history.”
In a tweet made on Twitter, President Bongo stated that “our country is getting ready to break through with a new chapter, sixty-two years after its independence.”
He added, “This alliance presents a variety of opportunities for Gabon, especially when it comes to economic, diplomatic, and cultural levels and prospects.”
Their entry is advantageous for the Commonwealth at a time when the renewed discussion over its purpose and relevance is being debated.
According to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the interest from new members demonstrated the organization’s viability as well as its relevance and purpose.
The Commonwealth, which was spawned by the British Empire, comprises countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas and represents one-third of the world’s population.