Recent move by Gambian strong man, Yahya Jammeh exiting the Commonwealth left Africa continent divided right in the middle. Running the gamut and citing his intention to “decolonize” the Gambia completely, Gambian authorities were quoted as saying, "(The) government has withdrawn its membership of the British Commonwealth and decided that the Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any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."
When reached for comments Commonwealth spokesperson had this to say, "We are in touch with the Gambian authorities to follow up on the media reports in order to establish the facts clearly."
UK Foreign Office termed Gambia’s move as something to "very much regret,” when asked to comment on it.
Gambia's former Vice President Bakary Dabo and chairman of the country's campaign for democratic change, had different views saying that people there are generally "very happy" to be part of the Commonwealth.
Many were baffled asking why now after allegations surfaced that Britain was supporting Jammeh’s opponents? Is the motive behind this exit freeing Gambia from neo-colonialism or vengeance against British big mouth about democratization of The Gambia? Is Gambia “mature and decolonized” enough to detach from its former colonial masters forgiving all crumbs she used to enjoy? Is it the beginning of the end of the Commonwealth? Who will follow? Is Jammeh trying to cry wolf unnecessarily?
Again, it came to light that Jammeh decided to exit the Commonwealth not just because of intending to decolonize Gambia but after Commonwealth pressed him to implement true reforms and stop executing his opponents.
On the one hand, there are those who support this move saying that it is time for Africa to stand by herself instead of being bulldozed by her former colonial masters. They openly say that African countries why are the members of the Commonwealth don’t benefit. On the other hand, there are those who think Gambia is misguided and will regret it decision to exit Commonwealth. The looks of things show that strong men are likely to “decolonize” Africa especially when they are opposed. The wave of exiting Commonwealth started in 1949 when Ireland exited from the Commonwealth followed by Fiji in 1987 (later it rejoined the commonwealth) and 2003 when Zimbabwe strong man Robert Mugabe decided to call it quits when Britain opposed him openly by supporting his arch rival Morgan Tsvangirai.
If anything, this has become the tendency of African strong men. When cornered, the vulture cries eagle. Jammeh’s move reminds the world of recent U- turn by African Unity against the International Criminal Court after showing signs of impeaching African rulers. The choir of these attacks was led by Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, to mention but a few, who, like Jammeh, have accused the west of neo colonialism whenever the west tells them to implement human rights and true democracy in their countries. Again, when the same west offers aids, the same keep mum! Denouncing west and branding it as implementing new colonialism has become another way for African strong men to try intimidate the west especially when things seem not to work in their favour as it currently is the case of Kenya withdrawing from ICC. Are they men enough to exit all “colonial extensions” they are affiliated with? Or they’ll just act like Fiji that exited the Commonwealth and rejoined after finding that it was a misguided decision?
Interestingly, those who think Gambia took a bold and right decision think that Jammeh will save much money he used to burn in attending Commonwealth conferences every year. Given that the Commonwealth does not do much to remove Africa from her colonial past, such a move may be seen as revolutionary.
Source: The African Executive Magazine Oct., 9, 2013.