British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson visited the Gambia Tuesday on a two-day visit to mark the country’s return to the Commonwealth.
The Gambia announced its decision to rejoin the commonwealth, according to the Mirror UK, following the election of President Adama Barrow last December in a landmark election that saw the defeat of President Yahya Jammeh who had ruled the country for more than two decades.
With his visit, Johnson becomes the first British foreign secretary to visit the Gambia since the nation’s independence from the U.K. in 1965. While in Africa, Johnson is also scheduled to visit neighboring Ghana.
After being received at Banjul International Airport by Gambia’s Vice President Fatoumata Jallow-Tambajang and other cabinet ministers, Johnson told reporters that he was happy to be in the Gambia, adding that he hoped his visit would foster closer relations between the Gambia and the U.K.
“I’m delighted to be the first foreign secretary to visit Gambia this week and delighted to have a chance to meet the newly elected President Barrow and President [Nana] Akufo-Addo of Ghana.
“Their elections highlight the continuing strengthening of democracy in West Africa.
“I am also very pleased that Gambia wants to re-join the Commonwealth, and we will ensure this happens in the coming months. The strength of our partnerships show that Global Britain is growing in influence and activity around the world,” Johnson said.
Break from the Commonwealth
In 2013, President Jammeh announced Gambia’s withdrawal from the Commonwealth, labeling the 54-member nation organisation of former British protectorates as a “neo-colonial institution.”
At the time, a statement on Gambian state TV said the country had “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.”
Last week, the European Union pledged an $80 million aid package to the small west African country popular with European tourists because of its pristine beaches. The funds had been frozen for three years.
During his visit, Johnson is scheduled to visit the U.K.-funded Medical Research Council, speak to Chevening scholars, and meet with employees and employers in the tourism industry.