BANJUL (Reuters) - Gambia has withdrawn from the Commonwealth, the 54-member grouping including Britain and most of its former colonies, branding it a “neo-colonial institution,” according to a statement released by the West African nation on Wednesday.
“The government has withdrawn its membership of the British Commonwealth and decided that the Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any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,” read a statement broadcast on state television.
No further reason for the decision was given.
Gambia joined the commonwealth in 1965. A sliver of a country surrounded by Senegal, Gambia is a popular destination for European sun-seekers, many of them British, with its tropical climate and white beaches.
There is a history of bad blood between President Yahya Jammeh, who came to power in a 1994 coup, and the country’s former colonial master.
Jammeh accused Britain of backing Gambia’s political opposition ahead of 2011 elections, while Britain has criticized the Gambian government for its poor human rights record, including a series of executions carried out last year.
Jammeh’s government has been accused by human rights groups of persecuting its political opponents and homosexuals.
In a speech before the United Nations General Assembly last week, Jammeh called homosexuality a threat to human existence and criticized other countries for regarding it as a human right.
Reporting By Pap Saine; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Daniel Flynn and David Brunnstrom