By Patrick Corby
The Republic of Gambia has announced that it will secede from the 54–member British Commonwealth in a statement released by the West African nation.
“The government has withdrawn its membership of the British Commonwealth and decided that the Gambia will never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any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,” said the unexpected statement on Wednesday.
The Republic of Gambia is the smallest mainland African state on the western coast of sub-Saharan Africa. A military coup d’état displaced the then-elected government and instated Lieutenant Yahya Jammeh as president of the country in 1994.
Yahya Jammeh, in widely criticised processes, has been elected four more times through his Alliance for Patriotic Reorientation and Construction party since the political overthrow.
When president Jammeh came to power he immediately suspended the separation of the legislative, executive and judicial powers which had been put in place to protect the Gambian state’s democratic constitution in 1970. Through establishing a Constitution Review Commission (CRC), he then concentrated all power within an authoritarian regime under his control by 1996.
President Jammeh only lifted the ban on the formation of other political parties in 2001 but has since then actively segregated parties through reform and arrests so that no opposition can contest his state.
Right now there are no restrictions in place on how many terms the president can govern for: another main pillar of the democratic process. In January 2012 former information minister Amadou Janneh was sentenced to life in prison after distributing T-shirts with the slogan ”An End to Dictatorship”.
In sub-Saharan Africa the average corporate tax rate for a medium sized business is 57.8%, while in Gambia alone it is the second highest rate after the Democratic Republic of Congo at 283.5% of profits per year according to the World Bank.
Summarising his thoughts on any foreign involvement in his government, Jammeh said in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 2012: “Present day Africans cannot be hoodwinked anymore and we are determined to defend our independence and dignity, and take control of our natural resources at any cost and by any means necessary.”
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