Gabon and Togo join the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth increases its influence. Gabon and Togo joined the organization on Saturday, becoming the last nations without historical ties to the United Kingdom to enter the English-speaking club led by Queen Elizabeth II. These two French-speaking countries are the first new members since Rwanda in 2009.

Made up of 54 countries, most of which are former British colonies, the Commonwealth accepted these membership applications on the last day of its summit in Rwanda. “We welcome them all to the Commonwealth family,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame said.

Get away from Paris

For Togolese Foreign Minister Robert Dussey, the Commonwealth’s 2.5 billion consumers offer new economic and educational opportunities and create a “craze” for English among his compatriots. “Togo’s membership is motivated by the desire to expand its diplomatic, political and economic network (…) and to get closer to the English-speaking world,” he explained. It also allows the small developing nation of 8.5 million people to redefine bilateral relations with the UK outside the EU after Brexit.

The two French-speaking countries have also sought membership in recent years to move away from France, analysts said. For the Togolese political scientist Mohamed Madi Djabakate, this decision will be welcomed because the French influence in Togo is often criticized. “Membership was not discussed with the Togolese people. It is a unilateral decision of the government”, which is however not unpopular with the Togolese who “gradually see in the foreign policy of France the reasons for the stagnation of the country”.

“Sixty-two years after its independence, our country is about to open a new chapter in its history,” Gabonese President Ali Bongo said on Twitter. “Many opportunities are available to us on the economic, diplomatic and cultural level”.

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Good governance set aside

The admission of Togo and Gabon to the Commonwealth comes amid ongoing debates over its relevance and objectives. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said interest from new members proves the organization is doing well.

But it could also raise questions about the Commonwealth’s commitment to good governance and democracy, core values ​​of its charter. Oil-rich Gabon, a former French colony, has been ruled by the Bongo family for 55 years. Togo, a former German and then French colony, has also been under dynastic domination for more than half a century. General Gnassingbe Eyadema ruled the country with an iron fist from 1967 until his death in 2005, when his son Faure Gnassingbe took power.

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