The Gambia today rejoined the Commonwealth, almost five years after leaving the organisation.

The West Africa nation’s return was marked by a flag-raising ceremony at Marlborough House, the London headquarters of the Commonwealth Secretariat. The Gambia’s ambassador to the UK now becomes its High Commissioner, signifying Commonwealth membership. Both the new High Commissioner and Secretary-General Patricia Scotland attended the flag-raising ceremony.

Speaking about his country’s return, High Commissioner Francis Blain said:

“I am thrilled to represent my country as it formally rejoins the Commonwealth after an absence of several years – and to become High Commissioner rather than Ambassador. The Gambia looks forward to being able both to contribute to and benefit from the collective wisdom of the Commonwealth family of countries, and to playing an active role in supporting the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the many other organisations and initiatives that flourish as expressions of Commonwealth connection.”

“The Government and people of The Gambia will also draw on all that the Commonwealth collectively has to offer, assisting in practical ways to address a wide range of pressing issues – including protecting the environment and tackling climate change, and the empowerment of women and young people.”

The decision to begin the process of applying for readmission was made in February 2017 by President Adama Barrow, who came to power following elections in December 2016.

Last December, the parliament of The Gambia unanimously affirmed the country’s desire to rejoin the Commonwealth, fulfilling one of the final steps in the organisation’s membership process.

The country’s application was unanimously supported by the previous 52 member states and The Gambia will now be invited to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in April in London.

Secretary-General Scotland said, “When The Gambia left in 2013, the heads of government expressed their regret in its leaving the Commonwealth family. We’ve looked forward to The Gambia’s return and were delighted when, after his election victory in December 2016, President Barrow pledged to return. The Gambia’s application to rejoin has been unanimously accepted by all 52 member states, who welcome back their brothers and sisters to again play their full part in the Commonwealth family.”