Gabon and Togo, former French colonies, have joined the Commonwealth as its 55th and 56th members respectively.
Commonwealth leaders accepted applications by the two West African countries at the closing session of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda. It follows formal expressions of interest by Gabon and Togo and consultation with member countries.
Rwanda was the last country to join the Commonwealth in 2009.
Welcoming the announcement, Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, described the new entrants as vibrant countries, noting that she is thrilled to see them join the Commonwealth family and dedicate themselves to its values and aspirations.
“The Commonwealth, which began as eight nations in 1949, is growing to 56. Our continued growth, beyond the scope of our history, reflects the advantages of Commonwealth membership and the strength of our association,” Ms Scotland said.
Gabon is a sparsely populated country of two million people, bordering Cameroon – also a member of the Commonwealth -, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo.
Togo is bordered by Ghana – a Commonwealth member -, Benin and Burkina Faso. It has a population of approximately 7.8 million people.
Neither country has a historic association with the Commonwealth, with both gaining independence from France in the 1960s.
The eligibility criteria for Commonwealth membership, amongst other things, state that an applicant country should demonstrate commitment to democracy and democratic processes, including free and fair elections and representative legislatures; the rule of law and independence of the judiciary; good governance, including a well-trained public service and transparent public accounts; and protection of human rights, freedom of expression, and equality of opportunity.
The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 54 – now 56- independent and equal sovereign states with a combined population of over 2.5 billion.
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