UK & World News
Commonwealth 'Relief' Over Gambia Withdrawal
The Gambian government's decision to pull out of Commonwealth will be met with "relief" in some parts of the 54-country organisation, Sky News has been told.
With no prior warning to the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, the Gambian Government announced the former British colony was pulling out of the Commonwealth with "immediate effect".
And a source told Sky News: "There will be some relief that President Yahya Jammeh has removed himself as the country's human rights record was getting worse and worse."
In a statement, the country claimed it would "never be a member of any neo-colonial institution and will never be a party to any institution that represents an extension of colonialism".
On condition of anonymity, a Gambia Foreign Ministry official told news agency AFP the decision to withdraw came after the government's rejection of a Commonwealth proposal to create commissions in capital city Banjul to protect human rights, media rights and fight corruption.
Mr Jammeh, who is regularly accused of rights abuses, has ruled mainland Africa's smallest country since seizing power in a coup 1994.
Earlier this year, Gambia was singled out for its poor rights record in a Foreign Office report, which cited cases of unlawful detentions, illegal closures of newspapers and radio stations and discrimination against minority groups.
A Sky News source added: "Because of this poor record, in many ways the Gambia has been heading towards the exit for some time."
It is unclear whether the country's leader will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Sri Lanka in November.
The meeting will see Prince Charles stand in for the Queen, who is Head of the Commonwealth, for the first time since 1971.
Mr Jammeh claims he has extraordinary healing powers, saying he can cure Aids by laying his hands on someone with the illness.
In August 2012, Mr Jammeh came under attack from Amnesty International and others for sending nine prisoners to the firing squad and promising many more would go the same way.
Last year, he warned foreign diplomats that his country would not be "bribed" with aid to accept homosexuality.
"If you are to give us aid for men and men or for women and women to marry, leave it.," he said.
"We don't need your aid because as far as I am the president of the Gambia, you will never see that happen in this country."
But while the country claims its withdrawal from an organisation encompassing 2.2 billion citizens comes into effect immediately, the Commonwealth Secretariat says it has had no communication to that effect.
"We have not received any form of communication from Gambia," a spokesman said.
"We are busy trying to get in touch with them to establish the facts. Our priority is to find out if they are definitely leaving or not, so the door is still open."