« We have admitted Gabon as new member, and we all welcome it to the Commonwealth family » (Rwandan President Paul Kagame)

Paul Kagame, Boris Johnson and 52 heads of State or governement attended the Commonwealth Summit in Kigali this week © DR

Gabon (and Togo) joined the Commonwealth on Saturday 25th June, becoming the latest nation with no historic ties to Britain to enter the English-speaking club headed by Queen Elizabeth II.

The 54-nation group of mostly former British colonies accepted Togo and Gabon’s application for membership on the final day of its leadership summit in Rwanda.

« We have admitted Gabon and Togo as new members, and we all welcome them to the Commonwealth family, » Rwandan President Paul Kagame said at the closing press conference.

The French-speaking West African states are the first new members to join the Commonwealth since Rwanda in 2009.

Francophone states have also sought Commonwealth membership in recent years to pivot away from France, analysts said.

Togolese political scientist Mohamed Madi Djabakate said the move would prove popular as French influence in Togo was often blamed for its economic woes.

« Togo joining the Commonwealth is better for many people than sharing the French language and culture, which at the end of the day has not promoted development, » he told AFP.

Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba said his country was « making history » by joining the group.

« Sixty-two years after its Independence, our country is getting ready to breakthrough with a new chapter, » Ali Bongo Ondimba said in a statement on Twitter.

« It’s a world of opportunities for Gabon on the economic, diplomatic & cultural levels. »

Their admission is a boon for the Commonwealth at a time of renewed discussion over its relevance and purpose.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the interest from new members proved the organisation was alive and well.

Born out of the British Empire, the Commonwealth represents one-third of humanity and spans nations across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas.

Mozambique — a former Portuguese colony — became the first Commonwealth member without historic links to Britain when it joined in 1995.

Source: The Guardian (London)