Banjul, Gambia | AFP | The Prince of Wales on Thursday called on The Gambia to work with Britain to promote democracy nearly two years after the small West African nation emerged from decades of authoritarian rule.
Prince Charles’s arrival in The Gambia was the first royal visit since the 2017 ousting of President Yahya Jammeh who withdrew from the Commonwealth and threatened to change the country’s official language from English.
“The UK and The Gambia can once again work together to defend our shared common values and to promote democracy, human rights, tolerance and the rule of law,” said Prince Charles, accompanied by his wife Camilla at an event in the capital Banjul.
The Gambia was welcomed back into the Commonwealth during a visit by the Gambian president to London earlier this year.
Prince Charles said The Gambia’s re-entry was an “important milestone” as the former British colony chose to turn its back on twenty years of Jammeh’s rule.
He called on the two countries to commit to addressing The Gambia’s urgent needs such as resource depletion, youth unemployment and rapid urbanisation with the help of Commonwealth member states.
“Please know that UK and the other members of the Commonwealth stand with you,” Prince Charles said.
President Adama Barrow said the return to the Commonwealth illustrated his government’s willingness to enhance international cooperation.
“I also call on the United Kingdom with whom we have close historical ties to continue to support us through enhancing trade, investment and economic cooperation,” he said.
Following the event at MacCarthy Square, where the Union Jack was lowered in 1965 and the Gambian flag raised, the Duchess of Cornwall visited a middle school on the outskirts of Banjul to donate a metalwork lathe and plant a tree.
Local officials said it was the first royal visit since the country rejoined the Commonwealth. The last visit was by Princess Anne in 1990.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall also visited a military barracks and a war cemetery where World War II army veterans were laid to rest.
Jammeh took over The Gambia, the smallest country on land in Africa, in a military coup in 1994 and installed a structure of oppression.
But his reign began to fall in December 2016, when he suffered an electoral defeat at the hands of Barrow, the opposition leader.
He refused to step down, but was forced out the following month after other West African countries intervened militarily. He flew into self-imposed exile in Equatorial Guinea.