Gambia’s new president Adama Barrow waves to supporters as he leaves the airport in Banjul on January 26, after returning from Senegal. Barrow has cancelled a bid to pull out of the International Criminal Court. [PHOTO: AFP]
Gambia’s new government has told the United Nations it will remain in the International Criminal Court (ICC), state media reported on Monday.
The administration has reversed the previous regime’s plan to withdraw from the tribunal.
Former President Yahya Jammeh announced in October that he would pull Gambia out of the ICC, accusing the world body of ignoring alleged war crimes of Western nations and seeking only to prosecute Africans.
But President Adama Barrow, who defeated Jammeh in a December election, pledged during the campaign to undo Jammeh’s decision, restore human rights and repair the country’s badly-damaged foreign relations.
“As a new government that has committed itself to the promotion of human rights… we reaffirm The Gambia’s commitment to the principles enshrined in the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court,” said a statement read on state television and radio.
The statement added Gambia’s foreign minister notified UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of the decision in a letter last month.
The announcement constitutes a rare victory of late for the embattled tribunal.
South Africa and Burundi also signalled last year they would quit the ICC and African Union member states earlier this month endorsed an unspecified “strategy of collective withdrawal”. In another sign of Barrow’s intention to break with his predecessor, police opened their first investigations on Monday into unresolved deaths and disappearances under Jammeh.
Jammeh came to power in a coup in 1994 and his government established a reputation for torturing and killing opponents. He has denied these allegations.
The initial probe ordered by Barrow will focus on at least 30 people whose family members reported them dead or missing, Police Inspector General Yankuba Sonko told reporters in the capital Banjul.
The police also opened a complaint register so that additional people could file reports.
Jammeh fled to Equatorial Guinea last month under regional military pressure after refusing to accept his defeat to Barrow. Equatorial Guinea does not have an extradition treaty with Gambia.
Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who is in The Gambia, has said he was “very pleased” the West African state was rejoining the Commonwealth.
His visit, the first to The Gambia by a British foreign secretary, comes weeks after long-time ruler Jammeh went into exile after losing elections.
Jammeh took The Gambia out of the Commonwealth in 2013, calling it a neo-colonial institution.
Barrow had promised a return to the 52-nation grouping.
Before leaving for Banjul, Mr Johnson said: “We will ensure this happens in the coming months. The strength of our partnerships show that Global Britain is growing in influence and activity around the world.”
Last week, the European Union promised The Gambia an aid package of nearly $81 million (Sh8.1 billion) – almost three years after freezing its assistance to the West African nation.
Barrow, whose swearing-in was held in neighbouring Senegal, is to be inaugurated as president in a ceremony at the national stadium on Saturday. Johnson will be in Ghana for talks with President Nana Akufo-Addo today.
— Reuters and BBC