The leaders of the Commonwealth countries have accepted applications by the two west African countries of Gabon and Togo. Both countries are former French colonies were welcomed at the closing session of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda on Saturday.
The development 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 the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland, QC, said that 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. I am thrilled to see these vibrant countries join the Commonwealth family and dedicate themselves to the values and aspirations of our Charter.”
Gabon is a sparsely populated country of two million people, bordering Cameroon – a member of the Commonwealth – Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo.
Togo is bordered by Ghana, a Commonwealth member and Benin and Burkina Faso. It has a population of approximately 7.8 million people.
Neither country has a historical 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.