23 May 2018

Zimbabwe: UK Welcomes Zim's Commonwealth Bid

The United Kingdom has welcomed Zimbabwe's application to rejoin the Commonwealth, pledging its support for the southern African nation's bid to be a member of the 53-member bloc. Britain Foreign Secretary Mr Boris Johnson described the development as "fantastic" news.

"Fantastic news that Zimbabwe wishes to rejoin the Commonwealth. Wonderful that this follows productive talks at April's Commonwealth Summit in London. Zimbabwe must now show commitment to Commonwealth values of democracy and human rights," posted Mr Johnson on micro-blogging site Twitter yesterday.

His sentiments follow a letter written by President Mnangagwa to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Ms Patricia Scotland, seeking to rejoin the bloc.

The application to rejoin the Commonwealth is part of President Mnangagwa's efforts to end the isolation of the country on the global stage.

Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Mr Johnson said the UK stood ready to support Zimbabwe's readmission into the Commonwealth.

"It is certainly something that the UK and other countries would strongly support," he said.

In a statement, Commonwealth Secretary-General Ms Scotland said Zimbabwe had begun the process of rejoining the Commonwealth.

Ms Scotland said she was delighted to receive an application letter dated May 15, 2018, from President Mnangagwa.

"I whole-heartedly echo the sentiments of Heads of Government who have said twice, in 2009 and subsequently in 2011, that they very much look forward to Zimbabwe's return when the conditions are right. Zimbabwe's eventual return to the Commonwealth, following a successful membership application, would be a momentous occasion, given our shared rich history," she said.

To rejoin, Ms Scotland said, Zimbabwe must demonstrate that it complies with the fundamental values set out in the Commonwealth Charter, including democracy and rule of law and the protection of human rights such as freedom of expression.

She said the membership process requires an informal assessment to be undertaken by her representatives followed by consultations with other Commonwealth countries.

President Mnangagwa's administration has invited the Commonwealth to observe the forthcoming elections in July and the Commonwealth Secretariat is now mobilising a team of observers for the polls and their report will form part of the Secretary-General's informal assessment.

"I urge the government, opposition parties, the election management body, civil society, and all stakeholders, to play their part in ensuring a credible, peaceful and inclusive process that restores citizens' confidence, trust and hope in the development and democratic trajectory of their country," said Ms Scotland.

Zimbabwe was a member of the Commonwealth since its independence in 1980, but was suspended in 2002, at the height of diplomatic tensions between Harare and London over land reforms.

Former President Mr Robert Mugabe withdrew the country from the organisation in 2003, after its suspension was extended.

Under the new political dispensation, President Mnangagwa is working towards normalising diplomatic ties with the former colonial master and other Western nations.

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