The flag of Gabon was raised today at the Commonwealth Headquarters, Marlborough House, for the first time in a special ceremony marking the country’s entry into the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt. Hon Patricia Scotland KC, and the President of Gabon, H.E. Ali Bongo Ondimba, led the flag-raising ceremony formally welcoming the Commonwealth’s newest member.
A new chapter
In her opening remarks, the Commonwealth Secretary-General said:
“It is a great day for Gabon and a great day for the Commonwealth. A day which signifies the strengthening of the relationship between the Francophone and Anglophone families across the world.
“Gabon’s entry [into the Commonwealth] has been an incredible journey. We have walked it together, all of us, and that journey to entry is at an end. So today, we stand at a new beginning: a new chapter for Gabon and for the Commonwealth.
“Together, we breathe new life into our commitment to democracy, the rule of law, freedom, and peace. Strengthened by the spirit of the Gabonese and their thirst for a better world, and commitment to partnership and determination to join the Commonwealth’s drive to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris agenda.
“Today, we welcome you into our family home, where we work every day to deepen our togetherness and strive for that invincibility. Welcome to a unique and special group of nations which are committed to doing their best to uphold shared values and help one another.
“God bless Gabon and God bless the Commonwealth.”
President Ali Bongo Ondimba, on his part, said:
“It is a real pleasure to welcome you all on this important day for my country, the Gabonese Republic, as we symbolically raise the “Vert – Jaune – Bleu”, the Green – Yellow and Blue colours of the Gabonese Nation here at the Commonwealth Secretariat for the first time.
“In a world full of uncertainties, mostly created by humanity’s excesses and greed, we believe strongly that the Commonwealth family of nations is a unique and varied community of countries that share common values and whose diversity represents a formidable melting pot of ideas and solutions.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Baroness Patricia Scotland and your entire team for your enthusiastic engagement and hard work throughout our candidacy. It would not be an exaggeration to say that from the very first day we felt that we were already members.”
The flag of Gabon was then ceremoniously hoisted on the roof of Marlborough House to the tune of Gabon’s national anthem with guests, including high commissioners, senior government officials, and the media, looking on.
By joining the Commonwealth, Gabon’s Embassy in London now officially becomes a High Commission, with H.E. Aicha Sanni serving as High Commissioner.
Gabon will also now have the opportunity to be part of big discussions and a mutually supportive community of 56 independent and sovereign states, aided by more than 80 accredited organisations and more than 50 strategic partnerships with organisations such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and the World Health Organization.
- Angela Kolongo Communications Officer, Communications Division, Commonwealth Secretariat
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- During the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, leaders accepted applications by Gabon and Togo to join the Commonwealth, becoming its 55th and 56th members, respectively. Neither country has a historic 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.
- Rwanda was the last country to join the Commonwealth, in 2009.
- In August, the Commonwealth Secretary-General made her debut visit to the country where she held a series of meetings with senior government officials to explore areas where the Commonwealth Secretariat can serve and support the Government and people of Gabon in advancing shared values and goals.