With the increasing visibility of neo-colonial footprints in Africa, there have been increased calls for African nations to denounce their Commonwealth membership.
The Commonwealth was created to tie the allegiance of colonized countries to be Queen of England. It was Britain’s way of exercising indirect control over the countries it colonized, as talks on independence intensified.
British leaders created the community to bring all countries colonized by Britain under one umbrella – which was called the British Commonwealth of Nations. Critics argue that contrary to what the charter states, the community was created to enable Britain’s control over the member states even after their independence from colonial rule.
As the community enters its tenth decade since its creation, those who do not favour the continuous membership of African nations have called for a boycott.
They believe that Africa would not achieve meaningful development if the continent does not cut off her colonial ties completely.
Below, we have highlighted some arguments that critics point out as reasons why African leaders should take action now – more than ever, to denounce membership of the Commonwealth.
5 Reasons Why African Countries Must Denounce Their Commonwealth Membership
1. The Commonwealth is Not ‘Free and Equal’
According to the founding documents of the community, the purpose of the Commonwealth is to create freedom and equality between all member countries. Critics believe that the operation and management of the community defile this purpose.
The Queen of England (and Britain) has headed the community since its establishment. This, critics believe, is evidence that the former colonial masters are only interested in maintaining their colonial advantage over the other countries.
2. Too Much Power and Resources Under Britain’s Control
Many critics believe that the Commonwealth, which is a community that brings together all former territories under British rule under one umbrella, is unjustified. They claim that the arrangement puts too much power and resources under Britain’s control.
Commonwealth countries span the globe and have a combined population of 2.6 billion in 54 countries – this accounts for almost a third of the world’s population.
3. The Commonwealth is an Illegal Entity
The Commonwealth was the political structure during the period from 1649 to 1660 when England and Wales, later along with Ireland and Scotland, were governed as a republic after the end of the Second English Civil War and the trial and execution of Charles I.
Critics believe that since the structure on which the community was initially founded is no more, it makes the entity illegal – and thus should be dissolved.
4. Some Commonwealth Member Countries Were Not Colonized by Britain
Many social observers and commentators have spoken against the membership structure of the Commonwealth and the rationale behind it.
Take Rwanda, for instance. The country was colonized by Germany and Belgium – not the United Kingdom. So, why is it a member of the Commonwealth?
Another country that wasn’t colonized by the United Kingdom, but is a part of the Commonwealth is Mozambique. Rwanda and Mozambique became members in 2009 and 1995, respectively, and neither were colonized by the British.
Critics believe that accepting countries that were not colonized by Britain into the Commonwealth proves that Britain has a hidden motive.
5. Double Standards on the Part of Britain
Former president of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe took the country out of the Commonwealth in 2003 after its membership was suspended amid reports of election rigging. However, it applied in 2018 to be re-admitted, but no decision has been reached yet.
Meanwhile, Pakistan was suspended after a military coup in 1999 and was re-admitted four-and-a-half years later.
Also, South Africa withdrew in 1961 after it was criticized by Commonwealth members for its apartheid policies. It became a member again in 1994. The Maldives left the community in 2016 but was admitted in 2020.
Many critics argue that this goes a long way to prove that Britain is only interested in countries they can ‘gain’ from, to be members of the Commonwealth.
Apart from the British Commonwealth, there exists the Commonwealth of Independent States, which was set up in 1991 by Russia and other former members of the Soviet Union.
There is also the International Organization of La Francophone - a group of French-speaking countries which aims to promote the French language and increase mutual cooperation.
Critics believe that the underlining motive behind these communities do not favour the smaller members. They argue that these are opportunities for the erstwhile colonial masters to continue to carry out their enterprise and strengthen neo-colonialism among these countries.
What are your thoughts?