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Boris Johnson is only delighted the Gambia wants back into the British Commonwealth

The UK foreign secretary refused to answer questions on his views of colonialism.

Gambia UK Foreign Secretary Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson speaks to media before meeting with Gambian President Adama Barrow. Source: Kuku Marong/AP

UK FOREIGN MINISTER Boris Johnson has hailed the “very good news” that the Gambia will be rejoining the British Commonwealth.

Johnson made his comments on a visit to the Gambian capital of Banjul but ducked questions about his past praise of British colonialism in Africa.

Johnson met newly elected President Adama Barrow in the impoverished West African nation after years of tension under former president Yahya Jammeh.

Arriving yesterday, Johnson became the first British foreign minister to visit the Gambia since it gained independence from Britain in 1965.

The former London Mayor turned top diplomat told journalists about President Barrow’s intentions to bring he Gambia back into the commonwealth realms

“President Barrow is determined to take Gambia back to the Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth is ready to welcome Gambia back,” Johnson said, vowing to do whatever possible to “speed up” the process.

Barrow worked as a security guard in Britain when he was younger and has made no secret of his wish to rekindle ties.

In a Twitter video released yesterday evening, Johnson celebrated the British embassy soon becoming a High Commission to reflect the Gambia’s return to the Commonwealth fold.

Johnson said that the Gambia had “got rid of a guy who was really holding things up”, a reference to former tyrannical leader Yahya Jammeh.

Johnson joked about the former ruler a number of times during the trip, calling him “Jammeh dodger”.

(Click here if video doesn’t play)

Despite the good-natured meetings between Johnson and Barrow, The Guardian reports that Johnson refused to answer questions from Gambian journalists about articles he’s written previously about British colonialism in Africa.

For example, in a 2002 article in The Spectator, Johnson wrote:

The continent may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge any more.

In another news column published from 2002, Johnson characterised the Commonwealth as having “crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies,” to welcome Queen Elizabeth II, using a derogatory term for black people that caused outrage.

He also parodied reaction to Tony Blair’s arrival in Congo saying that “the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down”.

Johnson also suggested last year that former US President Barack Obama’s concerns about Brexit were due to the prejudices of a “half-Kenyan”.

Source: ODN/YouTube

Migration

As part of his tour of Africa, Johnson also said tackling the migration crisis was “something that is absolutely vital for Europe as much as Africa.”

Gambia accounts for more citizens per capita taking boats across the Mediterreanan to Italy than any other.

Johnson additionally promised support for justice reform in the Gambia, after the new government declared it would overhaul its prisons after shocking footage was released of conditions inside.

Gambia Britain Gambian President Adama Barrow meets Johnson. Source: Kuku Marong/AP

A British special advisor will be appointed to aid the justice ministry and attorney-general as the country reforms a sector tarred by allegations of rights abuses.

In a show of confidence in the Gambian tourist industry, which is dominated by British sunseekers, Johnson took a commercial flight to Banjul.

- With reporting by © – AFP 2017

Read: Boris Johnson faces awkward grilling over “rich thesaurus” of diplomatics gaffes >

Read: Boris Johnson accuses Saudi Arabia of being a ‘puppeteer’ in the Middle East’s religious wars >

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Rónán Duffy

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