Zimbabwe applies to return to the Commonwealth

Zimbabwe has applied to re-join the Commonwealth 15 years after the country withdrew its membership. The application was officially filed by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland confirmed in a statement that President Mnangagwa made the application on May 15, Reuters reported.

“Zimbabwe’s eventual return to the Commonwealth, following a successful membership application, would be a momentous occasion, given our shared rich history,” Scotland said in the statement.

To rejoin, however, Zimbabwe must go through an assessment followed by consultations with other members states, the statement said. The Commonwealth secretariat plans to send observers to monitor the country’s elections in July, following an invitation from the Zimbabwean government, it added.

Robert Mugabe, who was replaced by Mnangagwa after a military takeover in November, withdrew Zimbabwe’s membership out of the Commonwealth in 2003, after the country’s suspension was renewed that year.

This followed the country’s first suspension from the Commonwealth in 2002 on the grounds that Mugabe, who had ruled the country since independence, had a hand in graft-ridden elections that year and persecuted his opponents. Asides coming under criticism over disputed elections, Mugabe was also criticized over land seizures from white farmers.

“Very much look forward to Zimbabwe’s return when the conditions are right,” Scotland said in the statement from London. Last month, Britain it would strongly support Zimbabwe returning to the Commonwealth.

Under the presidency of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe dominated Commonwealth affairs, creating acrimonious splits in the organization. Mugabe’s government was accused of abusing human rights, rigging elections, undermining the Zimbabwean economy. The matters his Government was accused of contravene the basic principles of the Commonwealth, as outlined in the Harare Declaration, issued at the 1991 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.

Election observers will produce a report that will form part of an informal assessment used to determine Zimbabwe’s re-admission, Scotland noted.

The country’s imminent presidential, parliamentary and council elections will serve as a test of Mnangagwa’s democratic credentials. If Mnangagwa excels according to the standard of Western powers, there is a high possibility that international lenders could begin lending to the country for the first time in 20 years.