Former French colonies Gabon and Togo are the 55th and 56th members, respectively, of the Commonwealth.
At the concluding session of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, representatives of the Commonwealth accepted bids from the two West African nations. It comes after formal interest declarations from Gabon and Togo and dialogue with member nations.
In 2009, Rwanda became the final nation to join the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, welcomed the news and called the new members “vibrant countries.” She expressed her excitement to have them join the Commonwealth family and commit to upholding its ideals.
“The Commonwealth, which began as eight nations in 1949, is growing to 56. Our continued growth, beyond the scope of our history, reflects the advantages of Commonwealth membership and the strength of our association,” Ms Scotland said.
Two million people live in the thinly populated nation of Gabon, which is bordered by the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, and Cameroon, which is also a Commonwealth member.
Ghana, a Commonwealth member, Benin, and Burkina Faso border Togo. There are about 7.8 million people living there.
Since both countries gained independence from France in the 1960s, neither has a long history of membership in the Commonwealth.
The eligibility requirements for Commonwealth membership include, among other things, the requirement that a candidate nation show commitment to democracy and democratic processes, including free and fair elections and representative legislatures, the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary, good governance, including a well-trained public service and transparent public accounts, as well as protection of human rights, freedom of expression, and equality of opportunity.
With a total population of nearly 2.5 billion, the Commonwealth is a voluntary alliance of 54 (and, as of today, 56) autonomous, equal sovereign states.