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Zimbabwe applies to rejoin Commonwealth

May 21, 2018

Zimbabwe has applied to re-join the Commonwealth and invited observers to attend its general elections. The move is a major step towards re-engaging with the international community after Robert Mugabe's ouster.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/T. Mukwazhi

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa officially applied for his country to re-join the Commonwealth almost 15 years after it left, the group said on Monday.

Announcing the application in a statement posted on Twitter, the Commonwealth said Mnangagwa made the application in a letter sent on May 15.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said in a statement that the member states "very much look forward to Zimbabwe's return when the conditions are right."

"Zimbabwe's eventual return to the Commonwealth, following a successful membership application, would be a momentous occasion, given our shared rich history," Scotland said.

Read moreEmmerson Mnangagwa: the Crocodile who snapped back

Under former leader Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe left the voluntary grouping of mostly former British colonies in 2003.

Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980, had been suspended by the group for violent and disputed elections as well as the seizure of land from white farmers which triggered a national economic collapse.

Mnangagwa replaced Mugabe as leader following a de facto army coup last November.

Observers invited to election

In the letter, Mnangagwa also invited Commonwealth officials to observe Zimbabwe's general elections which are due to take place in July.

The presidential, parliamentary and council elections will be the southern African nation's first big democratic test.

In order to become a member of the Commonwealth, Zimbabwe must show that it adheres to the group's core values including democracy and rule of law as well as the protection of human rights including freedom of expression, the group said in a statement.

Read moreZimbabwe marks 'new independence,' minus Mugabe

The membership application process includes an informal assessment of the situation in Zimbabwe as well as consultations with other member states.

If its application were to be accepted, Zimbabwe would be the fifth country to re-join the Commonwealth. The group is currently comprised of 53 countries, mainly former British colonies, representing 2.4 billion people.

rs/rc (AFP, Reuters)

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