Africa: Commonwealth Statement, 7/27/97

Africa: Commonwealth Statement, 7/27/97

Africa: Commonwealth Statement

Date distributed (ymd): 970727

Document reposted by APIC

This posting contains the Concluding Statement from the July 10-11, 1997 meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG). CMAG was established by Commonwealth leaders when they last met in New Zealand in November 1995 to deal with serious or persistent violations of the Harare Declaration, the statement of Commonwealth principles drawn up in 1991. These include a commitment to democracy, good governance, human rights and the rule of law.

CMAG comprises Ministers from Britain, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe. It is chaired by the Hon. Dr Stan Mudenge, Foreign Minister of Zimbabwe.

For more information, contact:

Information and Public Affairs Division Commonwealth Secretariat Marlborough House, Pall Mall London SW1Y 5HX, Britain Tel: +171 839 3411; Fax: +171 839 9081 Web:

The Amnesty International memorandum on Nigeria submitted to the CMAG meeting is available on the World Wide Web at:


Commonwealth News Release

11 July 1997


Marlborough House, 10-11 July 1997


1. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group on the Harare Declaration (CMAG) held its seventh meeting at Marlborough House in London on 10-11 July 1997 to review developments in the Gambia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone and to consider preparations for its Report to the October 1997 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

The Gambia

2. The Group welcomed the report of the Commonwealth Secretariat Assessment Mission which visited The Gambia on 24-27 March 1997 and requested the Secretary-General to implement its recommendations for technical assistance in consolidating the democratic transition.

3. At the same time, it reiterated its previous concern about the lack of a fully inclusive political system in the Gambia. In that context, CMAG urged the Government of The Gambia to remove without further delay the ban on certain political parties and individuals contained in Decree No. 89 and, in the political environment so created, demonstrate its stated commitment to human rights and the rule of law. Furthermore, CMAG called on the Government of The Gambia to investigate allegations of harassment of the Opposition.


4. Recalling the statement made by its Chairman in Abuja in November 1996 that "CMAG will, in pursuance of its mandate, remain engaged with Nigeria and seek to have access to the widest possible cross-section of views from Nigeria", the Group received oral presentations from a number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and representatives of Nigerian civil society. These included four Nigerian NGOs, viz. the National Democratic Coalition of Nigeria, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, the Democratic Alliance of Women in Nigeria, and the Civil Liberties Organisation. CMAG also heard representations from three pan-Commonwealth organisations - namely, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, the Commonwealth Trade Union Council and the Commonwealth Lawyers' Association - as well as from three international groups, viz Amnesty International, Article 19 (which also represented Human Rights Watch/Africa) and the International Crisis Group.

5. The representations made to CMAG expressed strong concerns over what was seen as a deteriorating situation in respect of human rights and the rule of law in Nigeria. Equally strong concerns were raised about the Nigerian Government's transition programme, which is perceived as being pursued without unfettered and free participation, as well as its likely outcome. The representation also raised the question of the growing numbers of Nigerian exiles in neighbouring and other countries and their need for assistance. CMAG was urged by all to recommend the CHOGM more effective measures to be taken by the Commonwealth and the wider international community to persuade Nigeria to live up to its commitments under the Harare Commonwealth Declaration.

6. The information which CMAG gathered from these exchanges with the NGOs was considered to be extremely useful and will, along with the information already gathered from the Nigerian Government and other sources, inform the Group's deliberations and eventual recommendations to Commonwealth Heads of Government.

Sierra Leone

7. CMAG, recalling statements by its Chairman and the Commonwealth Secretary-General and by others, including the Summit of the Organisation of African Unity, condemned the military "coup d'etat" of 25 May 1997 in Sierra Leone which resulted in the overthrow of the democratically elected government. The Group called for the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of the democratically elected government of Sierra Leone under President Tejan Kabbah. It urged the international community to continue to deny recognition to the present illegal regime in Freetown and decided, in accordance with the Milbrook Action Programme, that pending the restoration of the legitimate government, the participation of Sierra Leone in the councils of the Commonwealth would be suspended.

8. The Group welcomed the efforts to restore the legitimate Government of Sierra Leone currently being undertaken by the Economic Community of West African States. At the same time, the Group took note that these efforts were being taken in accordance with the decision taken by the OAU and that they were being carried out in co-ordination with the United Nations. CMAG called on the international community fully to support the objectives of these efforts.

Next meeting

9. CMAG decided to hold its next meeting in London on 11-12 September 1997 to formulate its recommendations to CHOGM.


Message-Id: <> From: "Africa Policy Information Center" <> Date: Sun, 27 Jul 1997 16:26:06 -0500 Subject: Africa: Commonwealth Statement

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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