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Gabon, Togo admitted into Commonwealth group of nations

KIGALI, RWANDA (AP) – The African nations of Gabon and Togo have been admitted into the Commonwealth group of nations.

“We welcome them,” Rwandan President Paul Kagame, whose government hosted a summit of Commonwealth leaders this week, told reporters.

Gabon and Togo are Francophone countries that actively tried to join the bloc of 54 nations. The Commonwealth’s titular head is Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. Prince Charles represented his mother at the summit in Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

The admission of the two new members was a highlight of the summit. The meeting, which closed last Saturday, also raised over USD4 billion in pledges toward the fight against malaria and other tropical diseases.

The summit took place at an uncertain time for the British monarchy as well as the Commonwealth, whose relevance is sometimes questioned.

Even as the Commonwealth appears attractive to prospective members, some existing member nations are discussing whether to remove the queen as their head of state.

Elizabeth is the head of state of 14 Commonwealth realms, but Barbados cut ties with the monarchy in November. Several other Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, said they plan to follow suit. Charles told the summit “free” nations can make such decisions “calmly and without rancor”.