Togo and Gabon were admitted to the Commonwealth of Nations, bringing the number of countries in the bloc to 56, an official announced Saturday.
The two historically French-speaking countries were officially admitted to the grouping at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Rwanda's capital of Kigali with new chairperson Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Admission is based on the assessment of several standards such as the democratic process, good governance and rule of law, said Patricia Scotland, secretary-general of the organization.
It was at the end of the meeting's consultation of heads of state and government that the decision was made.
The two African countries were never British colonies.
Togo's Foreign Minister Robert Dussey told reporters that the country's motivation for joining the Commonwealth was to expand its diplomatic, political and economic network.
Gabonese Foreign Minister Michael Moussa Adamo also said that joining would boost the country's economic diversification while maintaining relations with France.
Gabon's President Ali Bongo believes joining the Commonwealth is about modernization.
The Central African nation's process of formally joining the Commonwealth started five years ago, while Togo, located in West Africa, began in 2014.
Rwanda became a member of the group in 2009. While the Commonwealth is an association of former British colonies, Rwanda, like Mozambique, which joined in 1995, also was never colonized by the British.
Leaders recommit on coronavirus, climate change
Commonwealth leaders recommitted to collaborating efforts aimed at overcoming the coronavirus pandemic which devastated lives and economies, according to the final communique by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
The heads of state “resolved to continue to work in cooperation with national, regional, and international partners to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and transition towards longer term COVID-19 control,” it said.
Control efforts would include supporting universal, fair, timely, equitable and nondiscriminatory access to and distribution of safe, efficacious, and affordable COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
They also underscored the importance of connecting, innovating and transforming to facilitate a full recovery from the pandemic, it said.
On climate change, the heads of state renewed their commitment under the Paris Agreement to keep the increase in global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
They agreed to strengthen the Commonwealth Secretariat to focus on global insecurities in food, energy and climate, according to the statement.
With regard to the Russia-Ukraine war, the leaders emphasized that all countries must seek a peaceful resolution to all disputes in accordance with international law.
Held under the theme: "Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming," the meeting of the heads of governments from 54 Commonwealth countries discussed ways the bloc could transform societies in contemporary times.