Commonwealth leaders meet in Rwanda amid criticism of host's rights record

accreditation
0:00
play article
Subscribers can listen to this article
  • Commonwealth leaders met in Rwanda on Friday.
  • There is criticism on the country's human rights record.
  • Rwanda joined the 54-member Commonwealth in 2009.


Commonwealth leaders met in Kigali on Friday to discuss cooperation on topics from trade to health to climate, against a backdrop of criticism of host Rwanda's human rights record and of a British policy to deport asylum seekers there.

READ | Focus on Rwanda as Commonwealth summit gets under way

The Commonwealth, a club of 54 countries most of which are former British colonies, encompasses about a third of humanity and presents itself as a network of equal partners with shared goals such as democracy, peace and prosperity.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame said in a speech at the opening ceremony:

The fact of holding this meeting in Rwanda, a new member with no historical connection to the British Empire, expresses our choice to continue reimagining the Commonwealth for a changing world.

Rwanda joined in 2009.

The opening ceremony was attended by 29 heads of state and government. The other member states, including South Africa, India, Pakistan, Australia and New Zealand, sent delegations led by ministers or diplomats.

Britain's Prince Charles was there, representing his 96-year-old mother Queen Elizabeth who is the head of the Commonwealth. Charles is due to succeed her, a plan being questioned by some Caribbean members.

The leaders will hold two days of talks behind closed doors.


One item on the agenda will be applications by former French colonies Togo and Gabon to join the Commonwealth, a sign of disenchantment within France's sphere of influence in Africa and of the attractions of an English-speaking club.

The theme of the summit, "Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming", offered few clues as to what outcomes were expected.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and his w
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (L) and his wife Carrie Johnson arrive at a welcome reception and state banquet hosted by the President of Rwanda on day four of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), in Kigali. Leaders of Commonwealth countries meet every two years for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), hosted by different member countries on a rotating basis. Since 1971, a total of 24 meetings have been held, with the most recent being in the UK in 2018.

At previous summits, leaders have agreed on declarations and targets on specific challenges such as malaria, and some of the richer members have pledged funding for specific initiatives.

Earlier this month, 24 civil society groups including Human Rights Watch said the Commonwealth's human rights mandate would be undermined if leaders failed to challenge Rwanda on its record.

They said the Rwandan government was responsible for abusive prosecutions, harassment and torture of dissidents, which Rwanda denies.


The hosting of the summit by Rwanda has also kept the spotlight on Britain's controversial policy to deport asylum seekers to the country.

Prince Charles was reported by British media to have described it as "appalling", an uneasy backdrop to his interactions with Kagame and with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the summit.

Johnson, asked by Reuters on Thursday if he would visit detention centres prepared by the Rwandan authorities to receive asylum seekers from Britain, said he was working "flat out" and would not be able to.


Never miss a story. Choose from our range of newsletters to get the news you want delivered straight to your inbox.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Zama zama crackdown: What are your thoughts on West Village residents taking the law into their own hands?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Authorities should bring in the army already
11% - 2202 votes
Illegal miners can't be scapegoated for all crime
49% - 9877 votes
What else did we expect without no proper policing
37% - 7425 votes
Vigilante groups are also part of the problem
4% - 743 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
16.57
-1.1%
Rand - Pound
20.05
-1.0%
Rand - Euro
16.86
-1.1%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.53
-0.1%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-0.6%
Gold
1,772.81
-0.2%
Silver
19.92
-1.1%
Palladium
2,146.00
-0.7%
Platinum
929.50
-0.9%
Brent Crude
92.34
-3.0%
Top 40
64,189
-0.8%
All Share
70,992
-0.7%
Resource 10
63,023
-3.6%
Industrial 25
87,473
+0.5%
Financial 15
16,232
-0.0%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE