CHOGM 2022Today, all roads led to Kigali Convention Centre (KCC), the iconic building in the heart of Rwanda’s capital city for the opening of 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting(CHOGM 2022).
Opening speeches were delivered from the main room, 5000 people capacity, full to capacity with a common belief that “this CHOGM has been a long time coming”.
This was rightly said because Rwanda was chosen to host CHOGM back in 2018. The bi-annual meeting would have come in 2020, but it was disrupted by the threats of COVID-19 and postponed twice.
With this in mind, Secretary General of Commonwealth Patricia Scotland found it legitimate to start her remarks with a call to participants to join her in paying tribute to victims of COVID-19 pandemic which is slowing down but has left behind distresses.
“The period since we last gathered together has been marked with sorrow,” she said.
“More than 1 million of our brothers and sisters across the Commonwealth, from all walks of life, including Heads of Government, have died. And as we formally open this vital meeting, I invite you all to join with me in a moment of silent reflection in memory of them all.”
Indeed, all the speakers including President Paul Kagame, the host, UK’s Prime Minister and current chair of Commonwealth Borris Johnson and the Prince of Wales who doubles as the next head of Commonwealth outlined the devastating consequences of COVID-19.
But, the Commonwealth does not want to be held back by either the effect of the pandemic, or other challenges of the moment rather, it seeks to overcome them all.
Some of these challenges were mentioned by the Prince of Wales including; climate change and biodiversity loss and many lives lost to violent forces.
The Prince of Wales suggests that each Commonwealth member’s constitutional arrangement as republic or monarchy, it’s purely a matter of each member country to decide.
But, his experience allows to affirm that such arrangements can change, but, in order to thrive, Commonwealth should hold onto its values that never change.
“We should never forget the things which do not change…close partnership between commonwealth members, our common values and shared goals and perhaps most importantly, the strong and enduring connexion between the peoples of Commonwealth which strengths all,” the Prince of Wales said.
President Kagame shares this view. He said: “We are united by a shared language, whether English is our first second, third or even fourth one. But what really defines us are the values enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter and the commitment to good governance, the rule of law and the protection of rights. That’s why we shall always remain open to new voices and the new members.”
To achieve a greater future however, the Prince agrees that it is important to among others, leave behind the dark past those characterised communities and embrace reconciliation.
He mentioned the case of Canada where indigenous communities met other citizens to work on past grievances, “to lay a foundation of respect and understanding how the future can be built.”
The Resilient Host Country
The Prince of Wales spoke at the CHOGM 2022 opening, but during the week, he had met several other people to understand the host country’s history and future perceptions.
He visited the Kigali Genocide memorial where more than 250,000 victims of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi lay to rest.
The Genocide cost lives of one million Tutsi between April and July 1994.
“Visiting the Genocide memorial and speaking to survivors, I have been overwhelmed by resilience, grace and determination of Rwandan People,” the Prince said.
He understands that in the wake of the tragedy, Rwanda was not held back, rather, it worked hard and today, it has become a “centre for innovation, world leader in women empowerment a hub for the green economy, characterised by a commitment to the united future.”
On this President Kagame reaffirmed Rwanda’s identity.
“Ours is a country that was torn apart by Genocide and divisions just a generation ago. Today we are a nation transformed in heart, mind and body,” the President said.
“Three-quarters of our population are young people with no memory of those events. Everything we do, including joining the commoners in 2009, is aimed at making sure that our people are connected, included and forward-looking.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson mentioned some of the issues that affected and are still affecting members of Commonwealth.
“At this moment, nearly 25 million tons of corn and wheat is piled up in silos across Ukraine, held hostage by Russia. Britain supports the United Nations plan to get that food out and we will invest over 370 million pounds in Global food security, this year including 130 million pounds for the World Food Program,” he said.
The British PM is handing over to President Paul Kagame as chair of Commonwealth.
He said at the opening: “I am honoured to perform the final duty of the United Kingdom, as chair-in-office of The Commonwealth and handover the baton to President Kagame. I wish him every success as chair of our unique association, encompassing 54 countries and a third of humanities.
At CHOGM 2022, thirty five Heads of Government among other high official delegates represented the 54 country members.
CHOGM 2022 is taking place under a peaceful climate in a country of a thousand hills-Rwanda. Security, cleanness and epic hospitality are among the assets the guests have noted.