The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM 2022) officially opened in Kigali on Friday, with President Paul Kagame, the incoming chair-in-office for the next two years, calling on members to focus on addressing challenges faced by citizens of the Commonwealth, whose lives were set back by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The opening ceremony at Kigali Convention Centre (KCC) was attended by the Prince of Wales, who represented Queen Elizabeth II, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, Heads of State and representatives of leaders of 53 countries as well as invited guests, who included the Emir of Qatar, invited by President Kagame.
In his speech, President Kagame paid tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for her leadership of the Commonwealth over the past 70 years and painted a picture of the years to come, stating that “the Commonwealth we need is on the frontlines of global challenges, not on the periphery watching events and unfold.”
Below is the Full Speech by President Kagame as delivered.
Your Excellency Secretary-general
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen.
It’s a pleasure and honour to welcome you to the 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, the 6th in Africa and the first since our world was turned upside down by a devastating pandemic.
We join together to pay tribute to Her Majesty the Queen, The head of the Commonwealth and its most devoted champion.
Over her 70 years of service, the Commonwealth has grown both in numbers and in the scope of its ambition. 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.
The Commonwealth does not replace other institutions, it adds to them. That’s why we always have important special guests with us. This year, let me recognize in particular, His Highness, the Emir of Qatar and I thank him for being here with us.
The Commonwealth we need is on the frontlines of global challenges, not on the periphery watching events and unfold.
Our special strength is to bring issues into focus that might otherwise be overlooked. For instance, the way that climate change puts the very existence of small islands and developing States into jeopardy or the possibility to transcend size and geography, by leveraging new technologies to create high-quality global jobs for our youth right at home.
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.
And whatever might fall short, we find solutions through consensus and dialogue. We build each other and we move forward together.
In closing, I want to welcome you all to Rwanda. 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.
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.
We are delighted that through CHOGM, you have the opportunity to get to know us and we aim to repay that trust with many years of continued friendship. I thank you.