By Paul Ndiho
The Commonwealth’s 54th member state Rwanda was inducted into the association with a flag raising ceremony at Marlborough House in London. Rwandan President Paul Kagame says that joining the Commonwealth of Nations is an important milestone for his country
Greeted by drummers and dancers from his country, President Paul Kagame was welcomed to Marlborough House, home of the Commonwealth secretariat in London. Rwanda became the 54th member of the Commonwealth at a summit in Trinidad and Tobago in November. Along with Mozambique, Rwanda becomes the second nation without formal historical ties to Great Britain to join the group.
“I hope that Rwanda can capitalize on the wide range of education and training programs that the Commonwealth provides. Secondly, we hope to tap into the trade and investment opportunities that the Commonwealth offers so that Rwanda can expand its economy and effectively participate in the global marketplace.”
Rwanda’s accession to the Commonwealth of Nations was approved in November 2009, despite objections by human rights groups that questioned whether the country meets standards of political freedom and human rights. Kagame defended his country against such criticisms.
“The Commonwealth is a family where there are many failings and failings don’t come from only one part of that family. Each family has its own failings, but when they come together they share good practices to overcome those failings.”
Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma says the group will have a close collaboration with Rwanda on a wide range of issues, including civic education, training of journalists and other areas in the run-up to elections in Rwanda later this year.
“The Commonwealth’s decision to welcome Rwanda was a collective act of goodwill and of affirmation and Rwanda’s willingness to engage on the values the Commonwealth embraces.”
Rwanda’s bid to join the group was supported by Britain, Australia, Canada and India. It also had the backing of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and the host country Trinidad and Tobago, among others. As part of Rwanda’s induction to the Commonwealth of Nations, President Kagame and his wife enjoyed a private lunch with Britain’s Queen Elizabeth.
By Paul Ndiho