A journey to the Commonwealth

Most foreign policies that history has marked highly, in whatever country, have been originated by leaders who were opposed by experts. Henry A. Kissinger.Rwanda was over the weekend admitted into the Commonwealth of Nations. The former Belgian colony becomes the 54th member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and the second after Mozambique also not a former British colony. 

Most foreign policies that history has marked highly, in whatever country, have been originated by leaders who were opposed by experts. Henry A. Kissinger

Rwanda was over the weekend admitted into the Commonwealth of Nations. The former Belgian colony becomes the 54th member of the Commonwealth of Nations, and the second after Mozambique also not a former British colony. 

Rwanda’s entry into the Commonwealth of Nations was, however, not without its own human drama and intrigue.  

There are those who went into over-drive in the weeks leading to Sunday’s Port of Spain meeting, whose intention was to influence the agenda and its outcome - - their position being Rwanda should not be admitted into the grouping. 

The different forces made up of certain human rights groups, political opportunists, revisionists and negationists of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, united in their call for Rwanda not to be admitted.

They used every medium that could entertain them to vent at the leadership in Kigali. 

Indeed, a strange mix of bedfellows, but however, in retrospect one can pick out some of the essential flaws and areas of concern that were exposed in their campaign leading to the Commonwealth meeting. 

Post – CHOGM, it is therefore instructive for us to unpack the issues they raised, the manner they did so and the outcomes they received. 

Their approach was based solely on an overriding desire to discredit the leadership in Kigali. 

From the onset to sum it all, what was quite clear in the approach taken by the groupings was the lack of a strategy and absence of  a legitimate cause or agenda, compounded by their failure to read the situation on the ground in Kigali.   

They failed to read the progress that was being made by Rwanda’s leadership on the diplomatic front, culminating in the thunderous beating drums of victory with the weekend announcement on the restoration of diplomatic ties with the French Government.  

The campaigners were proved to be out of context, ignorant, if not totally patronizing, when at one point they even insinuated that Rwanda’s admission into the Commonwealth would rest on French President, Nicolas Sakorzy’s position, whom they boasted in the international media, had been invited to the Summit, ostensibly to deal with the Kigali leadership.

Out of context, because by going through the whole application process the leadership in Kigali, was breaking from its past, was making a statement that 15 years after the Genocide against the Tutsi, it was time to move on.

In sheer ignorance the groups could not smell the coffee that affairs in Kigali are no longer determined in Paris which in this case was their last trump card.   

But the last laugh was in Kigali, when President Paul Kagame and his French counterpart announced that they had resumed diplomatic ties.   

By their own admission the groups later lamented their failure to make an impact on the overall agenda of the Commonwealth Summit.

However, one would then be quick to point out that the dishonest and manipulative manner they handled their Rwanda campaign, can perhaps go down history as the best example of naïve diplomatic bungling.  

Anyone who followed the discredited campaign cannot help but be bemused at the fact that even to date as the dust settles on CHOGM, wondering what the hullabaloo was all about.

Consequently, what was exposed once again is that the human rights agenda is not a constant battle, people out of goodwill embark on, but rather that, it is manipulated for certain political outcomes or ends.  
Enter Professor Yash Ghai.

It is a no brainer that putting lipstick on a bull-frog will not make it beautiful, it only becomes uglier, if not a ridiculous sight.  

The anti-Rwanda campaign was based on a discredited old script that has been used over and over again, necessitating a juicy element of intellectual expertise in the form of academic Ghai to dress it up and make it more acceptable to skeptics. 

Ghai whose questionable academic and political credentials in his own home (Kenya) I will not go into, was supposed to be the researcher, whose report would determine Rwanda’s entry and the eventual fate, I can imagine of Rwanda’s leadership. 

Disregard any temptation to talk about methodology, time frames, content or any other variables used to come up with a credible research, the Commonwealth was about to be sold a dummy. 

Disheartening in the postulations is the element of ethnic stereotyping, a common thread running in most of these reports, the whipping up sentiments referring to what the report characterized as ‘Tutsi elites’, meant to induce feelings of mistrust and alienating them from the rest of humankind.   

Notwithstanding, the painful historical context of the Genocide ideology which achieved just that, dehumanize the Tutsi by calling them ‘inyenzi’, ‘cockroaches’, ‘snakes’, and the rest is history with socially acceptable and justified massacres. 

So one wonders whether it is merely coincidental that the same characterizations and attempts at dehumanization, have come back clothed in human rights lingo.    

My point being, we have shona elites, ndebele elites, xhosa elites, zulu elites, luo elites, kikuyu elites, but nowhere is the anti-elite agenda so overstated the way it is against Kigali.

Based on these double standards, contradictions, and perhaps the eventual defeat the groups suffered, one can only conclude that the road to the Commonwealth was indeed a rocky one, with many lessons learnt.

gkwinjeh@gmail.com

 

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