What a difference a week makes

2009 will be seen as a momentous year for Rwanda. Just a year ago things were very different; Rwanda took a gamble in taking on more powerful nations and looks to have won. The sudden arrest of Rose Kabuye risked upsetting relations with Western countries and the wider EU.

2009 will be seen as a momentous year for Rwanda. Just a year ago things were very different; Rwanda took a gamble in taking on more powerful nations and looks to have won. The sudden arrest of Rose Kabuye risked upsetting relations with Western countries and the wider EU.

However within a week we have had a sea change in our global orientation; we joined the Commonwealth, restored diplomatic relations with France and the Congolese embassy is up and running.

This is important in both a regional and global sense. In restoring full diplomatic relations with Congo we are opening possibilities for the East African Community, our future.

In joining the Commonwealth we are embracing fully the Anglophone world, another aspect of our future. However, more importantly we are moving to resolve our past a détente with France.

I am hopeful that relations with France will be better than before for two reasons. France has lost a lot of ground recently in the region.

The Chinese in particular have taken up their former mining concessions in Congo. Secondly, France is taking a more regional approach using the EU as its main foreign affairs platform, therefore it doesn’t think as colonially or as selfishly as it used to.

Ghana is similar to Rwanda having joined the Francophone group without ever being a French-speaking nation historically.

In joining the Commonwealth we are joining a global movement that is looking to define itself in this new century, it is up to Rwanda to make its mark and not just be another country at the summit.

The benefits are plenty, we will be closely linked to nations that are defining global policy such as Great Britain, Canada, Australia, India, as well as nations in a similar economic predicament.

In this globalised world, organisations like the Commonwealth are still vital in driving global trade. The world order we live in was defined by the colonial era and former colonies still trade among each other.

In accepting Rwanda and  Mozambique, the Commonwealth is choosing to look outward and not be an exclusive club. Its cultural significance is not in doubt; it is in the economic sphere that we need to cooperate more closely to make this a real viable option.

The Commonwealth should have a stronger say at the Copenhagen Consensus because it is a truly global organisation that can deliver a bloc vote.

Most regional organisations are somewhat homogeneous; the EU is a bloc of wealthy nations.

Only the Commonwealth has a deeply varied group of members ranging from the first world to the third world. It is the only Group where a half-naked but majestic Polynesian king can sit on equal terms with the Queen of England and Presidents.

Therefore it is best placed to advocate for a wide-range of humanity who all have a common history and similar aspirations for the future.

Rama Isibo is a regular contributor.

ramaisibo@hotmail.com

 

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