Commonwealth team upbeat about Rwanda’s CHOGM preparedness

(R - L) Louise Alice, The Head of the Commonwealth Unit in the Foreign Commonwealth Office with The British High Commissioner Jo Lomas during an exclusive interview at the British High Commission last week. / Emmanuel Kwizera

A team from the UK’ Foreign Commonwealth Office has commended Rwanda’s preparations to host the 26th Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting next year, also known as CHOGM 2020.

The United Kingdom hosted CHOGM in April last year.

In an exclusive interview with The New Times, the Head of the Commonwealth Unit in the Foreign Commonwealth Office; Louise Alice whose team was in the country to offer experience and support regarding CHOGM 2020 said that Rwanda’s preparedness was laudable over a year to the meeting.

“We are in Rwanda offering experience and support from hosting commonwealth heads of state meeting last year. We have been meeting with the CHOGM task force who have taken us through their preparations for next year and I have to say that we are very impressed because their preparations are very well advanced,” she said.

Alice said that before last week, her team had been in Rwanda in November last year and regular discussions continue to help Rwanda achieve its objectives of organising a successful event.

She pointed out that the visit also falls within the role of the UK as as chairing office for two years since last year.

For instance, she explained that as organisers of the last meeting, the UK hosted representatives from all 53 member countries, 43 leaders, 49 foreign ministers as well as hosting four forums bringing together 5,000 to 6,000 delegates in total.

From that, leaders made decisions on four key areas focusing on creating a more sustainable, more secure, more prosperous and fairer society for all commonwealth citizens.

“After that, we took on the role of chairing office and that is a role the host takes on for the two years until the next CHOGM. We are using that role to drive forward the delivery of commitments they signed up to,” she said.

Assurances on equality

Alice reminded that despite the size or economy, the Commonwealth operated on the basis of consensus pointing out no country stands out amongst all the rest, has a greater voice or greater say on issues.

“We have small and large countries, developing countries and developed ones but it is important to note that it operates on basis of consensus. Everyone has to agree on the way forward in the focus areas. Everyone has an equal voice and comes together collectively giving the organization some sort of nice family feel,” she said.

In addition, the British High Commissioner; Jo Lomas said that though there are times when there is a wrong perception that the UK runs the Commonwealth; the meeting preparations will be solely in the hands of Rwandans.  

“Sometimes there is a wrong perception that the UK runs the Commonwealth. We are not here to tell people what to do; we are here to provide support. At the end of the day, CHOGM in Kigali is going to be very uniquely Rwandan. We want to support them where they deem it helpful because we have hosted before,” she said.

Rwanda’s progress

The Minister of Foreign Affairs; Richard Sezibera told The New Times recently that the government has already set up teams both on the technical and political fronts to organize a successful CHOGM.

“Preparations for CHOGM have started at the technical level, there is broad involvement of sectors, different ministries, institutions, women’s and youth groups and the private sector. Preparations are going well, sites have been identified. CHOGM is beyond government.

“It will be a great opportunity for Rwanda and Rwandans,” he said.



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