LONDON - Yesterday, Rwanda’s flag was raised at Marlborough House, the headquarters of the Commonwealth, in London, in a ceremony to officially welcome the country as the 54th member.
President Paul Kagame, who attended the ceremony, expressed Rwanda’s readiness to take advantage of existing opportunities that include trade, education and culture.
Addressing a gathering which included the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Patrick Manning, who is also the chair-in-office and the Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma, President Paul Kagame thanked the Commonwealth group for accepting Rwanda’s entry and pledged the country’s active and fully integrated role in the club.
“Rwanda recognizes the strengths of these partnerships – this is why we greatly value our membership in the Commonwealth, like we do with other organizations,” Kagame said.
“As the newest member of the Commonwealth, Rwanda is prepared to establish stronger bonds with fellow members in a number of important areas”.
Kagame added that by associating with other countries in several areas, through sharing common values, Rwanda is able to learn from others and build on its own home-grown solutions for a brighter future.
“Firstly, the future of all nations depends on their youth, and so I hope that Rwanda can capitalise on the wide range of education and training programmes 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,” Kagame observed.
He noted that, at the same time in the context of mutual learning, Rwanda will also play its role in sharing her successful experiences, not only from its recent past, but also its traditions and culture.
“Rwanda is committed to the values of the Commonwealth and will contribute to strengthening the organisation, furthering our mutual development agendas, and working in close partnership with other members to promote prosperity, freedom and rights for all,” Kagame asserted.
Shortly after the flag raising ceremony, President Kagame, alongside Prime Minister Manning and Sharma, addressed a news conference.
Manning defended the idea of countries joining various blocs or organisations, arguing that there are particular interests that may arise.
Secretary General Sharma, formally welcomed Rwanda into the group and pledged the Commonwealth’s commitment to engage with Rwanda in various areas of development.
“I think the gods agreed, Mr President, that this is a very special occasion, and we look forward to installing your membership formally here,” Sharma told President Kagame.
“I just want to say that from now on, we are going to have a very dense roadmap of collaboration with Rwanda, in which I, myself, and the two Deputy Secretaries-General who are present here, will be personally engaged in carrying it forward,” he said.
Sharma said that the Commonwealth already has an electoral commission to conduct civic education, train journalists and engage in many of the areas that are coming up, adding that his recent interaction with officials in the areas of audit, women, youth, human rights, budget and others will provide an action plan.