Tally ho, old boy, we’re in the Commonwealth now

The last official act of joining the commonwealth was completed this week with the raising of the Rwandan flag at Marlborough House in London. This has to be momentous for Rwanda but the effects will be felt gradually. Even after the worst colonialism had to offer, the colonised realised they had more in common with each other than other nations.

The last official act of joining the commonwealth was completed this week with the raising of the Rwandan flag at Marlborough House in London.

This has to be momentous for Rwanda but the effects will be felt gradually. Even after the worst colonialism had to offer, the colonised realised they had more in common with each other than other nations.

The best thing about growing up in the Commonwealth, as I lived in Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Britain was the commonality.

When I met any person from the Commonwealth we had a bond in language, literature, laws, ethics, and culture. This was because my friends from India or Zimbabwe had similar upbringings to mine.

The fact that Rwanda spoke French meant that it could not integrate regionally; it had to remain firmly under the sphere of Belgium and then France. Now Rwanda is taking a different course, to define its own destiny.

In the Bible there is a story of the tower of Babel, man united and tried to build a tower to heaven. Then God divided man with languages so we would never try such hubris again.

The world is now starting to speak one language but not French or Chinese or English. Computer programming languages are more universal and important than tongue languages. That shows the importance of the Commonwealth in the 21st century, to make these invisible cultural bonds into physical bonds in the form of wires and fibre-optics.

The Commonwealth has often held India as its crown jewel but Africa is the next growth hotspot behind the BRIC countries. Indeed they say that any money invested in Africa gains on average 11% compared to 3% in Europe.

Joining the East African Community will make it easier to acclimatise to the Commonwealth. Cooperation with Asian commonwealth nations such as Singapore and Malaysia is high and will continue.

Rwandans have to take advantage of this in a business sense; it is no good for us to join just to attend summits and compete in the games. We have to create business ties; our traders should visit markets other than Dubai and China, the main source of our imported goods.

There are 1.2 billion Indians waiting to trade with Rwanda, we must access such a huge market or membership is pointless.

The fact that Rwanda has no colonial ties with Britain means we start with a clean slate. Quite often nations have to get over their painful colonial history before they can cooperate fully with their former power.

That is the same reason Ghana is very comfortable in Franceafrique, the French never colonised them so they just saw the opportunities. This is a chance for Rwanda to never look back and seize its place in the Commonwealth of Nations.

ramaisibo@hotmail.com

Rama Isibo is a social commentator

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