As one of the aims of the Commonwealth is to prevent the spread of ignorance, I feel I must write to correct the impressions and inaccuracies that may have been given to your readers by Amon Mbekiza’s letter printed on 28 November.
The Commonwealth brings together 2 billion citizens or about 30 percent of the World’s population in a loose association of 53 States.
The Commonwealth’s aim is to cooperate and consult in the common interests of its people and to promote international understanding.
The membership rules are simple. Members agree to promote international peace and security, democracy, liberty of the individual and equal rights for all.
They pledge to work towards the eradication of poverty, ignorance and disease. The Commonwealth opposes all forms of racial discrimination.
Since the Harare Summit in 1991 members additionally agreed to promote good governance, human rights, the rule of law, gender equality and sustainable economic and social development.
These basic values are surely the real social and moral wealth common to, and shared by, all Commonwealth citizens.
Like any association or club, members are aware of the rules when they join. Those unable to obey them are invited to leave.
Fiji has been suspended from the Commonwealth Council following a military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government in 2006.
This year Pakistan was suspended because of the failure of President Musharaf to separate the functions of Head of State and head of the Army as previously requested by Commonwealth Ministers and his suspension of Pakistan’s constitution.
It may still be fashionable among some students to blame British colonialisation for everything but by definition, students are still learning.
Mr Mbezika’s accusations hardly bear examination. Pakistan has been independent and partitioned from India since 1947. She must surely be in charge of her own destiny by now.
But the sincere hope expressed by Commonwealth members in Kampala was that Pakistan will soon be readmitted and President Musharaf’s pledge to work towards readmission, suggests that Kashmir, “Hindustan” and the nuclear arms race have nothing to do with the current dilution of democracy in Pakistan. They also suggest that suspension from the Commonwealth is a spur to greater democracy and accountability.
Zimbabwe chose to leave the Commonwealth in 2003 after widespread international criticism of her domestic, international and economic policies.
Despite having one of the strongest economies in Africa at independence in 1980, the percentage of Zimbabweans living in poverty is now estimated at 70% and is increasing.
The level of HIV infection at 18-20% is among the highest in the world. Life expectancy for Zimbabweans has fallen from a historical high of 55 years to 37 years for men and 34 for women.
Zimbabwe’s voting rights have been suspended by the IMF and the country remains the subject of an arms embargo following her intervention in DRC in 1997.
The massacre of up to 20,000 ethnic Matabele Zimbabweans, by Zimbabwean troops in the early 1980s remains an episode which requires fuller investigation.
Surely the fact that Pakistan and Zimbabwe are not currently in the Commonwealth suggests, contrary to Mr Mbekiza’s assertion, that the organization is very healthy indeed.
The great comedian, Groucho Marx, once said he would never join a club that would allow him to become a member.
Aspirant members such as Rwanda expect to join a Commonwealth that works in the interests of her citizens and maintains the very highest standards of Governmental behavior at home and abroad.
Anything less would be an insult to the years of struggle and sacrifice by this country’s leaders and her people.