As part of Rwanda’s planned accession to the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit, sponsored by the British Embassy in Kigali, is holding a conference tomorrow Tuesday 5th August at Hotel Novotel.
This was revealed in a press release.
According to the press release, the conference will be opened by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The conference will include speeches from the Ministers of Justice and Local Government; Andrew Mitchell MP, UK Shadow Secretary of State for International Development; and Mark Collins of the Commonwealth Foundation.
The event will showcase the progress that Rwanda has made in the Commonwealth focal areas of democracy, good governance, access to justice, civil society and public and private sector reform. In addition, a platform will be provided to debate how these sectors will benefit from and contribute to Commonwealth membership.
Participants drawn from around 40 ministries, businesses, public institutions and non-governmental organizations will also be introduced to the 80-odd Commonwealth Professional Associations, with a view to creating new partnerships between the Commonwealth and Rwanda.
“The Kigali conference on Commonwealth membership is the first time there has been a public debate in an applicant country ahead of membership,” the release reads in part, adding, “It demonstrates that Rwanda takes civil society consultation seriously and moves Rwanda one step closer to its anticipated membership in November 2009.”
Rwanda first showed interest into joining the Commonwealth in 1996. In 2005 the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) requested a High Level Expert Group be set up to examine Commonwealth membership criteria and procedures for accession.
At the 2007 Kampala CHOGM new guidelines were agreed that allowed in exceptional circumstance for countries to join that had no constitutional link with an existing member.
Rwanda is currently the only country officially being considered under the new criteria. In June 2008 a delegation from the Commonwealth Secretariat visited Kigali and assessed the extent to which Rwanda complies with Commonwealth values and principles of democracy, good governance, access to justice, impartiality of the judiciary and holding free and fair elections.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General is currently in consultation with the 53 members of the Commonwealth and if consensus is achieved Rwanda will formally be invited to apply for membership.
A final decision will be made by the Commonwealth Heads of Government at the November 2009 CHOGM to be held in Trinidad and Tobago.
According to the press release, the prospect of Rwanda’s accession is widely welcomed and will bring great benefits to Rwanda.
It says Rwanda will also make a large contribution to the Commonwealth as demonstrated by its current active role internationally, in the African Union, peacekeeping in Darfur and membership of the East African Community.