The 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) kicked off in Kigali Sunday, with the youth at the centre of deliberations on Day I.
The Meeting, which was initially due to take place in 2020 before it was postponed twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will last a week with dozens of sessions scheduled at different venues across the city.
Rwanda is the youngest member of the 54-nation community having joined in 2009, six years after it launched its bid.
Rwanda became the second country to join the Commonwealth without having been a British colony – after Mozambique.
Commonwealth member states share core values of democracy, rule of law, good governance, human rights, and freedom of expression.
This is the first CHOGM in four years, the last having taken place in London.
The Meeting will see President Paul Kagame take over from UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the Chair-in-Office for the next two years. The Commonwealth boasts 2.5 billion people from across the world.
Rwanda allocated upwards of Rwf10.5 billion (about $10m), some of which went into upgrading existing infrastructure, like Kigali’s road network.
The costs may be offset by the international exposure, showcasing the country’s tourism attraction. Member states also cooperate in trade, education, among other areas.
What to expect
Over 5000 delegates, including 35 Heads of Government, are expected to attend the week-long Meeting.
His Royal Highness Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, who took over from her mother, Queen Elizabeth II as the head of Commonwealth in 2018, is expected to grace the event.
Different clusters have been lined up, including the Executive Sessions of Heads of Government, the Youth Forum, Women’s Forum, People’s Forum, Business Forum, as well as a number of side events, social and cultural.
The Executive Sessions of the Heads of Government will be held behind closed doors, with the leaders discussing some of the most pressing issues affecting the Commonwealth and the world as a whole.
A Leaders’ Retreat is also planned.
“Their discussions will revolve around a number of things, including climate emergency, which is very important because many island nations, which are members of the Commonwealth, are among the highly affected countries,” Rwanda government spokesperson Yolande Makolo told journalists on Friday.
Other issues to be discussed by the Heads of State and Government include youth and job creation, especially digital affiliated jobs, she added. “They will also discuss pandemic recovery and resilience and the impact of the geopolitical situation – with the war in Ukraine and its impact on inflation especially in developing countries.”
This is the sixth time that CHOGM is taking place in Africa, with this year’s edition running under the theme, ‘Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating, Transforming’.
“Since the last time the Commonwealth family came together for CHOGM in 2018, the onset of COVID-19, new and ongoing conflicts, and the accelerated impact of climate change have fundamentally altered the global landscape and tested our resilience,” Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland QC said in a statement released on Sunday.
She added, “This succession of events has changed lives, livelihoods, communities and economies. We know that in times of crises, the poor and most vulnerable are disproportionately affected. Many development gains, likewise, have been thrown off track, while others have regressed.”
Leaders at CHOGM are committed to harnessing lessons learned, working together and taking inspiration from the innovative solutions that we’ve seen emerge over the past few years, she added.
“The Commonwealth is a bedrock for member states, rooted in a shared history, collective aspirations and progressive solutions. At a time when multilateralism is under serious strain, CHOGM offers a vital forum to deliver the objectives of member states and an opportunity to draw upon all the talents of the member states to deliver a smarter, more resilient, prosperous, confident and sustainable Commonwealth.”
Several social activities have been lined up for delegates attending the Meeting, including the Kigali People’s Festival, CHOGM Street Festival, Kigali Night Run, CHOGM Cricket Tournament, and CHOGM Networking Golf Tournament.