27 November 2009

Rwanda: Joining the Commonwealth

Kigali — If Rwanda joins as expected, it will only become the second member, after Mozambique, without any direct British colonial connection or constitutional link.

A former Portuguese colony, Mozambique was admitted into the Commonwealth in 1995 on the back of the triumphal re-admission of South Africa and Mozambique's first democratic elections, held in 1994.

Mozambique's entry which was mainly due to its support for the Commonwealth's policies towards South Africa and Zimbabwe during the apartheid era was controversial, leading to the Edinburgh Declaration and the current membership guidelines.

However, several other countries, including Algeria and Yemen have expressed interest to join the group while Israel and the Palestinians have also made tentative inquiries.

Rwanda which has colonial connections to Belgium and Germany first made its enquiries on membership of the in February 1996, barely 2 years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, during the 1996 CHOGM in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The country reapplied during the 2004 CHOGM in Brisbane, Australia and again in December 2007 under what is known as 'the Post-Kampala Criteria'. In 2008 and 2009 a formal assessment was done by the Commonwealth Secretariat and later in 2009, the country launched its final formal application after the assessment.

The 'Kampala Communiqué indicates that "an applicant country should, as a general rule, have had a historic constitutional association with an existing Commonwealth member, save in exceptional circumstances;

"In exceptional circumstances, applications should be considered on a case-by-case basis;" and Rwanda applies under this clause.

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