"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)


since China doesn't have one...

Score one for Tony Blair:
The Commonwealth has admitted Rwanda as its 54th member.

The African country was admitted at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago, a statement from the group said.
The benefits of Commonwealth membership for Rwanda are obvious: increased legitimacy, possible economic opportunities, and one more way to tell France to go suck an egg.

(Although interestingly, what was the first thing Rwanda did after finding out the Commonwealth wanted them? They restored diplomatic ties with France. Mmm-hmm.)

What I can't figure out is how this benefits the Commonwealth. What do they gain by admitting yet another country that does not allow its citizens basic political freedoms? There's an argument that Commonwealth membership might better position its members to pressure Rwanda over things like, oh, say, allowing opposition presidential candidates into the country to campaign for next year's elections, establishing free speech and press freedom, stopping the theft of Congolese mineral wealth, or ceasing the funding of armed groups that wreak chaos in the Kivus. (Or to explain to the RPF in very clear terms that no one still believes that opposition to the RPF equates to support for the genocidaires.)

But that argument rings hollow when we consider how ineffective other Commonwealth efforts to pressure member states into behaving have been. (Zimbabwe, anyone?) Somehow I don't think much of anything will change with Rwanda's entry into the Commonwealth.


Anonymous Matt said...

Perhaps it's just a big PR move? The average person doesn't know about Kagame's record of political freedom, they just think of Rwanda as a poor country we all abandoned to genocide. Contrast this with Zimbabwe, where Mugabe's failures are featured in the international press quite often.

Monday, November 30, 2009 10:29:00 AM

Blogger Lorgy said...

There are a few things:
1. annoy France
2. there is a feeling that in non-extreme circumstances (i.e. not Zimbabwe), pressure can be effecive incrementally over a long period. This is something the Commonwealth is good at and they feel they could contribute.
3. there are also issues to do with balance of power within the commonwealth - the 'Africa' faction wanted to add to its ranks, so pushed hard for this (if you're interested, the other major factions are 'Asia', 'Small Island States', and 'White People').
4. The British ambassador to Rwanda at the time this was cooked up (just prior to the last CHOGM, in Kampala), was very, very pro-Kagame and sees not allowing opposition presidential candidates as crucial to preventing a future genocide.

Thursday, December 03, 2009 12:44:00 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home