Sep 25, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

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Chogm in Kigali: Colonies’ triumph over the British empire

As the Commonwealth Heads of Government (Chogm) meeting in Rwanda’s capital Kigali drew to a close, questions about its relevance and criticism that it was a colonial relic were as loud as ever.

The It was the 26th biannual Chogm of the Commonwealth’s modern era and the second to be held in the East African Community zone, having been held in Kampala, Uganda in 2007. Chogm was due to take place in June 2020 but was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Commonwealth has been reshaped by forces as destructive as the pandemic, albeit less dramatic, and the site of the 26th The meeting in Kigali is instructive. Rwanda joined the Commonwealth in 2009, the bloc’s first enlargement in the 21st century. It came 14 years after Mozambique’s accession in 1995, the last enlargement of the Commonwealth in the 20th century.

In Kigali, Gabon and Togo officially became members of the Commonwealth at the Summit of Heads of State. Diplomats in East Africa have hinted that Burundi is also knocking on the Commonwealth’s door. It all looks like the lavish pursuit of a dodo. Maybe it isn’t.

Mozambique’s and Rwanda’s additions, like Gabon and Togo’s, were unusual – they had never before had a structural or colonial connection with the UK. Mozambique had been a Portuguese colony and fought a bitter liberation war to gain independence in 1975. Rwanda had been a Belgian colony and fell firmly under France’s “sphere of influence” in Africa a few years after independence in 1962. For these reasons you speak Commonwealth.

British-French political grudges

Mozambique’s accession had some of its roots in the global anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. It also addressed the causes in Mozambique and Angola against the Portuguese occupation.

As South African History Online notes: “The outside world reaction to the development of apartheid was widespread and, in the 1980s, presented itself as sustained challenge to the South African regime.

“While countries around the world took various measures to weaken and overthrow apartheid, it was the anti-apartheid movements in the United Kingdom (UK), Holland and the United States America (USA), which posed the most serious of these challenges to the apartheid state, Britain is perhaps the most effective of all these organizations in the world.”

These movements, particularly in the US and Great Britain, moreover, functioned in a context where governments were the most staunch supporters of apartheid.

In the case of Rwanda, it was that of the Rwanda Patr Iotic front/army war that started in October 1990 against Juvenal Habyarimana government the time it did. It ended in victory for the RPF/A, but only after the 1994 Tutsi Genocide, which saw nearly a million Tutsi and many Hutu slaughtered in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.

The RPF/A was formed by Rwandan refugees and exiles based in Uganda and launched their return to the motherland campaign from there. Several grassroots and middle-level members also hailed from other Anglophone (and Commonwealth) countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, Canada, Burundi and the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The UK’s diplomatic support for the RPF was both controversial after coming to power and crucial in the context in which the new government of Kigali had to fight for international legitimacy.

France did not help its cause and its actual and perceived dalliance The extremist killer of the Interahamwe- Militia and arming the military made it hobble with the image of an enabler of genocide. With the rise of the RPF to power, the French sphere of influence in Rwanda all but collapsed. Where French was once the official language, it was now English – and Kinyarwanda.

It was a coincidence, of course, but Rwanda’s entry into the Commonwealth seemed to settle a 220-year-old British grudge against the French. France made a significant and crucial contribution to the eventual US victory over the British Crown and independence in the American Revolutionary War of 1775–1783. France wasn’t done yet and rubbed it in Britain’s nose by gifting the American people the colossal Statue of Liberty, in New York, commemorating the alliance between France and the US during the American Revolution.

Britain’s Loss in America The British began to shake the Empire, and paying for the war effort led to a sharp increase in the national debt . Britain was to survive another century of relative global domination, but the seeds of the Commonwealth were sown; of British influence through historical ties, ‘common values’ and use of the English language. It formalized as the British Commonwealth of Nations in 1926 in the aftermath of World War I, when the anti-colonial movement was gaining momentum around the world.

Revenge of the Colonized

Nearly 100 Years later, and while parts of it might be anachronistic, the other parts tell the story of a Commonwealth that is a triumph of the colonized against their old colonial master. The Commonwealth becomes what the Empire looks like when the colonies take revenge – and keep the trophy.

If you’re sitting in front of a TV station in London these days, the signs are all there. There are a number of programs about how the Caribbean, South Asia and other people from former colonies helped create modern Britain. People of color are a disproportionate number of faces in TV advertising and British popular culture.

Politicians of color have achieved remarkable prominence on both the left and right of British politics. Among several is Chancellor of the Exchequer (Treasury Secretary) Rishi Sunak, who has been touted as a possible successor to Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Mr. Sunak’s parents are emigrants of East African and South Asian descent.

His father, Yashvir, a doctor, and his mother, Usha Sunak, a pharmacist, were born in Kenya and Tanzania, respectively.

Maybe Home Secretary Priti Patel, the second most controversial British minister after Mr Johnson, is also of South Asian descent. Her London-born paternal grandparents were from Gujarat, India before emigrating to Uganda and running a supermarket in Kampala. In the 1960s her parents emigrated to Britain.

Chogm in the year 2100

So, a look at what this Commonwealth and Chogm will be like in 80 years or less, Britain Prime Minister , who will then arrive for Chogm in any African capital over the next 25 years, will not look like Mr Johnson but Mr Sunak, Ms Patel or Chuka Harrison Umunna, the former shadow cabinet member of the Labor Party known as ‘Britain’s Barack Obama”. He was born to a Nigerian father and an Anglo-Irish mother.

A fairly optimistic (or bleak) study predicted that white Britons would become a minority by 2051 due to immigration and the growth of the settled ethnic population will be minorities from the Indian subcontinent and other countries outside the European Union. This “tanning” (to use the idea of ​​Steve Stoute and Mim Eichler Rivas’ The Tanning of America: How Hip-Hop Created a Culture That Rewrote the Rules of the New Economy) will spread to others affecting major Commonwealth countries, including Canada and Australia.

Queen Elizabeth II is the Head of the Commonwealth, but due to her age and ill health, Prince Charles has effectively assumed that role. Prince Charles represented the Queen in Kigali and was the first British king to visit Rwanda. But even if Prince Harry and his mixed-heritage wife Meghan Markle step down as senior working royals, if the British monarchy survives to the end of the century, it is unlikely to remain unaffected by the major demographic shifts that are changing the times.

And, contradictingly, the Commonwealth must either perish or die out as a political force in order for it to thrive. Its current quirk of being the only such organization to have a mini-Olympics in the form of the Commonwealth Games may well be the reason for its existence for decades to come. to organize sport so that those otherwise denied glory at the Olympic Games may shine; a steward of English, the world’s universal language, which is the source of its meaning.

Because Britain is a smaller power, there will be less nationalistic resentment towards the Commonwealth.

In Rwanda, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial to honor the victims.

Just 15 years ago, not even the most imaginative mind could have imagined that history would touch the history of the Commonwealth Tragedy unleashed on the surrounding hills and valleys.

The odd thing is that if none of the horrors had happened, Chogm would not have gone there this week and Prince Charles would not have been there.


The author is a journalist, writer and curator of the Wall of Great Africans. Twitter @cobbo3