After a two-year hiatus, the 26th edition of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) was held in Kigali this week against a noise of discontent. The meeting came barely two weeks after the European Court of Human Rights forced the stay of a proposed relocation of UK asylum seekers to Rwanda.
In the exclusive atmosphere of the Kigali Convention Center boardrooms, Ugandas spoke President Yoweri Museveni for many when he addressed the issue of injustice related to Covid-19 vaccines.
The two issues, separated by time, space and theme, speak to the need for the club to to reorient himself and his mission in today’s world. During the Imperial Conference of 1926, when Britain and the Dominions settled on the earlier forerunners of today’s Commonwealth, it was largely a meeting of equals. Australia, Canada, India, the Irish Free State, Newfoundland, New Zealand and South Africa agreed to be equal and independent members of a community within the British Empire that owed allegiance to the British monarch.
The The Term Commonwealth made sense a century ago because those countries were then almost par in terms of economic and technological development, or had reasonable prospects of closing the development gap. As the club expanded to include newly independent states from Africa, Latin America and Asia, the term became a misnomer.
Nearly seven decades after Africa’s independence, institutionalized inequality is manifest in the Commonwealth. There is no sign of will, effort, or prospect to correct the imbalance that makes the Commonwealth a club of haves and have-nots. Global issues like climate change and gender integration often offer a practical way out of the black-and-white issues that should be at the heart of Chogm Summit agendas.
Inequality is the source of problems like illegal immigrants from days gone by Colonies that Britain and other European member states have tried to deal with by introducing more barriers for people seeking access to their territories. The desperate measures recently taken by the Tory government in the UK clearly show the scale of the problem and the futility of the current controls.
The results of the African Youth Survey 2022 should give food for thought this year give chogm. African youth are less optimistic about the continent’s future prospects. The survey also shows that young people want to leave the continent primarily for economic (44 percent) and educational reasons (41 percent). Politics and security rank a distant fifth and sixth at 12 percent and nine percent, respectively. These figures clearly show that the main drivers of migration are the search for self-realization and a better life. And because of history, most migrants prefer the land of their former colonial masters.
Climate change, sustainability and gender are important topics of discussion. But whatever goals are set, they cannot be achieved in an economic vacuum. Most members are caught up in recessionary debt, war and starvation. Covid-19 has deepened inequality. The lot of poorer members can only improve if there is new thinking among the haves about promoting justice and equality.
The Commonwealth must unify prosperity among members by uniting knowledge, capital and Investment flows are realigned to expand opportunities among less affluent members.