In pics: Kigali summit tests Commonwealth's clout as awkward issues loom
Updated: Jun 24, 2022, 12:13 AM(IST)
Commonwealth leaders gather in Rwanda this week to discuss issues ranging from trade to health to climate change, a summit that will test the organisation's mettle at a time when its relevance is being questioned.
The Commonwealth, a club of 54 countries that evolved from the British Empire, encompasses about a third of humanity, with members ranging from India to tiny Nauru.
It presents itself as a network for cooperation with shared goals such as democracy, peace and prosperity, but critics, including many who are supportive of its values, say it needs to be more than a talking shop.
The plus side of Commonwealth
Commonwealth is open to countries that were not part of the British Empire. Former French colonies such as Gabon and Togo are lined up to join.
Analysts say this is part of a trend whereby France's ex-colonies in Africa are seeking new alliances as they distance themselves from Paris and its old networks of influence.
Britain's imperialist past
The Commonwealth, however, has unresolved tensions of its own linked to the legacy of Britain's imperialist past and role in the slave trade -- subjects not expected to be discussed by the leaders gathering in Kigali, at least not openly.
"I think we should be talking more about reparations," said Fidelis Bologo, a Nigerian graduate student taking part in a youth forum on the sidelines of the summit. "This should be at the heart of the Commonwealth," he said.
Uncomfortable issues will be simmering under the surface as the heads of state and government, who are meeting on Friday and Saturday, smile and shake hands for the cameras.
Rwanda's human rights record
Earlier this month, 24 civil society groups including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International called on Commonwealth leaders to use the summit to challenge the host, Rwanda, on its human rights record.
Rwanda is also the focus of controversy concerning Britain's policy to deport some asylum seekers there.