CHOGM 2020: Rwanda’s opportunity to show and tell our story

By Herbert Lugaba
On 4 October 2019 at 09:15

In Rwanda, we are a people on the move. Always. We are a people that have refused to be hostages of our bad history.

From the time Rwanda was liberated from the despotic leaders of yesteryears, we have seen and experienced every fabric of our society metamorphosing into vitality. This has been made possible by crafting and implementing a shared vision.

This has involved Rwanda’s commitment to inch out of the shadows and emerging from the isolated isle that it was prior to 1994 liberation. Rwanda has joined regional and international blocs that have since contributed to the transformation of her geopolitics.

Since Rwanda joined the Commonwealth group in November 2009, the country has been committed to the core values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter. This has seen her gaining much trust, that she has been entrusted with hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in June 2020.

For Rwanda to play host for the 26th CHOGM is a vote of confidence from the 54 member states and the Commonwealth Secretariat which presents us with a rare opportunity of bringing the world to Rwanda, tell and show the world our story, our journey and opportunities Rwanda has for the world.

We need to tell our story that bespeaks of a people that have decided to define themselves with something beautiful; where there were destruction and poignant hurt, you now discover peaceful, built-up spaces with a vibrant undercurrent, economic activity, and social cohesion. Reaching this stage has been a journey.

The Rwanda Government and the Commonwealth Secretariat are already working together to share the experience of hosting a CHOGM. Rwandan Ministers and officials are enthusiastic and already have preparations well underway, demonstrating their commitment to ensuring a successful CHOGM in June 2020.

We have the opportunity of telling our thrilling story in more ways than one. As we do prepare for between 8,000 and 10,000 delegates who will attend the different segments of the CHOGM, (the Summit where the Queen and other leaders will converge, Business Forum, People’s Forum, Youth Forum, and Women’s Forum), we need to refine our services and protocol, right from the time they begin making online inquiries on visa requirements and other travel arrangements, to giving them an enriched experience, a good impression of whatever they’re exposed to in the country up to the time of seeing them off.

In a way, we are presented an opportunity to create a huge breed of goodwill ambassadors that will speak well of Rwanda when they get back to their respective countries, in effect inviting the entire world to experience our country’s fascinating beauty.

Besides, hosting CHOGM is a vote of confidence in Rwanda’s commitment to democracy, freedom of expression and human rights as spelled out in the Commonwealth Charter 2012 in addition to the country’s impressive economic growth and recovery from the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi; real gross domestic product (GDP) growth has been around 8% between 2001 and 2017, falling poverty and inequality and most Millennium Development Goals were achieved by 2015.

We are hosting CHOGM at a time when our development blueprint ‘Vision 2020’, is also coming to fruition, a time that should be used to reflect and correct.

This should as well be a time to override the lurking anxieties from self-appointed pundits on issues Rwandan and human rights purists. The decision to offer Rwanda play host to CHOGM was, of course, reached after interrogating Charter commitments to democracy (Chapter 1), human rights (Chapter 2) and freedom of expression (Chapter 5) which Rwanda passed and thus seizing the opportunity.

In terms of strengthening international relations, Rwanda straddles Anglophone and Francophone Africa—the Commonwealth and La Francophonie. Some commentators have suggested that CHOGM should be used as a good opportunity to bring the two organizations more closely together, urging the Government of Rwanda to use their best endeavors to encourage the organizers to do just that.

In Rwanda, we are known for leaving indelible marks whenever and wherever we get involved in defining and refining international and regional geopolitics; peacekeeping, La Francophonie, Africa Union reforms, among others. We should be getting to work now, getting ready to, yet again, impact international thinking through CHOGM. We can. And we should.