Foreign Affairs minister Dr Richard Sezibera this week reiterated Rwanda’s readiness to host the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2020.
He was addressing a meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs drawn from across the Commonwealth, an organisation of 54 nations, mostly former British colonies.
Rwanda, which joined the grouping in November 2009, is one of only two Commonwealth member countries with no colonial ties with the United Kingdom – the other being Mozambique.
“Gratified to receive support from all #Commonwealth countries as we prepare for #CHOGM2020. Very strong expressions of support n solidarity from @jumuiya (East African Community) Partner States. Thank you,” Sezibera said in a tweet on Wednesday.
The ministerial meeting also saw delegates celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Commonwealth, during which ministers “reaffirmed their commitment to the core values and principles of the Commonwealth Charter.”
The UK is the current chair-in-office and it is expected to be replaced by Rwanda at the next CHOGM in June 2020.
Meanwhile, in Kigali, preparations for the high-level gathering continue in earnest, with the Government leaving nothing to chance to ensure a successful meeting.
The Government has already earmarked billions of Francs for a range of preparatory activities, including major upgrades on the Kigali International Airport Road.
Amb. James Kimonyo, the deputy policy lead for CHOGM 2020, told The New Times that preparations were going according to plan and everything was being done to ensure that the country successfully hosts the about 8000 delegates, including Heads of State and Government, expected for the summit.
The 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is due from June 22-27, 2020, in Kigali.
The 25th CHOGM was held in London in April 2018.
Commonwealth member countries span Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, and the Pacific. While the Commonwealth was formally constituted by the London Declaration in 1949, Rwanda joined the bloc in 2008.
Kimonyo said that, currently, they are working on a programme of the high-level meeting, under the guidance of President Kagame, the incoming chairperson of the Commonwealth.
“CHOGM happens every two years in different countries. So, the President said that we need to propose things that the Commonwealth can execute so that when he is handing over in 2022, he has something to report about,” he observed.
“We need people’s participation, we want women empowerment, we want something tangible,” he said.
After extensive consultations with concerned institutions, he said, they came up with five sub-themes and related issues to be covered during the meeting.
They include governance and rule of law, ICT and innovation, youth, environment and trade.
“Youth unemployment is a major challenge; it is a time bomb for every society; if it is not tamed, it becomes a threat to national security,” he said.
In May 2020, member countries will issue a communique which, after a series of consultations, assessments, and consensus, will consist of key issues to be addressed by the Heads of State.
The level of preparedness in terms of logistics is very high, said Kimonyo, who was until last year, Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Kenya.
He said they are drawing experience from hosting major meetings, previously, including the African Union Summit.
He said that over Rwf8 billion will be used for hosting CHOGM.
He observed that though expenditures such as expansion of roads will facilitate the meeting, they were part of the Ministry of Infrastructure and City of Kigali’s planning.
Such infrastructure will facilitate other meetings, and benefit communities even after the summit, he said
Tourism, trade and investment opportunities
“We anticipate hosting close to 8,000 people in town and across the country, and they will be spending money. Local businesses such as hotels and transport firms, will cash in, and that will have an impact on the economy,” Kimonyo said.
Another important aspect is trade and investment. Rwanda will showcase its opportunities for investment at a high-level business forum.
In addition, he said, the country will use the occasion to showcase its tourist attractions.
While briefing the Commonwealth Association’s annual general meeting last year about the first official planning mission to Rwanda for the 2020 CHGOM, Katalaina Sapolu, Director of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Governance and Peace Directorate, said, “We were very encouraged by the infrastructure in Rwanda.”