The Herald, October 22, 1991
“LET the Commonwealth live and live forever”, with these words, the chairman of the Commonwealth, President Mugabe, closed the 28th Conference of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting at 8.42 pm yesterday.
Heads of Government from Commonwealth countries had during the past week, been discussing pertinent issues relating to the Club and humanity as a whole. While the outcome of the deliberations of the meeting, which focused on the Commonwealth in the 1990s and beyond, could not have been what some organisations and people expected, many others agreed that the meeting was a success.
In his closing address, President Mugabe said the meeting had strengthened the friendships that existed within the Commonwealth.
While members might have been colleagues yesterday, the aftermath of the meeting had those true friends, he said.
He said by adopting the recommendations of the high level appraisal group on “the Commonwealth in the 1990s and beyond”, the Commonwealth had achieved a most significant goal in that it had reinforced the essential relevance of the fundamental political values of the Commonwealth.
The group’s recommendations placed a special emphasis on democracy, economic, political and social rights, and special needs of small states, human resource development and the enhancement of the role of women.
He said he felt it was the general consensus among members that the Commonwealth should gear itself to becoming more deeply and more actively involved in the promotion of good governance within the Club, and in helping in giving advice on the development of democratic institutions.
Although the question of South Africa did not feature prominently during the discussions, as it had done before, this should not be interpreted as a “falling off or lessening of Commonwealth interest in, or concern over, the situation in the country”, he said.
The position the Club had taken with regard to the relaxation of certain categories of sanctions was “a practical illustration of the acknowledgement that there has been some positive change, and which is designed to send a signal of approval and encouragement” from the Commonwealth.
LESSONS FOR TODAY
- The Commonwealth Club like other international bodies gives members a sense of belonging. This is why even countries that were not colonised by Britain have sought membership.
- With a membership of 54 countries, a total population of 2.4 billion people, the majority of the members are in developing countries. This means that Britain and the English language still hold a big percentage among former colonies.
- Democratic South Africa and Namibia are now Commonwealth members.
- 15 years after the genocide that resulted in the death of almost a million people, Rwanda which is not a former British colony, joined the Club in 2009, and was supposed to chair the 26th CHOGM which has been postponed for the second year running due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The theme: is “Delivering a common future: Connecting, innovating, transforming.”
- Zimbabwe which left the Club in 2003, is now seeking Rwanda’s assistance for it to rejoin the Commonwealth. “They (Rwanda) assured us that they are very keen to support us”, said Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Frederick Shava, recently.