Friday, November 6, 2009

Commonwealth human rights group opposes accepting Rwanda before election



The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative group now argues that Rwanda's application should not be considered until after the 2010 election, not at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting to be held this month, November 2009, in Trinidad and Tobago, even though British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Ugandan President, and current Commonwealth chairperson Yoweri Museveni, all strongly support Rwanda's application.

From the Rwanda News Agency, 11.04.2009:

Commonwealth group maintains opposition to Rwanda entry

By RNA Reporter
Friday, 06 November 2009

Kigali: The Commonwealth advocacy group which opposes the entry of Rwanda into the block is standing by its stance – now accusing the British government of supporting Kigali membership “for reasons that are still not entirely clear”, RNA reports.

In the latest assessment, the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) says Rwanda’s application should wait to be considered at the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), not the one to be held this month in Trinidad and Tobago.

“Recently years of Commonwealth diplomacy brought to the Maldives good elections and the end of a president who had ruled for 27 years. In this work the Commonwealth does a great job,” argues Derek Ingram, a CHRI Executive Committee member.

“On Rwanda it should wait for next year’s presidential elections, send a strong observer group to decide whether they are fair (the last ones were not) and then consider the application at the next CHOGM in 2011.”

Following the release of the 26-page report last in September prepared by Kenya academic Prof. Yash Ghai, Rwanda reacted with furry. Kigali envoy in London Mr. Gatete Claver accused the advocacy group of deliberately disregarding some essential facts. He dismissed the assertion that Rwanda’s laws against Genocide ideology are vague, saying the British laws against the holocaust are not any better.

President Kagame has repeatedly said Rwanda cannot be compared to most of the Commonwealth members in terms of human rights. Parliament also joined in with a strongly worded resolution committing to stand by the country’s application because it will benefit the people of Rwanda.

The former British PM Tony Blair and his successor Gordon Brown have shown unwavering support to Rwanda. One of the biggest members of the 53-strong block Australia also indicated to Foreign Affairs Minister Rosemary Museminali during her visit in September that it was fully behind the favourable side.

Another top backer for Rwanda’s bid is Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni. The Ugandan leader, as host of the 2007 CHOGM, is until the November one in Trinidad, chairperson of the Commonwealth.

The strong voice in favour of membership argues that if Rwanda does not meet the Commonwealth standards, it should be allowed in which could be encouraged to conform. The reaction of many people is to point out that some member countries still do not measure up to set values.

For the India-based Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), “This is no answer. There is no point in the Commonwealth adding to its problems.”

In the assessment published in the Royal Commonwealth Society’s Commonwealth Conversation last week, Mr. Ingram, the CHRI Committee member says there are countries that have been allowed in over the same arguments, but do not change.

“In fact, Cameroon was admitted too early and for years now the Secretary-General’s envoys have been trying to get a more democratic situation there. President Paul Biya has been president for 27 years and wants to stand next year yet again,” he writes.

“No member will ever have totally clean hands, but there is only a handful such as The Gambia, Sri Lanka, Swaziland that present real problems.”

“The most fervent supporter of Rwanda’s membership is the UK for reasons that are still not entirely clear,” he says.

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