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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Climate, malaria highlighted at Commonwealth leaders meeting

IGNACIUS SSUUNA

KIGALI, Rwanda ( Associated Press) — Commonwealth leaders are meeting Friday in Rwanda for a summit that promises to address climate change, tropical diseases and other issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Commonwealth Heads of State Summit in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital, is the culmination of a series of meetings earlier in the week that reported some progress in efforts to improve the lives of people in a block of 54 countries with a population of 2.5 billion people.

These numbers should rise with the expected admission to the Commonwealth of the African nations of Togo and Gabon, who have asked to join the bloc despite having no colonial history with Britain. The Commonwealth is made up mostly of former British colonies, but countries such as Mozambique and Rwanda – a former Belgian colony with an Anglophile leader – have made successful attempts in the past to join the group whose titular head is Queen Elizabeth II.

The fact that Rwanda is hosting the summit is controversial with some, who cite the East African country’s poor reputation for human rights under Paul Kagame, an authoritarian leader who was the de facto leader or president after the 1994 genocide. Other critics are unhappy with what they see as an illegal and brutal deal with the UK to move migrants thousands of miles into Rwanda. This agreement is facing legal hurdles and the first batch of migrants has yet to arrive in Rwanda.

The world leaders attending the Kigali summit ranged from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose leadership in the Conservative Party was hit hard the day before when voters rejected the party’s candidates in two snap elections, is also in Rwanda.

Prince Charles presents his mother, who, at 96, is limiting her official duties.

Other meetings on the sidelines of the summit reported some progress on pressing issues such as managing climate change and fighting deadly diseases.

More than $4 billion was released on Thursday for global efforts to accelerate the fight against malaria and other neglected tropical diseases. The money will come from governments, philanthropists and other members of the private sector. In addition, pharmaceutical companies have donated 18 billion pills to prevent and treat these diseases.

Observers say the fundraiser marks a significant breakthrough as malaria is Africa’s leading killer.

Dr. Franziska Olamiju, head of a Nigerian NGO advocating for the poor, told Associated Press of her high expectations for such a large gathering to support campaigns against tropical diseases.

World leaders need to “carry on the conversation” and mobilize more resources for the cause, she said.

The summit also calls for increased action on climate change ahead of the United Nations climate change summit in Egypt later this year.

Commonwealth leaders are set to adopt the long-awaited Charter of Living Lands, an action plan to combat climate change, land degradation and biodiversity loss. The charter aims to achieve climate goals through a combination of political influence, funding, technical assistance, governance. and knowledge sharing between countries.

Commonwealth governments have been asked to submit their emission reduction targets by 23 September.

About 32 members of the Commonwealth are small states, 25 of which are small islands and developing states classified as vulnerable to climate change.

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Associated Press contributor Rodney Muhumuza contributed to this report from Kampala, Uganda.

World Nation News Desk
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