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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Commonwealth leaders gather in Rwanda as the UK’s refugee plan focuses on human rights

For decades, Whitehall thought about how to use the Commonwealth, without tangible results. In some circles, Brexit was expected to increase its importance for the UK. But it was never clear why this in itself would suddenly transform a resource-laden and notoriously unfocused organization into an effective tool for British interests.

Indeed, with the publication in March 2021 of its integrated review of defense and foreign policy, which was barely tested by the Commonwealth, it seemed that the British government had finally given up trying to solve this long-standing mystery. And Britain is not the only one wondering whether there should not be a clearer guide to this enigmatic survival from the imperial past.

How and why does the Commonwealth survive then? Perhaps the best answer is that the benefits of belonging to an organization now relate to identity rather than usefulness. Since the 1990s, it has been trying to redefine itself as a body united by common values, not common history. These are values ​​such as respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law contained in the 2013 Commonwealth Charter. So, membership is a kind of kitemark of international reputation.


Specifically, the prestige of hosting the organization’s two-year meeting of heads of government (CHOGM) – and thus becoming the organization’s chairman – ensures that there is at least one Commonwealth leader who has a strong interest in delaying its existence for another couple of years.

It is a special reward for regimes that want to use it for what could be called “reputation laundering”. This was certainly the case in 2013, when the Sri Lankan government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, which was heavily involved in human rights violations, managed to wrap itself in the high ideals of the charter and welcome Prince Charles and other Commonwealth dignitaries to this year’s summit. Colombo.

To many Commonwealth observers, the prospect of CHOGM hosting the Rwandan government of Paul Kagame in 2022, with its own controversial results in the areas of human rights and press freedom, seemed a deliberate failure by the Commonwealth Secretariat to learn from recent history. However, it was difficult to see what the UK gained from this bleaching process.

‘Rejection’ of refugees

It took probably the ingrained cynicism of the Johnson administration to answer this question. But they responded that they did so in April when they presented a memorandum of understanding according to which asylum seekers would be “relocated” to Rwanda for processing and settlement. In return, Britain would pay Rwanda about £ 120 million. Not only did Britain propose to use the Commonwealth partner as a place to “evict” unwanted people, but there were real concerns for the well-being of those forcibly removed there.

Announcing the plan, Johnson partially tried to justify the choice of Rwanda on the grounds that he would “welcome leaders from all over the Commonwealth” later in the year. The clear implication was that she would not have been given the honor of doing so if her human rights situation had been called into question.

The Prime Minister, in fact, duly reversed the approach of successive governments, including his own, which was to encourage countries like Rwanda to improve their performance in order to adhere to the values ​​of the charter.

Rwanda record

In January 2021, the Foreign Office reminded Rwanda that as a “member of the Commonwealth and future chairman” it has a duty to “model the values ​​of the Commonwealth such as democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights”. However, only last month, the Rwanda Ministry of Interior’s own report on human rights ranked it 45th out of 49 African countries in terms of the ability of opposition parties to participate in the political process, 44th in terms of freedom of expression and 47th in terms of freedom from “political assassinations and torture by the government.”

Despite damaging assessments like these, Kagame has kept friends in high places in the UK and strong ties to the Conservative Party. The British government meekly accepted the appointment of Johnston Busingye as Rwanda’s high commissioner in London in March, despite his alleged role as abduction justice minister Paul Rusesabagina, a leading critic of Kagame and a world-renowned refugee for 1990s genocide refugees. is shown in the movie Hotel Rwanda.

Neither the current Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland, nor Jamaica’s Foreign Secretary, Kamina Johnson Smith, who will challenge her for the role when the heads of government meet in Rwanda later this week, openly criticized the UK’s asylum plan, perhaps out of fear. the alienation of Kagame, who will preside over the vote. Indeed, in an extremely caustic article in which supporters of Scotland accused the British government of promoting the “colonial agenda” and systematically undermining it, the Rwandan agreement was not mentioned despite its distinctly colonial overtone.

But not everyone was so relaxed about this growing “special relationship” of the Commonwealth. Apparently fearing that deportations in Rwanda would overshadow this year’s CHOGM, Prince Charles reportedly described the plan as “terrible”. A letter from Anglican bishops to The Times called it “shameful”, and one of Johnson’s back benches called it “ugly”.

The legal challenges that forced the UK to suspend its first flight to Rwanda at the last minute may have reduced the chances of embarrassment when the Commonwealth chiefs meet, but the UK government remains committed to that policy. That is the wrong answer to the decades-old question of how to use the Commonwealth, and, like almost everything else that the British Prime Minister touches on, it will probably have a bad effect on everyone involved.

World Nation News Desk
World Nation News Deskhttps://worldnationnews.com/
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