Rwanda shuns La Francophonie for British commonwealth

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Rwanda has experienced another measure of development in its post-genocide era as the country becomes the 54th nation of the Commonwealth of Nations. Rwanda, a former colony of Germany and Belgium, becomes the second country after Mozambique to be admitted without a British colonial past or constitutional link to Britain.

“My government sees this accession as recognition of the tremendous progress this country has made in the last 15 years. Rwandans are ready to seize economic, political, cultural and other opportunities offered by the Commonwealth network,” Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s Information Minister was quoted by local reporters.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma telephoned Rwanda’s President, late on 28th November 2009 to convey the leaders’ decision. The Commonwealth leaders met in the Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on 28 November 2009.

“Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) acknowledges that Rwanda has what appears to be a well-deserved reputation for governmental efficiency and for being less corrupt than a number of other countries – but its claims about the lack of corruption appear hollow when considering its complicity in the illicit economy of the region,” a report by CHRI responded to Rwanda’s application in July.

But Rwanda has since addressed its lack of political freedom and harassment of journalists according to reports. The country’s bid to join the group was supported by Britain, Australia, Canada, India, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, among other countries.

In 2008, Rwanda requested to join the British-led group despite its historic relationship with La Francophonie, an international organization of polities and governments with French as the mother or customary language. According to analysts the move was less problematic as diplomatic relations between Rwanda and France had been severed. The Rwandan government accused France of having backed the Hutu forces that went on to instigate the genocide. Conversely, a French judge incriminated Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame in the Rwandan genocide of 1994.

In November, Rwanda switched from using French as the teaching language to English. There have since been attempts to encourage English in the country with Rwandans now embracing the English game of cricket. Rwanda’s decision to become Anglophone and turn its back on the French has been described by some analysts as an economic move, done to increase trade opportunities.

Rwanda experienced Africa’s worst genocide in modern times and the country’s recovery was marred by its intervention in the conflict in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. The country has been beset by ethnic tension associated with the traditionally unequal relationship between the dominant Tutsi minority and the majority Hutus.

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