African Press International (API)

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Posted by African Press International on August 5, 2008

A stakeholders conference assessing the progress of Rwandas bid to join the Commonwealth, opens this Tuesday morning in Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

At a one-day conference at hotel Novotel in Kigali, Rwanda is expected to showcase its progress to the Commonwealth in central areas of democracy, good governance, access to justice, civil society and public and private sector reform.

According to a press release from the British embassy in Kigali, issued by the Commonwealth Policy Studies Unit, the conference to be presided over by the Rwandan minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation, Rosemary Museminari, is part of the countrys planned accession to the mostly English speaking group, formerly under British colonial rule. The statement notes that its the first time there has been a public debate in an applicant country ahead of membership.

This demonstrates that Rwanda takes civil society consultation seriously and moves Rwanda one step closer to its anticipated membership in November 2009, the press statement said in part. It added that the conference will provide a platform for all stakeholders to debate on how they can effectively contribute and benefit from Commonwealth membership.

Participants, drawn from around 40 ministries, businesses, public institutions and non-governmental organizations, will also be introduced to the 80-odd Commonwealth professional associations, with a view to creating new partnerships between the Commonwealth and Rwanda.

The conference will include speeches from the Rwandan ministers of Justice and Local Government; the UK Shadow Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell; and Mark Collins of the Commonwealth Foundation.

Rwanda first enquired about joining the Commonwealth in 1996. The Commonwealth Secretary-General is currently in consultation with the 53 members of the Commonwealth and if consensus is achieved, Rwanda will formally be invited to apply for membership. A final decision on the former Belgian colonys bid will be made by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) at its November 2009 conference to be held in Trinidad and Tobago.



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