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Commonwealth conference postponed again


Commonwealth conference postponed again
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland. (GP)

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London – The London-based Commonwealth Secretariat Friday said that the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference (CHOGM-2021) that was due to take place in Rwanda on June 21, has been further postponed.

“His Excellency Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, and Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, are today announcing the postponement of CHOGM 2021 as a result of the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic,” the Secretariat said in a statement on Friday.

It said that having reviewed all available evidence and risk assessments, including with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and their risk assessment tool, and after close consultation member countries, the decision had been made to postpone the CHOGM in Kigali for a second time.

“The decision to postpone CHOGM for a second time has not been taken lightly. The health and welfare of all Commonwealth citizens at this critical time must take precedence. We look forward to welcoming the Commonwealth family to Kigali for CHOGM at the appropriate time,” President Kagame said.

Scotland said the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to have a “hugely damaging impact on our member countries, many of whom continue to face huge losses to lives and livelihoods”.

“And while it is with deep disappointment and regret that we cannot bring Commonwealth leaders together at this time to discuss many of these critical issues, we must be mindful of the huge risks large meetings pose to all.

“I want to thank the Government and people of Rwanda for their professionalism, support, patience and their impeccable readiness to hold CHOGM. And I want to thank all our member countries and, in particular, the United Kingdom as our Chair-in-Office and India, who have suffered so grievously in these trying times. I look forward warmly to a time when we can be reunited with the Commonwealth family, face-to-face, in Rwanda when the conditions allow for us to do so safely and securely.”

Scotland, who is the sixth Commonwealth Secretary-General, is facing opposition to her re-election to the post.

The Dominican-born, who was elected in 2015, is the second Secretary-General from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.

Last year it was disclosed that Commonwealth governments have rejected a fresh attempt to give Scotland an automatic second term of office.

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a letter noted that a “significant and diverse number” of heads of government “from across the Commonwealth” opposed the idea of Scotland being reappointed for another four years without facing re-election.

The prime minister – who is the current “chair-in-office” for the Commonwealth – said that he hopes the heads of government can instead agree just to extend Lady Scotland’s contract temporarily until they meet next year.

The 54 heads of government had expected to decide on Scotland’s future at their biennial summit  in Rwanda in January but the meeting was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic. (CMC)