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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 23rd June 2022

Leadership fight sours Commonwealth summit

Blue Lines

The spectre of an institutional crisis hangs over Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali from 20-26 June as the organisation tries to manage the first challenge to a Secretary-General seeking a second four-year term.

Support for incumbent Baroness Patricia Scotland is ebbing with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government leading the campaign to replace her with Jamaica's foreign minister Kamina Johnson Smith. Johnson claims that Scotland has failed to deliver institutional reforms and his aides raise questions over transparency on procurement. Tradition dictates the position is agreed by consensus so there is no mechanism for a contested election. Scotland, a former Attorney General and supporter of Britain's opposition Labour party, is refusing to go. Instead, she launched a counterattack via media briefings on the eve of the summit accusing Johnson of undermining and dividing the Commonwealth.

The timing of the summit in Kigali is woeful given its implicit endorsement of Rwanda's President Paul Kagame. He is accused by neighbouring Congo-Kinshasa of sponsoring armed attacks by the M23 militia – tactics for which Rwanda has been sanctioned. And the Britain-Rwanda 'cash for asylum seekers' deal, under fire from the UN, religious leaders and opposition parties in Westminster, is weakening Commonwealth efforts to project itself as a promoter of human rights.