The 2020 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (Chogm) in Kigali, Rwanda, will not take place in June as scheduled.
The June 22-27 Kigali summit has been one of the last standing major global events that was yet to be felled by the invisible vicious claws of the coronavirus pandemic. But from the moment the central African state confirmed its first positive case of Covid-19 on March 14, it was just a matter of time before the pandemic claimed the country’s biggest ever event of any kind.
“As a result of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, it is necessary to postpone the 26th Chogm scheduled to take place in Kigali,” the Commonwealth Secretariat said in a media release on Tuesday evening.
The summit will still be held in Kigali but the new schedule will have to be decided upon at a later date.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who was involved in the meeting that pulled back the Kigali summit, acknowledged that combating the pandemic was the priority for every nation.
“In the coming months, every Commonwealth nation will be fully focused on combatting Covid-19 and its socio-economic impact on our people,” Mr Kagame said, adding that his country is looking forward to “welcoming the Commonwealth family” to Kigali for the summit “once the pandemic has been defeated.”
Rwanda was the first East African Community member state to announce a total lockdown to combat the spread of the virus that has since affected 150 on its territory – although only 66 active cases remain as 84 have recovered. The country has not recorded any death from the disease.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has claimed lives, economies are shrinking, and livelihoods have been shattered,” said Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland.
“It is difficult to predict what the new normal will look like. We must be mindful of the risks large meetings pose to all. The current circumstances require heroic decisions.”
Global events on ice
Almost every major global event across the socio-political and economic divide battered into the cemetery of Covid-19 or stuffed in ice for future happening.
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, European championships, economic forum meetings and UN conferences, as well as all major sports activities have been either cancelled or postponed since the World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus a global pandemic on January 11.
Globally, at least 2.5 million people have been infected by the virus that was first reported in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December. Although 650,000 people have recovered, more than 175,000 have succumbed to the disease.
The decision to push back the summit was made in accordance with the 2005 Memorandum of Understanding Establishing the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Chogm Technical Manual after consultation with President Kagame.
“Our organisation’s deep reservoirs of solidarity and expertise will be invaluable tools as we work together globally to ensure no country is left behind,” Mr Kagame reassured.
Ms Scotland said the Commonwealth “stands together with Rwanda” and that she was also looking forward to reuniting with the Commonwealth family “face-to-face, in the beautiful country of Rwanda.”
The Commonwealth is a political association of 54 member states, nearly all former territories of the British. British Queen Elizabeth once described the Commonwealth as “one of the world’s great convening powers.”
Rwanda became the 54th nation to join the Commonwealth at the 2009 summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. It became the second country (after Mozambique) not to have any historical ties with Britain.
Rwanda had been a colony of Germany in the 19th century and of Belgium for the first half of the 20th century.
Rwanda won the right to host 2020 Chogm summit at the end of the 2018 meetings in London, bringing back the meet to east Africa for the first time since 2007 when it was held in Kampala.