Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rwanda becomes a member of the Commonwealth

Recently Rwanda became the 54th member of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is like a club for the countries that used to be British colonies. Although Rwanda used to be a German and then a Belgian colony, it decided to turn away from La Francophonie and become Anglophone. Rwanda is the second country to join the Commonwealth with no historic ties to Britain, the first one being Mozambique joining in 1995. Information Minister Louise Mushikiwabo in an interview with the Rwanda Daily Times stated that Rwanda is pleased by its admission, “My government sees this accession as recognition of the tremendous progress this country has made in the last 15 years.” Rwanda’s decision to join the Commonwealth was supported by Britain, Australia, Canada and India. It was also backed by Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, and the host country Trinidad and Tobago.

Recently Rwanda has changed the teaching language in schools from French to English. The transition is not without problems as Professor Alphonse Ngagi, who has overseen the switch, does not speak English himself! He said, “We are putting a lot of emphasis on English because it is not yet widely spoken here and after all it is the international language.” Universities’ notice boards display announcements written in English. This switch is not sudden as the trade opportunities and relations between France and Rwanda have been poor for years.

Not everyone thought Rwanda would be admitted, though. Before the admission the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) urged Rwanda to increase political freedom and stop the harassment of journalists. Later on the report said, “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.”

Just 15 years ago Rwanda was torn apart by genocide in which Hutu tribe killed around 800,000 Tutsi neighbors. But the county was able to put this ugly past behind and take great strides forward!

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