KIGALI – The 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (Chogm) that was due to take place from June 22 – 27 in Kigali has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Commonwealth Secretariat said on Tuesday.
“The 26th CHOGM and associated events will be held in Kigali at a time to be announced in due course,” the Secretariat said in a statement.
“This decision was made in accordance with the 2005 Memorandum of Understanding Establishing the Commonwealth Secretariat and the CHOGM Technical Manual, as well as with precedent,” the Secretariat added.
Commenting on the development, the Rwandan President Paul Kagame is quoted to have said Kigali was looking forward to hosting the biennial summit post-coronavirus.
“In the coming months, every Commonwealth nation will be fully focused on combatting Covid-19 and its socio-economic impact on our people. 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,” said President Kagame.
“We look forward to welcoming the Commonwealth family to Kigali for CHOGM once the pandemic has been defeated,” he added.
On her part, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC said, “The COVID-19 Pandemic has changed the course of our modern history. Lives have been lost, economies are shrinking, and livelihoods have been shattered.”
“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. We stand together with Rwanda, and thank all our member countries and, in particular the United Kingdom as our Chair in Office, who have suffered so grievously, for the support and commitment they have shown in these trying times. I too warmly look forward to reuniting with the Commonwealth family, face-to-face, in the beautiful country of Rwanda,” she added.
CHOGM 2020 was billed to become Rwanda’s largest summit after the 2018 African Union Heads of State Summit—a landmark for the government following its heavy investment and focus on conference tourism.
The summit was to host up to 52 heads of state, including the Prime Minister of UK Boris Johnson and the Queen’s representative, Prince Charles.
In preparation, road upgrades and $10 million was spent on beautification of the city –while the government also scrapped visa requirements for citizens from Commonwealth countries, as it expected close to 7,000 delegates from across the world to fly in.
The suspension of CHOGM 2020 means that the Rwandan government will put on hold the launch of Kigali International Finance Centre (K-IFC), which was planned to be unveiled during the summit as a national special purpose vehicle to attract financial resources.