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The 18th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting was hosted in Malta (above) and well-attended by the 53 Commonwealth member states, represented below in blue

 

Uganda takes centre stage
The 19th Commonwealth meeting gives Uganda a chance to showcase its progress over the last twenty years

Ever since the break up of the Roman empire one of the constant facts of political life in Europe has been the emergence of independent nations. They have come into existence over the centuries in different forms, different kinds of government, but all have been inspired by a deep, keen feeling of nationalism, which has grown as the nations have grown.”

When Harold Macmillan spoke these words at the South Africa Parliament in 1960, he could scarcely have imagined that they would still ring true in 2007. Less still could the then British prime minster have entertained the notion that the ‘emergence of independent nations’ would be taking place in Europe - Montenegro being the most recent case - and that the fervour of nationalism would have taken hold in Africa to such an extent that ex-colonial states would today be leading the African continent towards a prosperous and peaceful future. The withdrawal of the colonial powers throughout the 1950s and 1960s invariably resulted in economic and social upheavals that even developed countries would have struggled to manage. It is with no small measure of pride then that Uganda this month plays host to the world’s largest unilingual gathering of heads of state – the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

The logistical challenge of hosting the heads of state of the 53 member countries of the Commonwealth is one to which Uganda intends to rise emphatically. The capital, Kampala, will be the centre of international attention between the 23rd and 25th of November, when the leaders of the Commonwealth of Nations descend en masse to mark the 19th edition of CHOGM. The concurrent Commonwealth Business Forum is expected to attract in excess of 5,000 delegates.

Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the president of the Republic of Uganda and chairman in office of the event, will welcome the heads of state, including the Head of the Commonwealth Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, along with the thousands of Ugandans expected to throng the streets. In anticipation of the scale of the meeting, extensive improvements have been undertaken at Entebbe International Airport in Kampala. The Civil Aviation Authority has commissioned a new surveillance radar and some 2,000 additional security personnel have been drafted in to ensure the safety of guests, who will be lodged at the Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort on the outskirts of the city. It is an unprecedented operation for Uganda, and one that Mr Museveni and his government have approached with passion and commitment. In a message to the Ugandan people earlier this year, Mr Museveni stated, “I wish to assure all our citizens that Uganda, as a nation, is ready to host this prestigious event. Since all the components of our society will be touched by the various CHOGM -related activities, hosting it successfully will give us a major leap forward in the transformation of our country. I wish, therefore, to rally your support and commitment to the success of this event.”

Under the banner of ‘Transforming Commonwealth Societies to Achieve Political, Economic and Human Development’, the 19th CHOGM will continue the work of its predecessors to deliberate central policies designed to benefit its member states, while Uganda will have the opportunity to display its progress in achieving its UN Millennium Development Goals. It is also the duty of the meeting to renew the mandate of the 1991 Harare Declaration, which sets out the core principles and policies of the Commonwealth of Nations. A broad-based set of beliefs that stem from a common desire for progress among member nations, the Harare Declaration spans global development and harmony, the denunciation of racial prejudice and the promotion of economic and social advancement among the combined 1,921,974,000 citizens of the Commonwealth. Previous CHOGMs have contributed to the cessation of the Cold War, the end of Apartheid in South Africa and the peaceful conclusion of decolonisation.

It is a testament to how far African nations have brought themselves, and to the positive reaction of the Commowealth to the process of nation-building within its remit, that the 19th CHOGM is to be held in one of the continent’s brightest examples of economic and social development. Secretary General of the Commonwealth Don McKinnon summed up the potential of this edition of the event on a recent preparatory visit to Kampala. “Fantastic,” he enthused.

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UGANDA PROJECT TEAM
Project Director: Loida Peral
Project Coordinator: Leland Rice