Kampala, Uganda (AP) – Queen Elizabeth II became the first British Royal Prince to visit Rwanda, representing the Commonwealth’s ceremonial head of state at a summit where both the 54-nation alliance and the monarchy are facing uncertainty.
Royal historian Ed Owens says he is the 73-year-old heir to the British throne He may find himself “responsible for a rapidly disintegrating organization” when he becomes Commonwealth leader after his mother. But he said Charles’ decades-long commitment to environmental issues could prove to be an asset with an alliance of inland island states at the forefront of climate change.
“His concern for the environment and his concern for the environment are very real,” Owens said.
This week’s summit in Rwanda will address issues such as climate change and how millions of people can fight poverty.
Charles was officially appointed Queen’s successor to head the Commonwealth Ceremonial in 2018, although some have suggested that the non-royal leader should give the Commonwealth a modern profile. He stood for the second time at the summit’s summit for the 96 – year – old queen, first doing so in Sri Lanka in 2013, in preparation for his future role as emperor.
Queen Elizabeth II
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The Commonwealth is struggling to establish a strong identity. It faces criticism for not doing enough to look after the financial interests of poor members, including Rwanda. For the most part the weakness of the group of former British colonies was that it was not a trade alliance at a time when most countries wanted trade.
As China’s largest trading partner in Africa, some critics say the Commonwealth is in danger of becoming largely a festive group.
James Mugum, a retired Ugandan diplomat who helped organize the 2007 Commonwealth Summit, said the challenge for the Commonwealth was how developed countries could help poor countries transform themselves economically.
“Wealthy members of the bloc use it for soft power, but when it comes to real issues, the challenge here is how to increase trade and market access,” Mugume said.
Although the Queen is widely respected at home and abroad, Charles’ relationship with the people is even more complicated. A few days before he left for Rwanda, the Times of London newspaper reported that he had called for a British government plan to send refugees to the UK “terribly” to Rwanda.
The report, which was sourced anonymously, was widely seen as an attempt to distance himself from the controversial – and critically acclaimed – policy, which overshadowed his visit. Legal challenges halted the flight carrying the first group of refugees just days before the summit.
Charles praised the Commonwealth’s ability to diversify on issues such as climate change and opportunities for young people, “and if so, be an unparalleled force for good.”
The need to benefit every Commonwealth member emerged as a strong theme this week, with people demanding a more dynamic alliance.
“We need to make sure that no one is left behind, like small and developing countries,” said Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Tuesday.
The alliance of member states, from vast India to small towels, faces a new challenge as some discuss the removal of the Queen as head of state. She is the head of state of 14 Commonwealth states, but Barbados severed ties with the monarchy in November and said several other Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, plan to follow suit.
The fact that countries can stay in the Commonwealth if they become republics increases the uncertainty around the organization that the Queen’s strong personal commitment has helped to unite.
Questions remain about the value of the Alliance in poor member states, with some critics mocking Africa’s relations with the organization they see as reminiscent of slavery and colonialism.
“Look at this year’s (Commonwealth Summit) host. Rwanda was not colonized by the British but by the Belgians … it’s like a village belle leaving a bully and falling into the hands of another, to make the former jealous but to gain powers and protection that are still powerful, ”analyst Nicholas Sengoba told the Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper.
Rwanda joined the Commonwealth in 2009 after a former benefactor severed ties with France over alleged responsibility for Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
In Rwanda, Charles meets survivors and perpetrators of the genocide, visiting a church where the remains of tens of thousands of victims are buried.
___ LaLews reported from London.