With a focus on “Delivering a Common Future: Connecting, Innovating and Transforming,” the first post-COVID-19 Commonwealth Wealth Heads of Government Meeting 2022 (CHOGM) came to an end in Kigali, Rwanda.
The week-long summit, hosted by Rwandan President Paul Kagame, included comments from Britain’s Prince Charles expressing contempt for his country’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade–the first time the United Kingdom has publicly addressed the subject.
The newly expanded Commonwealth made broad commitments during the head of government convening to bolster trade, address climate change and shore up their role in the world as a grown and influential alliance of countries. With 56 members, including India, Jamaica, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, and the tiny Pacific Island nation Nauru, representing some 2.5 billion people worldwide, the Commonwealth Conference was an opportunity for the countries to meet, organize and plan for the future.
During East African hosted meetings, members of the Commonwealth also elected their leadership for the next two years. In a heated battle for the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, heads of state were asked to select between the sitting Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland and Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith.
With more countries pledging their support for Johnson Smith before the Friday morning vote, she arrived in Kigali, Rwanda, as the favorite. That changed swiftly as Scotland addressed the official opening ceremony of the CHOGM.
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“We have laid the foundations for transformational change,” said Secretary-General Baroness Patricia Scotland. “And I am determined that, when the role of secretary general rotates to Africa two years from now, I will hand on the baton with a stronger, more effective, more powerful Commonwealth than ever before.”
An African member is scheduled to become the next secretary-general of the Commonwealth in 2024. During the conference, fear arose from member countries on the African continent, that a takeover date could be delayed to 2026 if Johnson Smith were to be elected to a four-year term or if it was decided that Scotland was starting a new term, instead of finishing her second term.
The decision by Scotland to only serve two years resulted in her gaining 27 votes to Johnson Smith’s 24 votes.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Johnson Smith said, “As I said to many people along the way, if I didn’t pull through in this undertaking, in this journey, then it was that God wasn’t ready for me to leave Jamaica yet.”
The Commonwealth Secretary-General position is based in London, England.
In a statement about the election results, Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness congratulated Secretary-General Scotland and expressed great pride for the campaign run by Johnson Smith. He said, “Jamaica remains deeply proud of Minister Johnson and we are happy to have put forward such a strong, credible and competent candidate.
“Her candidature won her the respect and admiration of many countries within our Commonwealth family and brought prominence to Jamaica and our ability to contest within such a large international institution,” Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica. “Jamaica continues to believe in the Commonwealth, its diversity and its potential to deliver for its people.”