Commonwealth in crisis

Johnson wants to replace Scotland with Jamaica’s foreign minister Kamina Johnson Smith, with his officials arguing that the Jamaican minister is more willing to help Johnson use the Commonwealth, which brings together countries across the world who were, in most cases, former British colonies, to help promote Johnson’s post-Brexit ‘global Britain agenda’.  [EPA-EFE/ANDY RAIN]

The threat of an institutional crisis hangs over this week’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, with UK prime minister Boris Johnson leading the campaign to replace the organisation’s incumbent Secretary General Baroness Patricia Scotland, a Labour member of the House of Lords and former UK Attorney General.

Johnson wants to replace Scotland with Jamaica’s foreign minister Kamina Johnson Smith, with his officials arguing that the Jamaican minister is more willing to help Johnson use the Commonwealth, which brings together countries across the world who were, in most cases, former British colonies, to help promote Johnson’s post-Brexit ‘global Britain agenda’. 

The institutional battle will likely dominate the summit, which will run until the weekend. Scotland is refusing to quit, and the Secretary-General position must be agreed upon by consensus.

The summit in Kigali has been delayed for two years by the COVID-19 pandemic and the gathering comes at a bad time. Prince Charles, the heir to the throne, who is chairing the summit, has criticised the government’s controversial ‘cash for asylum seekers’ deal with Rwanda as ‘appalling’.  

However, both sides appear determined to continue with the £120 million scheme, which will see asylum seekers deported to Rwanda, where their claims will be processed. 

Meanwhile, Rwanda’s neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo, claims that President Paul Kagame is sponsoring military action by the M23 militia group in the east of the country.

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