, KIGALI, Nov 29 – Rwanda has been officially admitted into the Commonwealth, following a decision taken at the organisation\’s summit, a Rwandan government spokesman in Kigali said Sunday.
"My government sees this accession as recognition of the tremendous progress this country has made in the last 15 years," said information minister Louise Mushikiwabo, quoted by the online edition of the Rwandan daily New Times.
"Rwandans are ready to seize economic, political, cultural and other opportunities offered by the Commonwealth network," she added.
A former African colony of Germany and then Belgium, Rwanda is the second country after Mozambique without a British colonial past or any constitutional link to Britain to be admitted into the Commonwealth.
Rwanda expressed in 2008 its desire to join the Commonwealth, an organisation of 53 countries which is currently holding a summit at Trinidad and Tobago.
The candidacy of Rwanda, a small central African country of less than nine million people which suffered a genocide of some 800,000 in 1994, had the support of several influential members of the Commonwealth, but was opposed by a human rights group.
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative said in a report in July that "the state of governance and human rights in Rwanda does not satisfy Commonwealth standards."
It raised concerns about constraints on freedom of speech and political expression in Rwanda, which "created a climate of fear in civil society," and concluded that Rwanda did not qualify for admission to the Commonwealth.
However, some Commonwealth members like Canada argued that admission would help alleviate those concerns. "The Commonwealth is well positioned to assist Rwanda in strengthening its democratic institutions," a spokesman for the Canadian foreign ministry told AFP.