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Rwanda represents an important innovation for the Commonwealth. Previously an informal club with no specified entry criteria, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) developed rules for entry in 1997 in response to interest in membership expressed by countries with no historical connection to British imperialism. These rules state any entrant must abide by the principles set out by the Harare Declaration of 1991, which amount to the usual commitments to democracy, human rights, and international peace and order. Rwanda became the first country to join the Commonwealth under these new rules in 2009.2 As such, it is an important test case for the Commonwealth’s ongoing attempted transformation into a relevant international organisation animated by adherence to principles of liberalism and democracy, particularly because Rwanda continues to polarise debate. Rwanda is mercurial, and probably does lie somewhere between the inspirational feel-good account of President Paul Kagame’s groupies and the African North Korea envisioned by its critics.

More information


Journal article


Taylor & Francis

Publication Date



103 (3)


347 - 349