Commonwealth association meeting postponed again, COVID-19 cited as reason behind

KIGALI, Rwanda. The 26th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was postponed again indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Commonwealth Secretariat said Friday.

The meeting was scheduled for June 2020 but was postponed to June this year.

The secretariat said the decision followed a review of all available evidence and risk assessments, including with the World Health Organization (WHO) and its risk assessment tool, as well as close consultation between the Commonwealth Secretariat and member states.

Secretary-General Patricia Scotland noted that the pandemic is continuing to have a damaging effect on association member countries, many of whom continue to face losses to lives and livelihoods.

“While it is with deep disappointment and regret that we cannot bring Commonwealth leaders together at this time to discuss many of these critical issues, we must be mindful of the huge risks large meetings pose to all,” she said in a statement.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame said the decision to postpone CHOGM for a second time was not taken lightly.

“The health and welfare of all Commonwealth citizens at this critical time must take precedence. We look forward to welcoming the Commonwealth family to Kigali for CHOGM at the appropriate time,” he said.

Rwanda was chosen to host the meeting during the last conference in London in 2018.

Scotland commended member countries and, in particular, the United Kingdom as the Chair-in-Office and India, who she said have suffered grievously in these trying times.

“I look forward warmly to a time when we can be reunited with the Commonwealth family, face-to-face, in Rwanda when the conditions allow for us to do so safely and securely,” she added.

The Commonwealth brings together 54 countries, mainly former colonies of Britain, with a total population of 2.4 billion.

A former Belgian colony, Rwanda joined the Anglophone association in 2009.

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