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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cricket-loving Rwanda becomes 54th member of the Commonwealth

Rwanda became the 54th member of the Commonwealth yesterday and the second nation to join that was not once part of the British Empire.

The Commonwealth summit approved Rwanda’s entry at its two-yearly gathering in Trinidad and Tobago. Britain pushed hard for the admission of the former Francophone country.

A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “Rwanda has made progress towards the Commonwealth’s core values in areas of democratic process, rule of law, good governance, protection of human rights and equality of opportunity.”

After gaining independence in 1962, the French-speaking Rwanda formed close ties with France. But after the 1994 genocide, when France was accused of supporting the Government that was blamed for the deaths of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutus, the country turned to Britain and severed diplomatic ties with France.

The current Tutsi-led Government was set up in 1994 with Paul Kagame, the former leader of the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front, as President.

The rebel group was mostly made up of Tutsis, who grew up in English-speaking Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, after their parents had fled earlier pogroms in the country in the 1950s and 1960s.

When these “Tutsi boys” returned to Rwanda with the rebel forces they took not just the English language, now Rwanda’s third official tongue, but also English sports, including cricket — which endeared the country to many Commonwealth nations.

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