- Commonwealth of Nations
a voluntary association of independent nations and dependent territories linked by historical ties (as parts of the former British Empire) and cooperating on matters of mutual concern, esp. regarding economics and trade. Also called the Commonwealth. Formerly, British Commonwealth, British Commonwealth of Nations.
* * *▪ 2003The Commonwealth of Nations was the only worldwide political grouping of states besides the United Nations. It had no constitution and membership was voluntary. The organization had evolved from the British Empire but long ago ceased to be British. Even though the position of Queen Elizabeth II (see Biographies (Elizabeth II )) as head of the Commonwealth was symbolic, her long reign and her personal informal network of contacts with leaders of nations and states elevated her stature within the body. For her golden jubilee the queen traveled in 2002 from one end of the Commonwealth to the other—from Iqaluit, Nunavut, northernmost Canada, to Coolum, northern Queensland, Australia.The biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), delayed following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S., was hosted in Coolum in March. Politically, it was a difficult meeting, particularly because of events in Zimbabwe, which many in the organization believed was in violation of the 1991 Declaration of Commonwealth Principles and had not complied with the Abuja agreement of 2001 on land reform. Elections were about to be held there, and Commonwealth observers were monitoring the event; they represented the only international body present. Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K. initially wanted Zimbabwe expelled, but with the election imminent CHOGM instead established a troika of leaders (Presidents Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Prime Minister John Howard of Australia) to act on its behalf after the election observers reported their findings. Zimbabwean Pres. Robert Mugabe boycotted the meeting but sent his foreign minister.The observer group found that conditions in Zimbabwe did not adequately allow for a free expression of will by the electorate. After a tense meeting in London on March 19, the troika suspended Zimbabwe for a year from the councils of the Commonwealth (two stages from expulsion). African members resisted tougher measures against Mugabe, but when the troika invited him to meet with them in Abuja, Nigeria, on September 23, he failed to appear. Howard wanted Zimbabwe fully suspended, but Mbeki and Obasanjo said that the one-year suspension agreed to in March should stand. In Pakistan, which was also under suspension, Commonwealth observers found the October elections flawed, and the watchdog Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group decided to maintain Pakistan's suspension until a democratic government was in place.Nevertheless, the Commonwealth was making headway elsewhere in the pursuit of good governance and democracy. Peace came to Sierra Leone, and elections were held with Commonwealth technical help. Lesotho introduced a new voting system and produced a more representative parliament. Technical aid and advice in the Fiji Islands, Solomon Islands, and Swaziland were helping enhance stability. Fiji had been readmitted as a full member in December 2001. On August 19–20 a Commonwealth roundtable in Fiji's Denarau Island was attended by the leaders of 10 countries. They explored ways in which Pacific states might adapt their democracy to reflect regional cultures better.When Commonwealth Finance Ministers met in London in September, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from six regions presented proposals for the reduction of global poverty. It was the first time that NGOs had participated in such a meeting, a fact that highlighted the growing influence of the nearly 100 specifically Commonwealth NGOs. Another Commonwealth innovation was a meeting of foreign ministers held in New York City at the same time that the UN General Assembly was convening. The 37 ministers present decided that it should be an annual event.The nonpolitical activities of the Commonwealth were flourishing as never before. The Commonwealth Games, held in Manchester, Eng., July 25–August 4, were a major success—smoothly organized and financially profitable.Derek Ingram▪ 2002The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S. profoundly disrupted the Commonwealth. An immediate consequence was the cancellation of its finance ministers' meeting, which had been about to convene in St. Lucia. Much more serious was the postponement, for the first time in its long history, of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM). These meetings, the longest running of all international summits and rooted in the late 19th-century imperial conferences, had been held biennially since 1969. The 2001 CHOGM had been planned for October 6–9 in Brisbane, Australia. When it became evident that many heads could not attend because of the world crisis, the gathering of an expected 52 leaders was rescheduled for 2002.Tens of millions of Muslims lived in Commonwealth countries, most notably in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. Other members, such as Nigeria, Malaysia, and Brunei, contained large Muslim communities. Politically embarrassing circumstances for the Commonwealth developed when Pakistan emerged as a critical player in the war against terrorism. In its drive to secure democracy in all member countries, the Commonwealth had succeeded over the years in eliminating military rule. A setback had come in 1999 when Gen. Pervez Musharraf seized power in Pakistan. The Commonwealth had suspended Pakistan from its councils, barring its attendance at official meetings until democracy was restored. After two years it faced expulsion.Musharraf vowed to end army rule by 2002 and held local elections during 2001. This looked set to secure agreement at the Brisbane summit to give Pakistan a year's grace. As a vital member of the alliance against terrorism, however, Musharraf came centre stage globally, with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and others needing to buttress him in power rather than persuade him to restore civilian rule.Another consequence of the global concentration on Afghanistan was to distract international attention from the deteriorating situation in Zimbabwe. Farm seizures and a breakdown in law and order there violated Commonwealth principles, but when the eight-member Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group tried to send three ministers to Zimbabwe, Pres. Robert Mugabe refused to let them in.Threatened stability of the southern African region increasingly worried Commonwealth African governments. After months of diplomacy Pres. Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria convened a meeting in Abuja of nine Commonwealth ministers, including the foreign minister of Zimbabwe, on September 6. Zimbabwe agreed to restore order and to implement a sustainable, transparent, and just program of land reform, in return for British and UN funding.Nevertheless, the Abuja meeting changed nothing. Farm takeovers and violence continued. The Brisbane postponement meant the leaders lost the opportunity to confront Mugabe personally. Part of the Abuja deal had been the dispatch of seven Commonwealth ministers to Zimbabwe. This happened on October 25–27. The result was disappointing. Mugabe berated the ministers, and they left fearing little would change. It did not.Despite the leaders' absence, the rest of Brisbane's Commonwealth program went ahead. An elaborate People's Festival, intended to take place alongside the summit, showcased the huge range of work of the nongovernmental organizations and the arts. A meeting of 250 business leaders in Melbourne had to be canceled.Pluses for the Commonwealth during the year included backup for the restoration of peace in Sierra Leone with strong British military involvement, abolition of a decree inhibiting political activity in The Gambia, and the successful democratic transfer of power in Ghana. Minuses were a disputed election in Fiji that led to continued suspension of Commonwealth membership and unrest in the Solomon Islands.Continuing disputes between Commonwealth countries and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) over tax havens led to a stormy conference in Barbados chaired by Prime Minister Owen Arthur, at which the OECD backed down on a Memorandum of Understanding imposing new tax procedures on small states.Derek Ingram▪ 2001Politically turbulent events in several member countries in 2000 tested the Commonwealth of Nations' rules on democracy and good governance. These tumultuous times coincided with the arrival on April 3, 2000, of Don McKinnon, the new Commonwealth secretary-general and former foreign minister of New Zealand. Two of the upheavals were in his own region—in Fiji the seizure of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and military takeover and in the Solomon Islands the ousting of Prime Minister Bartholemew Ulufa'alu. On May 24 McKinnon visited Fiji and saw Chaudhry in captivity.The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) of eight foreign ministers met on June 6 in London and, as with Pakistan eight months earlier, suspended Fiji “from the councils of the Commonwealth.” Since the parliament in the Solomon Islands had elected a new prime minister, no action was taken there.Simultaneously, the land-reform crisis led to serious violence in Zimbabwe and strained relations with Great Britain. McKinnon held talks with Zimbabwean Pres. Robert Mugabe, who soon afterward proclaimed a date for parliamentary elections. A 44-member Commonwealth observer group, however, led by former Nigerian head of state Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, found serious fault with polling conduct there, especially in widespread intimidation that preceded voting.McKinnon also faced problems with Pakistan, which failed to convince him that civilian rule would return within the Commonwealth timetable. Under rules the Commonwealth had adopted in 1995 to deal with the overthrow of a democratically elected member government, a two-year time limit was laid down; for Pakistan this meant a deadline of October 2001. In August McKinnon met in Islamabad, Pak., with military ruler Pervaiz Musharraf, who outlined a democracy program targeted to 2002. CMAG queried the timetable during a September 15 meeting in New York with Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar. That same day CMAG interviewed Fiji's Chaudhry and his successor, Laisenia Qarase.On all of these issues—and in the case of the Sierra Leone civil war—the Commonwealth approach necessarily varied. Though the 1995 rules had approached the issue of some Commonwealth intervention in internal affairs, a fine line had to be drawn; in Zimbabwe's case the Commonwealth had no mandate to intervene in a situation in which the government was flouting the law. The adoption of tighter rules was deferred and referred to a group of 10 heads of government set up in 1999 to chart the future role of the Commonwealth. The 10 met for a preliminary review on September 5.The Commonwealth had already set an example internationally by putting an end to the attendance of military leaders at its meetings. The Organization of African Unity followed suit, and the Organization of American States was formulating similar rules. During the UN Millennium Summit in New York, McKinnon also appealed to the UN to suspend countries in which leaders had taken power undemocratically.The Commonwealth successfully sensitized the World Bank to the problems of small states. On September 25 a joint task force convened in Prague at the first annual Small States Forum sponsored by the Bank and the Commonwealth Secretariat.At the September 19–21 Commonwealth meeting of finance ministers in Malta, many small states vented anger at attempts by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to impose economic sanctions by July 2001 on 20 Commonwealth countries operating offshore financial centres unless they complied with OECD tax rules. Those countries insisted that as sovereign states they reserved the right to impose their own tax regimes.The ministers also renewed attempts to speed debt repayment, a matter that, owing to Commonwealth pressure led by successive British governments, had begun to pay off; only 10 countries still qualified for relief, however.Derek Ingram▪ 2000At the Commonwealth summit in Durban, S.Af. (Nov. 12–15, 1999), attended by a record 47 presidents and prime ministers, Nigeria resumed its place as a full member, but Pakistan was absent. Nigeria, suspended in 1995 over a series of executions, had returned when civilian government was restored on May 29, 1999. At that point, for almost the first time in 41 years, no member country had army rule. Only five months later, however, a coup reimposed military rule in Pakistan. Commonwealth response was swift; the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) of eight foreign ministers decided on October 18 that Pakistan was to be suspended “from the councils of the Commonwealth.” A mission talked to coup leader Gen. Pervaiz Musharraf and political leaders in Islamabad, but they were unable to see the arrested prime minister, Mohammed Nawaz Sharif. The Durban summit agreed that the suspension had to continue until democracy was restored. The secretary-general, Chief Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria, told the summit, “In a very real sense, the Commonwealth is now a club of democracies.”The Commonwealth was committed to deepening democracy and improving human rights throughout its 54 countries, but in Durban the leaders hesitated to give CMAG further powers to intervene in a member country guilty of persistent violations. Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee, among others, objected to a set of tougher rules proposed by CMAG and referred them to 10 heads of government they had appointed to review the role of the Commonwealth in the 21st century. The 10, chaired by Pres. Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, would report to the next summit in Canberra, Australia, in 2001. Under a new arrangement, Mbeki was also to become the Commonwealth's first chairperson-in-office. In the future the chair of each summit would for the two ensuing years speak for the Commonwealth in other intergovernmental organizations, including meetings of the UN and regional bodies such as the Organization of African Unity. This would give the Commonwealth a higher political profile internationally in a way Queen Elizabeth (the symbolic head of the Commonwealth) and the secretary-general (the diplomatic head) could not do.In Durban a new secretary-general was elected to take over on April 1, 2000, on Anyaoku's retirement. He was Don McKinnon, foreign minister of New Zealand. Bangladeshi diplomat Farooq Sobhan was runner-up. Under new rules the secretary-general would be limited to two terms of four years.The year 1999 marked the 50th anniversary of the London Declaration, under which India became the first member to stay in the Commonwealth as a republic. The declaration was seen historically as marking the birth of the modern Commonwealth. By 1999 a total of 33 members were republics, 5 had national monarchs, and only 16 had Queen Elizabeth as official head of state.The Commonwealth was increasingly active in its mediatory role during the year. It was a party to the Lomé Peace Agreement on Sierra Leone, defused ethnic tensions in the Solomon Islands, brokered an agreement between warring political parties in Zanzibar, and mediated a political deal in Guyana providing for early elections.Recent remarkable growth in the network of 200 nongovernmental organizations was seen in Durban, where exhibitions, seminars, workshops, a youth forum, editors forum, and human rights debates took place alongside the summit. In addition, a business forum in Johannesburg, S.Af., attracted some 500 company chiefs from all over the Commonwealth. The businesspeople's recommendations influenced a summit Declaration on Globalization and People-Centred Development that warned the World Trade Organization that globalization was marginalizing small and less-developed countries.Derek Ingram▪ 1999Politically, Commonwealth attention in 1998 focused again on West Africa, where progress toward democracy was made. In Sierra Leone, within weeks of the February overthrow of the rebel government and restoration of Pres. Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, Commonwealth experts went to the nation to help rebuild its judiciary and police, restore the mining sector, and develop projects for youth employment. A new police training school was established. These gains were threatened at year's end, however, as the rebels again approached Freetown.In June Nigeria's relationship with the Commonwealth was transformed with the death of Gen. Sani Abacha. (See OBITUARIES (Abacha, Sani ).) Whereas Abacha had refused dialogue for nearly two years, his successor as head of state, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar (see BIOGRAPHIES (Abubakar, Abdulsalam )), was on the phone to the Commonwealth secretary-general, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, within days of taking office. Abubakar sought technical support to help restore civilian rule. The Commonwealth response, following Nigeria's speedy release of political prisoners, was positive. Anyaoku, himself a Nigerian, met with Abubakar in Nigeria in July and at the same time visited the imprisoned Chief Moshood Abiola, perceived winner of the aborted 1993 elections. Abiola died days later. (See OBITUARIES (Abiola, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale ).)The Commonwealth offered technical assistance to the new Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria and discussed help in planning and observing elections rescheduled to install civilian rule in May 1999. At the same time, Nigeria, suspended from the Commonwealth since 1995, was told it could not return to full membership until a democratically elected government was in place. The Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) of foreign ministers met a Nigerian delegation led by the new foreign minister, Ignatius Olisemeka, in London on October 9. CMAG recommended that Commonwealth members begin lifting sanctions against Nigeria. Membership suspension, a more decisive step than any taken by the UN or the Organization of African Unity, had helped to confer international pariah status on the nation. The new government's readiness for reconciliation pointed to continued public regard for the Commonwealth.Precedent was set in Seychelles when a joint Commonwealth-La Francophonie observer group was sent to the nation for its presidential and National Assembly election (March 20-22). A team led by Sir John Compton, former prime minister of St. Lucia, included two Canadians—one representing English-speaking and one French-speaking Canada. The team expressed concern about how the election was conducted but said that the end result "accurately reflected the will of the people." A Commonwealth observer group led by Sir Lynden Pindling, a former prime minister of The Bahamas, went to Lesotho for the National Assembly elections on May 23. The group recorded concerns about the polling and disappointment that voting had not produced a multiparty parliament. Some proportional system of parliamentary representation was suggested. Later the government was almost overthrown. South African and Botswanan troops moved in. Serious fighting ensued, but the elected government survived.When Commonwealth finance ministers met in Ottawa (September 30-October 1), British Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown (see BIOGRAPHIES (Brown, Gordon )) led moves to press international financial institutions to speed help for the heavily indebted poor countries. Commonwealth countries put themselves in the forefront of international pressure for debt relief at the subsequent World Bank-International Monetary Fund meetings.DEREK INGRAM▪ 1998In 1997 the Commonwealth received increasing international attention. Following the return of Pakistan (1991) and South Africa (1994) and the admittance of Cameroon and Mozambique (both 1995), two more countries, Rwanda and Yemen, applied to join the organization. The Palestine National Authority also inquired about membership. The increasing number of members had prompted Commonwealth leaders in 1995 to form a high-level committee to regularize previously ad hoc arrangements by setting firm criteria for admittance. It proposed that a country should have had a constitutional association with an existing member; comply with the principles of the 1991 Harare Declaration, in which members pledged to work for just and honest government, fundamental human rights, equality of women, universal access to education, and sound economic management; accept English as the medium of inter-Commonwealth relations; and acknowledge the role of the British monarch as head of the Commonwealth.At Edinburgh neither Yemen nor Rwanda was admitted. Their applications were to be "kept under review." Palestine could not be considered until it became sovereign. The new rules made entry more difficult, but the return of Ireland and Myanmar (Burma), both of which left in the 1940s, was seen as an eventual possibility. The Edinburgh summit, the first in the U.K. for 20 years, attracted a record number of 51 countries—43 represented by heads of government. Nigeria, suspended since 1995, was excluded.The meeting, addressed by Queen Elizabeth II for the first time in Commonwealth history, was the first international summit to be chaired by new British Prime Minister Tony Blair) (Blair, Tony ) His Labour Party had made an election promise to raise the U.K.'s Commonwealth profile.Fiji, whose Commonwealth membership had lapsed in 1987 following a coup led by Col. Sitiveni Rabuka, was readmitted on October 1. Its return had been blocked because its constitution discriminated against Fijians of Indian origin. The new constitution was regarded as fairer, and Rabuka, as prime minister, attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Edinburgh (October 24-27).The emphasis at CHOGM was on trade and investment. The meeting dealt specifically with means of fostering cooperation between the public and private sectors, and with problems of globalization, particularly those confronting small and weak nations. A new Trade and Investment Access Facility was established to help less-developed countries. Training centres would enhance export management; a business council would increase private-sector involvement in trade and investment promotion; and a Commonwealth code of good practice for national policies would attract private capital flows.West Africa remained the Commonwealth focus in regard to issues of democracy and good governance. Despite several meetings and a visit to Nigeria, the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) of eight foreign ministers made little firm progress toward achieving the release of political prisoners or a quick return to civilian rule. A serious setback was the military overthrow in May of the recently elected civilian government in Sierra Leone. The Commonwealth supported Nigerian-led efforts to restore Pres. Tejan Kabbah. He was invited to Edinburgh—the first deposed leader to attend a Commonwealth summit.A Commonwealth group observed Pakistan's elections in February. Constitutional changes effected later were attributed to its recommendations. The Cameroon parliamentary elections were also observed, and the team was highly critical of their conduct. In his increasing "good offices" role, the Commonwealth's secretary-general, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, visited Papua New Guinea in March and helped defuse the tense situation that followed the hiring of mercenaries to fight in Bougainville. Papua New Guinea's prime minister, Sir Julius Chan, stepped down, and the Commonwealth observed subsequent elections.DEREK INGRAM▪ 1997Politically, the Commonwealth continued to focus in 1996 on improving the quality of democracy, governance, and human rights in its member countries. Recently suspended Nigeria remained central to its concerns, and a group of eight foreign ministers known as the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) planned to visit Nigeria on a fact-finding mission in January.Nigeria strongly objected to the plan and refused access to the CMAG. Its military regime embarked on an aggressive worldwide campaign to convince governments that criticisms of Nigeria were unjustified and that it was intent on achieving civilian rule by 1998. The CMAG threatened sanctions if its mission continued to be blocked but then accepted a Nigerian offer to send a diplomatic team to London for talks. The Nigerians left London without giving any promises, maintaining that the Commonwealth visit was not to be a fact-finding one, as it had already allowed the UN to carry out such a mission. They would give no assurances that the visitors could see any political prisoners. After more meetings in London and New York City, the CMAG agreed to visit Nigeria without any written assurances about access.Differences of opinion on the Commonwealth approach to Nigeria ranged from the strong view of Canada, whose new foreign minister, Lloyd Axworthy, said after the June meeting that his country would impose sanctions against Nigeria unilaterally, to that of Malaysia, which opposed a strong involvement in a member country's internal affairs. The U.K., conscious of its huge financial stake in Nigeria, would not go beyond the European Union sanctions and strongly opposed an oil embargo. Ghana—whose president, Jerry Rawlings, was a military-turned-civilian leader—and South Africa began to take a more conciliatory line.The CMAG, whose mission was to monitor governance and democracy in all member countries, found most of its attention in 1996 focused on the military regimes in West Africa. The Commonwealth played an important role in securing a peaceful handover to civilian rule in Sierra Leone, providing legal, technical, electoral, and constitutional help and sending an observer group to the February 26-27 parliamentary elections. Their report on the conduct of the elections was positive.The Gambia was a less happy story. When the military regime there banned the main political parties, the CMAG declared the election process "obviously flawed" and said it could "lead to consolidation of military rule in another form." Because of this, the Commonwealth did not send an observer team. It did send a team to Bangladesh—its 18th such operation since 1990—and declared the election there on June 12 credible and trouble-free.In March a report entitled The Future Role of the Commonwealth was published by the British House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. It said: "The Commonwealth is acquiring a new significance in a rapidly transforming world and . . . United Kingdom policy-makers should bring this major change to the forefront of their thinking." It rebuked the British government for not paying enough attention to the Commonwealth in recent years and pointed to the growing opportunities for the U.K. arising from intra-Commonwealth trade. The committee's report was followed by indications of a foreign policy tilt in the direction of the Commonwealth by both the government of John Major and the opposition Labour Party. (DEREK INGRAM)▪ 1996One of the most dramatic Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings (CHOGM) for many years was held in New Zealand on Nov. 10-13, 1995. During the meeting the leaders voted to suspend Nigeria from membership of the Commonwealth for gross abuse of human rights and violation of the principles set out in the Harare Declaration of 1991.Within hours of the meeting's opening, the Nigerian military government headed by Gen. Sani Abacha executed nine men, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, an author, environmentalist, and champion of the Ogoni people in eastern Nigeria. (See OBITUARIES (Saro-Wiwa, Kenule Beeson ).) The Commonwealth leaders convening in Auckland immediately adopted rules that would mean the expulsion of Nigeria from the Commonwealth if it did not release political prisoners and return the country to civilian rule within two years.Such rules were to be applied to other countries that flagrantly breached the Harare principles, under which members committed themselves to just and honest government, democracy, and protection of human rights. The Commonwealth thus became the first international organization to set out such a program of self-discipline. The adopted plan of action described steps to be taken in the event of an unconstitutional overthrow of a democratically elected government. A group of foreign ministers from eight countries—Britain, Canada, Ghana, Jamaica, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Zimbabwe—was set up to deal with "serious or persistent violations" of the principles and to recommend collective Commonwealth action. Other measures would provide advice, training, and other technical assistance to governments on such matters as voter education and the promotion of the independence of the judiciary. It was agreed that the 1991 declaration had to be seen as more than mere rhetoric; the Auckland summit gave the Commonwealth the power to act.For Nigeria suspension meant it could no longer attend intergovernmental meetings or receive documentation and technical assistance. Its flag would not fly on Commonwealth occasions. The Commonwealth secretary-general, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who was himself a Nigerian, remained in place, having been elected to serve until 1999. During the year he spoke out against the Abacha regime several times and made efforts to secure the release of Nigerian political prisoners, to no avail.The summit also condemned French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, which had angered most Commonwealth countries. British Prime Minister John Major dissociated himself from criticism of the French action. The Auckland summit was notable for the presence of South African Pres. Nelson Mandela, attending his first CHOGM.In 1995 Commonwealth membership rose to 53 countries. On November 1, Cameroon became a member following the dispatch of a mission to assess whether it fulfilled the criteria laid down in the Harare Declaration. At the Auckland summit, in response to strong pressure from South Africa and all the other southern African Commonwealth states, the group agreed to accept Mozambique as a member. This move broke new ground because, unlike all other Commonwealth members, Mozambique, a former Portuguese colony, had no historic connection with the old British Empire. Cameroon, on the other hand, was partly made up of the former British Cameroon. CHOGM also set up an intergovernmental group to decide on criteria for assessing future applications for membership. There had been concern about the effect enlargement could have on the character of the Commonwealth. (DEREK INGRAM)▪ 1995South Africa rejoined the Commonwealth on June 1, 1994, and became the 51st member. It had withdrawn 33 years earlier because other members had objected to its racial policies. In the ensuing years persistent pressure from the Commonwealth, including strong support for economic sanctions, played a major role in bringing change to South Africa. From time to time, differences over strategy, particularly over Britain's reluctance to support sanctions, threatened a Commonwealth breakup.The return of South Africa to membership was seen as a considerable boost for the Commonwealth. One immediate manifestation of South Africa's return was its reappearance at the quadrennial Commonwealth Games at Victoria, B.C., in August.Over a long period before the South African elections, the Commonwealth helped that nation make its transition in numerous ways. One successful contribution came from a team of police and legal experts who had been placed in violent areas (notably Natal) to resolve community conflict. For the election the Commonwealth sent 70 observers, led by former Jamaican prime minister Michael Manley. They found that the poll had been "a free and clear expression of the will of the South African people," but they also identified a number of irregularities.The Commonwealth initiated the first international donors conference for South Africa. Held in Cape Town on October 26-28 and cosponsored by the UN, it sought support for the development of human resources, the subject of a special study by the Commonwealth in 1991 (Beyond Apartheid, published by the Commonwealth Secretariat).In 1994 the Commonwealth chalked up both success and setbacks in its drive to improve the quality of democracy in member countries. In Malawi its observer group, headed by former deputy prime minister Datuk Musa Hitam of Malaysia, reported an "open and transparent" multiparty election that brought to power Bakili Muluzi of the United Democratic Front and led to the retirement after 30 years of Pres. Hastings Kamuzu Banda. In Lesotho, however, a few months after the multiparty election that ended military rule in 1993, rebellious soldiers generated a crisis lasting several months. Diplomats from the Commonwealth Secretariat mediated the conflict and finally helped the leaders of South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Botswana restore the civilian government.In West Africa setbacks included the military coup in The Gambia on July 22 and the growing instability of the military government in Nigeria. The secretary-general of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, a Nigerian, visited Nigeria and talked with Gen. Sani Abacha, as well as MKO Abiola, apparent winner of the annulled 1993 elections, then under arrest. His mediation attempts, however, proved unsuccessful. When Anyaoku addressed the 40th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Banff, Alta., on October 8, he said, "I believe . . . the day will not be far away when representatives of military regimes will find no welcome in the councils of the Commonwealth."In September political leaders in Bangladesh asked the Commonwealth to help resolve deep differences between the prime minister, Khaleda Zia, and the leader of the opposition, Sheikh Hasina Wazed, that were leading to unrest in the country. Anyaoku visited Bangladesh and then sent Sir Ninian Stephen, a former governor-general of Australia, as his special envoy to discuss a three-point proposal to end the dispute. Such direct intervention by the Commonwealth in a domestic political dispute within a member country, although by agreement with the parties concerned, was unprecedented. (DEREK INGRAM)▪ 1994When leaders met for the biennial Commonwealth heads of government meeting in Limassol, Cyprus, on Oct. 21-25, 1993, it became apparent how much progress the member countries had made in moving away from military and one-party rule since their 1991 meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe. Although Nigeria had annulled its June 1993 election and Sierra Leone remained under military government, five countries (Guyana, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, and Zambia) had become more democratic. Tanzania, Malawi, and Nigeria were in the throes of change, and Sierra Leone's leader, Capt. Valentine Strasser, told the summit he would hand over to civilian rule within three years. By 1993 the Harare Declaration of 1991 was seen to have been more than just fine words. Human rights were increasingly to the fore, and, with help from the Commonwealth, political reform continued in several countries.Commonwealth teams observed elections in Kenya (December 1992), Lesotho, Seychelles, and Pakistan. The Kenya group's report attracted some criticism for calling the election "a giant step on the road to multiparty democracy" despite having found the election process seriously flawed. The Commonwealth had not monitored the December 1992 parliamentary elections in Ghana because the main opposition parties boycotted the poll, saying that the presidential elections the previous month, declared free and fair by Commonwealth observers, had been rigged.A team from 11 countries found the election that took Lesotho from military to civilian rule on March 27 to have been fairly carried out, although one party swept all 65 parliamentary seats. In Seychelles a 12-member Commonwealth group said the voters in the presidential and parliamentary elections in July had "cast their ballots openly, freely and fairly." The 15-member team sent to Pakistan for the elections that returned Benazir Bhutto's party to power in October found polling well carried out but the military presence at polling stations sometimes intrusive.Bhutto briefly attended the Limassol summit within hours of her election as prime minister, and some new leaders at the meeting were the product of the democratic reforms. The secretary-general, Emeka Anyaoku, pointed to the fact that the Commonwealth had in the past "remained vulnerable to the charge of hypocrisy—the allegation that while it advocated democratic freedoms globally, it condoned their absence amongst its own membership." He said, "Only at Harare was the nettle finally grasped."Just how firmly it had been grasped was shown in Limassol when the leaders still deferred the entry of Cameroon, which had applied to join in 1991. It was now offered admission in 1995 "provided that the current efforts to establish a democratic system, consistent with the Harare Commonwealth Declaration, would by then have been completed." South Africa, which had withdrawn in 1961, however, was offered a return to membership "at the earliest possible opportunity." For the first time in decades, South Africa had ceased to be a contentious issue in the Commonwealth, which lifted economic sanctions on September 24. The observer mission to South Africa, put in place in late 1992, was to remain there until after the 1994 elections. The summit also arranged for a strong Commonwealth team to monitor the polling and laid plans for Commonwealth countries to help train administrators.In Limassol the five-year term of office of the secretary-general was reduced to four years from Jan. 1, 2001, although Anyaoku was asked to stay on for another five years from 1995. Thereafter, no secretary-general would serve more than two terms. (DEREK INGRAM)
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