ZIMBABWE – HARARE – Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, former President of Zambia and Malcolm Fraser, former Prime Minster of Australia, have both said it was time that the Commonwealth engaged proactively with the new Zimbabwean government and welcomed her back into the Commonwealth family.
Speaking at the recent Commonwealth summit in Lusaka, Fraser said that “if Zimbabwe was one of the Commonwealth’s greatest successes, it is also one of its greatest failures”.
Kaunda said that the “road to recovery that we are now witnessing in Zimbabwe shows that she belongs to the Commonwealth”. Neither predicted that the country to which the Commonwealth gave birth in 1979 would end up leaving in 2003.
In interviews conducted by the Royal Commonwealth Society, Fraser and Kaunda said that the Commonwealth can achieve great things if only leaders would make better use of it and take it seriously as a forum to enact change.
The Lusaka Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) took place 30 years ago this week in August 1979. Paving the way for Rhodesian independence, it was a turning point in the history of southern Africa and a defining moment in the life of the Commonwealth.
After a two day retreat at the historic meeting, leaders emerged with a commitment to genuine majority rule in Rhodesia and a promise from British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, to hold a London conference – Lancaster House – that led to Zimbabwean independence in 1980.
The Lusaka Declaration on Racism and Racial Prejudice was a clarion call to equality, and remains a fundamental Commonwealth document today.
Fraser, who was Prime Minister of Australia from 1975 to 1983, said: The Lusaka conference was critical. It showed that the Commonwealth could achieve things that many other organisations could not. If the Commonwealth is to survive as an effective organisation, it should not be shy and retiring.
Current leaders, and a strong Secretary-General, must put more effort in to make sure that the Commonwealth achieves its potential”.
Kaunda, who was President of Zambia from 1964 to 1991, said: The Lusaka CHOGM showed the Commonwealth’s commitment to peace and justice. We actually achieved something, rather than just talking about what should happen.
As Heads of Government then, we took the Commonwealth very seriously. We now need to strengthen the organisation, and raise its profile.”
Dr. Danny Sriskandarajah, Director of the RCS said: “Lusaka was the Commonwealth at its best. In the 1970s and 80s, the association showed a radical dynamism that today’s leaders would do well to remember.
Through the Commonwealth Conversation, the largest ever public consultation about the future of the Commonwealth, the RCS hopes to help the association recapture the spirit of Lusaka.”