The two preeminent questions that this important meeting should raise for any Commonwealth member country national are the following: given where the Commonwealth has come from – i.e. its historical roots and how it has evolved over time – where do we want the Commonwealth to be eight years from now? Secondly, who is the right person to get it there?
The Commonwealth is the world’s oldest political association of states. Most references to it are wont to conjure up images of Britain’s colonial past, given that the association’s roots date back to the old British Empire, and the coming together of former colonies to make up the erstwhile British Commonwealth of Nations.
But it has evolved considerably since then, from the coming into being in 1949 of The Commonwealth, to the association it is today, of independent nations from Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Pacific. Some of its current members like Rwanda and Mozambique had no historical ties to the old British Empire.
Today, making up over a quarter of the UN’s membership and contributing 47 percent of UN peacekeepers at the start of this year, the Commonwealth is an important block of countries in the world. The answer to the first question on whither the Commonwealth has to be, quite simply, one that revolves around relevance. Eight years down the road and even now, the Commonwealth must show itself to be relevant to our times. This leads into the second question of who should lead it over the next so many years.
Botswana national, and former Commonwealth Deputy Secretary General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba is one of the eminent candidates seeking to head the organisation. In my humble opinion, she has the right pedigree and overall qualifications to lead the Commonwealth to relevance at a time when international institutions need to bring their collective wisdom to the table to add true global value and solve complex international issues. This is more significant now than ever before.
I am privileged to write from a positon of good personal insight, for I had the distinct pleasure of working with Mmasekgoa for three years when I was the Commonwealth Secretary General’s Spokesperson and Director of Communications and Public Affairs at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. I can thus speak directly and knowledgably to her credentials for the job. She is a hard-working, personable and dynamic individual, whose excellent diplomatic and leadership skills make her the ideal candidate.
Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba ticks all the right boxes. First, her years of stewardship at the Commonwealth give her a strong advantage on her rivals. She has an in-depth knowledge of the issues, knows the actors, and will be able to hit the ground running as Secretary General.
As a lead insider, she was directly involved in shaping the Commonwealth Secretariat’s new Strategic Plan and equally instrumental in rebranding the organisation. She was front and centre in the coming together of the Commonwealth Charter, signed by the Leader of the Commonwealth, HM Queen Elizabeth II at Marlborough House on 11 March, 2013.
The candidate also has the political backing of the largest block of countries in the Commonwealth – Africa – whose focus on inclusive growth in today’s global development drive is crucial.
The African Union has given her the continent’s strong endorsement. She has the unique ability to convene not just the leaders of Africa’s 19 Commonwealth member countries, but those from other parts of the world equally. She will be a stellar representative on the global scene for all nations and peoples of the Commonwealth.
I have accompanied Mmasekgoa on various high-level missions and seen her represent the Commonwealth most admirably, with poise and efficiency, as she interacted effortlessly with heads of governments, ministers, captains of industry, civil society groups and young people – perhaps her favourite group of stakeholders.
Among her many achievements was overseeing the restructuring of the Commonwealth’s Youth Division, giving life to the Commonwealth Youth Council and helping integrate youth in political, development and entrepreneurial processes. She has given steadfast support to many youth-led and other initiatives to those ends.
As Deputy Secretary-General, Mmasekgoa was ever robust in promoting peaceful resolution of political tension and protecting the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values. She acquitted herself extremely well in assisting outgoing Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma steer the Commonwealth through a challenging but eventually very successful Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 2013.
Masekgoa’s numerous other contributions include practical support and engagement in delivering Commonwealth-assisted development programmes and equally supporting gender, trade development and small states issues across the Commonwealth.
The Commonwealth needs a leader today who can marshal its strengths in international politics to influence and effect change on critical global issues. Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba is that leader.
She is someone who will undoubtedly bring her indomitable passion to upholding all the values of the Commonwealth, and to making it relevant to the 2.1 billion people of these 53 nations. She can put real meaning in the phrase “making a positive difference to the lives of Commonwealth citizens.”
It is my earnest hope that leaders will make the right choice for the future of the Commonwealth, and that choice could not be more evident.
The people of the Commonwealth will be well served to have Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba as their next Secretary General.
The writer is the former Spokesperson for the Commonwealth Secretary General & Director of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Communications & Public Affairs Division from 2010 to 2013. He is currently Head of Communications for the Togo-based Ecobank Group and writes in a personal capacity.