October 5, 2022
As Commonwealth head of state, King Charles faces balancing act

King Charles is faced with a delicate task leading up to the funeral of his mother from the 56-member Commonwealth, who has questions about the organization’s future.

The Commonwealth has grown and expanded since its creation from the ashes of the British Empire and was put together by Queen Elizabeth II, who retained the organization as a central part of her role.

But King Charles comes to the throne and becomes head of the Commonwealth at a time when critics say it has lost some sense of its purpose, a decline in Britain’s influence in the world, and some of the 14 members are Republicans. The voice is getting stronger. British monarch as head of state.

While there has been an expression of sympathy from Commonwealth states since the Queen’s death, opinion within them is divided over what the organization means and what the role of the British hereditary monarch should be on a global stage in the 21st century.

“What this does for us is the whole question,” said an African official who has been associated with the Commonwealth for years.

“It doesn’t give aid. It doesn’t provide scholarships anymore. We in Zimbabwe are not sitting down to discuss democracy. One thing young people watch is the Commonwealth Games,” he said.

Prince Charles lowers the Royal Standard at the presidential inauguration ceremony to mark the birth of a new republic in Barbados in November 2021

Prince Charles lowers the Royal Standard at the presidential inauguration ceremony to mark the birth of a new republic in Barbados in November 2021 © Toby Melville / PA

African leaders of the Commonwealth showed enthusiasm in their condolence messages. The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, called the Queen “the rock that kept the organization strong and true to its positive beliefs”.

Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria described him as “a towering global personality and an outstanding leader”. The President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, formerly a German and Belgian colony that joined the Commonwealth in 2009, praised the Queen’s “70 years of leadership of the Commonwealth”. The modern Commonwealth is his legacy.”

But in many African countries the notion of the Commonwealth is sharply remarked upon. Technology entrepreneur Victor Ekweller, 30, speaking at a British visa processing center in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, said he was unsure what the association meant. “It feels like a coalition that exists for this,” he said.

The African official said that for King Charles to consolidate his role, he would need to spend time with his leaders, particularly from smaller states such as Fiji or Lesotho, for whom the association helps to amplify his voice on the international stage. .

“The Queen always seemed to have a point. If a leader was in town it would either be an official visit or she would give them tea,” he said. “It remains to be seen how much priority King Charles will give to this.”

Before his mother’s death, the then Prince of Wales told Commonwealth leaders that he was “the friendship we have built over the past 70 years and looked forward to them deepening in the years to come”.

When Elizabeth II ascended the throne in 1952, the Commonwealth in its current form existed for only three years. It brought together the former nations of the British Empire as London progressed with colonialism.

In the decades since, the organization has strengthened ties between member states and offered practical diplomatic and economic assistance, from election surveillance to promoting security cooperation.

Although the Queen was careful not to interfere in political affairs in Britain, she used her influence on issues related to the Commonwealth.

According to one of her biographers, Ben Pimlott, the Queen played a key role behind the scenes during the 1979 Commonwealth summit in Lusaka, bringing Margaret Thatcher, then Britain’s new prime minister, with Southern African leaders. This meeting was a precursor to the Lancaster House Agreement that led to Rhodesia gaining independence as Zimbabwe.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their tour of the region in Kingston, Jamaica in March 2022

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their tour of the region in Kingston, Jamaica in March 2022 © Chris Jackson / PA

Philip Murphy, professor of British and Commonwealth history at the University of London, has also documented the Queen’s strong opposition to Britain’s commercial deals with South Africa during the apartheid era. She is said to have been troubled by Thatcher’s hostility to the ban in the 1980s.

Richard Uku, a former director of communications at the Commonwealth Secretariat and a citizen of Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago and the UK, said: “I don’t think anyone can command the respect that the Queen has held in the Commonwealth and beyond.”

,[King Charles] He has other interests, but I think he also has a deep understanding and appreciation of what his mother has put in the Commonwealth to keep it going,” he said.

In her final years, the Queen was determined that her successor should also succeed as head of the Commonwealth, despite skepticism from some of its leaders, who felt that the role should change in the future. Charles gradually became more active within the organization and in 2018 at a summit pleaded with the Queen to support his succession.

He handles some of the ties that have held the organization together, most notably in the Caribbean. In July, he told Commonwealth leaders in Rwanda that it was up to each member to decide whether to keep the monarch as head of state, adding that “such a system can be changed peacefully and without rancor.” “.

Barbados was elected to become a republic last year and soon after, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge took a rough tour of the region, facing calls for the reparation of slavery.

Fiji team at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July 2022

The Fiji team at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July 2022 © Stoyan Nenov/Reuters

Main article on Friday one Jamaica newspaper suggested that the Queen’s death the previous day would make it easier to “break with the monarchy”.

“Jamaica will go. This is partly because people like Charles have not attempted to maintain those relationships,” said the former Commonwealth official, noting that the younger generation was most skeptical about the monarchy.

Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark was more hopeful. “I think the Queen sees the Commonwealth as her father’s legacy and has completely committed herself to it,” she told the BBC shortly after the Queen’s death.

“King Charles has also traveled very extensively in the Commonwealth and I think his priority will be to get out and renew the relationship in his new capacity . . . he will bring his touch to it,” she added.

The Queen, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and African leaders at the 1979 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Lusaka

The Queen, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and African leaders at the 1979 Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Lusaka © Anwar Hussein/Getty Images

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