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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 November 2007, 12:55 GMT
Museveni enjoys summit limelight
Peter Biles
BBC News, Kampala

Queen Elizabeth II smiles as the President of Uganda Yoweri Museveni
The Queen last visited Uganda to commission a dam in 1954
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has been relishing every moment of this Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala.

He had waited four years for the chance to host this prestigious gathering of around 50 member states.

In his trademark sunhat, President Museveni has rarely been out of the spotlight.

He has been at the side of Queen Elizabeth, seen greeting fellow leaders and attending routine media briefings.

President Museveni has long been a darling of the West, but during more than 20 years in power, his political and human rights record has often come under much scrutiny.

There was little mention of it at this week's Commonwealth summit.

Hasty preparation

The Ugandan leader was widely praised for hosting a successful CHOGM, even though the logistics had clearly put Kampala under immense strain.

Preparations had been under way for more than a year, with new hotels hastily constructed and roads improved.

If we could export more finished products instead of raw materials, we could become a middle-income country
President Museveni

Not all the work had been completed by the time Commonwealth leaders began arriving, but it was enough to ensure that CHOGM passed off without major incident.

Ugandans offered an especially warm welcome to the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.

This was the Queen's first visit to Uganda since she came to commission the Owen Falls Dam on the River Nile at Jinja in 1954.

Uganda has come a long way under President Museveni's leadership.

He has turned his country around after the turmoil of the Idi Amin and Milton Obote era.

Kampala today bears little resemblance to the shell of a city that Museveni found when his forces entered the capital in 1986.

However, more than 30% of the Ugandan population still live below the poverty line, and at a CHOGM news conference, President Museveni stressed the need for more economic growth.

"If we could export more finished products instead of raw materials, we could become a middle-income country", he said.

Development aid

Uganda has reaped some benefit this week.

Britain has announced a new 10-year development partnership with Uganda worth at least 700m in aid that will help continue the fight against poverty.

UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband and President Museveni shake hands
More than 5,000 delegates attended the summit

However, everyone accepts that increased trade and market access are key to the reduction of poverty.

Trade issues have been high on the Commonwealth agenda, as have the Millennium Development Goals and climate change.

The usual questions have arisen about the relevance of the Commonwealth, but Kamalesh Sharma, who will take over from the outgoing Commonwealth Secretary General, Don McKinnon, next April, has described the organisation as "a great global good".

"Although it's an old institution, I believe it's also a thoroughly contemporary institution because of its variety, method of work as a family of peoples, and its inclusiveness," Mr Sharma said.

Pakistan

On the eve of the Commonwealth summit, ministers faced up to the issue of Pakistan's emergency rule with candour.

Pakistan was suspended from the councils of the Commonwealth. It was a move lauded by CIVICUS, the World Alliance for Citizen Participation.

"The Commonwealth could not afford to allow Pakistan to make a mockery of the Commonwealth's commitment to human rights and democracy," said CIVICUS Secretary General, Kumi Naidoo.

But perhaps the clearest sign of the respect for the Commonwealth is the number of countries lining up to seek membership.

Rwanda is leading the way, but although the Commonwealth leaders are generally supportive of extending membership, they have agreed that it cannot be done overnight.

SEE ALSO
Uganda summit marred by clashes
23 Nov 07 |  Africa
Profile: The Commonwealth
08 May 07 |  Country profiles
Timeline: The Commonwealth
08 Dec 06 |  Country profiles

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