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Monday, 15 May, 2000, 12:39 GMT 13:39 UK
Is the Commonwealth a pointless talking shop?
Is the modern Commonwealth a colonial relic and essentially toothless bulldog, or a British ''foreign policy success story'' that countries are still eager to join?

A selection of your emails will be broadcast on Focus on Africa during the 1705 edition on Saturday.

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

The Vote:
Is the Commonwealth a pointless talking shop?
Yes No

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

The Background:

Durban, South Africa is the venue for this year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) which begins on Friday 12 November.

The modern Commonwealth has come a long way since it was ''invented'' in April 1949 to replace the original ''British'' Commonwealth of The United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

It has now grown to encompass 54 countries and its members reflect every region, religion and race on the globe.

News and Information for Africa
There are also a number of countries still knocking on the Commonwealth's door. Mozambique, a Portuguese colony for centuries, recently joined, and Rwanda, Yemen, Palestine, Cambodia all also want to fly the Commonwealth flag. But why?

Critics allege that the Commonwealth is a colonial relic, a neo-imperial conspiracy and nothing but ''a collection of not very important states brought together by accident of having been colonised by Britain''.

Others claim that it is a toothless (originally British) bulldog and a mere talking shop which has helped Britain to slowly come to terms with its loss of empire.

The Commonwealth is also accused of failing to effectively discipline members who fail to apply the principles of human rights and good governance which underpin the organisation.

Supporters, meanwhile, hold the organisation up as a British ''foreign policy success story'' and cite the queue of prospective members as evidence of its vibrancy and continuing relevance.

Without it, they argue, many impoverished small states (who make up the majority of its membership) would find it difficult to network and build strategic alliances in the competitive modern world.

It is also said to be a important simply because it a ''decent club...which confers a sense of more no less.''

What do you think? Is the Commonwealth a pointless neo-colonial talking shop that achieves nothing in the world today? What if any role do you think it plays as we enter the next millennium? Would the world be a worse place without it? Do you have ideas on how it should change? Should the British monarch, for example, still head the organisation ? Have your say.

Background ¦ Vote ¦ Your reaction ¦ Have your say

Your Reaction:

We (UK) have badly let down The Commonwealth in the last few years. No wonder when we're so eager to join Europe. What is continental Europe to most UK citizens? A place to trade with. A place to visit. Who knows anything about what happened yesterday, in, say, Lisbon, Copenhagen or Athens? 99% of UK citizens certainly weren't told, or aren't the least bit interested. However, the British Commonwealth, with it's traditional links with former colonies, dependencies and dominions still have strong family ties. India, Pakistan, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa. Many of UK all have friends and family in those countries. It is the Commonwealth we should be having more trade links with and more interchanges of views and news, NOT the so-called European Union. Let's link with our friends and families, NOT with our former enemies and former allies who couldn't care less about us. Canada, for example, still has Victoria Day, we do not. We should be nurturing trade with them, not Europe. Yes, the Commonwealth has an important role to play and should continue to do so. Let the USA join too!
Graham Jones, England

What is common about the commonwealth countries is the fact that Imperial Britain robbed them blind and they are apparently still blind to see that the commonwealth exists today only because it serves the interests of the British government.
John Oluwalogbon, Nigeria

It is no secret that the so British Commonwealth is worthless even to Britain. Nor is it a secret that Britain will always choose its NATO allies over its Commonwealth nations. When will the so called Republics in the Commonwealth finally start living up to their billing as Republics and stop chasing that withered old hag, Britain.
Emeka J. Amanze, Esq., Nigeria

The commonwealth is an Entity that is here to stay. It is only time that will measure its achievements. Be reminded that there is freedom to join or quit. There is no donkey being forced to drink water by the commonwealth in this era. It might be a good idea to look for some place else to vent your anger and frustrations.
Yokana Osire, USA

Commonwealth is not a talking shop. It is can be an important organ and effective weapon to dealing with dictators, such as demonic late Sani Abacha and this current Pakistani strongman who woke up and overthrew the people's democracy. However, there is much politics involved in their decisions.
Dr. Kienuwa Obaseki, Nigeria

I think the CW is essential because it offers the members the opportunity to meet and discuss relevant issues that would otherwise be obscure. The main reason why I'm writing this is to point out the contribution of the CW to education; although a lot has been done, there is still a long way to go. For instance, a non-British attending university in the UK pays £9000.00 pounds per annum, this means many Africans are excluded. I think this amount should not be imposed on students from CW to assist the developing countries.
Augustine Jatta, The Gambia

The organisation has continued to stay idle even as some countries are going backwards in terms of democratisation and the respect for basic human rights. The organisation does not seem to have defined its row in the affairs of its member countries. In some countries we are reaching a stage where we are afraid to criticise even the obvious corrupt and selfish tendencies of the people in government. There is so much tyranny in these countries to the extent that we shall start denying ourselves its citizenship because of the much irreversible actions going on. It's even much better now to live in another country than in your own country. Very shameful indeed.
Kennedy Chama, Zambia

The commonwealth consists predominantly of developing countries and underdeveloped countries. What other forum is there where they can be represented with an element of respect - the UN? I'm afraid the UN is becoming more and more concentrated on US and European issues, and appears to have been altered into a powerful political engine - but we all know where these machines head!
Commonwealth countries should bow their heads and acknowledge with thanks the input of the UK, and the UK should bow their heads and thank their former colonies for the historical inputs they've had - British subjects can sing to their hearts content that Britain never shall be slaves, but don't forget who put you into that position - two small examples - World war II and the participation of soldiers from former colonies can be and should be thanked for their sacrifices - countries that had nothing compared to the UK were willing to sacrifice even the little they did for her sovereignty - the second (more commercial) example is that of the crown jewels which consists mainly of gems from inside of the Commonwealth, but outside of the UK - gifts not purchases!
Sipho, South Africa

The commonwealth by its literal definition is an insult to Africa. Africa has been ripped off for so many centuries that not only should Queen Elizabeth apologise for her inhumane treatment of Africa and Africans to the damage the British empire cause Africa. It was Queen Elizabeth and the British government that refuse the imposition of economic sanction on South Africa during apartheid. Africans fought in the first and second world wars, wars Africans had nothing to do with, those war veterans have never been justly compensated.
If I have it my way all African countries will cut off ties with the commonwealth until Africa is given her dues. If the British government would apologise to the Irish people for incidents that happened 400 hundred years ago why not apologise for the brutalities, the savagery demonstrated against Africa. We can't just let things go bye as if they never took place. I think the British people have a good heart and I am sure they will agree with me on these points. It is coming to year 2000, please have it in your conscience and beg for our forgiveness, Africa is always forgiving.
Max, Gambia

I must disagree with my compatriot, Barbara Whitford. The Commonwealth may just be an opportunity to talk shop with "peer" nations with which we share some heritage, but such peers are extremely valuable to Canada.
God protect us if the only international forum our leaders experience is the G7 summits. And as for limiting our contacts to our NAFTA trading partners, I can only say that American influence is far too pervasive - indeed, invasive - here already.
Michael Bunn, Canada

It needs a bit reform, the name itself should be reformed, but since the objective is co-operation among members of the association then what will stop it to exist! The idea of neo colonisation in the association should be eliminated.
Abubakar Kamara, Malaysia

I am Indian living in the USA for the past three decades. The meeting of the Commonwealth Nations was never mentioned in any of the leading news papers of this country or even the CNN news shown in this country. Pakistan could not care less even if it is expelled. As a forum it may be a good idea. Basically, it is toothless.
Srinivasa Rao Sanagavarapu, USA

Strange: The greatest anti-commonwealth sentiments on this website have come from Americans - the modern imperialists. I think the commonwealth has a greater potential for good than even the UN which to be frank is a just a "legitimising force" for American economic and foreign policy.
At least black and white, rich and poor can stand more or less as equals. Perhaps the colonial British were cruel but so is every Imperial force in history. I am just glad my native India was a British possession not French or Spanish¿what a mess those ex-colonies are in!
The commonwealth stands for a wonderful uniting force. Its disbandment can only bring misfortune to more people. I only hope the future commonwealth will be stronger maybe there own security council and peacekeeping forces.
Ed Gadhia, New Zealand

This Commonwealth resembles the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States: big proclamations with nothing to back them. The only difference is that nobody celebrates the power of Russia in CIS.
Andrej, Russia

The Commonwealth is very important to maintain peace and democracy among member countries. They should take action against Pakistan for its state sponsored terrorism against India.
Vinod Adesara, USA

We should not lose sight of the fact that despite its several shortcomings either through commission or omission, the Common Wealth still has major role to play in the new world order. Its weaknesses should be noted and corrected so as to make the organisation more effective. So I suggest that the Common Wealth should redefine its goals and ways of achieving them as we enter the new millennium.
Samuel Kiiru, Kenya

Yes. It is a talkshop to vent out the frustrations of many colonies in a world dominated by the arrogant USA and its crony organisations such as the UN. Poor colonies of the former Empire don't realise the fact that UK really doesn't care for them but will tow the line of USA and will be the first one to get out of the common wealth if situations demand so. It is time to eradicate this toothless organisation.
Sam, USA

I greatly feel that the commonwealth was formed as a convenience and pride for Britain after loosing the colonisation of the current member countries. Due to circumstances, it has ended up being transformed to a monitoring body, going by the actions on Pakistan and only then has the commonwealth realised that it should play this role.
Earlier on, it was sleeping, maybe did not know the most important roles, confirming my notion that it was formed as a convenience and pride body. However, since it has now realised what is good for the member countries, we urge the commonwealth to be fair in dealing with certain issues. One example is its loud quietness on Nigeria whereby for other countries, like Pakistan, they act swiftly to suspend. Suspension is not the solution. Check this out, the UN or NATO do not suspend members, they simply discipline or even bomb the offenders to sense!
Samuel C. Maango, Zambia

The Commonwealth may look toothless because it works by moral sanction. That is fine as it is not meant to parallel or be a rival to the UN. Nor does it try to be a tool of British foreign policy. Indeed, throughout the 70, 80s and most of the 90s, British governments have totally neglected to have any interest in it. What it does do is provide, not just a useful forum for smaller states to get heard, but a whole host of links and networks for groups in civil society, from the media to human rights, children and the environment. These groups provide real benefits, and their contribution should not be overlooked.
Jeremy, Indonesia

The formal mandate of the Commonwealth is good but its effective mandate certainly leaves a lot to be desired. However; it gives me great joy and hope to notice that there are a few among the leaders not only with deep insight but also courage to try to make thing change for the majority and for the better. Prime Minister Blair is going to put AIDS on top of the agenda and President Mbeki will home in a message about fair distributions of wealth among commonwealth countries¿it would be very nice for once if these urgent issues are followed by prompt and effective actions, the Commonwealth can cease being a talking shop!!!!
Jobiba Chinkhumba, Malawi

Commonwealth is a place where the British can revel on their cosy colonial era. I prefer that India withdraw from this forum.
Subramaniam, India

What I want to know is; where on this earth is the evidence that the wealth among these countries is common? What we instead have is one nation (Britain) which has glaringly become rich on the sweat, blood and riches (remember "the sun never sets...") of those with whom it now purports to have something in common. For the Commonwealth to really start meaning something, wealth should start flowing in the reverse direction. Then we will really have a true COMMONWEALTH.
Moses Warotua Haimbodi, Namibia/USA

I don't believe that the Commonwealth ought to be disbanded just because it cannot impose democracy on its members. I wonder if the people who support that idea would agree that the U.N. and similar organisations ought to be disbanded, as well? I am also fed up with those people from former British colonies who insist their countries are poor because they were looted during the colonial period. Whether they were looted or not, most poor countries are poor because they have a history of pursuing bad policies or because they've failed to maintain the rule of law. Isn't it time we in the West stopped supporting their whining?
Jerry, US

Britain should dissolve the Commonwealth. Despite the delusions of some posters, the UK gets very little benefit from it. Actually, Britain loses. For those who aren't aware, the British Govt hands out hundreds of millions of pounds every year (no strings attached) to poorer Commonwealth Countries in developmental aid. It seems that in return for this, citizens of certain Commonwealth countries accuse the UK of neo-colonialism and racism etc, saying that we do it purely through guilt, or that there's some other hidden agenda i.e. to control the poorer countries. What nonsense! I notice that the recipients of British development aid never refuse to take British money, do they? Since the recipients of British largesse are so ungrateful, maybe it's time we stopped giving them money and spent it on homeless British citizens instead. They are more likely to thank the donors.
Michael Franks, UK

It is a valuable entity if it can establish and practice the emerging standards for human rights. Of particular interest to this reader is the case of Sri Lanka. This country needs to be ostracised until it deals with its Tamil population in a civilised manner. You have already made the list of Democracies at Risk. This list should help excerpt pressure. There are many other facets to commonwealth. But I only want to address the HR issues here.
Sri-Jayantha, USA

The commonwealth is a valuable and healthy organisation. It is steeped in a tradition of common help and watching for others common good without being super-ideological or super militant oriented like NATO or the old Warsaw pact. It is also a symbol- still LIVING of great pride and warmth of our old empire!
Kenneth Hodges, USA

Yes! The Commonwealth to me means the only thing common to the wealth of these countries is that most of it was looted by Britain. The Commonwealth is a geriatric organisation formed by a former imperial power wherein the pecking order depends directly on the colour of one's skin. It's the last place where Britain can hold court and most of its members are countries whose leader were enamoured by all things British while the British ransacked their land. It's a pathetic and grotesque organisation which brings back memories of the horrible days of the Raj. It should be disbanded.
Srinivas Rangaraj, Canada

Of course the Commonwealth is a meaningless organisation. What are we supposed to sit and celebrate that we were once ruled by the "mighty" British empire?
Sameer Handa, USA

Since when has talk been such a bad thing?? Membership of the commonwealth is voluntary, so what is there to oppose?
Simon, UK

If the Commonwealth were no longer of any significance, why would the French be trying so hard to mirror it in La Francaphonie, France's own commonwealth of French speaking countries? What the Commonwealth aims to be is a body which promotes some of the positive legacies of the colonial past - a rule of law, a common language and the sharing of ideas and information for the benefit of all.
The United Nations has never proven truly effective because it is too big and too politicised - the Commonwealth has, for the most part, avoided those problems and has become a viable international organisation which brings positive benefits to its members, developed and developing.
David Chmiel, United Kingdom

Yes, the Commonwealth I knew as a school boy in 1954 when HM Queen Elizabeth visited Uganda died when we got independence in 1962. We had systems that endeared us to UK and other parts of the member states. To get to the so called "mother country", one has to get a visa. What is common about that wealth if we cannot even be allowed to visit our kith and kin? Bury it now in South Africa.
Major Tony O Otoa, Uganda

I really do not agree with Neneh Ilonah. I'm of Nigerian origin myself. What about all the billions of dollars stolen from Nigeria kept in banks in this country? Why did the British government not object to the monies finding its way here. So much for trying to stabilise it's former colonies. That sounds like hypocrisy to me!
Isaac, UK

I am an Australian Republican but still see a positive role for the Commonwealth as it is a forum for countries with a common historical connection to Britain to share common experiences and be positive on future developments.
Terence P Machin, Australia

I believe that the British Commonwealth has strengthened the position of several former British colonies. This group has helped several people from these former colonies to get scholarships to attend excellent universities and to do well. Also, loans and grants have been provided for the development of the infrastructure in these countries.
A. Nanthakumar, USA

The Commonwealth is not a pointless talking shop. It is a great big charity shop. It serves to satisfy the guilt of the British, who after plundering the wealth from it colonies over the last couple of centuries, now has to support them with handouts courtesy of the British taxpayer, and also the taxpayers of the few Commonwealth success stories (ie. Australia and Canada). On this basis the vast majority of members benefit greatly, and a few pay greatly. But to her credit, Britain has at least done something to repay its former colonies. The other colonial powers could certainly take a leaf from the Britain's book. Angola, Mozambique, East Timor, Zaire and more? The list is long.
However, the time has come to reconsider the membership of certain countries. There should be a minimum requirement of being a multi-party democracy to be eligible to receive financial aid. Put pressure on the despots and one-party states to conform to modern standards. The common citizens of these countries benefit very little from membership anyway. By the time any money has filtered its way through the greedy government ministers hands, there is usually nothing left.
Sean Roderick, UK, ex-Zimbabwe

It is neo-colonialism at its best. Why could a country which refused to join the EU union be still interested in this organisation? Because they want to get their hands on the resources they left looting. The Irony is most of the members has problems created by the colonisers, India, Pakistan, Somalia....
Caleb, USA

The Commonwealth is a wonderful institution. It brings together many different cultures in an organisation that gives the smaller nations a feeling of worth and belonging
Bertie Umars, Nigeria

In reality the commonwealth means nothing. Race problems have meant that the only thing of any value in commonwealth membership - Visa free travel, has been banished. The commonwealth exists so that the UK can give lip service to African concerns and do everything but what needs doing . And let's not forget that they are still as racist as ever. More than half the governments in the Commonwealth are unelected showing how farcical the organisation is.
Amoroso, Kenya

I cannot believe that countries that were ruled would allow themselves to be part of club that cannot really do anything better than hold talks and think of expelling countries when they step out of line. As far as the commonwealth working on the basis of human rights surely we have too many organisations taking care of it without much progress on the whole! So if the commonwealth has no real power to influence things except to make the UK feel that it still has some hold over its former colonies then why allow precious political time of the developing nations to be spent on pointless arguments when they can spend that time sorting out the problems that they face?
Ashish Shah, UK

Talking shop - yes
Lacking in real power - yes
Pointless - no
Agreement and compromise cannot be achieved if people do not talk with each other. Dialogue that achieves relatively little is a great improvement from no dialogue at all.
Simon Tuffin, UK

The Commonwealth has not been able to enforce democratic principles on several of its members. Rogue regimes continue to be tolerated. The Commonwealth should get its act together if it is to be taken seriously.
Farai D MAJURU, Belgium

I have spent the last week in Durban, representing British Young People at the Commonwealth Youth Forum. Over 25 Commonwealth Countries were represented and we have submitted a Communique to the Heads of Government Meeting that follows us. The Commonwealth is, however, a lot more than just its summits and meetings. Every year £2m is spent by Commonwealth Governments supporting the Commonwealth Youth Programme, which aims to empower young people in Commonwealth Countries. It is very easy for people to dismiss the Commonwealth as a 'talking shop', without realising the excellent work it does in youth development.
David Jones, Chair, British Youth Council, UK

The Commonwealth has not been able to deal with human rights problems in places like Sri Lanka. It legitimises terrorist states by permitting leaders of these states to sit together in discussions and photographs with democratic heads of states. The only function it serves is to give photo opportunities to such heads of terrorist states. There must be an active human rights policy pursued if the Commonwealth is to be meaningful. Corrupt leaders like Bhutto in Pakistan should also have been exposed by the Commonwealth. It is now disclosed that excessive assets over several millions were held in Swiss banks by Bhutto's husband. How come the Commonwealth condoned all this happening? It is difficult to understand why taxpayers should support such an institution that emerged out of colonialism if it does not give rise to a new sense of subscribing to a higher standard of democracy and human values than just a shared history of British colonial oppression.
M Sornarajah, Singapore

The Commonwealth is like an old beautiful house. Now the time is gone and it is beginning to look like a former colonial watchdog in the way it behaves and does things.
Napoleon Adok, Sudan

With much respect to the Brits; I think their vast Commonwealth could be either a kind of self-indulgence or repent in connection to the past. The Dutch, first colonisers in bygone days, are more interested today in activities of trade and commerce - probably to mask their chagrin of having lost their early colonies to the British.
Ron Brandenburg, The Netherlands

Commonwealth is a classic example of how paternal relationships between the coloniser and the colonised do not fade away quickly. In fact this paternal relationship is something third world countries today shamelessly exploit to gain some sort of forum in the eyes of the British and the western world in general. This is an unfortunate residue of inferiority complex. The British on the other hand find the Commonwealth their only substitute for having influence over many of Britain's former colonies. This organisation needs to be dismantled immediately.
Riaz Osmani, USA/Bangladesh

Country's pulling out will not benefit themselves or the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth should not end/stop, but should jack up, as action speaks louder than words!
Pedro Ferreira, South Africa

I don't think that the Commonwealth has any meaning today. It's just a reflection of what seems to be the British obsession with traditions and the past. The British empire has long been dead, so why this silly legacy.
Hitesh, India

Speaking as an outsider working in the UK, I think the Commonwealth is a unique organisation in that it binds together developed and developing countries, with an exciting cultural mix. It can be a useful organisation with an important role to play. World politics, dominated by the US points of view, which tend to be relatively naive and parochial, will be healthier if the Commonwealth is more vocal and visible. The UK should really work harder to raise its profile.

It's very easy to be dismissive of the Commonwealth's importance, here in the comfortable and secure West. But for members of the Commonwealth that are developing countries, it is an important platform from which to be heard. Long may it continue.
Mark M. Newdick, USA/UK

The commonwealth is needed to promote and maintain the best human language-English- as wide as possible and to give bad boys bad publicity world-wide. Otherwise even I cannot see very much real political function for it. It is a good media circus.
Mikko Toivonen, Finland

The Commonwealth useless? Definitely not! This is an absolutely essential place for the West to be protecting from exploitation. Being linked to the power of Britain brings stability to the region in a troubled world.
Dave Adams, USA

Of course most Commonwealth countries like the idea of being linked to Britain. These countries feel they are at least listened to and can set some terms regarding their interests. Britain also enjoys that it can still buy some influence in the Third World and that not only America has all the bargaining power. International co-operation is an investment. You never know when you are going to need it. It could be today, it could be in the year 2075. If it were not for the instability in Africa, a potentially rich continent, Europe would be begging for our minerals. That little continent is running out of resources and they know it. The 21st century will shed light to it all. France has its Francophone group but what does it do apart from being an excuse to party? However, they cannot deny that they have enjoyed the cheap labour from Algeria and Gabon. Long live the Queen and God bless Africa.
Bill Powers, Tanzania

Being in the Commonwealth is of very little apparent use to Canada. We have become a completely different country in the past 30 years. Most of our citizens have no links to the UK. I believe that the UK should link more with Europe, Canada with the US & Mexico , African countries should set up their own Commonwealth, as should the Australasian countries. It makes far more sense this way than to keep links to the colonial past. Times change. Countries who are still trying to join the Commonwealth are poor and hope to become richer by joining.
Barbara Whitford, Canada

The commonwealth is clearly an organisation that has outlived its usefulness. It failed to bring democracy to Nigeria though it is shamelessly claiming credit for that. A new era only dawned when the dictatorship died with the passing of Abach. As a person living in Pakistan and well versed with what is going on here the commonwealth blundered by suspending Pakistan. A team from the commonwealth was sent after the suspension which was supposed to be the other way round. Moreover the reason given for the suspension of Pakistan is that they want to force the junta to restore democracy. But how can you restore something that never existed and where was the commonwealth when Nawaz Sharrif ,the ousted premier , was flouting all the rules of democracy? If the commonwealth is not a talking club the show me one.
Kebby Mainga, Zambia

I do not think it is a pointless talking zone. I am of Nigerian origin and this country has benefited from it's association with this club. It puts pressure on dictatorial leaders when they go overboard with their corrupt, power drunk attitudes towards their citizens. A recent case study is what happened in Nigeria a few years back. The Commonwealth acts as a sort of leverage to its members on the international platform and I am proud that Nigeria is still a member.
Neneh Ilonah, England

It is an utterly useless forum lead by a defunct England¿Perhaps better suited for retired nannies to fritter away their time indulging in useless talk and nostalgic remembrances of lost British glory.
Arun R, USA

The Commonwealth is the off shoot of the empire and those nations must get on without the UK. The UK is in Europe and should not be in the commonwealth.
Edward Hortop, England

Although I am a fervent Australian Republican I still see a place for the Commonwealth in Australia's future. This unique group of like-cultured nations, built upon history is an influential and well-respected society throughout the world. Whilst it may be suggested that the modern Commonwealth is simply a symbol of bygone English pride, I believe that it is a mature society which sets a good example for other international organisations.
Matthew Burke, An Australian in The Netherlands

Any organisation which encourages international co-operation in such a manner has to be a good thing. I think most countries outside the Commonwealth are quite envious, just look at France's attempts of creating a French speaking one.
As for Britain's isolationist policies, supporting the Commonwealth proves the exact opposite. The African and especially the Asian countries are the dynamic economies of tomorrow. If I were British, I would sooner pool my resources with them than with the perpetually declining economies of the European Community.
Mark Parish, USA

Another extension of 17 and 1800 plunder and robbery. The laws governing the Common wealthy were made by the British, not so ? Where are the former colonials interest represented? Africans are Africans not and are British. The common wealthy should be replaced with African or former British Colonial countries Common Wealthy to which the British should apply. What about that?
Kakeeto, Uganda

Whenever I see the words Commonwealth or French Africa, I am always reminded of another word 'neo-colonialism'. The irony of it all is that, while our forefathers fought against western control, it seems that today Africans are willingly helping their former colonial masters gain control of our beloved continent.
Makonnen Ketema, USA

I am sure most Commonwealth countries like the idea of being linked to a power like Britain. Nevertheless, the more self-sufficient they get, the more willing they are of stepping out. I believe Australia and Canada will step out soon, and the Commonwealth will be left only with relatively poor African and Asian nations with cultural ties with Britain. As a final remark, I would like to say that if Britain continues to maintain its isolationist politics, it will become strategically and economically less and less important for other Commonwealth nations.
Bruno Silva, Portugal

I do not see the Commonwealth as a pointless talking shop. When the Commonwealth expels member countries that fail to adhere to international conventions on human rights, this sends a signal to the community and results in international pressure being applied. In a belligerent world there cannot be enough forums facilitating dialogue. I do not see why Queen Elizabeth shouldn't continue to be the head of the Commonwealth, after all she has probably promoted and encouraged it more than anyone else. There seems to be a very mean spirit in the air these days.
Tom, Australia

Useless talking shop?? Of course it is and Ken Saro Wiwa's death proved it. Where was the concerted action after that event? more and more and more blah blah blah
Emmy, England

Well, it is hard to assert that the Commonwealth brings democracy, stability, wealth, and peace to its members. It clearly does not do that, but such was not its purpose anyway. I'm not sure what it does - if anything - but it is certainly more affordable and less objectionable than the British Empire.
Rath Andor, USA

See also:

09 Nov 99 | In Depth
29 Oct 99 | South Asia
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