Friday, November 23, 2007

21 Heads of State Here for CHOGM

imageAT LEAST 21 leaders had by press time arrived in Uganda for the long awaited Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit, which start in Kampala today. They were met by government ministers at both the new and old Entebbe airports.

The first to land at the old airport were the leaders of Botwana and Namibia. Presidents Festus Mogae and Hifikepunye Pohamba came aboard their private planes just after 3:00pm.

Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete also arrived in his presidential jet, together with the wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. They landed shortly after the President of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapaksa, who flew in aboard a jet marked "Sri Lanka".

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came with the biggest delegation. A few hundred people, mostly security guards, disembarked from his Boeing 737.

The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, too, left nothing to chance. He jetted into Entebbe aboard a huge grey airbus, accompanied by 130 officials, while 40 Canadian security personnel awaited him on the ground.

The just elected president of Nigeria, Umara Musa Yar-adua, also travelled in his private jet, as did Ghana's President John Kufuor, Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika and Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

Ten heads of government arrived on commercial flights. Kenya Airways carried the President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Patrick Manning, and the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding.

imageThe same flight also carried one of the youngest CHOGM members, Sierra Leone's Ernest Bai Koroma, who became president just two months ago.

Five others came with Emirates. They included Malta's premier Lawrence Gonzi, Cyprus' president Tassos Papadopoulos, Samoa's Prime Minister Tulia'epa Malielegaoi and St Kitts & Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas.

Emirates also brought the only female leader in the Commonwealth club, New Zealand's premier Helen Clark.

Grenada's premier Keith Mitchel arrived on a chartered plane. Others expected last night were South Africa's Thabo Mbeki, Gordon Brown, Prince Charles and Camilla.

Kenya's Mwai Kibaki is expected to arrive in Kampala today, dispelling rumours that the 76-year-old president, who is currently in a tight re-election campaign, would skip the summit.

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A few Commonwealth heads of state will not attend the summit because of elections or internal problems.

"At this stage, 48 delegations are attending. There are a couple of dropouts due to domestic political issues," Don McKinnon, the Commonwealth secretary General, told journalists last night.

Among the countries not attending are the Maldives, which is holding by-elections, Australia where elections are due on Saturday, St. Lucia and the Solomon Islands. The latter had "pressing political issues at home", McKinnon said.

allAfrica.com: Uganda: 21 Heads of State Here for CHOGM (Page 1 of 1)