The controversial Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summit in Sri-Lanka, from 15 – 17 November, has already seen two heads of government pulling out of the meeting. Both are protesting against the human rights record of the Sri Lankan government, which is alleged to have killed up to 40,000 civilians in the last days of its civil war.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India has decided not to go.

So too has Stephen Harper of Canada.

Their actions were applauded by South Africa’s former Archbishop, Desmond Tutu. “If there are enough reasons to suggest that the Sri Lanka government have not been doing things with integrity, I think the world has to apply all the screws that it can,” Tutu told a select group of journalists during a visit to Delhi. “And a boycott of the CHOGM could be one of them.”

So what about African leaders?

There have been suggestions that African heads of government would also not attend, but for rather different reasons.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has been attempting to whip up a boycott in protest against his indictment by the International Criminal Court.

The Star newspaper reported towards the end of October that the president had made a passionate plea to African heads of state during the recent African Union conference in Addis Ababa. He called on Africa to “distrust the blandishments of those who have drunk out of the poisoned fountain of imperialism.”

The paper declared:”Diplomatic sources told the Star that Kenya is pushing the move over the union’s failure to take a decisive stance against the prosecution of President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto at the ICC. Already, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, South Africa and Zambia have been roped into the plan and may miss out in the meeting. South Sudan and Burundi which had launched bids to join Commonwealth have suspended their bids indefinitely.”

So far the boycott campaign seems to have had little success. South African officials have confirmed that President Jacob Zuma will be attending.
It would appear that Africa will not be joining Canada and India and – to the relief of London and the Commonwealth Secretariat – the boycott movement will have only limited support.
But these are early days and other leaders could still join their ranks.