The Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting has officially opened in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali.
The host, President Paul Kagame, who takes over chairmanship of the 54-nation group that represents a third of the world’s population, said it is values that define its membership.
These include good governance, rule of law and protection of rights.
Hosting the event has brought his own government under sharp criticism over its human rights record.
“Whenever we might fall short, we find solutions through consensus and dialogue,” he told the gathering, “we build each other up and move forward together.”
He said the country had come a long way since the genocide of 1994, in which more than 800,000 people were killed. “But today we are a nation transformed in heart, mind and body," he added.
Much of the Commonwealth brings together countries that were part of the British Empire but has increasingly included others like Rwanda.
President Kagame said joining the organisation was aimed at making sure “our people are connected, included and forward-looking”.
Gabon – a former French colony - is set to be admitted to the body during this meeting.