Commonwealth Chair-in-Office

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Chair-in-Office of the
Commonwealth of Nations
Paul Kagame
since 24 June 2022
Term length2 years
Inaugural holderThabo Mbeki
Formation12 November 1999

The Commonwealth Chair-in-Office (CIO) is the Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth of Nations, and is one of the main leadership positions in the Commonwealth. It is held by the host chairperson of the previous Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), and is maintained until the next CHOGM.[1] Currently, the incumbent Chair-in-Office is also the President of Rwanda.


The primary responsibility of the Chair-in-Office is to host the CHOGM, but their roles can be expanded. For example, after the 2002 CHOGM, the incumbent, previous, and next Chairmen-in-Office formed a troika in an attempt to resolve the ongoing dispute over Zimbabwe's membership of the Commonwealth.

The position was created after the 1999 CHOGM, with Thabo Mbeki becoming the first Chair-in-Office. However, Mbeki did very little to develop the position,[citation needed] leaving it virtually vacant until the next CHOGM in 2002, when the troika was created. Even after John Howard became Chair, the troika's first meeting was in London, in the presence of the Commonwealth Secretary-General.[citation needed] The third Chair, Olusegun Obasanjo, did more to invigorate the role of the position after taking over in 2003.[2]

From the assumption of the role at the 2009 CHOGM, representatives from Trinidad and Tobago, including the Prime Ministers, attended Commonwealth meetings, including 2011 Commonwealth Day celebrations where Kamla Persad-Bissessar, the first woman to chair the Commonwealth, gave the keynote address. Sri Lanka was due to host the Commonwealth Economic Forum in 2011 but it was held instead in Perth, Western Australia, due to accusations of war crimes committed during the Sri Lankan Civil War.[citation needed]

As Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard succeeded Persad-Bissessar as the second female Chair at the 2011 CHOGM. Julia Gillard was in-turn succeeded by Kevin Rudd after she resigned as Prime Minister of Australia on 27 June 2013. Rudd went on to lose the Australian federal election in September 2013, and consequently was succeeded as Commonwealth's CiO by the new prime minister Tony Abbott. Abbott remained in the position until Commonwealth leaders met for the 23rd time on 15 November 2013, where he was succeeded by the President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was succeeded by Maithripala Sirisena in 2015.[3]

List of chairs-in-office[edit]

No. Image Name Country Title CHOGM Start End Secretary-General
1 Thabo Mbeki South Africa South Africa President 1999 12 November 1999 2 March 2002 Nigeria Emeka Anyaoku
New Zealand Don McKinnon
2 John Howard Australia Australia Prime Minister 2002 2 March 2002 5 December 2003
3 Olusegun Obasanjo Nigeria Nigeria President 2003 5 December 2003 25 November 2005
4 Lawrence Gonzi Malta Malta Prime Minister 2005 25 November 2005 23 November 2007
5 Yoweri Museveni Uganda Uganda President 2007 23 November 2007 27 November 2009
India Kamalesh Sharma
6 Patrick Manning[4] Trinidad and Tobago Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister 2009 27 November 2009 25 May 2010[4]
7 Kamla Persad-Bissessar[5] 26 May 2010[5] 28 October 2011
8 Julia Gillard Australia Australia Prime Minister 2011 28 October 2011 27 June 2013
9 Kevin Rudd 27 June 2013 18 September 2013
10 Tony Abbott 18 September 2013 15 November 2013
11 Mahinda Rajapaksa Sri Lanka Sri Lanka President 2013 15 November 2013 9 January 2015
12 Maithripala Sirisena 9 January 2015 27 November 2015
13 Joseph Muscat Malta Malta Prime Minister 2015 27 November 2015 19 April 2018
United Kingdom Dominica Patricia Scotland
14 Theresa May United Kingdom United Kingdom Prime Minister 2018 19 April 2018 24 July 2019
15 Boris Johnson 24 July 2019 24 June 2022
16 Paul Kagame Rwanda Rwanda President 2022 24 June 2022 Incumbent


  1. ^ "Our History". The Commonwealth. The Commonwealth. Retrieved 25 November 2015.
  2. ^ Ingram, Derek (January 2004). "Abuja Notebook". The Round Table. 93 (373): 7–10. doi:10.1080/0035853042000188157.
  3. ^ WEERASINGHE, Chamikara. "President will be C' wealth Chairman for next two years - GL". Daily News.
  4. ^ a b Staff writer (28 May 2010). "Former Trinidad PM Manning resigns as political leader". CaribbeanNetNews. Archived from the original on 28 July 2010. Retrieved 29 May 2010. Trinidad and Tobago's former prime minister Patrick Manning has handed in his resignation as political leader of the People's National Movement (PNM), three days after being defeated at the polls.
  5. ^ a b Staff writer (29 May 2010). "Kamla now Commonwealth Chair". Trinidad and Tobago Newsday. Retrieved 29 May 2010. The position she has inherited from former prime minister Patrick Manning following the nation's hosting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November, 2009. In a statement issued yesterday, the Royal Commonwealth Society congratulated Persad-Bissessar on her appointment as Prime Minister and also praised the conduct of her election campaign.