Did Tony Blair discuss with Paul Kagame about Victoire Ingabire’s imprisonment?

Agence France Presse (AFP) reported this week that Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, visited Rwanda on Sunday and Monday. The visit happened just after two major events in Rwandan politics which, if not carefully managed, could damage irreversibly the image of Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, his country, and particularly many world personalities who have been closely associated with the rebuilding of Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. These events could as well have a negative resonance on the views of citizens of Rwanda and more widely the Great Lakes region about countries and foreign leaders backing the Rwandan president.

The two events are in order of importance and chronology the publication of the UN report titled, ‘Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003,’ which was published on October 1st, and the imprisonment on October 14th, of the main Rwandan opposition politician Victoire Ingabire, leader of FDU-Inkingi.

Officially, Blair was in Kigali to praise Paul Kagame and his government on the progress they may be making towards the MDGs. But knowing the setbacks that Paul Kagame experienced in Madrid during the UN Conference on the MDGs in the month of July, when the Spanish prime minister refused to stand along side him because of the crimes he is accused of, and then the massive public demonstration against him in New York during the annual general assembly of the UN, this early September, consequently the Blair’s visit must have had a different agenda.

At this stage there can only be speculations about what they may have discussed related to the mentioned important recent occurrences in Rwandan politics. Could Blair have told Kagame to go friendlier with his political opponents? This may be a possibility. Is it likely that the former  British prime minister may have also advised that he would continue to help as much he could on the accusations bound in the UN report about Kagame’s forces in Congo? This is another eventuality.

Whatever they may have discussed which didn’t come out publicly, must have been very important. The reason for that understanding is because many other foreign personalities had talked to Paul Kagame before. The way he had reacted to their arguments came out in his speech on Wednesday October 6th, during the swearing-in of his recently nominated government. At the time he arrogantly indicated that he didn’t want to receive lessons from anyone on how to lead his country. He apparently knows best what is good for Rwanda.

Glen Ford explains why the situation is critical and may have probably demanded the intervention of Tony Blair. ‘The leaked UN report cannot be put back in the bottle. Kagame, who labels all critics “genocidaires” or apologists for genocide, is exposed as “the greatest mass killer on the face of the earth, today,” as described by Edward S. Herman, co-author of The Politics of Genocide. Kagame’s mentors and funders in the U.S. government, who aided and abetted his genocide in Congo, must be held equally accountable – if not more so, since United States corporations derive the greatest benefit from Congo’s blood minerals, and the U.S. military gains the most advantage from Rwandan and Ugandan services as mercenaries at America’s beck and call in Africa.’

Will Paul Kagame listen to Tony Blair’s arguments if the latter did recommend him what best should be done in the face of the current situation, or will he continue to reply, ‘I don’t care,’ as we know him for his trademark kind of answer? Time will tell.

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