Johnson landed in Kigali with nothing but praise for the Rwandan President Paul Kagame who is accused of brutally repressing political opponents and operating a campaign of state-sponsored enforced disappearances.
Critics have questioned Rwanda’s suitability to host the summit, as well as care for Britain’s unwanted asylum seekers, because of its human rights record.
Britain wants to mimic Australia’s offshoring solution to deal with unwanted asylum seekers who arrive by boat after crossing the English Channel.
“I’m delighted that Prince Charles and everybody are here today to see a country that has undergone a complete transformation, or a very substantial transformation,” he said.
“People need to keep an open mind about the policy, the critics need to keep an open mind, a lot of people can see its obvious merits.
“And if I’m seeing the prince tomorrow of course I’m going to make that point,” he said.
On Friday, after the meeting, Johnson told Reuters he would not disclose any conversation he had with heir-to-the-throne.
“But what I will say is as people come to Rwanda, like you have today, there are a lot of prejudices about Rwanda [that] need to be blown away,” he said.
Charles was reported to have called the UK’s plan to copy Australia’s offshore solution for asylum seekers who arrive by boat “appalling”.
Clarence House has not denied the report. The monarch is expected to be politically neutral.
Back in London, Johnson’s Conservative Party lost two parliamentary seats on Friday, prompting the resignation of the party’s chairman and renewing doubts about the future of Britain’s embattled leader, Reuters reported. The losses suggest the electoral coalition Johnson brought together at the 2019 national election may be fracturing. He has already survived a vote of no-confidence by Conservative MPs this month.
Charles and Johnson met for a “cup of tea” on Friday morning in Kigali.
Both Charles and Johnson have met Kagame in the Rwandan capital. Johnson praised Kagame’s “moral stance” on Ukraine, according to a spokesman.
In a speech at an anti-violence event, Charles’ wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, highlighted Kagame’s commitment to improving conditions for women, noting that Rwanda was ranked seventh in the world in terms of women’s rights and opportunities.
“On International Women’s Day earlier this year, I was profoundly touched by President Kagame’s powerful message on social media, which read, ‘Equality is a right, not a favour’,” Camilla said.
“So let us bear His Excellency’s words in mind as we focus on violence in the home against women and girls today and remember that we are seeking rights, not favours.”
In his first address ahead of the official Commonwealth Heads of Government summit, Johnson likened the grouping, often maligned as a disparate and redundant relic of the British Empire, as a fertiliser.
“What if there was a miracle fertiliser, a fertiliser of business that grew your business that expanded your profits and cut your costs by 21 per cent?” he told the Commonwealth Business Forum.
“There is such a fertiliser and I’ll tell you [the] ingredients: it’s a common language; it’s a familiar sense of our legal and administrative systems; it’s a shared system of mutual trust between us and that system is called the Commonwealth.
“That fertiliser knocks 21 per cent off the cost of trade between Commonwealth members,” he said.
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