KIGALI - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has taken up a role as an advisor to Rwanda. The development has been confirmed by Dr David Himbara, the head of the Strategy and Policy unit in the Office of the President, who also told this reporter how it came about. “It started with a meeting he held with the President (Paul Kagame) where he express his interest in offering pro bono services as advisor to Rwanda. Shortly after that, I met with him to comprehensively brief him on the situation in our country,” Himbara said yesterday. A team from Blair’s office was recently in the country for one week to assess the challenges on the ground. This will be followed soon by the former premier’s own visit.
“He (Blair) is expected to come to Rwanda some time next month and his visit will mark the kick-off of his involvement,” said Himbara.According to Himbara, Blair’s attachment to Rwanda dates back to the time when he was still head of the British government.
At the time he and his government played a significant role in Rwanda’s reconstruction. “For instance, it was during his tenure that the British Government initiated the direct budget support to Rwanda and they were the first country to do so…he has always believed in our government’s effort and ways to identify what is best for our people.
“Now it is another chance for him to put his belief in concrete practice. But it is a chance for our government as well to work with a figure like Blair whose influence is global and has good knowledge about Rwanda,” Himbara added.
Blair’s new relationship with Rwanda, said Himbara, will further refine Rwanda’s good relationship with the United Kingdom and with other countries, given his influence on the international scene.
He said that Blair will be very useful in such areas like policy making and innovation for better results.“The involvement will not be one way…there are some issues on which he will seek the President’s advice, given the fact that ours is a developing country,” he observed.
Blair, who is a prospective bidder for the presidency of the European Union come next January, stepped down before the end of his term as prime minister in July last year for Gordon Brown to take over.
Currently, the 54-year old politician is working as an envoy to the Middle East Quartet, consisting of Russia, the US, EU and the UN, where he is concentrating on building Palestinian institutions to facilitate progress towards a two-state solution with Israel.
Recently JP Morgan, a giant US bank announced it had secured the former Labour Party leader’s services as senior adviser, making it his first private sector job since leaving politics.