Mnangagwa engages junior British officials as Kagame meets PM Sunak
WHILE President Emmerson Mnangagwa is meeting junior British government officials like Andrew Mitchell, minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame is engaging at the highest levels of British politics and society.
Kagame met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at No. 10 Downing Street, the highest office in the land, on Thursday. Mnangagwa and Kagame are good allies.
Mnangagwa, who met business executives, cannot get anywhere near Whitehall as diplomatic relations between Zimbabwe and Britain remain frosty over the past two decades due to policy differences, stolen elections and human rights violations.
Zimbabwe is currently not a member of the Commonwealth after it withdrew in 2003 following its suspension for violating values and principle of the 1991 Harare Declaration.
Sunak opened the meeting by conveying his sympathies to all those affected by the devastating floods in Rwanda in recent days.
The British Prime Minister also paid tribute to Kagame’s leadership of the Commonwealth as current chair-in-office. The leaders discussed the unique opportunities the grouping offered, including in trade, tackling the climate crisis and youth empowerment.
Reflecting on the deep partnership between the UK and Rwanda, Sunak said he hoped to be able to broaden cooperation between the two countries, especially in trade and cyber security.
Discussing the UK and Rwanda’s Migration and Economic Development Partnership, the Prime Minister updated on the court process and reiterated his commitment to operationalise the policy and begin flights to Rwanda at the earliest opportunity.
The leaders also discussed international security challenges, including in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ukraine. The leaders agreed on the importance of securing a just peace for Ukraine and working together to alleviate the global impact of Russia’s aggression.
The two leaders met at No. 10 Downing Street and reiterated their commitment to pursuing the partnership between the two countries to have asylum seekers relocated to Rwanda, as a measure to deter illegal immigration and criminal activities around it.
“Rwanda and UK are great friends. We’ve demonstrated that with our migration and economic partnership which helps in leading the way in finding global solutions to share international challenges,” Sunak said.
On Friday, 5 May, at Marlborough House, the Commonwealth secretariat headquarters, Kagame joined King Charles III as well as leaders from across the Commonwealth and secretary-general Patricia Scotland for the Commonwealth leaders’ meeting.
Mnangagwa was naturally not there due to Zimbabwe’s international isolation.
Zimbabwe joined the Commonwealth at Independence from Britain in 1980.
However, in 2002, the organisation suspended Zimbabwe for a year for breaching its values and principles in relation to a disputed election.
In 2003, the Commonwealth decided to extend the suspension indefinitely and Zimbabwe’s late former president Robert Mugabe withdrew the country from the Commonwealth.
In November 2017, Mugabe, who had been president for 37 years, was ousted in a coup. He was replaced by Mnangagwa.
In 2018, Zimbabwe began the process of rejoining the Commonwealth. In response to a letter from Mnangagwa, Scotland said that she looked forward to Zimbabwe’s return “when the conditions are right”.
The Commonwealth explained that to rejoin, Zimbabwe would need to show compliance with the fundamental values set out in the Commonwealth charter, including respect for democracy and the rule of law, as well as protection of human rights.
It also said that the membership process required an informal assessment to be undertaken by representatives of the secretary-general, followed by consultation with other Commonwealth countries.
In 2021, the Zimbabwean government said that it was in the second stage of a four-part process for rejoining, with the application undergoing consultation among Commonwealth members.
In November 2022, a delegation led by the assistant secretary-general, Luis Franceschi, visited Harare. The visit was part of the informal process of assessment for Zimbabwe’s readmission into the Commonwealth.
Following the mission, Franceschi said that Zimbabwe had made “significant progress in its journey to rejoin the Commonwealth family”.
He said that all the stakeholders he had engaged with had been supportive of readmission and that “we will work together towards that shared goal to ensure this process reaches its proper conclusion”.