The Prime Minister is in Rwanda for a meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government, where he hopes to rally support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion and provide assistance to combat the geopolitical fallout from the conflict.
The Commonwealth is made up of 54 independent countries with historical ties to the British Crown. Together they represent about 2.5 billion people.
Mr. Trudeau became the first head of the Canadian government to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which serves as the final resting place for some 250,000 of the more than 800,000 Rwandans killed over a 100-day period during the conflict.
He laid a wreath at one of the graves and made the sign of the cross as members of the Rwandan army stood guard and played a somber melody on the bugle.
Hours after his visit to the memorial, Trudeau blamed Russia for soaring energy and food prices that have forced millions of people in Africa and other parts of the world to struggle for food .
Several of the Commonwealth’s poorest countries are feeling the pangs of famine, which is becoming a pressing problem around the world as access to grain from Ukraine and Russia has been curtailed by war.
Yet 10 of those countries abstained in a UN vote in March condemning Russia’s attack, and Mr Trudeau has sought to capitalize on the difficulty they currently face in feeding their populations. to bolster international opposition to Moscow.
Russia is responsible for the global food crisis we are facing right nowhe said during a press conference during which he announced that Canada would contribute an additional $250 million to the World Food Programme.
” The illegal invasion of Ukraine, the choice to bomb grain silos in Ukraine in recent days, the continued blockade of the port of Odessa by Russian ships to prevent grain from reaching the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere in the world are real concerns for all of us here. »
The new Canadian funding comes on top of the nearly $500 million Canada has already provided since January to help address food insecurity in developing countries.
Help for Rwanda
Yet even as Mr Trudeau sought to find more allies in the Commonwealth to oppose Russia’s invasion, he also had to answer questions about the actions of some of its members – starting with the Rwanda.
Rights groups have for years worried about human rights abuses in Rwanda under President Paul Kagame, including the arrest and prosecution of opposition figures and dissident bloggers and commentators.
MM. Trudeau and Kagame attended a roundtable on Thursday to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on business and plans to reinvigorate the global economy. While the two were supposed to have a one-on-one meeting on Thursday, it was delayed.
When asked what he intended to say about Rwanda’s human rights record when he met with Mr. Kagame, in power since 2000, Mr. Trudeau suggested he would focus on finding ways in which Canada could help the country.
” We are here to support each other and to raise the bar on human rights. Of course, we will carefully consider in each conversation the challenges facing various countries and look for ways in which Canada can help. »
This is the first time Commonwealth heads of government have met in person since 2018. The 2020 summit, like most events, has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Trudeau arrived in Kigali on Wednesday, but the official welcoming ceremony begins on Friday. The leaders are expected to sit down for a series of closed-door meetings on Friday and Saturday.
Although many world leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are expected to attend the summit discussions, other leaders have chosen to stay home.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese are among those absent.
Rwanda is the first leg of a three-country tour by the Prime Minister. Also planned are appearances at the G7 in Germany and a NATO summit in Spain, both of which will focus on Russia and Ukraine.