By MEL FRYKBERG
According to Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is keen to meet with him.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses members of the diplomatic corps during a belated New Year’s reception at State House, Harare, 14 February, 2018.Mnangagwa made the assertion at Kigali International Airport after attending the Rwanda Liberation Celebration Day at Amahoro National Stadium on Thursday.
Blair, who is currently an advisor to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, was reported to have said that he wanted to meet the Zimbabwean leader in Kigali.
Mnangagwa said he had no objection to the meeting but that the former British premier had failed to arrive on time before the Zimbabwe delegation was due to leave Rwanda to return home, so the meeting never took place.
Blair’s apparent attempt to reach out to Zimbabwe contrasts with the acrimony that existed between him and former president Robert Mugabe after Blair was accused by the deposed former president of creating a stand-off between Zimbabwe and the Western world over land reform.
The former British premier’s government pulled out of talks to fund the Land Reform Programme in 1997, resulting in accusations of insincerity and meddling.
London subsequently withdrew development aid before imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe, leading to an angry Mugabe in 2002 at the Earth Summit in South Africa telling Blair to keep his England while he would keep his Zimbabwe.
However, relations between London and Harare reached a nadir at Pope John Paul II’s funeral in 2004, when Blair left his seat to avoid Mugabe who eventually sat next to Prince Charles.
Blair also reportedly called for Mugabe to be “toppled as soon as possible”.
Now with Mnangagwa pushing for re-engagement with the international community and regional powers ever since he took power following the 2017 military coup, diplomatic winds of change could be blowing. African News Agency/ANA
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