Kigali: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid his respects to victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide in Kigali before announcing $250 million in new food aid on Thursday as he sought to build consensus with Commonwealth nations to prevent a new humanitarian crisis.
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 of the
The Commonwealth is made up of 54 independent countries with historic ties to the British Crown, which together represent about 2.5 billion people. The countries range from some of the richest economies in the world to some of the poorest.
Trudeau became the first Canadian prime minister to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which serves as the final resting place of more than 250,000 of the more than 800,000 Rwandans killed over 100 days during the conflict.
The prime minister laid a wreath at one of the tombs and crossed himself as members of the Rwandan military stood guard and played a sombre melody on the bugle horn.
A few hours after his visit to the memorial, Trudeau made a point of blaming Russia for the skyrocketing energy and food prices that have left millions of people in Africa and other parts of the world struggling to feed themselves.
Several of the poorer countries in the Commonwealth have felt the pangs of famine that’s becoming a pressing issue around the world as access to grain from Ukraine and Russia has been limited by the war.
Yet 10 of those countries abstained from a UN vote in March condemning Russia’s attack, and Trudeau sought to leverage the difficulty they are now facing in feeding their populations to boost international opposition to Moscow.
“Russia is responsible for the global food crisis we’re facing right now,’’ he said during a news conference in which he announced Canada will be contributing an additional $250 million to the World Food Program.
“The illegal invasion of Ukraine, the choice to bomb grain silos in Ukraine over the past couple of days, the continued blockade of the port of Odessa by Russian ships to prevent grain from getting out to the Middle East to Africa to elsewhere around the world, are real preoccupations for all of us here.’’
The new Canadian funding is on top of roughly $500 million that Canada has already donated since January to help address food insecurity in the developing world.
Yet even as Trudeau sought to find more allies in the Commonwealth for opposing Russia’s invasion, he also faced questions about his plans for raising concerns about the actions of some of its members starting with host
Human rights groups have been raising concerns about human rights violations in Rwanda under President Paul Kagame for years. Those concerns have included the arrest and prosecution of opposition figures and dissenting bloggers and commentators.
Trudeau and Kagame, whose country was among those that abstained from the UN vote on Russia, attended a roundtable discussion on Thursday to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on businesses and plans to reinvigorate the global economy.
But while the two were supposed to have a one-on-one meeting on Thursday, it was delayed.
Asked what he plans to say about Rwanda’s human rights record when he meets with Kagame, who has been in power since 2000, Trudeau suggested his focus would be on looking for ways in which Canada can help the
The Canadian Press