Blair To Focus On Africa

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When then Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere indicated he was willing to send his troops to quell the coup d’etat in Kampala in February 1971, Heath directed the British High Commissioner in Dar s Salaam to let Nyerere know that Britain would not be amused by any interference by Uganda’s neighbors in the country’s internal affairs.


Africa is set to benefit from the stepping down as Prime Minister of Britain’s Tony Blair.

Sources close to Downing Street, the official residence of British Prime Ministers, told Black Star News that Blair is planning to spend more time helping to alleviate poverty on the African continent.

At an emotionally-charged meeting with his supporters in his Sedgefield constituency, Blair, who came to office in a 1987 landslide victory for his Labor Party,  said he still sees underdevelopment in Africa as “the scar on the conscious of the world.�

He told the nation that having been in power for a decade was more than enough for him. “Sometimes, the only way to conquer the pull of power is to set it down,� he said.

During his time in office, Blair became the first modern-day British Prime Minister to send British troops in Africa to quell an internal uprising that had overthrown the democratically-elected President Kabbah. He also sent troops to intervene in Kosovo and pulled out all the stops when the United States was attacked.

“I took the decision to make our country one that intervened, that did not pass by, or keep out of the thick of it,� he explained. “Then came the utterly unanticipated and dramatic. September 11th 2001 and the death of 3,000 or more on the streets of New York. I decided we should stand shoulder to shoulder with our oldest ally. I did so out of belief.�

Always an optimist, Blair fiercely defended his decision to join President Bush in ousting the Iraqi dictator. He said: “Politics may be the art of the possible, but at least in life, give the impossible a go. But I ask you to accept one thing - hand on heart, I did what I thought was right. I may have been wrong. That's your call. But believe one thing if nothing else - I did what I thought was right for our country.�

This contrasts so much from a stand taken in 1971 by then Conservative British Prime Minister Edward Heath when Idi Amin grabbed power in Uganda. Top Secret documents seen by The Black Star News at the Public Records Office in Kew, West London, say when then Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere indicated he was willing to send his troops to quell the coup d’etat in Kampala in February 1971, Heath directed the British High Commissioner in Dar s Salaam to let Nyerere know that Britain would not be amused by any interference by Uganda’s neighbors in the country’s internal affairs. (This newspaper will discuss these documents in a subsequent article).

Blair established a Commission for Africa and asked leading democratically-elected African leaders to sit with Western leaders and look at ways to make Africa stronger. During his term in office, he delivered on promises by his government to forgive the debts of those African countries that looked like they were being democratically governed. But corruption and graft have since wiped out the benefits of these debt cancelling.

Having won three consecution general elections, Blair’s term of office does not expire until at least another three years. Pressure especially from his own party members forced him to tell the public two years ago that he would not stand again for office.

This precipitated a flurry of activities especially by his Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, who has been telling anyone who wanted to hear that both he and Blair had a gentleman’s agreement that would see Blair step aside to let him govern.

Although his rise to power was swift and meticulously planned, his reputation suffered irretrievably when he sided with President George W Bush’s policy of regime change in Iraq. This is seen by political observers as being the main reason his ratings have suffered so much during his last days in office.

Speaking with emotion Blair said while many in Britain will, surprisingly, be happy to see him go, Africans may be the beneficiaries of the man’s easily recognisable powers of persuasion. He is said to be planning to use his influence with powerful world leaders to negotiate ways in which Africa can be helped to help itself.

This may not be easy but again one may say the same thing about the former troubles in Northern Island before Blair came to power. He leaves office having managed to bring together Irish republicans and nationalists, convincing them that table negotiations were better than the barrel of the gun.

On June 27, Blair will make the short trip from No.10 Downing Street to
Buckingham Palace to return the seals of power to her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Before then his Labor Party would have chosen a leader, highly expected to be Brown, who the Queen will ask to form a new government.

After receiving the seals of power from the Queen, Brown will not move house as he has been living in No.10 for the last six years. Blair moved into No. 11, the exchequer’s official residence because it is larger than No.10 and could accommodate his bigger family.

A publicly educated Oxford law graduate, Blair became the first Labor leader in the party’s 100 year history to win three consecutive terms of office. Labor had been in opposition for almost 20 years before he came on the scene.

He has also become the first British leader in modern history to voluntarily leave office. Four of his predecessors from as far back as James Callaghan, were either thrown out of office by voters or by their own parties (Margaret Thatcher).

Last year, rebel members in the Labor party closely linked with Brown unsuccessfully organised what many saw as an attempted coup against Blair by staging massive resignations from government and calling for him to step down. He was only saved when he agreed to give a clear indication as to when he would leave office. This attempt left the relations of both men very frosty.

While African leaders will most certainly look forward to receiving any help from Blair, they are not expected to take lessons from him on how to peacefully leave office. Those African leaders that have voluntarily left office and not sought re-election can be counted on one hand. These include leaders from Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi and Ghana. Leaders from countries like Gabon, Libya, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Uganda etc., have been in power for more than 20 years and show no sign of giving way for anyone else.


Gombya, former BBC correspondent writes for The Black Star News from London.

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