British prime minister Boris Johnson’s trip to Rwanda has been far from smooth-sailing, as he faces fresh questions over the future of his premiership in the wake of two crunch by-election losses for the Tories in England.
Defending his position some 6,400km from home, he insisted he would not undergo a “psychological transformation”, claiming voters were tired of hearing about what he was “alleged to have done wrong”.
Mr Johnson also hailed an “inspiring and uplifting few days” in Rwanda, as the UK announced partnerships to support marginalised groups abroad and help young diplomats tackle global challenges.
Boris Johnson said “we should all cherish the Commonwealth” on the final day of a leaders summit in Kigali, as he prepares to meet with the G7 in Germany.
Meanwhile, he said he had a “good old chin-wag” with prince Charles, their first talks since Charles reportedly called his controversial asylum policy “appalling”.
Mr Johnson also warned during his trip that pressure would grow to coerce the Ukrainians to a “bad peace” due to economic stresses sparked by the Russian invasion.
Asked at the British high commissioner’s residence in Kigali what he meant by concerns of Ukraine fatigue, he said: “I know it is tough. I know it is tough in the UK. I know the cost of food has gone up. Everybody is looking at this and too many countries are saying this is a European war that is unnecessary.
“It is an economic problem that we don’t need and so the pressure will grow to encourage, coerce maybe the Ukrainians to a bad peace.”
Pressed on who this was coming from, he said: “I think just generally. I just think there is a general sentiment.
“I think the risk is that people will fail to see that it is vital to stand up against aggression … if Putin gets away with aggression in Ukraine, if he gets away with the naked conquest of other people’s territory, then the read across for every single country here is absolutely dramatic.
“The collapse of the international system and failure to stand up for international borders, they get that. And it would be a long-term economic disaster.”
On Saturday, the British foreign office announced two new initiatives, including a £27 million partnership with the UK’s leading overseas volunteering charity, VSO, and a joint diplomatic programme with India.
The former will empower people living in low-income countries to take control of their futures, the FCDO said, while the latter will equip young diplomats from all Commonwealth member states with expertise and training on global challenges.
The VSO funding will deliver the Active Citizenship Through Inclusive Volunteering and Empowerment (Active) programme, which aims to reach 2.5 million people across 18 countries by mobilising marginalised groups — including women, young people and those with disabilities — to act on the issues that are most important to them and their communities.
Foreign office minister Lord Ahmad said: “By unleashing the potential of individuals and communities through voluntary work, while supporting the best locally led organisations to meet the priorities of the people and communities they benefit, we can bring about lasting, inclusive change.”
Foreign secretary Liz Truss said the UK and India are helping to build a modern Commonwealth “fit for the 21st century” and delivering “tangible benefits” for its members.
“That’s why we are working together on a new Commonwealth Diplomatic Academy programme, which will equip young diplomats with expertise and training they will need to tackle the global challenges we face,” she said.
“Graduates from the programme will play a crucial role in delivering a rejuvenated Commonwealth united in support of self-determination.”
It comes after Mr Johnson announced £2.7 million in fresh funding to help LGBT rights activists fight discrimination and violence across Commonwealth countries.
Mr Johnson said the values held dear by the nations “should apply to everyone in society”. — PA