Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair took to the podium at the Investing in Africa Mining Indaba 2015, where he waxed lyrical about the prosperity of the African continent, and offered some advice to the public and private sectors. But do Blair's words live up to his actions, asks RA'EESA PATHER? Here are five instances where Blair's actions did not match his words.
1. Quality government
#MiningIndaba Blair: The differentiator between success and failure is quality of govt. Its effectiveness and ability to get things done. GW -- EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) February 10, 2015
If the past is anything to go by, then Blair's definition of quality government might be dodgy. One of Blair's good mates is Nursultan Nazarbayev, the dictator - erm, President - of Kazakhstan. Blair has offered advice to his pal in exchange for millions of dollars, which is paid to his private consultancy, Tony Blair Associates.
When 14 protestors were killed in Kazakhstan - a country that is notorious for its human-rights violations - Blair told Nazarbayev that the deaths "tragic though they were, should not obscure the enormous progress" Kazakhstan had made.
In 2012, Blair reportedly made up to $13-million dollars for his advice. Human-rights groups have called Blair's association with Nazarbayev, who has been in power for about a quarter of a century, a "disgrace". But Blair hasn't been fazed, he has a quality friendship going in Kazakhstan. Not to mention, lots of moola.
#MiningIndaba Blair: Another principal is transparency. Rules that prevent corruption are very tough. GW -- EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) February 10, 2015
Transparency is always a good thing. But Blair might want to take his own advice on this. In 2013, the Telegraph reported that Blair had been involved in some "opaque" deals in Africa. Emails between Blair's charity organisation the African Governance Initiative and the US government suggest that he was "eager to use his connections with sovereign wealth funds to secure deals in South Sudan". Oops.
3. Investing in Rwanda, Ethiopia and Mozambique
Tony Blair, asked where to invest in Africa: "Rwanda is a well-run country." Ethiopia, Mozambique also interesting, he said. -- Erin Conway-Smith (@ejcs) February 10, 2015
Before one begins to speak about Africa, one should understand the complexity of different African nations. Heads up folks, investing in Rwanda or Ethiopia is not a great idea - from a human-rights perspective, anyway. Given the plight of Andy Tsege - an imprisoned British citizen facing the death penalty for his involvement in a banned Ethiopian opposition party - perhaps Blair should think twice before going to bat for Rwanda. But wait, there's a twist: Ethiopia happens to be one of the nations where Blair has been accused of "opaque" deals.
4. Beware the extremists
#MiningIndaba Blair: Extremism is a big challenge in Africa. This is probably the single biggest security challenge of our time. GW -- EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) February 10, 2015
Yes, extremism is a problem. Nigeria still hasn't brought back its girls or even managed to find them, and the country has now postponed its elections for six weeks. But taking Blair's advice on extremism is a little ... extreme. After all, this is a man who many say should be tried for war crimes for his involvement in the invasion of Iraq. There's even an Arrest Blair website up and running, if the idea of a citizen's arrest tickles your fancy.
5. The cost of having Blair around
Tony Blair speaks at Cape Town mining summit. His fee is undisclosed, his speech can't be recorded and no pictures allowed. Paranoid, much? -- Aislinn Laing (@Simmoa) February 10, 2015
During Blair's speech at the Mining Indaba, photographers who attempted to snap pictures were reportedly shooed away. Although journalists were allowed to live-tweet his speech, they were banned from recording it. Perhaps a good question would be why the Mining Indaba agreed to these terms. Or perhaps the real question is:
Why are we still listening to this Tony Blair guy? -- زينب (@zeynib) February 10, 2015