Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid his respects to the victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide in Kigali, Rwanda, where he is trying to reach a consensus with Commonwealth countries to avert another humanitarian crisis.
Trudeau became the first Prime Minister of Canada to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial, which serves as the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims.
Trudeau laid a wreath at one of the graves and crossed himself, while the Rwandan military stood guard and played a gloomy horn melody.
Over 800,000 people were killed in 100 days, including Tutsis, moderate Hutus, and others during the conflict.
Russian-Ukrainian war will be the main topic of Trudeau’s international tour
Trudeau is in Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, where he hopes to enlist the support of Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion and provide support in dealing with the geopolitical consequences of the conflict.
The Commonwealth is made up of 54 independent nations with historical ties to the British Crown, which together represent some 2.5 billion people.
Countries range from the richest economies in the world to the poorest.
Some of these poorer Commonwealth countries have experienced the pangs of hunger, which is becoming a pressing problem around the world as access to grain from Ukraine and Russia has been limited by the war.
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Trudeau is expected to meet the host of the summit, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, later this evening and then attend a state dinner with Foreign Minister Melanie Joly.
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This will be an opportunity to try to win support for an unlikely Commonwealth consensus on the conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
Rwanda was one of 10 Commonwealth countries that abstained from a UN vote to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine in March.
Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Ralph Goodale says the Canadian delegation hopes to influence critical discussions on the conflict as well as other key issues such as food security and climate change.
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Goodale, who sits on the Commonwealth’s board of governors, says Canada has a big platform to attend the summit because other international powers like the United States, Russia and China are not there.
“We will have an important contribution to some very important international discussions,” Goodale told reporters in Kigali on Wednesday.
“There are Commonwealth countries that are very directly affected by the threat of famine. And this is caused by many factors, including climate change, but especially now it is a consequence of the war in Ukraine and Russian aggression,” Goodale said.
“It’s critical for Canada to have an opportunity in a forum like this where you really see the impact of the war in Ukraine, so that Canada’s voice is there.”
This will be the first face-to-face meeting of Commonwealth heads of government since 2018. The 2020 summit, like most events, has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trudeau arrived in Kigali on Wednesday, but the official welcoming ceremony begins on Friday. The leaders are expected to hold a series of closed meetings on Friday and Saturday.
While many world leaders, including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are expected to take part in high-level discussions, other leaders have chosen to stay at home.
Among those absent are New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and new Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
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