Scratching backs with Rwandans
RWANDA will back the Rudd government's bid for
a UN Security Council seat in return for
Australian support for its Commonwealth membership application.
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith made the announcement
yesterday but denied that this sudden interest
in fostering stronger diplomatic links with Africa
had anything to do with the government's aspirations
for a seat on the Security Council.
A flurry of recent African VIP visits appears to be
boding well for Canberra's UN pitch.
Yesterday, it was the the turn of Rwandan Foreign
Minister Rosemary Museminali, on her first visit to Australia,
paid for out of the Department of Prime Minister
and Cabinet's "guest of government" budget.
The cost of hosting the Rwandan delegation over
its four-day visit was not available yesterday,
but The Australian can confirm
a luxury Mercedes limousine van hired
to transport the visitors will
cost taxpayers about $1500 a day.
Ms Museminali's visit follows that of
her Kenyan counterpart, Moses Wetang'ula.
Tanzania's Bernard Membe last month became
the first foreign minister from
that country to visit Australia in more than 20 years.
Rwanda is backing Australia's bid for
a temporary Security Council seat when
it becomes vacant in 2014.
In a quid pro quo, the tiny African nation gets
Australia's strong support for its bid
to become the 53rd member of the Commonwealth.
Mr Smith said Australia needed to enhance
its engagement with Africa.
"We can't ignore the economic trade and investment
opportunities that Africa provides for us,
whether it is in minerals and petroleum resources
or agriculture and other areas," the Foreign Minister said.
"And that long-term ambition transcends
any Security Council campaign we might be running."
Rwanda's name is synonymous with the 1994 genocide
of Rwandans, a three-month pogrom that left about
one million people dead.
Ms Museminali said the killing was now in
the past as Rwanda sought to attract foreign investors
from Australia and rebuild its institutions.
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