Why are African leaders so silent on Boris Johnson’s exit?




Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Rwanda President Paul Kagame and Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations Patricia Scotland during the Leaders' Retreat executive session on the sidelines of the 2022 Commonwealth heads of Government meeting in Kigali, Rwanda, Saturday June 25, 2022. (Dan Kitwood/Pool via AP)

Cape Town – They say silence is deafening, and African leaders’ silence on outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s resignation speaks volumes.

The embattled Johnson said on Thursday that he was resigning as prime minister, bowing to calls from ministerial colleagues and lawmakers in his Conservative Party.

Now I would have thought that Rwandan president Paul Kagame who took over the chairmanship from Johnson at the Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Kigali in June, would have issued a statement by now on the turmoil taking place in the UK.

Britain’s Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson attended the opening ceremony along with heads of state and governments from most member countries, before the leaders held two days of talks behind closed doors.

The Commonwealth leaders met to discuss cooperation on topics from trade to health to climate, against a backdrop of criticism of the host Rwanda’s human rights record and of a British policy to deport asylum seekers there.

They say silence is deafening, and African leaders silence on outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resignation speaks volumes. Photo: Paul Kagame Official.
They say silence is deafening, and African leaders silence on outgoing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson resignation speaks volumes. Photo: Paul Kagame Official.

So could this be part of the reason for Africa’s silence?

The Commonwealth, a club of 54 countries most of which are former British colonies, encompasses about a third of humanity and presents itself as a network of equal partners with shared goals such as democracy, peace and prosperity.

The Rwandan president who takes charge of the Commonwealth for the next two years, no doubt faces a daunting task of reviving an association that faces an existential threat due to its colonial history, writes online news outlet The East African.

As chair, he is expected to oversee the work of the Commonwealth Secretariat, the implementing organ of the 56-nation club, whose memberships is drawn from those predominantly with colonial ties to the then imperial British Empire.

In recent years, the club has admitted countries with no such historical ties including Rwanda, Mozambique and most recently Togo and Gabon.

The UK is the fourth-largest bilateral donor to Africa, providing $3.9 billion in 2019, and the third-largest donor to Africa among countries in the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).