British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his wife Carrie Symonds on Thursday morning arrived in Rwanda for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
Following his arrival, he met with President Paul Kagame where the two leaders held talks on existing partnerships between Rwanda and the UK, including the recent Migration and Economic Development Partnerships.
Johnson is also expected to attend the closing of the Commonwealth Business Forum, which is happening at the Kigali Conference and Exhibition Village.
Besides CHOGM, the Prime Minister will be looking forward to seeing the country that will receive the Migrants from the UK, according to British media.
Mr Johnson will use a summit in Kigali to push for deeper trade ties between the Commonwealth countries, touting them as opportunities for post-Brexit Britain to grow its way out of economic problems.
But his presence in Rwanda, where migrants are to be deported from Britain, and two parliamentary by-elections on Thursday mean he is unlikely to escape his domestic political troubles on his trip.
The six-day Commonwealth summit, the first such meeting since the coronavirus pandemic, is meant to spur members of the 54-member club into action on trade, environmental protection and other issues.
Mr Johnson was expected to call for investment in green technology at a Commonwealth business forum and welcome new trade ties between Britain and India in the healthcare sector.
“It is an underappreciated fact that our unique union of nations is buzzing with economic activity,” he said before taking off for Rwanda. “Trade and commerce ties criss-cross continents, greased by shared language and legal systems.”
He said he hoped his trip to Rwanda would push critics of his immigration policy to “shed some of their condescending attitudes” to the African country, which has agreed to take in asylum seekers deported from Britain.
The policy has been criticised as inhumane and ineffective by many politicians and activists, and is entangled in legal battles, but ministers insist it will deter people from making dangerous journeys across the English Channel in small boats.
The visit to Rwanda is particularly sensitive because it will bring Mr Johnson face to face with Britain’s Prince Charles, who is representing Queen Elizabeth in Kigali and was said to have privately denounced the deportation policy.
Mr Johnson declined to say whether he would try to win over the prince, who is often outspoken despite his official neutrality and was quoted by newspapers as saying the Rwanda policy was “appalling”.
The trip also takes Mr Johnson out of Britain at a moment of political peril, with two constituencies electing new MPs on Thursday in votes that could intensify pressure on his government.
Almost 150 of Mr Johnson’s own Conservative MPs voted to oust him in a confidence vote this month, which he only narrowly survived after months of scandals and growing concerns about his leadership.
Defeat for his party in Wakefield, one of a swathe of working-class seats seized from the Labour Party at the last election, and in Tiverton and Honiton, a rural Conservative stronghold, would show Mr Johnson losing ground on multiple flanks.
But he will be far away from his critics for the next seven days as he follows up his Rwanda visit with a G7 summit in Germany at the weekend and an annual Nato meeting in Madrid next week.