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Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 July 2007, 18:59 GMT 19:59 UK
Diary: Cameron's trip to Rwanda
Conservative leader David Cameron met by Senator Agnes Mukabaranga, as he arrives at Kigali airport.
David Cameron has arrived in Rwanda for a two-day visit.
BBC News political correspondent Carole Walker is spending time in Rwanda with Conservative volunteers working on social action projects to gain experience of development issues.

She is keeping an online diary of the trip in the poverty-stricken African country.


In his speech to the Rwandan government, David Cameron said that some people in Britain had told him not to come here, to stay and deal with the problems at home.

But he said that at a time of climate change, global trade and migration, the rich cannot escape the consequences of poverty and instability.

He called for concerted and practical action to tackel global poverty, but there is clearly some frustration amongst his team that questions over whether he should have left his flooded constituency somewhat overshadowed a long-planned and detailed policy announcement.


David Cameron has come here to launch his party's global poverty report - on ways of tackling poverty around the world and to stress his party's commitment to international development.

But he arrived here and immediately faced questions as to whether he should have stayed closer to home, where many of his own constituents are suffering at the hands of the flood waters.

David Cameron said he had thought very seriously about this, but had decided it was the right thing to do to go ahead with this visit.

"I was in my constituency yesterday and was able to visit some of the towns and villages that were flooded," he countered.

"I was able to talk to the emergency services and I spent time with the emergency planning committee in west Oxfordshire."

"But this is the 21st century. People are worried about immigration, floods and climate change.

"They're worried about terrorism and crime. And we've got to realise that unless we engage with African countries, unless we solve some of these problems at source, then we are never going to tackle those problems."

So David Cameron says the long-term solution for Rwanda's problems, and to help it rebuild its economy further, is to open up more trade.

He's calling on the EU to unilaterally sweep away a lot of the trade barriers and open up its markets to developing countries like this one.

And he's talking about new ways of making the delivery of aid more transparent and effective to make sure that the money really does get to those who need it.

He'll be talking more about that in a speech to the Rwandan parliament tomorrow, but that may not ease the grumblings from some in his party who are already questioning his judgement.


A youth choir singing in a refurbished classroom at the Giragontu Centre - a once derelict orphanage in Kigali being transformed into a school with Conservative volunteers working alongside local Rwandans - is one of the projects David Cameron will visit this week.

Critics in the press and the party have been quick to dismiss this as a PR stunt, but those working on the project have challenged them to come and see the work for themselves.

David Cameron knows a renewed commitment to tackling global poverty will hardly reassure those on the right of his party hankering for a return to more traditional Tory issues.

But the Shadow International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, says his leader is right to stick to his commitment to making international development a priority.

"He's coming here as the next British Prime Minister. He's going to talk in a country that is both the best and the worst of Africa.

"It's the best because they really are now on track doing the right things to hit those millennium development goals, and the worst because of the appalling events that took place some 13 years.

"And he's also coming as leader of the Conservative Party to see members of his party who've put together the largest social action project that any political party in Britain has put together."

On Tuesday the former Cabinet Minister Peter Lilley will launch the findings of his global poverty policy group.

Monitoring transparency

It will propose new ways of making the delivery of aid more transparent and effective - a requirement for countries that receive donations to publish figures to show where the money goes and a new independent body to monitor how the department for international development spends its funds.

In the hills just outside Kigali, hundreds of local people are building terracing into the slopes to enable them to grow maize and wheat to make a living.

In the meantime, they're paid in food rations by the UN World Food programme.

Its director in Rwanda, Marette Hilavaden says many of the proposals in the Conservative report are already happening.

"We are working together with the government and the rest of the donors to get more transparency to us to monitor results and to see if we are progressing and what kind of results or assistance needs giving."

Rwanda has made huge strides in reconciliation and economic growth since the end of the genocide 13 years ago.

But with more than half the population still living on less than a dollar a day, the country still relies on international help.

Britain is the biggest donor, providing 46 million a year.

On a training ground near the national stadium, Conservative MP and football coach, Alistair Birt hands out brand new football shirts, donated by some of England's top clubs and the FA.

This Tory project to boost sporting opportunities for Rwanda's children brings smiles all around. David Cameron knows that finding effective ways of handing out aid and pleasing his party will be much harder to achieve.


Tobias Ellwood in Rwanda
MP Tobias Ellwood is among the volunteers in Rwanda

In the dust and heat of the midday sun Tobias Ellwood, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, is shovelling soil into a wheelbarrow.

He is one of a team of volunteers working alongside local Rwandans to transform a near-derelict former orphanage into a primary school.

More than 40 Conservative volunteers including eight MPs are spending two weeks on social action projects across the country working in school and clinics, providing legal expertise and football coaching.

The idea is for them to get first-hand experience of world development issues.

Critics in the press and the party have been quick to dismiss it as a stunt.

'Unbelievable' help

Mr Ellwood says anyone who thinks that should come and see for themselves how hard they are working and how much they are learning from the experience.

The local director of the Girubuntu Orphanage, Eugene Rudusingwa, said the work of their new partners from another continent was "unbelievable".

He said: "Normally politicians just talk."

A flurry of phone calls last night brought the news that the Sunday Telegraph is reporting that two unnamed Tory MPs are calling for a no confidence vote in the Tory leader David Cameron.

It is hardly the best backdrop for his arrival here on Monday.

The sight of the young leader rolling up his sleeves in Africa, promising a new commitment to helping the world's poor, is hardly likely to reassure the right of his party longing for a tough line on tax, crime and Europe.

But David Cameron has said tackling global poverty is a personal priority and if he had pulled out of a long-planned visit here that really would have shown panic in the Tory leadership.

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