Cii News | 19 Rabi uth Thani 1436/10 February 2015
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in Cape Town this week. The man loathed worldwide for his his role(amongst other crimes) in the 2003 illegal invasion of Iraq delivered a keynote address at the Mining Indaba currently underway in the Mother City.
The event which continues until Thursday is dubbed the “world’s largest mining investment event” and features a blockbuster line up of global speakers and role players from the industry.
The Indaba is expected to draw more than 7 000 investors, mining corporates, government leaders, global press, and other industry stakeholders from 110 countries.
The controversial British politician was hosted by Euromoney Institutional Investor Managing Director, Mr. Christopher Fordham in a “Conversation” as part of a special keynote presentation today.
“Mr. Blair has vast experience as a global leader and through the charity he founded in 2008, the Africa Governance Initiative, he has worked with African governments to improve regulation and investment oversight. As a result, Mr. Blair will provide unique and charismatic insights to our global delegation who are vested in capitalising African mining,” said Jonathan Moore, Managing Director of the Mining Indaba prior to the event.
Publicity material prepared for the event glossed over Blair’s tainted record, instead presenting him as a key player in alleviating many of the world’s most pressing issues.
“Tony Blair now works to secure peace and prosperity in the Middle East, improve governance in Africa, encourage understanding of world faiths and boost access to sport for children in the North East of England. He also remains committed to finding solutions to climate change,” a profile on the Mining Indaba website reads.
Since his departure from formal politics in 2007, Blair has dedicated much of his time to private consultancy and public appearances. But indulgence in these post-political pursuits have hardly served to extricate him from controversy.
Much criticism abounds of Blair’s continued links with global corporates and his huge personal empire.Estimates of his net worth go as high as £100 million, though Blair dismisses these as inaccurate.
Blair is an adviser to JP Morgan, the investment bank, and to Zurich international, the Swiss insurer.
He now also advises resource-rich governments including Kazakhstan, which is presided over by the autocrat Nursultan Nazarbayev, as well as Mongolia, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi. He has been linked to business deals in Brazil and Colombia.
He is a regular visitor to China, and has taken to travelling by private jet. He can earn up to £250,000 for private speeches and appearances. A 2009 report said Blair was the world’s best paid public speaker with charges sometimes equating to approximately £6,000(or R100 000) a minute.
Still, Blair’s Iraqi invasion blight remains his most controversial credential.
Critics of his role in crafting the 2003 invasion – the aftermath of which has claimed upto 1 million lives – have repeatedly called for his trial at the International Criminal Court(ICC). Included amongst these are the likes of Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harold Pinter and Arundhati Roy.
On November 2011, a mock war-crimes tribunal put together by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission reached a unanimous conclusion that Blair and George W. Bush were guilty of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and genocide as a result of their roles in the 2003 Iraq War. The mock trial, which lasted four days, consisting of five judges of judicial and academic backgrounds, a court-appointed defence team in lieu of the defendants or representatives, and a prosecution team including international law professor Francis Boyle.
In September 2012, Desmond Tutu suggested that Blair should follow the path of former African leaders who had been brought before the International Criminal Court in The Hague. The human rights lawyer Geoffrey Bindman, interviewed on BBC radio, concurred with Tutu’s suggestion that there should be a war crimes trial.
A global campaign for people to make a citizen’s arrest of Blair as a war criminal was also launched in 2010.
According to the Arrest Blair website, which promotes the citizen’s arrest of Blair in exchange for a bounty, repeated attempts should be made to arrest the former prime minister to remind people that justice has not yet been done and to show Mr Blair that, despite his requests for people to “move on” from Iraq, the mass murder he committed will not be forgotten.
Through ongoing pressure on Blair, the campaign says it also seeks to discourage others from repeating his crime.
Reports from the indaba Tuesday said strict restrictions were in place for Blair’s keynote address including a ban on photography during his speech.
Blair reportedly said former colonialist countries and the US were re-positioning themselves in Africa and were now more interested in “partnerships and relationships”.
He also alleged that ‘extremism and radical Islamism’ was one of the biggest challenges facing Africa.
“I believe this is the single biggest security challenge of our time. We need the force capacity to get this out and we need to improve education systems that encourage this. The only world worth living in is one where everyone has equal rights and respect for all.”