On my ﬁrst trip to sub-Saharan Africa seven years ago, Sierra Leoneans fêted Prime Minister Tony Blair in a manner he has rarely enjoyed at home. People credited Britain with helping the government hire mercenaries to ﬁght the brutal rebel Revolutionary United Front; one newspaper described the Prime Minister as one of the ‘heroes of democracy’. A 1999 British parliamentary enquiry found no evidence Blair knew of the mercenary activity in advance, but in 2000 he did authorise the deployment of hundreds of British troops to help end a civil war that had begun almost a decade before.
At next month’s meeting of the G8 leading economies in Gleneagles, Scotland, the Prime Minister will again try to show that Africa is central to his thoughts. As host and president of the G8, he will promote some of the development ideas outlined in a special British-created Commission on Africa report in March.