Harrington: Visit Rwanda? Arsenal have been advising us to do that for years

Friday, 22nd April

Tony Adams meets Rwandan leder Paul Kagame

Arsenal legend Tony Adams meets Rwandan president Paul Kagame. Photo: Flickr /Paul Kagame / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

A FEW weeks ago I suggested in this diary that Chelsea Football Club might ultimately be better off without Roman Abramovich as its owner.

Their fans have, after all, had the uglier parts of his CV explained to them in the bluntest of detail since Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.

Maybe they understand now why so many people found his investment so distasteful.

But is it right for everybody else to feel saintly? To babble on inanely about how their club does things the right way?

The government’s scarcely-believable new policy of trucking asylum seekers off to a processing facility in Rwanda surely jogged a few memories that the central African state has also bought a place on Arsenal’s shirt sleeves.

A £10million-a-year kit deal has led to players and club ambassadors visiting Rwanda, and coaches encouraging young boys and girls to play.

The club insists the arrangement is a “good fit”.

For clarity, I should be clear here that the government’s refugee gameplan has no link to Arsenal’s sponsorshop activities.

But in either case, what is never really mentioned is Rwanda’s human rights record, which last year led the UK foreign office – yes, the one now doing deals with its leader Paul Kagame – to less conspicuously call for improvements.

Rwanda should conduct “independent investigations into allegations of extrajudicial killings, deaths in custody, enforced disappearances and torture, and bring perpetrators to justice”, said one official recommendation.

Kagame, who won his last election with… just the 99 per cent of the vote, and his supporters have denied all of the claims of bad behaviour and intimidation thrown at them.

And so it is that every Gunners fan who has bought a replica shirt in recent times is walking around with the advice to “Visit Rwanda” for their holidays.

A scenic destination it may be, but some caught up in home secretary Priti Patel’s plans, it will be an order – not a recommendation.

Related Articles