Just over two years ago, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair signed on as a political consultant with the government of Kazakhstan. His performance as an adviser to the Central Asian nation remains a source of contention. But what is indisputable is that Kazakhstan's democratization record is far poorer today than it was when he started.
Blair's multi-million-dollar consultancy deal, agreed to in October, 2011, reportedly expired a couple of weeks ago. His office has not commented on whether the consultancy has been renewed. In addition, Blair representatives deny that the deal was worth as much as $25 million, and insist that the former prime minister did not personally profit from the arrangement, explaining that Kazakhstani cash was used to support pro bono work in Africa.
Rights activists aren't satisfied with the explanations and are accusing Blair of providing political cover for a Kazakhstani government crackdown on basic freedoms. “We’ve not documented or been informed of any tangible positive human rights improvements as a result of Tony Blair’s two years of work,” Hugh Williamson of Human Rights Watch (HRW) told EurasiaNet.org.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.