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Firoze Manji

Short term fame for long term pain

It is interesting to see in the current issue of RedPepper that the divisions within the Make Poverty History campaign mirrors our own experiences in Africa.

When Geldof with Richard Curtis announced that Live8 was organising a concert in Johannesburg and that Madela was appearing. This news came as a demoralising blow to the Publicity organising group of the Africa coalition of GCAP since they had already planned a concert in Johannesburg in early July. This coalition, established in March 2005 at a meeting of more than 70 organisations from 26 countries, had charged a committee to take responsibility for organising concerts in Johannesburg, Accra and Nairobi, alongside a series of actions beginning with the Africa Day of the Child and culminating with mobilisations against the WTO meeting in Hong Kong later this year. We agreed to launch a campaign using SMS to mobilising people in Africa, organise meetings where the voices of the 'wretched of the earth' could give voice to their struggles on platforms that we would create over the year. The loose coalition, now estimated to involve more than 100 organisations in Africa, affirmed that it was taking ownership of the mobilisations over GCAP in Africa, and would use it to build the confidence of the movement to make its own voice heard. There was a profound resentment about the attempts by Geldof and Comic Relief to seize the agenda, promote their own paternalistic pity-based slogans on the campaign, and resentment about the frank appropriation of their own initiatives.

Plans for organising the Johannesburg concert were well underway before Geldof announced his Live8 initiative, and members of the coalition added their voices to the criticism launched at Geldof for his all white platform and for his ignoring the plans of the African coalition. The effect of his announcement about the Johannesburg concert threw the coalition into disarray, causing deep divisions amongst the organisations involved. GCAP representative, Kumi Naidoo, accompanied by a senior policy advisor from Oxfam GB, Owain James, met with Geldof in London at a meeting facilitated by Richard Curtis. What was said at that meeting is not known as no formal written report has ever been presented. But by the time Naidoo reported back to the publicity organising group, it was clear that they had a deal with Live8 that the original Johannesburg concert, planned as an event in one of the townships to encourage maximum participation of the people who suffer the greatest effects of globalisation and neoliberal policies, was to be cancelled. Instead an earlier event was planned to coincide with the Live8 jamborees. There were strong voices of dissent expressed by members of the coalition. As a compromise, it was agreed that if the concert was to be held earlier, under no condition would this be branded as a Live8 initiative, and the the African campaigns slogans should be retained. Indeed it was agreed that a press release be issued publicly denying Geldof's claim to the concert. A press release was prepared and circulated to the committee for final approval before being dispatched - but its dispatch was blocked by Oxfam GB and Civicus. A day later - on a Sunday - an emergency telephone conference was called of selected members of the committee which was packed with Oxfam staff - who had nothing to do with the committee charged by the coalition to organise the event. One can only assume that these additional Oxfam staff were brought in to ensure that the decision taken by the committee rejecting the association of the Johannesburg concert with Live8 was overturned. The following day we were informed that they were to go ahead with branding the concert as a Live8 initiative. At the next meeting of the committee, plans for the concert were presented to the committee for approval. Half of the organisations involved in the meeting refused to sign off on the plans. Oxfam GB and Kumi Naidoo's Civicus announced that the concert would go ahead as a Live8 branded event in any case as this "was what Richard Curtis and Live8 wanted". The views of the Northern agencies once again prevailed, all in the interest of being seen to chum up with the famous.

Since then, we have pressed for the concert to be used as a platform to enable those engaged in struggles around land rights, homelessness, struggles against privatisation of water etc, to speak about their struggles as the real examples of the fight against impoverishment. So far, these suggestions have been ignored, presumably because they are viewed as not being 'on message'. Instead of reflecting the genuine voice of those fighting the causes of impoverishment, we are to be treated to the razamatazz of celebrities and eulogising of St Bob, the white supposed saviour of Africa. By colluding with Geldof, the event is once again handing over the African initiative to the North. We are supposed to be grateful that by subsuming African voices and initiatives to the needs of organisations whose real interest is to use the African movement to give them greater credibility for chumming up to their friends in Downing Street. If only Mandela was aware of what has been going on and how he too, through his participation in the concert, is about to be used for the glory of the Live8s and the northern development NGOs. (I was informed by a senior Officer at Oxfam in Kenya that Mandela had originally refused Geldof's invitation to appear at Live8 criticising Geldof for the lack of Africans involved - but I can't verify this).

Latest reports received indicate that the South African concert cost some GBP 300,000, consuming almost the entire budget for the Africa mobilisation. The Accra and Nairobi events are severely threatened as a result. African voices have been subsumed by the Geldofs. But that was to be expected. Less palatable was the collusion of those who should have known better.

Schietti's Engine


Consegnati 25 Motori di Schietti in India: attenzione è iniziata la rivoluzione

Poor African

great post! thanks very much for sharing


hi firzo, am very much happy to hear this one from you.but am sorry to say it will not happen in this world every and never.bcz of heavy pollution...
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