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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Fighting Poverty? We're a Joke, a Disgrace

THE world's eight most powerful men were yesterday bluntly told to stay away from Scotland this summer unless they are serious about tackling African poverty.

Bob Geldof told them: "If you're not prepared to do it, don't come to Scotland. If they come here with the attitude they currently have, of doing nothing: don't come, stay at home. Not welcome."

Addressing an international gathering at Holyrood to confront African poverty ahead of the G8 summit in July, the outspoken anti-poverty campaigner told Tony Blair that he must demand payback for his support of America over Iraq. George Bush owed the prime minister a big personal favour, said Geldof. Gleneagles was the place and African aid, trade and debt the issues.

"(Tony Blair) put a lot of political credibility into doing what he thought was right, but also supporting a man he thought was right.

"There is a payback for that and this is the time when the prime minister must say to the president: 'this is what I want'."

Geldof said that at the rate we were going the promises on African poverty for this year would not be achieved for a further 145 years.

"We're a joke. We are a complete and utter disgrace, and we perpetrate this falsity and this lie on the heads of the already trodden upon, mute and weak."

He said "the most concerted, bravest and biggest attempt as a country" was needed to ensure African poverty is addressed. "We won't die trying, but we'll die of shame if it isn't done."

The Boomtown Rats singer sounded a warning on time running out and a clarion call for Scotland. He said that the next two years' summits in Russia and Germany will have lost the opportunity for action on African poverty. "It has fallen upon Scotland at the beginning of the 21st century to do something that will resonate throughout the century".

For Jack McConnell, soon to visit Malawi to twin with the former African colony which has the strongest Scottish links, Geldof was equally direct, demanding to the first minister's face that he tackle the country's political corruption. "How can Scotland, in all conscience, have a relationship with a country that may be corrupt in its political structures?"

Twenty years after thrusting Ethiopian famine in the world's face with his leadership of the Live Aid and Band Aid movement, Geldof remains measured and controlled, but his expression of outrage has lost none of its power and conviction. His language explodes with anger, as with his description of Aids' effect on Africa as "a vicious little f*****".

Geldof recounted how he thought he had seen it all, until he entered a small hut in Ethiopia, where he witnessed a family tableau of Africa's tragedy. A grandfather lay dead on the floor, awaiting burial. There were three other women: his widow, her daughter who had just given birth, and another woman, the only one capable of being a breadwinner.

The Herald

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