Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Blair stands up for Africa during last whirlwind tour

Tony Blair, the outgoing Britain Prime Minister said on Thursday that wealthy countries have demonstrated a greater commitment to fighting poverty in Africa, ahead of his departure at the end of the month.

Blair flew into Johannesburg airport from Sierra Leone on Thursday and met with South African President Thabo Mbeki and his predecessor as president, anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela, during his two-day visit there.

The Zimbabwe and Darfur crises, world trade and the G8 summit this week in Germany were all expected to feature in an address at the Johannesburg campus of the University of South Africa Business School.

Blair expressed his concern that the world’s richest countries are falling short on the pledges they made to increase aid and grant relief at the 2005 G8 summit in Gleneagles, United Kingdom, which Britain chaired.

He calls for an even greater commitment on Africa from G8 countries at the Group of Eight most industrialized nations in Heiligendamm, Germany summit.

“We now have a broad political consensus for Africa in the UK. We need the same in the European Union. We need each G8 to be bolder than the last,” he is expected to say in his speech.

“If we do this and Africa responds as an equal partner, we will have set a strategic goal which, with time, we will then achieve.”

At the 2005 G8 summit, the group of eight industrialised nations pledged to double levels of aid for Africa by the end of the decade but watchdogs have said that donor levels have not increased to date in accordance with the Commission on Africa report.

Cape Town Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, president of African Monitor group, said earlier this week that aid to Africa had remained static since 2005 and criticised wealthy nations for not fulfilling their promises.

On Zimbabwe, Blair is expected to state that Britain supports Mbeki’s efforts to mediate between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

He will also stress the need for a swift resolution of the crisis in a country where inflation is running at over 3,000 percent.

In an email interview with South Africa’s Sunday Times newspaper last weekend, Blair promised that Africa would remain at the top of Britain’s agenda after he stepped down. He would also be discussing the issue with Mbeki, he added.

“We’ll discuss the desperate crisis in Zimbabwe, which is causing such misery for its people and is now having a damaging impact on neighbouring countries,” he said.

On the Darfur crisis, Blair said Britain would back tougher sanctions against the regime of Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir.

Blair said that Sudan’s president has to choose between working with the international community towards a solution of the Darfur crisis or facing further sanctions.

He commended some African countries such as Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique and Botswana for achieving economic growth due to good governance and anti-corruption measures.
But he criticised Zimbabwe and Sudan for, according to him, choosing “bad government and violent oppression”, which had put their economies in freefall.

“Our challenge is to support the good. Africa’s challenge is to eliminate the bad,” he stated.
Blair has this week visited Libya and Sierra Leone among other countries.


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