3 Jul 2005
“Overcoming Poverty is not a gesture of charity, it is an act of justice”. This statement by Nelson Mandela at the ‘live 8’ concert in Johannesburg sums up the new thinking about the topic of poverty.
I sat down and watched my television with tearful emotions as people in far away Japan, Europe and America mobilize to create awareness about the poverty that is dehumanizing us on the African continent.
Many ordinary people in Africa were indifferent to what was going on. It is not that they are ungrateful. Some are indifferent because they are ignorant. Others that know what is going on are indifferent because they do not have hope in the outcome. When I sampled the opinion of some people as to how they feel now that there is a possibility of receiving external assistance from rich countries, one young man told me “It is a game because the Western governments will send money to Africa and the African leaders will steal it and send it back to Western bank accounts and our situation will remain the same.”
The general consensus on the African continent is that the only way to make poverty history is for the rich nations to help Africa to make corruption, graft and bad governance history. Those lording it over us have amassed so much fortune and in the process so weakened us to the extent that we have no energy left to hold them accountable or replace them. As long as these people that are associated with the collapse of many African economies remain at the helm of affairs on the continent, this well-intentioned effort by rich nations may end in failure. Many African countries are poor not because of the want of resources but due to bad governance.
We salute the untiring efforts of Bob Geldof, who, in the eighties set the ‘ball’ rolling with the offer of the proceeds from his hit ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ to the famine victims of Ethiopia. This action of his awakened others and Ken Krazen, Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie, Harry Belafonte and Quincy Jones set up the charity company ‘USA For Africa’. They were later to liaise with Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Cyndi Lauper, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen and two dozen other artists to release the memorable hit ‘We are the World’ written by Richie and Michael Jackson. This in its turn was to act as a precursor to one of the biggest musical fund-raising jamborees ‘Live Aid’ in 1985 that brought together hundreds of artists and reportedly raised $65 million towards the Ethiopian relief effort.
We also salute other people of goodwill in the West like Tony Blair that is emerging as the leader of western governments on this issue, and Bill Gates that is the leading advocate in the private sector. These are people who have seen that the time is ripe to do right.
We thank them immensely because it takes more than commitment to defend the interest s of the poor and powerless. Regardless of the skepticism and ignorance on the African continent pertaining to this issue, they should rest assured that their cause is right and they are making history by making poverty history.
Copyrightã2005 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah [e-mail]