Tag Archive for 'africa'


WASHINGTON, D.C., Jan. 20…Can a man who has been honored by the Queen of England, given a TED award for social activism, named a Time  Magazine Person of the Year, nominated for an Oscar, a Golden Globe, a Grammy and a Nobel Peace Prize be all bad?

Leah Schildkraut thinks he can.

Bono, lead singer of U2, billionaire financier and globetrotting philanthropist, has devoted much time and energy to raising money for African causes.   

But Schildkraut, Emerging Economies Specialist, with the Anarcho-Feminist Alliance, thinks he and other celebrities are doing more harm than good.

“Africa doesn’t need handouts,” she said. “It needs a level playing field.”

On the eve of President-elect Obama’s inauguration, she traveled to Washington with a delegation of African entrepreneurs to expose what she called the “cult of celebrity charity,” and to lobby officials of the incoming administration for free trade agreements with Africa, investment initiatives and aid to local businesses.

They stood in the happily milling crush near the Lincoln Memorial holding signs, demanding “Independence, not Dependence,” and  “Trade Not Aid for Africa.” Schildkraut had set up a table with a selection of African exports–Ghanaian grapefruit, Nigerian prints, Ugandan coffee–and a colorful leaflet explaining the wide range of products and services that Africa offers. Holding a portable mike she harangued the crowd. “Africa is being kept in a state of colonial subservience by capitalist donor fronts, the World Bank and the IMF. The same people who give them a useless pittance are holding them back from real prosperity…”  Hundreds of TV News people, photographers and You Tubers walked by, but no one stopped. All eyes were on the Memorial where a troupe of A- list performers were entertaining the star struck crowd. 

“Maybe this was not a good time, Leah,” Edward, a free press advocate from Zimbabwe said gently. “Nobody wants controversy today.”

“U2 ,” someone shouted excitedly and the crowd surged forward for a better look.

At the top of the steps, Bono was being cheered on as he sang “Pride…In the name of Love”, the song U2 wrote in honor of Martin Luther King.

“U2 is the problem, not the solution,” Schildkraut shouted. She erased the “Trade not Aid” sign and hurriedly printed “BONO IS A HYPOCRITE” in black block letters. 

“That is a little strong, Leah,” said Miriam, an anti-slavery activist from Niger.

People paused for a moment, but then moved on as Schildkraut grabbed a hand mike. “Bono and Geldof and all the celebrity dilettantes present a distorted picture of Africa…”

A tall man in a colorful dashiki fixed her with a scornful look. “What do you know about Africa, lady?” And moved on before Schildkraut answered:

“Don’t listen to me. Listen to Ugandan journalist Andrew Mwenda. He says that the celebrity charities offer ‘a portrayal of Africans as unable to think, empty…’ He says that Africa has been stripped of self-initiative…That giving money to governments makes them accountable to the donors, the World bank, the IMF, the celebrities and not their own people…He says that the billions donated to corrupt governments are used to pay off political allies and bolster police forces that maintain  repressive rule.”

Humanity flowed around them. Only one person stopped and watched in indignant disbelief. He was carrying a sign that read: U2 MEETUPS and identified himself as Efraim Durg, head of the Brooklyn chapter. 

“Listen to Professor William Easterly,” Schildkraut said. “He says that the typical African is a long way from being a starving AIDS victim at the mercy of child soldiers. He says that between 1/2 and 1 per cent of Africans died of AIDS in 2007. That only one out of 10,800 died as a result of armed conflict…”

“That’s because people like Bono are making a difference,” Durg said.

“Easterly says that in 2006 Sub-Saharan Africa registered its third straight year of GDP growth above 6%, better than most western countries,” Schildkraut said. “Economist Michael Clemens says that Africa has expanded elementary school enrollment at more than twice the rate of western economies, which kept peasants and workers functionally illiterate for centuries…”

“No one is lis-ten-ing,” Durg jeered.

Schildkraut climbed a chair and turned up her mike. “At a recent conference Mwenda, who was imprisoned twice in Uganda for criticizing the government, challenged the G8 countries to liberalize trade rules so African products could compete in the world market. ‘Did any country ever become rich by holding out the begging bowl?’ Mwenda asked…And Bono…” She gulped, speechless with rage..”Bono heckled him. Said what he was saying was ‘bollocks.’”

Durg blinked in puzzlement. “What’s bollocks?”

“Bono was angry because Mwenda was upstaging him,” Schildkraut said.

“Oh yeah, can he sing?” Durg asked.

“Professor Easterly says he wonders if Africa is saving celebrity careers more than celebrities are saving Africa.”

This was too much for Durg. “Bono runs himself ragged trying to raise money for poor, sick people and this is the thanks he gets…He gets billions of dollars of debts forgiven…”

“So the corrupt rulers don’t have to repay money they used to buy limos, pay off cronies and strengthen their police forces,” Schildkraut said. “And meanwhile the G8 is keeping African cotton, sugar and produce out of the world market…”

“Bono started the “Red” products campaign,” Durg said.

“Which is a complete flop,” Schildkraut said, her voice breaking. “After a $100 million marketing campaign only $18 million has been raised…”

“It’s just getting started,” Durg said.

“And it’s the typical shallow consumerist meliorism that the Africans object to,” Schildkraut scoffed. “Buy an iPod nano and provide 83 treatments to relieve the risk of AIDS transmission. Buy a billion nanos and wipe out AIDS. Buy a trillion and wipe out world poverty… Meanwhile, the nano is manufactured at factories in Longhua and Suzhou, China where the workers put in 15 hour days for $50 a month…”

“That’s not Bono’s fault,” Durg said.” He can’t solve all the world’s problems.”

“Let him start with his own company, Elevation Partners,” Schildkraut said. “They own a piece of Palm electronics, whose products are manufactured in Guanzhou, China by Casio where four thousand workers walked off the job in protest at low wages and poor conditions and the riot police were called in to force them back to work and 20 were injured. They own BioWare/Pandemic game producers whose components are manufactured by Atari at factories in Guangdong where workers are made to stand for hours at a time…”

“You couldn’t afford any of those products if they were made in the US,” Durg said.

Schildkraut sagged and stepped off the chair. “I know,” she said. “I’m the contradiction. I’m the problem…”

“Look Leah, there’s Stevie Wonder,” Miriam said.

Durg pointed to Obama who was smiling benignly from behind a glass shield.

“You should try to lighten up,” he said. “Today’s a great day.”

“I know,” Schildkraut said. She gave him a bag of Good African Coffee. “Try this,” she said. “It’s really good.”

Secret EU Unit Seeks To Scapegoat Obama

BRUSSELS, Belgium, Dec. 26…Upstaged and rendered irrelevant by the rise of Barrack Obama, European leaders have formed a secret task force to find ways to tarnish his image, the Daily Event has learned.

“George Bush was an easy foil who made all our leaders look good,” said a Euro diplomat, who asked not be identified be cause he/she is not allowed to speak to the media. “But Obama is outshining us, seducing our volatile populations.”

The unit, consisting of intelligence analysts, media specialists and psychological warfare operatives, will seek to uncover scandal, create unflattering stories and exploit weaknesses in Obama’s personality. Nations that have been in political and economic conflict have agreed to forget their differences and cooperate fully.

“We are united in our understanding that Obama is a threat to the political survival of every leader in the world,” the diplomat said.

  The alarm was sounded in foreign capitals last July when 200,000 screaming Germans welcomed  Obama to Berlin. Flaunting piercings, strumming guitars and, most distressingly, waving American flags, the crowd massed impatiently across from the Brandenburg Gate where JFK had famously proclaimed “Ich Bin Eine Berliner,” and Ronald Reagan had challenged Russian Prime Minister Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”  Rock bands and DJ’s warmed up the crowd, local politicians, scrambled for a ray of reflected glory. 

The crowd cheered as Obama called for greater cooperation in dealing with the problems of terrorism and poverty. “No nation, no matter how large and powerful can defeat these challenges alone,” he said. The collective mood was summed up by a student: “Having a black American president will be totally cool.” 

In her office German Chancellor Angela Merkel watched glumly. She had tried everything to prevent Obama’s appearance, saying that it would give the impression  that the German government supported his candidacy. But she had been overwhelmed by the world’s need for a new charismatic leader.  On her desk were German newspapers  raving about Obama. On her phone were some very worried heads of state—Sarkozy, Brown, Berlusconi, Putin,  Hu Jintao, Saudi King Abdullah and Venezuelan President Chavez.

“I haven’t seen a German waving an American flag since 1989,” Putin said.

“Let’s face it, ragazzi,” said Berlusconi. “We’ve lost our whipping boy.”

For the last eight years the world has been able to hide its misdeeds behind the catastrophic policies of the Bush administration. Under Bush the US was the only country to reject the Kyoto accords. Every other nation piously criticized the US while secretly violating the agreement by engaging in meaningless carbon exchanges that actually increased the amount of pollutants in the atmosphere. Under Bush’s refusal to lift farm subsidies the other nations were able to conceal their protectionism. European Commissioner for Trade Peter Mandelson was allowed to indulge his penchant for drama, while accomplishing nothing.  Bush’s invasion of Iraq became a pretext for European inactivity in Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. They were able to pin the blame for their multitude of sins on his scandal-ridden, dysfunctional administration. Putin, faced by the collapse of a mismanaged, single-product economy, could accuse the US of “infecting” the financial system. French Finance Minister Lagarde could obscure the $7 billion fraud at Societe Generale by criticizing the American SEC for “failure to regulate.” Iceland could blame the US for its infatuation with risky derivatives. Germany could neatly deflect attention from its tax and banking scandals. OPEC, which had gotten wealthy on $50 a barrel oil could condemn the US because oil producers now needed $90 oil just to survive.  China could appeal to its rebellious workers that the US was responsible for their sudden unemployment. It  could righteously refuse to help the US out of the economic crisis it had helped to create when it purchased trillions of dollars of debt and artificially devalued its currency to fund American consumers purchase of its defective and dangerous products.

As long as Bush bullied and blundered, the other leaders could shine in comparison. But now Obama has hit the ball into their court. He has asked for their cooperation. Implicit in his appeal is the  message: you must do more in this dangerous world. You must take political risks. 

“It is cheaper and easier to undermine,” the Euro diplomat said.

The task force, code named Operation Smear, has been at work behind closed doors in an obscure office building in downtown Ghent for a month and a half. Sub groups were formed to work on corruption, sexual misconduct, drug abuse, association with criminals, weird hobbies, odd dietary habits, embarrassing odors,  anything to promote contempt or ridicule. At their weekly meeting, group leaders admitted they were stymied.

They were admonished by their chairman. “You are the best and brightest scandal mongers, malice spinners, frame artists and disinformation specialists in the world and you cannot dig up one speck of dirt on this man?”

After a moment of abashed silence, a timid voice volunteered:

“We could say he is soft on Israel…”

The room erupted in applause.

“Yes…Yes…He’s a tool of the Jewish lobby,” someone shouted.

“That always works.”