Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem:

These days,If you live in the United Kingdom or even if you are only passing through for a few hours it is extremely difficult to avoid Africa. Every media outlet is full of it. Africa is oozing out of every pore. It is like the British have again newly discovered’ Africa as in previous era when they and other European colonists otherwise called adventurers or missionaries used to claim they discovered’ the source of Rivers Nile or Niger. This hyperactivity around Africa is all the consequence of the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, adopting Africa as a  wish horse for the year. If you think that Africa is a government driven society you should take a look at what has been happening in Britain this year. Once Blair made Africa his conscience of the hour every branch of British establishment, political and non-political society has responded in a frenzy of activities competing between themselves on who is focusing more on Africa. Some British TV soaps are even altering their idiotic story lines to bring in African themes filmed in Africa for authenticity!

This Saturday, July 2, will see one of the highest point these activities, with the staging of the LIVE 8 concerts across many cities in the world (now) including Johannesburg. The South African venue was not part of the original line-up but was added as a result of criticism of Saint Bob and his crew for not including Black and African artists in this global concert that will be watched by billions of people. Geldof's original pitiful defence was that he did not include African artists because he had to organise the event in a hurry and only contacted names that were in his address book. That stupid response brought more criticism of paternalism and patronising attitude even among fellow white artists notably Peter Gabriel. Soon the Geldof camp changed  tune to one of getting maximum global audience through big international artists’. By implication African artists and Black artists in Europe and America are not international enough. By extension since it is Geldof's face that is globally known for LIVE AID does that make him 'Mr AFRICA'?

The responses from Geldofs camp were just excuses rather than explanations. The real reason for their cock up is a missionary zeal that is self validating and self absorbed. It reminded me of a former Pakistani General during the regime of Zia ul Haq who went on television to declare that Pakistanis will have democracy whether they like it or not…..the army will see to it’! He did not see the contradiction of army forcing democracy on people. Similarly Geldof will end poverty in Africa whether we like it or not! This is where Africans and genuine friends of Africa who are in Britain forced to live with this patronising mega focus  are caught up in frustrating ambiguities. How can you say that this focus on Africa is bad when the complaint before is that there is not enough attention to the challenges of the continent? Yet something inside you tells you that this interest is just the fashion of the moment and after it all the public can actually return to their ignorant ways having done their bit for Africa. Is the focus on us as victims the right one? Is the gloom and doom the best way of building solidarity and understanding between people of Britain and Africa?  You ask yourself what will happen come January 1 2006? You and I will remain Africans, majority of our peoples will remain in Africa dealing with their problems in a way they have always done with all these 2005 make or break’ campaign of little impact on them. The make poverty history will wind up without wiping out your poverty. But one risks being called a cynic and defeatist for raising these issues. You may even be regarded as a Kill Joy not happy to see people helping Africa and enjoying themselves and their favourite stars (whether permitting) in the process. The ideology of anything is better than nothing’ is so dominant that there is little room for discussing alternative intervention mechanism or narratives of how we got here and how we can get out of it. It seems that the end will justify the means. And many of the new missionaries for Africa will argue  that any kind of publicity is better than none at all. I think they are right here only in the morbid logic of Africa's misery being their career therefore 'the worse the better'. But have we not been down this road too many times before?

The other aspect of this Year of Africa’ contradictions is the way in which the big British NGOs, humanitarian lobbyists and the development mafia have become so embedded with Tony Brown and Gordon Blair  (it is not a mistake the way I have deliberately rearranged the names of the British Prime Minister and Chancellor) and New Labour that they are virtually  GONGOs (Governmental NGOs). It is not new to those of us who have always been critical of the ideological and political linkages of these NGOs in relation to their governments.  They have always been political it is only those they dupe in Africa who think they are non political. These charities are so overwhelmed by their contacts and access to the powers that be that they have made too many concessions in the name of tactics that are causing strategic retreats. Take for instance the demonstrations being planned. British ministers have not hidden their enthusiasm for these activities. Gordon Brown even launched a demonstration Bus the other day. Yet where were these same ministers and Tony Blair when over a million people across Britain went out against the unjust war in Iraq? Does this man that the British establishment love Africans more than they love the Iraqis?

These and many other things not adding up have created a lot of anger, frustration and lukewarm attitude from many Africans and progressive activists in the United Kingdom. Some of the frustration is being channelled to alternative events such as the AFRICA CALLING concert being organised by Peter Gabriel as an ALL African Musicians concert at the Eden Projectin Cornwall. If you have not heard of Cornwall do not be ashamed there are many in Britain who will also have to look for their maps to locate it. There are activities in small groups such as a meeting  (organised by PADEAP) at the Africa Centre today entitled SAVING AFRICA WITHOUT AFRICANS’ at which a number of prominent African activists in the UK will be speaking. Quite coincidentally this year’s African Diaspora and development day organised by a coalition of African NGOs , AFFORD is also holding this Saturday. Throughout the week of G8  there are any other forums doing their best to put alternative viewpoints across. While they may not have the same impact as what the Geldofs and Blairs are doing these forces will be there long after Blair and Brown have moved on. And they do not need to be in Geldof’s address book to be Africans and be relevant to their own development. We should stop demanding to be invited to forums dealing with Africa instead we should create our own forum. WE must stop agonising and start organising! NOBODY CAN SAVE AFRICA WITHOUT AFRICANS!!