July 2, 2005

Leaders must prevent poverty ‘genocide’-Mandela

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandelacalled on the world's most powerful leaders to prevent genocideby tackling poverty in Africa, saying failure to do so would bea crime against humanity.

The former South African president used a huge concert inJohannesburg on Saturday -- one of nine Live 8 performancesaimed at highlighting Africa's woes -- to warn Western leadersthat history would judge them by their actions.

"It is within your power to prevent a genocide againsthumanity," said the frail octegenarian, who was greeted withroars of delight and freedom songs from the crowd in centralJohannesburg. "We stand tall and await your direction."

Leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nationsmeet in Scotland next week to discuss how to tackle poverty inAfrica and other developing countries.

Mandela, who was helped onto the stage by his wife GracaMichel, said world chiefs had a chance to make history bycanceling debt, scrapping unfair trade barriers and boostingaid to Africa.

"Of course the task will not be easy. But not to do thiswould be a crime against humanity," said Mandela, who hascampaigned extensively against poverty across the world.

Britain has used its presidency of the G8 to championAfrica's cause, which will top the agenda at next week'smeeting.

"Overcoming poverty is not gesture of charity. It is an actof justice," said Mandela, after waiting more than five minuteson stage for cheers and chants from the 8,000-strong crowd tosubside.

"So much of our common future will depend on the actionsand plans of these leaders ... History and the generations tocome will judge our leaders by the decision they make in thecoming weeks."

The concert in central Johannesburg featured mainly localperformers and was dwarfed by massive gigs in London and otherG8 countries that featured top international stars such as U2,Madonna and Paul McCartney.

The African concert was added to the list of freeperformanaces at the last minute after critics charged Irishrocker Bob Geldof and other organizers with sidelining blackartists in an event meant to highlight the problems of theworld's poorest continent.