July 1, 2005

Landmarks draped in white for Africa aid campaign

By Andrew Gray

LONDON (Reuters) - Activists unfurled white banners onlandmarks around the world on Friday to step up pressure onrich nations to attack African poverty at a summit in Scotlandnext week.

Sydney's Harbour Bridge and London's St Paul's cathedralwere among the places used by activists to unveil the banners,symbol of a global movement to press for debt cancellation, aidincreases and trade reform.

In London, the base of St Paul's famous dome was encircledwith a banner proclaiming: "Make Poverty History."Schoolchildren joined the demonstration with paper figures torepresent children in poor countries deprived of education.

"What is important about this is educating children aboutissues that really matter," said Kumi Naidoo, leader of theGlobal Call to Action against Poverty.

"It is an opportunity for them to connect with theircounterparts in different countries."

Like the Live 8 concerts taking place around the world onSaturday, the unveiling of the banners was designed to raiseawareness of Africa's problems and pressure the leaders of theGroup of Eight (G8) rich nations to take concrete action.

Campaigners want the G8 leaders, who meet at Gleneagles incentral Scotland from July 6-8, to double aid to Africa, cancelAfrican nations' debts and open up Western markets.


Protests and rallies were planned around the world. But notall of them went smoothly.

Police banned a debt relief picket of G8 country embassiesin the southern African country of Zambia.

About 200 placard-wielding demonstrators gathered in thecapital Lusaka instead to demand the G8 immediately canceldebts owed by poor nations.

March organizer Henry Malumo told Reuters protesters woulddeliver petitions to embassies later in the afternoon.

"Our demands will definitely reach out to the leaders ofthe G8 countries. We want them to be pro-active and cancel allour debts and we are hopeful they will respond positively," hesaid.

A giant cotton tree in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown,planted by freed slaves in the 18th century, was draped in awhite band bearing the words "Gii SaLone Chance 4 Betteh,"Creole for "Give Sierra Leone a chance to improve."

Some people in the dilapidated city, where many live incrowded shanty towns perched on hillsides, wore white bandswith the same words round their wrists.

Sydney kicked off "white band day" with a huge "MakePoverty History" banner on the side of the Harbour Bridge.

"Poverty is a long, slow disaster that kills 29,000children below the age of five every day from hunger andpreventable disease," said Jack de Groot, chairman of the MakePoverty History campaign in Australia.

Anti-poverty campaigners urged Australians to wear whitewristbands to show their support for eradicating poverty,saying that 1.2 billion people, or 20 percent of the globalpopulation, live on less than $1 a day.