July 3, 2005

As Live 8 echoes fade, Africa shapes message for G8

By Opheera McDoom

SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) - Exploiting the momentum of astar-studded global anti-poverty campaign, African countriescalled on Sunday for stepped up pressure on rich nations tohelp them fight hunger, disease and war on the continent.

Leaders of many of the 53 member nations of the AfricanUnion (AU) were arriving for a summit in Libya to agree amessage to send to the summit of the Group of Eight (G8)richest nations in Scotland later this week.

Kenya's Foreign Minister Chirau Ali Mwakwere said the G8'sdecision last month to wipe out a sizable chunk of debt to theworld's poorest nations did not go far enough.

"They've got to get the message that the debt burden forthe entire continent needs to be lifted. Solving the problemhalf way does not remove the problem," he told Reuters ahead ofthe summit on Monday and Tuesday in the Libyan town of Sirte.

Rock stars around the world sang for Africa on Saturday totry to pressure the G8 leaders into action. The G8 summit onWednesday and Thursday will be chaired by British PrimeMinister Tony Blair, who has put Africa at the top of theagenda.

Anti-poverty campaigners say the G8 leaders have a uniquechance to stop 30,000 children dying every day due to extremepoverty by doubling aid to poor countries, especially inAfrica.

African leaders are expected to call for unconditionalcancellation of all debt to the poorest African countries andthe dismantling of trade barriers which prevent them gettingaccess to rich country markets, analysts say.


The likely emphasis on trade rather than aid is consistentwith the stated goals of the AU, a three-year-old continentalinitiative that plans to wean Africa off aid and push it intothe global mainstream of international trade and investment.

"The challenge is to reciprocate these (G8) moves withsound governance and fighting corruption, to show that we aretrue partners in development and are able to take on ourresponsibilities and discharge them effectively," AlcindaAbreu, Mozambique's foreign minister, told reporters in Libya.

Zambian Foreign Minister Ronnie Shikapwasha said hiscountry already had a plan for how to spend the gains of debtrelief -- from increasing the provision of life-prolongingdrugs for HIV/AIDS patients to employing several thousand newteachers.

"I think we should accept any assistance that will help ustackle the problems we face ... Debt relief has been one majormove forward for us and the gains will be there for all tosee," he told Reuters.

The continent's wars will also be discussed and the leadersare expected to call for increased Western funding of AU peacemissions, particularly a small force of less than 3,000 troopsand monitors trying to stabilize Sudan's troubled Darfurregion.

Foreign ministers on Saturday agreed a consensus Africanposition on the expansion of the U.N. Security Council, callingfor two permanent seats if the world's top security body isenlarged.

The AU's 53 votes in the U.N. General Assembly areconsidered crucial and African nations are being wooed byseveral countries seeking permanent seats on the Council forthemselves or their allies.

Libyan Foreign Minister Mohammed Abdel-Rahman Shalgam said:"They should not put any obstacles like subsidizing theirproducts ... They have to open their doors to Africanproduction to help Africa."