May 28, 2003

THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION’S AFRICA POLICIES are getting praise from an unexpected source:

Bob Geldof astonished the aid community yesterday by using a return visit to Ethiopia to praise the Bush administration as one of Africa’s best friends in its fight against hunger and Aids.

The musician-turned activist said Washington was providing major assistance, in contrast to the European Union’s “pathetic and appalling” response to the continent’s humanitarian crises.

“You’ll think I’m off my trolley when I say this, but the Bush administration is the most radical – in a positive sense – in its approach to Africa since Kennedy,” Geldof told the Guardian.

The neo-conservatives and religious rightwingers who surrounded President George Bush were proving unexpectedly receptive to appeals for help, he said. “You can get the weirdest politicians on your side.”

Former president Bill Clinton had not helped Africa much, despite his high-profile visits and apparent empathy with the downtrodden, the organiser of Live Aid, claimed. “Clinton was a good guy, but he did fuck all.”

Um, yes, he did. . . . And there’s more:

Geldof was adamant that the EU was the greater villain for delivering just a small fraction of Ethiopia’s staple needs and refusing, unlike the US and Britain, to supply any supplementary foods, such as oil, which give a balanced diet.

“The EU have been pathetic and appalling, and I thought we had dealt with that 20 years ago when the electorate of our countries said never again,” he said. Warning that the “horror of the 80s” could return, he added: “The last time I spoke to the EU’s aid people, they didn’t even know where their own ships were. The food is there, get it here.”

Read the whole thing. But wait, there’s more in this article from The Times:

BOB GELDOF launched a bitter attack on President Mugabe of Zimbabwe last night as he flew into Africa 20 years after launching Live Aid.

The Irish pop star called on African leaders to challenge despots if they wanted the rest of the world to take them seriously.

“He (Mr Mugabe) is engaging in state-sponsored terror and famine and that cannot be allowed,” Geldof said. “He is a shame on the face of Africa.”

Geldof, on his first official trip to Ethiopia since the days of Live Aid in 1985, added: “You people should be demanding that Mugabe steps down. I don’t care where he goes. He can join Idi Amin in Saudi Arabia, he can join the ghetto of tyrants, but get him out of there.”

Indeed.