EU-Africa Summit Fails To Downplay Human Rights: KUDOS To Merkel

Ignoring Darfur crisis
· African and European MPs attack summit agenda
· British boycott criticised by EC president Barroso

Flags fly at the Lisbon summit A worker hoists Italy’s flag and others who are participating in the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon. Photograph: Armando Franca/AP

European and African leaders arriving for today’s summit in Lisbon were accused by parliamentarians and human rights groups on both continents of trying to sweep human rights issues under the carpet.

Much of the criticism was aimed at the absence of Darfur from the main agenda of the EU-Africa meeting. Forty MPs from across Europe and Africa published an open letter saying they were “surprised and disappointed to note that at a two-day summit of the leaders of our two continents, there will be no time allotted to discuss the continuing crisis in Darfur that has claimed over 200,000 lives.”

Lisbon leaders accused of ignoring Darfur crisis
African and European MPs attack summit agenda
· British boycott criticised by EC president Barroso
No money, not enough food, rampant sickness, night-time raids. Darfur today
December 7: Malnutrition, malaria and typhoid are rife, while cases of diarrhoea are rising. Some observers feel that after a period of ‘low-level hostility’, Darfur could be about to tip once more into widespread fighting between African rebel groups, government forces and their agents.Friction Develops at Europe, Africa Meet
German Chancellor Merkel Admonishes Zimbabwe’s Mugabe At European-African Summit
The European Union’s invitation to Mugabe came under fire itself yesterday. William Hague, Britain’s shadow foreign secretary, described it as “a shameful episode”, while Reed Brody, a legal expert for Human Rights Watch, argued that Mugabe would emerge from the summit with a propaganda victory unless he was taken to task for his actions.

Ending speculation as to whether leaders at the European-African summit that opened Saturday in Lisbon would confront robert_mugabe.jpgPresident Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe over his human rights record and the economic meltown there, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the gathering that the crisis “damages the image of the new Africa.”

Diplomatically raking Mr. Mugabe over the coals, merkel.jpgMs. Merkel said in a keynote speech to 80 leaders from the European Union and African Union that, “Nothing can justify the intimidation of those holding different views and hindering freedom of the press,” a reference to Harare’s repression of opponents and strictures on the media.

Ms. Merkel told her audience, which included Mr. Mugabe, that “the current situation in Zimbabwe damages the image of the new Africa.”

Conspicuously absent was British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who boycotted the summit over Mr. Mugabe’s participation. Mr. Brown lost the diplomatic battle with those EU leaders including Ms. Merkel who argued for inviting President Mugabe to that the Zimbabwe crisis could be taken up on the sidelines of the trade and aid summit.

Other EU member nations who declined to send heads of state or government were the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuania and Cyprus.

darfurrebels.jpgdarfur_aerial.jpginternally_displaced_persons_in_darfur.jpgdarfur_what_went_wrong.jpg

Kudos to all EU-Africa participants for making a ruckus over the edited agenda. The boycotts were admirable, but BossKitty thinks that participating and contributing to the uproar would have been more useful. There is hope when countries acknowledge abuse of Human Rights and speak out. However, there seems to be a chasm between words and deeds. Finger pointing headlines are great. But those headlines don’t stop the killing and exploitation. Those headlines don’t feed, clothe, or provide safety to a whole group of people targeted for elimination. What ever happened to “We Are The World”? Is the African crisis, that western countries created, just an irritant? Western grand experiments gone bad are a hard pill for countries to swallow. Accountability does not seem to be part of their agenda. Prop up another dictator to blame it on. Encourage private humanitarian organizations to pick up the slack … but nothing official, of course. Darfur and Zimbabwe get a lot of lip service. But, hot air is not what these desperate people need. They are people after all, not words and numbers in print. Humor me … close your eyes and transport yourself into a hot dusty village where soldiers with guns and machetes are chasing you, trying to kill you and setting your home on fire. Are you just a number now?

 

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