‘Bono’s positioning of the west as the saviour of Africa while failing
to discuss the harm the G8 nations are doing has undermined campaigns
for justice and accountability.’
It was bad enough in 2005. Then, at the G8 summit in Scotland, Bono and
Bob Geldof heaped praise on Tony Blair and George Bush, who were still
mired in the butchery they had initiated in Iraq. At one point Geldof
appeared, literally and figuratively, to be sitting in Tony Blair’s lap.
African activists accused them of drowning out a campaign for global
justice with a campaign for charity.
But this is worse. As the UK chairs the G8 summit again, a campaign that
Bono founded, with which Geldof works closely, appears to be
whitewashing the G8′s policies in Africa.
Last week I drew attention to the New Alliance for Food Security and
Nutrition, launched in the US when it chaired the G8 meeting last
year. The alliance is pushing African countries into agreements that
allow foreign companies to grab their land, patent their seeds and
monopolise their food markets. Ignoring the voices of their own people,
six African governments have struck deals with companies such as
Monsanto, Cargill, Dupont, Syngenta, Nestlé and Unilever, in return for
promises of aid by the UK and other G8 nations.
A wide range of activists, both African and European, is furious about
Alliance. But the ONE campaign, co-founded
by Bono, stepped
up to defend it. The article it wrote last week was remarkable in
several respects: in its elision of the interests of African leaders and
those of their people, in its exaggeration of the role of small African
companies, but above all in failing even to mention the injustice at the
heart of the New Alliance – its promotion of a new wave of land
grabbing. My curiosity was piqued.
The first thing I discovered is that Bono has also praised the New
a speech just before last year’s G8 summit in the US. The second
thing I discovered is that much of the ONE campaign’s primary funding
was provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, two
of whose executives sit on its board. The foundation has been
working with the biotech company Monsanto and the grain trading giant
has a large Monsanto shareholding. Bill Gates has responded to
claims made about land grabbing in Africa, asserting, in the face of
devastating evidence and massive resistance from African farmers, that “many
of those land deals are beneficial, and it would be too bad if some were
held back because of western groups’ ways of looking at things“.
(Africans, you will note, keep getting written out of this story.)
The third thing I discovered is that there’s a long history here. In his
brilliant and blistering book The
Frontman: Bono (in the Name of Power), just released in the UK, the
Irish scholar Harry Browne maintains that “for nearly three decades as a
public figure, Bono has been … amplifying elite discourses, advocating
ineffective solutions, patronising the poor and kissing the arses of the
rich and powerful”. His approach to Africa is “a slick mix of
traditional missionary and commercial colonialism, in which the poor
world exists as a task for the rich world to complete”.
Bono, Browne charges, has become “the caring face of global
technocracy”, who, without any kind of mandate, has assumed the role of
spokesperson for Africa, then used that role to provide “humanitarian
cover” for western leaders. His positioning of the west as the saviour
of Africa while failing to discuss the harm the G8 nations are doing has
undermined campaigns for justice and accountability, while lending
legitimacy to the neoliberal project.
Bono and awards from Queen Elizabeth II
Bono claims to be “representing
the poorest and most vulnerable people“. But talking to a wide range
of activists from both the poor and rich worlds since ONE published its
article last week, I have heard the same complaint again and again: that
Bono and others like him have seized the political space which might
otherwise have been occupied by the Africans about whom they are
talking. Because Bono is seen by world leaders as the representative of
the poor, the poor are not invited to speak. This works very well for
everyone – except them.
The ONE campaign looks to me like the sort of organisation that John le
Carré or Robert Harris might have invented. It claims to work on behalf
of the extremely poor. But its
board is largely composed of multimillionaires, corporate
aristocrats and US enforcers. Here you will find Condoleezza Rice,
George W Bush’s national security adviser and secretary of state, who
aggressively promoted the Iraq war, instructed the CIA that
it was authorised to use torture techniques and browbeat lesser
nations into supporting a wide range of US aims.
Here too is Larry Summers, who was chief economist at the World Bank
during the darkest days of structural adjustment and who, as US Treasury
secretary, helped to deregulate Wall Street, with such happy
consequences for the rest of us. Here’s Howard Buffett, who has served
on the boards of the global grain giant Archer Daniels Midland as well
as Coca-Cola and the food corporations ConAgra and Agro Tech. Though the
main focus of ONE is Africa, there are only two African members. One is
a mobile phone baron, the other is the finance minister of Nigeria, who
was formerly managing director of the World Bank. What better
representatives of the extremely poor could there be?
As Bono and his bandmates took to the Pyramid Stage, activists from
direct action group Art Uncut inflated a 20ft balloon emblazoned with
the message “U Pay Your Tax 2?” exposing U2′s offshore tax avoidance.
If, as ONE does, an organisation keeps telling you that it’s a
“grassroots campaign”, it’s a fair bet that it is nothing of the kind.
This collaboration of multimillionaires and technocrats looks to me more
like a projection of US and corporate power.
I found the sight of Bono last week calling for “more
progress on transparency” equally revolting. As Harry Browne reminds
us, U2′s complex web of companies, the financial arrangements of Bono’s
Product RED campaign and his investments through the private equity
company he co-founded are all famously opaque. And it’s not an
overwhelming shock to discover that tax justice is absent from the
global issues identified by ONE.
There is a well-known if dubious story that claims that at a concert in
Glasgow Bono began a slow hand-clap. He is supposed to have announced:
“Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies.” Whereupon someone
in the audience shouted: “Well fucking stop doing it then.” It’s good
advice, and I wish he’d take it.
Bono hanging out with some other NWO criminals:
Obama…the teleprompter reading president who bombs kids for a living and
gets a peace prize.
The inconvenient lie that is Al Gore.
Bill Clinton…where do I even start with this guy?
Wanted war criminal George W. Bush Jnr.
War mongering senator John McCain.
Mr Eugenics himself Bill Gates.
Wanted war criminal Tony Blair.
Madame evil and best friend of mass pedophile Jimmy Savile, Queen
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation exposed
world government exposed
Prince Charles’ links to mass pedophile Jimmy Savile
Prince and the Pedophile: Charles’ connections to pedophilia networks
Icke exposing Bilderberg and the truth about the Royal Family
even ‘imagine’ toppling Queen means life in prison
Great Culling has begun
Gates admits to chemtrails