Africa, the Irish and the EU at 50

Its been a week of hearing about Africa from two well known sons of Ireland. The first much more famous being Bob Geldof. Bob was doing a ‘lecture’ at Queens on Wednesday – his speaking style, choice of language and illustrations probably weren’t to the Vice-Chancellor’s taste who appeared to be hiding his face behind his hand a lot. I almost got dizzy as he walked up and down – not really looking at us as he waffled about ‘making a difference’. What was interesting was how he concentrated on the need for commitment – something our generation with our low attention spans aren’t very good at. He did improve when fielding questions, especially when talking about the EU and its responsibility to mark it’s 50 years by wielding the considerable influence it has in ways that Britain and America can’t – especially on Darfur. Darfur was also a topic that came up at Fergal Keane’s Ulster Museum on the Road lecture on Thursday night. As regards public speaking, Fergal blew Bob out of the water. For those of you unfamiliar with Fergal, he’s a BBC correspondent who covered the Rwandan genocide, and has reported from the Balkans, Northern Ireland, and Iraq. He’s also an accomplished writer. His experience and analysis of living in an age of anger and fear was breathtaking, his stories of suffering and hope in Africa left very few dry eyes. After the Holocaust Europe said ‘never again’, then Rwanda happened as the world watched on. Keane’s book ‘Letter to Daniel’ contains his reflections on reporting the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Its well worth a read. Again we heard ‘never again’, but yet thousands have and are dying in Darfur while the world watches. China keeps blocking UN resolutions because it gets oil from Sudan so doesn’t want to endanger that, Russia is wrapped up in oil interests and with the banning of one of the opposition parties is slipping towards a police state, Britain and America are enmeshed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Maybe its time for the EU to get involved – it has been successful in other places and has more sway than it realises. I didn’t realise that almost all the world’s peacekeeping and policing forces outside Iraq are staffed or funded primarily by Europeans. I’ve always written to my MP on these issues – maybe its time to start lobbying our MEP’s? As Geldof said – it would be a better way to celebrate 50 years than a concert with a few washed out pop stars.

For more information on Darfur check out the BBC in depth report.

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