Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Protests at Band Aid for Darfur whitewashing poverty issues - Alternative Band Aid lyrics

International development campaigners, the World Development Movement (WDM) condemned the lyrics of the UK's Band Aid 20 single “Do They Know It's Christmas?” as promoting a negative and inaccurate picture of Africa and its problems. The soon to be launched Band Aid 20 initiative is for famine relief in Darfur, Sudan.

Twenty years ago, the Band Aid single and Live Aid concert, for the benefit of Ethiopia, raised awareness around the world of problems in Africa. The "feed the world" concert rocked all over the world and had great impact on a countless number of youngsters who went on to build careers in politics and humanitarian fields.

Recently, British Prime Minister Tony Blair was quoted as saying Band Aid changed his life. He has spent years pushing for the cancellation of debts of the world's poorest nations. Earlier this year, he set up a Commission for Africa and attended its first meeting in Africa. Next year, the UK holds presidency of the G8 summit.

The Band Aid 20 initiative will generate worldwide publicity for Darfur for many months, if not years. Already, in the campaign's first week, tens of millions people have heard the word Darfur, probably for the first time, thanks to Band Aid. No other campaign for Africa has achieved such widespread interest for so long, especially among the young.

Band Aid cannot simply be measured in terms of funds raised. The song may be regarded by some as "cheesey" but had it been more "heavy" it might not have captured the attention of the world's media or the imagination of young and old alike. Band Aid's incredible success in raising awareness among all age groups is unmatched by any other campaign for Africa, or for Darfur.

Those who see it as fashionable to knock Band Aid are probably the ones that have done the least to help the Sudanese. Anyone who is aware of the catastrophe in Darfur would know how long it has taken to get the world's attention, and that any contribution is better than no contribution at all. The people of Darfur need all the help and publicity they can get.

Some visitors at the WDM and UK Indymedia sites have submitted alternative Band Aid lyrics. Can you do better?

Note, as an aside, according to the Pan African News Agency in 2002 alone, Africa paid $21.9 billion in external debt while official development assistance (ODA) to the region was $22.2 billion.

Further reading:

Nov 24: Westlife have been invited to sing Do They Know It's Christmas? at London's Wembley Arena for a charity Popworld concert on December 2. The concert is to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the single and to raise money for refugees in Darfur, Sudan.

Nov 18: UK Indymedia - Protests at Band Aid whitewashing poverty issue.

Nov 14: UK Indymedia - Action against the recording of Band Aid 3 single - protester arrested.

July: UK Indymedia - Stop the Killing in Sudan - protest in London Wednesday 28th July, 2004.

According to Indymedia, the wars in Africa are all about the plundering of resources by the wealthiest economies and, increasingly oil:

Human Rights Watch Report, Sudan, Oil and Human Rights

Sudan: Oil companies Complicit in Rights Abuses:
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In 1985, Brazlian-born photographer Sebastião Salgado carried out a 15-month project documenting the human toll of the extreme drought that then afflicted Chad, Mali, Ethiopia and the Sudan.

No one foresaw that his book would appear in English 20 years later, soon after the catastrophe in Darfur surfaced as a media topic in the West.

Salgado's photos taken in Ethiopia during the African famine of 1985 are being published in the United States for the first time. Here are a few:


Above, Sebastião Salgado's photo of Ethiopia's Korem Camp is among the many images he took in 1985 during a 15-month project documenting the toll of extreme drought in Africa.


Above, a woman and the rags that shelter her, on the outskirts of Tokar, Sudan, where drought hit hard. Photo by Sebastião Salgado, 1985.

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