Live 8 to Live Tyrant

No one would question that there’s no place on the planet in more need of humanitarian help than Africa, notably the sub-Sahara part of the continent where nearly 5 million children die annually before age 5. Thus the motivation for the recent Live 8 concerts staged worldwide.

But the agenda of the Make Poverty History organizers was necessarily political: to pressure the major industrial nations (G-8) into doing more for impoverished Africa. As in Third World debt relief and a quantum leap in aid.

That was understandable, because the G-8s represent world wherewithal. But the G-8s also symbolize an approach that has had more than its share of discrediting. It’s the macro version of something Americans are all too familiar with: throwing money at a problem.

It can only make a difference where there’s accountability. Where corruption doesn’t reign. Tragically, Africa is the hell hole for such criteria. It needs tough love – not a subsidy.

So, here’s a suggestion for Bob Geldoff, Bono, Sting and Co. Before putting the arm on the G-8s and guilt-tripping the West on what Africa is owed by relatively prosperous countries, try putting the squeeze on Africa to do more for Africa. To do more for its 300 million sub-Saharans who survive on less than $1 a day, to do more for its 37 million children under 5 who are underweight. Call it Live Tyrant. Or Boogie Against Bureaucracy. Or Caterwaul Against Corruption.

If anything is to be accomplished other than salved consciences, it will have to occur in a context where unelected despots and endemic corruption no longer prevail. If it’s appropriate to forgive billions in debt and to pledge $50 billion in annual aid by 2010 (from $25 billion), is it not proper to demand that pains be taken to ensure that such help go to those who are actually starving — and not to politically corrupt fat cats dining at the public trough?

While lacking the cachet of G-8 hectoring, Live Tyrant is an event – and a movement — whose time is long overdue. Certainly better than Madonna calling on the assemblage to “start a revolution.”

Thanks. Just what Africa needs.

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