Africa grieves for London

Africa expressed grief and shock on Thursday after a string of explosions in London killed at least 37 people, amid concerns that ending African poverty will take a back seat to security issues at the Group of Eight (G8) summit in Scotland.

Countries on the world’s poorest continent who themselves have faced terror attacks were among the first to weigh in after four blasts ripped through the London underground and destroyed a commuter bus.

King Mohammed VI of Morocco, whose country was hit by deadly bomb blasts in Casablanca two years ago, expressed “Morocco’s firm condemnation of terrorism, which has neither a religion nor a fatherland and which seeks to violate one of the most sacred of human rights: the right to life”.

From Kenya, where the al-Qaeda terror network has struck twice in the past seven years, President Mwai Kibaki assured Britain of its “collaboration in the fight against terrorism”.

“Indeed, the heinous attacks against humanity should rekindle our joint efforts against terrorism and serve as the driving force for the world to unite against the vice,” Kibaki said.

Two car bombs exploded outside the United States embassies in Kenya and neighbouring Tanzania in August 1998, killing 224 people and injuring about 5 000. In November 2002, an explosives-packed vehicle killed 15 people at an Israeli-owned hotel near the port city of Mombasa.

South African President Thabo Mbeki and his government condemned the attacks.

“As South Africa, we join the rest of the international community in condemning any acts of terrorism,” Mbeki’s spokesperson Bheki Khumalo said on Thursday from Scotland, where Mbeki was the G8 summit.

“We believe there is no reason for anyone to resort to these kinds of things and kill innocent people. The sanctity of human life is something all of us must hold very dearly.”

This applies even more at a time when leaders of the world’s rich nations are gathered to deal with issues of “global apartheid” and poverty, Khumalo said.

Important issues such as climate change, poverty and underdevelopment, especially in Africa, should not now be put on the back burner, he said.

President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, joining his counterparts from South Africa, Senegal and Ghana among the presidents to represent Africa at the G8 summit, sent his condolences from London, where he was attending meetings.

“This is indeed unfortunate at this time when you are doing so much to bring the world together,” Obasanjo wrote in a letter to Blair made public by his press spokesperson, Remi Oyo.

“Please do not despair.
The world and all progressive humanity are with you.”

Egypt, which was on Thursday mourning the kidnap and murder of its ambassador to Iraq, took time to condemn the attacks and grieve for the “dozens of innocent civilian victims”, Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ahmed Abul Gheit said in a phone call to the British ambassador in Cairo.

Former British colonies Sierra Leone and Gambia were among the dozens of countries that immediately dispatched letters of condolence to Prime Minister Tony Blair and the people of London.

“I hope you take consolation in the fact that, as the champion of emancipating all countries especially in Africa from poverty and other degrading conditions, these attacks have been directed not only against your country but against all those of us who share your vision of a world of limitless opportunities and compassion,” President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah said in a letter from Freetown.

In his own missive, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh called the blasts in London “a dastardly act of terrorism” and offered his tiny country’s support in “combating the menace”.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika also sent a personal message to Blair, expressing the horror felt by Algeria on behalf of the people of Britain, noting that his people “have lived through the horrors of blind terror ... and empathise with you in your mourning”.

In Fana, Mali, where the fourth Forum of the People was under way in counterpoint to the G8 summit, there was a mixture of shock and horror at the events in London filtered through the lens of African pragmatism.

“Of course, our thoughts are with the victims,” said Barry Aminata Toure, president of Mali’s Coalition for Alternatives to Debt for Development.

“But we also have to wonder: Will Africa still occupy a central spot at this summit, or will the problem of security, of terrorism, trump us?”—Sapa-AFP, Sapa

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