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"If we stay in small clubs, we'll develop small minds, and then we'll start making small music."

-- Bono

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Bono big on African aid in drought crisis

CTV, July 13, 2011
By: Don Martin

 

It was an hour before U2 was scheduled to hit the Rogers Centre stage in Toronto, but lead singer Bono was already on a personal tour to discuss the latest crisis hitting the Horn of Africa.

Bono jumped off a golf cart outside the dressing room of the Blue Jays and snuck up behind Belinda Stronach, grabbing the startled former MP around the waist before catching up on a professional relationship that's developed over the last decade.

Liberal MP John McKay was huddled inside a VIP room for his grin-and-grip moment. Sipping cocktails in a reception and waiting for their invitation to meet the god of stadium rock were cabinet ministers Lisa Raitt, James Moore and Tony Clement.

But first, Bono paused to talk with a certain CTV show host about a Horn of Africa Somali refugee problem which is rapidly escalating into a humanitarian catastrophe that's lurching toward mass starvation for millions.

This wasn't a planned media encounter so I wasn't equipped with a notebook or tape recorder and won't pretend to quote Bono verbatim.

But the crux of the problem, as he describes it, is this horrific convergence of climate change drought wiping out the food supply, government corruption preventing aid from reaching the needy and neighboring countries which can't handle the fleeing refugee flood.

This wasn't the preachy Bono who lobbied former prime ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin to enhance their African aid commitments.

He shrugged off my question on whether the world still needs more Canada, which was the lofty praise he showered on Paul Martin after he promised to forgive debt and provide cheap drugs for the HIV-ravaged continent.

He wasn't going to be dragged into commenting on the Conservative's anti-abortion position for agencies receiving government maternal health funding.

In fact, if memory serves, he said Canada was doing fairly well on foreign aid.

However, a new report from the ONE advocacy group he co-founded lists Canada among the few countries on track to meet its 2008 G8 pledge to assist African agriculture. Almost 90 per cent of the $1-billion Stephen Harper promise has been delivered.

Another key to improving African aid in general, Bono said, is greater transparency from donors and recipients, which would hold the givers accountable for their pledges and receivers responsible for its delivery.

Catching sight of an assistant frantically pointing at her watch and the group still waiting to meet him, Bono gave me some parting pointers on how to best cover the crisis in Somalia and Ethiopia when I got there. Hmmm. That's a bit beyond my national politics beat.

"I wish I was a television reporter on this story," he said wistfully.

Perhaps, I suggested, he would trade places for the night so I could experience the rock superstar lifestyle. He grinned, noting the building buzz of 60,000 fans waiting for U2 to unleash.

"I'm not sure they'd go for it."

(c) CTV, 2011.

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