On African Tour Promoting G8 Development Plan, Chretien Refuses to Criticize Mbeki’s HIV/AIDS Policies
While in South Africa on an 11-day trip promoting the G8's new African development program, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien on Sunday refused to criticize President Thabo Mbeki's controversial HIV/AIDS policies, the Canadian National Post reports. During a joint press conference with Mbeki in Pretoria, Chretien, who has "stressed that AIDS is among the biggest threats" to African development, said, "I am not to comment on the particular problem of South Africa because I don't want [Mbeki] to come and tell me what to do with some problems in Canada." He also said that the G8, which plans to use a "carrot and stick" system to reward African nations that make social and democratic changes, cannot "micromanage" any nation's approach to a health problem. "A country without resources cannot fight AIDS. So we cannot make it a conditionality that as long as you have a level of AIDS we will not help you. It would be self-defeating," he explained. His reluctance to criticize Mbeki, who has publicly questioned the causal link between HIV and AIDS and has stated that AIDS drugs are toxic, angered many in Canada, which recently committed $6.3 million to fighting the disease in Africa. "He shouldn't say one thing at home and another to leaders in Africa," John Reynolds, parliamentary leader of the opposition Canadian Alliance, said (Alberts, National Post, 4/8). Keith Martin, C.A's critic for Africa and Latin America, said Chretien did a "grave injustice to the people of Africa and tragically to those who have AIDS" by not criticizing Mbeki, adding, "He's basically given tacit approval to Mbeki's lethal disregard for the HIV pandemic." Ralph Jurgens, executive director of the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, called Chretien's silence "disappointing," adding, "It's crucial that the prime minister speak out about HIV and what Africa needs to do to tackle it" (LeBlanc, Globe and Mail, 4/8).
Support From the G8
Chretien traveled to six African nations to promote the G8 development plan, which ties social, legal, human rights and democratic reforms to financial aid and access to world markets, ahead of the group's meeting this June in Kananaskis, Canada (National Post, 4/8). He also met yesterday morning with former South African President Nelson Mandela, who asked the G8 for assistance in fighting HIV/AIDS. "Give us the resources necessary to attack this problem," Mandela said after the meeting (Ducas, Canadian Press, 4/8).