In his brilliant and blistering book “The Frontman: Bono (in the Name of Power),” just released in the UK, the Irish scholar Harry Browne maintains that “for nearly three decades as a public figure, Bono has been… amplifying elite discourses, advocating ineffective solutions, patronising the poor and kissing the arses of the rich and powerful.”(13) His approach to Africa is “a slick mix of traditional missionary and commercial colonialism, in which the poor world exists as a task for the rich world to complete.”
Bono, Browne charges, has become “the caring face of global technocracy,” who, without any kind of mandate, has assumed the role of spokesperson for Africa, then used that role to provide “humanitarian cover” for western leaders. His positioning of the West as the saviour of Africa while failing to discuss the harm the G8 nations are doing has undermined campaigns for justice and accountability, while lending legitimacy to the neoliberal project.
Bono claims to be “representing the poorest and most vulnerable people”(14). But talking to a wide range of activists from both the poor and rich worlds since ONE published its article last week, I have heard the same complaint again and again: that Bono and others like him have seized the political space which might otherwise have been occupied by the Africans about whom they are talking.
Because Bono is seen by world leaders as the representative of the poor, the poor are not invited to speak. This works very well for everyone — except them.
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