Tutu refuses to share stage with Tony Blair

Retired Anglican bishop and South African peace campaigner Desmond Tutu has pulled out of an event because he cannot share a platform with Tony Blair because of the Iraq War.\r\n

The Nobel Peace Prize winner who was the first black archbishop of Cape Town made the protest because of the former Prime Minister’s “morally indefensible” decision to lead British forces into Iraq in 2003.

\r\n

\r\n

However Mr Blair hit back in a statement, insisting that such “decisions are never easy morally or politically”.

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

Mr Blair and Archbishop Tutu, who received the Nobel Prize in 1984 for campaigning against apartheid, were due to appear at a leadership summit in Johannesburg later this week.

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

A local Muslim party has already announced that it would attempt to arrest Blair when he arrives in Johannesburg for “crimes against humanity”.

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

Archbishop Tutu’s office said in a statement: “Ultimately, the Archbishop is of the view that Mr Blair’s decision to support the United States’ military invasion of Iraq, on the basis of unproven allegations of the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, was morally indefensible.

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

“The Discovery Invest Leadership Summit has leadership as its theme. Morality and leadership are indivisible. In this context, it would be inappropriate and untenable for the Archbishop to share a platform with Mr Blair.

\r\n

A spokesman told the New Statesman’s website that Archbishop Tutu was “a very prayerful man” who will have “spent hours on his knees considering this decision”.

\r\n

He said: “He thinks and prays and then acts. That’s how he’s always done things, including during the struggles.”

\r\n

Mr Blair’s office said in a statement the former Prime Minister was “sorry that the Archbishop has decided to pull out now from an event that has been fixed for months and where he and the Archbishop were never actually sharing a platform.

\r\n

“As far as Iraq is concerned they have always disagreed about removing Saddam by force – such disagreement is part of a healthy democracy.

\r\n

“As for the morality of that decision we have recently had both the memorial of the Halabja massacre where thousands of people were murdered in one day by Saddam’s use of chemical weapons; and that of the Iran-Iraq war where casualties numbered up to a million including many killed by chemical weapons.

\r\n

“So these decisions are never easy morally or politically”.

\r\n

Meanwhile, the South African Muslim political party Al Jama-ah plans to protest against former British prime minister Tony Blair when he speaks in Johannesburg, it said on Monday.

\r\n”The demonstration is being held to support a warrant of arrest to charge him for crimes against humanity relating to the invasion of Iraq which led to the killings of millions of Iraqis,” said Al Jama-ah president Ganief Hendricks.

Blair is one of the speakers at the Discovery Leadership Summit at the Sandton Convention Centre on Thursday. Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and chess grandmaster and political activist Garry Kasparov are also expected to speak.

Hendricks said the City of Johannesburg was allowing the party to hold its demonstration.

“It is hoped that one or more demonstrators will be able to make a citizen’s arrest on the day and put Tony Blair in jail and extradite him to The Hague for trial.”

The website arrestblair.org has offered monetary awards to people who try to make a citizen’s arrest of Blair for alleged crimes against humanity.

Attempts to arrest him have been made in China, outside the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war and the European Parliament; and in Dublin, Ireland.

Hendriks said Al Jama-ah would also march to the Burmese embassy in Pretoria on Friday to protest against the “ethnic cleansing of Muslims” in that country.

“Muslims are killed day in and day out [and] most of them [are] women, children and the elderly,” he said.

“We must not underestimate the power of dua [prayer] and protests which are a [form of] dua in itself. Embassies of countries whose governments kill Muslims must not expect to be unchallenged in South Africa.” \r\n

– Telegraph plus Sapa

\r\n

\r\n