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Sharpton meets UK govt over Haiti

Rev Al Sharpton urged black British churches to play a central role in the relief and reconstruction of Haiti, as he met the governments’ aid minister this morning.

The US civil rights leader joined forces with Tottenham MP David Lammy as they held a meeting with international development secretary Douglas Alexander in Westminster.

Rev Sharpton said that Britain’s evangelical churches, and their American Christian counterparts, could take a lead in getting Haiti back on its’ feet after the media and aid agencies have left.

Rev Sharpton, David Lammy and Simon Woolley meet Douglas Alexander

Last week the one-time presidential candidate undertook a mercy mission to the stricken Caribbean island, with his Action For Justice charity helping to deliver emergency supplies.

Rev Sharpton, who is working closely with Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean, is due to fly back this Sunday to oversee the relief effort.

The celebrated orator and campaigner is in Britain as a guest of Operation Black Vote, to kick start OBV’s voter registration drive and to urge Black communities to play a decisive role in the upcoming general election.

Rev Sharpton is expected to talk about the situation in Haiti at his Realising The Dream rally tonight at Friends House in Euston, as well as invoking the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King to urge more political engagement.

So far the British public have donated over £35m to the relief effort, exceeding the £30m pledged by the government. The Obama administration is leading the coordination of the relief effort.

Douglas Alexander speaks to Sharpton earlier today

Some critics, including callers on the Living In Black radio station, are suspicious of the the heavily US military presence and delays in permission to land planes carrying aid and medical supplies.

But Rev Sharpton said the Obama administration was genuine in their intentions to save lives on an island that is still suffering major aftershocks.

The civil rights icon said there was a problem getting emergency supplies into the Haitian countryside, but this was now starting to improve.

Frustration is mounting in Port-au-Prince, even though instances of looting and disorder have up to now been remarkably low despite the scarcity of food and fresh water.

Former US presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton have come together to help forge a bipartisan approach to Haitian reconstruction, while the IMF has called for ‘Marshall Plan’ style investment to repair the island.

The political legacy of past American interference in Haitian politics still looms large over a country that was the first to overthrow enslavement, thanks to a rebellion led by Toussaint L’Ouverture.

By Lester Holloway

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