G7 summit clouded by protests over climate change, Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis and Myanmar coup

Photo: EPA Protestors attend an Extinction Rebellion demonstration in Falmouth, Cornwall, UK on Saturday.

Thousands of protesters have marched through the streets of Cornwall, in southwest England, on day two of the G7 summit as leaders of the world’s richest nations gathered to discuss coronavirus and other key issues.

Members and supporters of Extinction Rebellion walked through the town of Falmouth playing drums, chanting and displaying artwork campaigning against the use of fossil fuels, during their second day of protests. Separately, more than 1,000 people protested against the crisis in the Ethiopian region of Tigray while thousands also gathered to raise awareness of the military coup in Myanmar.

Several of the protest groups gathered in Church Street Car Park – around 500 metres from the media base of the G7 – where they held rallies and chanted passionately before parading past the centre. Ethiopian protesters were heard shouting “(Prime Minister of Ethiopia) Abiy is a criminal,” “G7 act now” and “Stop Abiy’s war crimes” at their rally.

Athy Mruz, 41, was one of the organisers of the Ethiopian rally and is a member of campaign group Tigray Youth Network. “The G7 has a meeting today and we are demanding they take action against our unelected prime minister who is committing genocide upon the Tigrayan people,’’ she said.

“We no longer are OK with them simply condemning it, we want them to actually take action as we estimate over 150,000 people have been killed while over 15,000 women have been raped. There’s starvation and displacement for millions of people. We can’t wait any more.

“This is not a famine – this is not happening because Tigray is poor, it is man-made. It is being conducted, plotted and orchestrated by our unelected prime minister over the past seven months. This is a humanitarian issue, not a political issues.”

She added people from all over Britain had turned up for the protest and they were “proud” and “amazed” by the support they have received.

Tensions have been in place between Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and leaders of Tigray since November. A United Nations-backed study released on Thursday said 353,000 people in the region were living in “severe crisis.” The Ethiopian government disputes the finding and has said aid is getting through.

Meanwhile, the Myanmar demonstrators sang songs and held up banners and posters which read “End human rights abuses in Myanmar” and “G7 nations strike down the reign of terror in Myanmar.” Their protest is in response to Myanmar’s army seizing control of the country on 1 February after Aung San Suu Kyi was re-elected as leader in November.

Members from the campaign group Global Justice Now also gathered in Falmouth to protest against the uneven vaccine distribution across the world. They wore hazmat suits and posed with a large mock vaccine which contained names of the pharmaceutical companies which are developing the vaccines.

“The G7 have the power to stop the blocking of the proposal from the developing countries to waive patents on vaccines and allow countries around the world to produce them. That would massively ramp up the capacity of vaccines and bring an end to this awful vaccine inequality we’ve seen over the last year. Our country will be able to vaccinate everyone by the end of the year but on current rates, low income countries will take 57 years to vaccinate their populations,” Nick Dearden, 46, director of Global Justice Nowtold dpa.

In response to the G7 leaders’ promise this weekend to donate millions of vaccines to poorer nations, Dearden said it was “nowhere near enough.” ``

“Their donations would only vaccinate 10% of the unvaccinated population of the world,” he added.

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