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British MP and ‘best friend of Africa’ dies in London

Mar 18, 2014, 9:39 AM | Article By: Alhagie Mbye The Point’s UK Correspondent

Africans in the UK are mourning the death of Tony Benn, veteran Labour Member of Parliament, described as one of ‘Africa’s best friends not only in UK politics but across Europe and the world’.

The sad news that one of the country’s most-respected politicians and educators died, aged 88, was not a surprise to many as the once active and vocal politician was out of the limelight for a long time, and was described as a ‘very ill man’.

However, the African communities in the City and elsewhere across the country are equally grieving the ex-politician, who never hesitated speaking on their behalf in all platforms over the decades.

Accordingly African experts here are overwhelmed for his ‘supporting decolonisation in Africa as well as his tireless determination and efforts in assisting the continent not only in Parliament but also outside of it’.

African political observers emphasised that the late MP supported the funding of ‘vital projects in Africa; demanded an end to conflicts and dictatorships; buttressed goodgovernance; periodic elections; respect for the Presidential term limit and human rights for all’.

In a statement issued to the press and seen by this correspondent, the late MP’s children namely, Melissa, Stephen, Joshua and Hilary said he died ‘peacefully’ in his West London home surrounded by his family’.

His children also expressed ‘heartfelt thanks to the National Health Service (NHS) staff and carers, who looked after him with such kindness in hospital and at home’.

Similarly, across the political spectrum, all the major politicians have paid their condolences in some of the most magnificent words or statements.

Prime Minister David Cameron noted: ‘A sad day for British politics…an extraordinary man… a great writer and a brilliant speaker’.

The leader of the Labour Party Ed Miliband said: A champion of the powerless…with unshakeable beliefs’.

Tony Benn’s support for race relations is well-known. Respected civil rights campaigner Paul Stephenson paid a moving tribute to him, and recalled the Bristol bus boycott in 1963 supported by the late MP backing a black driver who was allegedly refused employment.

Recently, he noted that late Nelson Mandela had fought for justice as a ‘member of the human race…not as a South African or a black’.

The late MP was born on 3rd April 1925 and had served in the RAF during World II. He was described as a ‘very clever man’ who at the age of 25 was the youngest serving MP.

In response to questions and queries about floral tributes, the family announced that they can be laid on the North side of Parliament Square, where mourners already started placing flowers and messages of condolence.