AROUND AFRICA
March 2000


Table of Contents
Angola: AFJN Responds to the State Department
Rethinking the World Trade Organization
U.N. Proposes Peacekeepers for DRC
Alert: Africa Trade Bill Moves Through Congress
Ivory Coast Coup


Dear AFJN Members and Friends,

As we mail out this March issue of Around Africa, we are also heavily into preparing for the Jubilee 2000/USA Mass Mobilization on April 9 here in Washington, DC. We anticipate tens of thousands of people coming to take a strong stand against the debt burdens of poor countries in Africa and around the world, debts which poor people had no hand in contracting, yet which deprive them and their children of health care, education and development. These crushing debts held by the wealthiest countries and institutions in the world are a legacy of colonial exploitation and Cold War policies that fall heaviest on the poorest people in Africa. By draining entire populations of vital resources they badly need to combat poverty, these debts help fuel conflicts, the AIDS epidemic and corruption. The Catholic Church has consistently asserted that these debts are unjust and should be canceled.

Please make every effort to join Ezekiel and me and other AFJN members at the Mass Mobilization for Debt Cancellation on the Mall in Washington, DC on April 9. Urge others to come with you. Recruit a busload from your parish or community. Make AFJN banners and signs for the event. Stay to lobby your members of Congress (MCs) on Monday, April 10.

For an April 9-10 information packet, contact the Jubilee 2000/USA office directly by phone at 202/783-3566 or by email at <coord@j2000usa.org>. You can also register on line for the event from AFJNís web site at http://acad.cua.edu.

Finally, we have been working hard for the past two years to oppose the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a trade bill now before Congress. AFJN feels strongly that this measure will harm the interests of Africaís poor majority. A combined House and Senate committee will shortly conference on a final version of the bill which will then be sent to Congress for a vote. If it passes as expected, President Clinton has promised to sign it into law. Now is the time for you to urge your representatives and senators to reject this legislation. Phone or write to your MCs, share with them your experience of Africa and your conviction that U.S. policy must serve the needs of marginalized people before it helps U.S. corporations profit from Africa. See the AGOA alert inside this issue.

Larry J. Goodwin, Executive Director
Ezekiel Pajibo, Policy Analyst
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Angola: AFJN Responds to State Department

In early December last year, AFJN helped to host an Angolan peace delegation to Washington, DC. Benjamin Castelo, Director of Church Action in Angola, Rev. Gaspar Joao Domingos, General Secretary of the Council of Christian Churches of Angola and Jose Sebastiao Manuel, Director of MOSAIKO, an affiliate of the Department of Justice and Peace of the Angolan Catholic Episcopal Conference, met with U.S. church leaders, members of Congress and Clinton Administration officials to seek support for the peace process in Angola. Chief among the officials was Dr. Susan Rice, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Following that visit, the AFJN Board of Directors wrote to Dr. Rice urging the State Department to heed the recommendations of the peace delegation. These included freezing UNITAís assets, providing intelligence to the UN enquiry on sanctions busting in Angola, pressuring states that covertly or overtly support the conflict on Angola, more U.S. Diplomatic efforts to end the war and increasing U.S. assistance to meet the humanitarian crisis.

In her response to AFJNís board, Dr. Rice expressed dismay at what she termed the lack of understanding of U.S. policy in Angola. She stated the U.S. governmentís condemnation of Jonas Savimbi and its belief that a political settlement is the only hope for a lasting peace. She noted the extent of U.S. support for humanitarian programs and its commitment to political, social and economic reform in Angola.

Here is AFJNís reply to Dr. Rice, signed by AFJNís president, Fr. Seamus Finn, OMI, on behalf of the Board of Directors.

_____________________________________

28 January 2000

Dear Assistant Secretary Rice:

Thank you for replying to our letter of December 15, 1999. The letter from our Board of Directors was not intended to cause you dismay but to amplify the concerns of our colleagues from Angola. We wish to strongly note that we never stated or implied that the U.S. is "cheering the conflict on and ignoring the plight of innocent civilians" as you remarked. And while we welcome the enclosures included with your letter, we are not clear how they address the issues we raised. They essentially spoke to the arms, military equipment and petroleum embargo against UNITA. We are at pains to see how the policies mentioned in your enclosures have significantly constrained UNITA efforts in pursuing the war.

In our letter, we specifically drew your attention to a recommendation from Human Rights Watch/Africa that the U.S. provide intelligence to assist the United Nations' Special Envoy in identifying sanctions busters. Recently we learned that the Special Envoy will release his report in March, naming individuals and countries complicit in undermining the UN sanctions against UNITA. We hope the U.S. will vigorously and publicly act to ensure that persons or countries so named will be brought to justice.

We appreciate the much-needed U.S. humanitarian support to the people of Angola. On the other hand, we believe that if the U.S. froze UNITA's assets and brought its political influence to bear in a major way, the chances for peace would be dramatically increased.

AFJN is convinced that the United States has the leverage to advance the cause of peace and stability in Africa. The recent decision by Ambassador Richard Holbrooke to use the Security Council presidency to lift up AIDS and peace issues in Africa testifies to this. We welcome such U.S. led initiatives at the United Nations and prayerfully hope they translate into meaningful policies that will bring lasting peace to Africa's people.

Again, we wish to thank you for taking the time to respond to our letter. We look forward to working with you in the future on Angola and other issues of critical importance to Africa. We are available to meet with you on these matters if you would find that helpful.

Sincerely,

Rev. Seamus Finn, OMI
AFJN Board Chair on behalf of the AFJN Board of Directors
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United Nations Proposed Peacekeepers for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

At the recently concluded Security Council meeting on Africa, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan proposed sending 5, 537 UN peacekeeping troops to the DRC. According to Annan, the regional and international implications of the war in the DRC warrant deployment of UN forces. He reiterated the need to address the region's long term humanitarian, development and security needs. The Security Council passed a resolution on January 26 saying that it would act promptly on the deployment. The resolution hinges on the premise that the belligerents will cease all hostilities and respect fully the terms of last yearís Lusaka Accord.

The Clinton Administration has asked the U.S. Congress to approve support for the peacekeeping troops. The U.S. is expected to shoulder a significant amount of the programís expenses and needs congressional approval for funding. According to Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, the stakes are too high to ignore the DRCís crisis. "If the conflict spirals out of control," he said, "it could destabilize central and southern Africa. It is self-evident that if the UN does not do what it can to assist those who want peace in the Congo, the result will be certain humanitarian and security disaster."

Some members of Congress, particularly Sen. John Warner (R-VA), have expressed doubt about any new UN peacekeeping activity until the Balkan crisis is settled. According to Warner, the United States has spent upwards of $10 billion in the Balkans but the situation remains largely unresolved. Given that fact, he objects to the U.S. spending money on peacekeeping efforts in Africa.

Some observers point out that Annanís recommended troop strength is grossly inadequate to deal with the mammoth problem of peacekeeping in the DRC, a country one third the size of the U.S. The Lusaka process required an estimated 25,000 troops to police the accord. In the DRC, at least six different Congolese warring factions and seven African countries are involved in the conflict, and the peace accord has been violated by all of the parties to the agreement.

The difficulty of bringing peace to the DRC is complicated by South Africaís stance toward the process. Initially, the U.S. was counting on South Africa to play a leading role in ending the crisis. However, a South African official confided to the Integrated Regional Information Network (IRIN), a UN information outlet, that while South Africa may send medical or communications personnel, it had no commitment to providing ground troops. This position resembles the U.S.í own decision not to send ground troops to the DRC.

Yet, if an early resolution of the DRC crisis does not happen, Central Africa will be in dire straits and its people will continue to suffer intensely. This is the message that Cardinal Frederic Etsou, Archbishop of Kinshasa, will bring to Washington, DC in February. AFJN and the National Endowment For Democracy (NED) are facilitating the Cardinal's visit as he meets with U.S. government officials, members of Congress and various NGO's working on Central Africa. The Cardinal is expected to stress the urgency of U.S. support to end the crisis in his country and the need for more humanitarian support.

Action: Write to your MCs, especially your Senators, urging them to support the administrationís funding request for the UNís DRC peacekeeping force. Send letters to the U.S. Senate, Washington, D.C. 20510 and to the U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, D.C. 20515.
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Rethinking the World Trade Organization

What are the best steps for developing countries to take toward integration into the world economy? This was a central question at the heart of the November World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle, WA for both WTO participants and protestors.

Martin Khor of the Third World Network recently wrote reflecting on WTO policies, analyzing elements of this question and offering some critical suggestions.

Seattle raised many issues for developing countries about trade, financial and investment liberalization. Each of those categories contains profound social justice implications because they have direct consequences for people struggling with poverty. Khor notes that on the one hand, trade is essential for development and growth. On the other hand, trade liberalization (unregulated market-driven trade) has significant negative effects on developing countries. Globally, there is a widening gap between rich and poor countries, and a growing gap between rich and poor people within countries. So-called "free" markets have not benefited everyone.

For example, Khor cites the United Nations Human Development Report 1999 that the top 20% of people in the world's richest countries enjoy 82% of expanding export trade whereas the bottom 20% enjoy barely more than 1%. Also, the UN Trade and Development Report 1999 shows that rapid trade liberalization has led to sharp increases in imports for developing countries, but exports have failed to keep pace making their trade deficits higher in the 90s than they were in the 70s. Furthermore, it shows no direct correlation between trade liberalization and economic growth.

Khor makes the point that trade must be accompanied by other factors such as the development of local enterprises, farming, human resources, technology, export capacity and markets. As important is the fact that developing countries must be free to determine the rate and scope of liberalization, combined with the ability to support their small-scale farmers and fledgling businesses. He argues that a freeze should be put on steps to impose more liberalization on developing countries and that rich countries have to correct the inequities and imbalances in the world trading system that work against developing countries. Among other things, developing countries must be fully included in global decisions about trade.

Developing Countries Haven't Benefited
Khor points out that developing countries have not benefited from the last round of WTO agreements, known as the Uruguay Round. Since its adoption in 1995, he says that market access has not improved for them, they have received no gains from the supposed phasing out of textile quotas and there has been an increase in non-tariff barriers and high protection of agricultural products by the developed nations.

Implementation Problems
Developing countries face a number of problems in attempting to implement the Uruguay Round agreements, not to mention acquiescing to new ones.

  • They must open their agricultural, industrial and service sectors to outside investors making it hard to compete with foreign firms. This threatens local livelihoods.
  • The must remove or curtail their ability to provide some subsidies for local industries and cannot require foreign investors to use minimum levels of local materials.
  • They cannot use technologies over which corporations (mainly foreign firms) have Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) which affects their access to medicines and new technologies.

Consequences
As global competition is imposed on developing countries through the WTO, potential consequences for local, mostly poorer people are evident. In the domestic farm sector, millions of small-scale farmers could be overwhelmed by competition from international agribusiness companies. Local food production could be threatened by cheaper imports and pressures to plant export crops, imperiling national food security. Global IPR measures could open the door to patenting life forms causing local people to lose control over traditional plants, seeds, medicines and livestock. Nascent businesses could be smothered by the economic juggernaut of multinational corporations, curbing indigenous livelihoods. Sustainable development initiatives would be at a tremendous disadvantage if small-scale African farmers and business owners were forced to compete with resource rich foreign firms.

Steps to Take

Khor suggests a number of steps that need to be taken to safeguard the legitimate development needs of developing countries.

  • Review the record of liberalization and its effects on developing countries.
  • Reassert the trade systemís primary objective as the development of the majority of the WTOís membership, most of whom are developing countries. A principal WTO aim should be to remove obstacles to development.
  • Give top priority within the WTO to addressing problems arising from inequities in the Uruguay Round Agreements, especially their negative effects on developing countriesí economies and societies.
  • Abandon pressure to introduce new WTO agreements until existing problems are resolved.
  • Reform the WTOís system and culture of decision making so that all members have full participatory rights in the process.

The full text of Martin Khorís article is on the AFJN web page under "Whatís New."
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Alert
Africa Trade Bill Moves in Congress

AFJN has consistently opposed the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a trade bill now heading toward the last stages of passage. AFJN is convinced that this measure will ultimately harm the interests of Africaís poor majority. A combined House and Senate committee will soon conference on a final version of the bill which will be sent to Congress for a vote, probably in April or May. If it passes as expected, President Clinton has promised to sign it into law.

AFJN particularly objects to the eligibility requirements in the House version, the criteria African countries must meet to qualify for trade benefits with the U.S. These requirements define an economic model that has already been found tested and wanting. Imposed through structural adjustment-like conditions, they have increased unemployment, poverty and inequality throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Notable are those that compel Africans to remove restrictions on foreign investors and treat them on an equal basis with nationals, that pressure governments to cede their legitimate role of social and economic oversight to the private sector, and that insist upon an acceptance of intellectual property rights formulated by outside interests.

AFJN also objects to the Senate mandating the use of U.S. cloth, yarn and thread in African apparel production for it to enter the U.S. duty free. This requirement effectively eliminates any advantage to Africans of the billís textile provisions.

Now is the time to contact your representatives and senators urging them to reject this legislation. Share with them your experience of Africa and your conviction that U.S. policy must serve the needs of marginalized people before helping U.S. corporations profit from Africa.

It is particularly important to contact the members of the conference committee. The Senate conferees are Sens. Roth (R-DE), Grassley (R-IA), Lott (R-MS), Helms (R-NC), Moynihan (D-NY), Baucus (D-MT) and Biden (D-DE). House conferees have not yet been named. However, the following representatives are key and may be appointed as conferees. Reps. Gilman (R-NY20), Royce (R-CA39), Thomas (R-CA21), Archer (R-TX07), Crane (R-IL08), Rangel (D-NY15), Gejdenson (D-CT02), Payne (D-NJ10) and Levin (D-MI12). If you are any of their constituents, please make a special effort to contact them right away on this issue.
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Ivory Coast Coup
The tepid condemnation by the international community of the Christmas Eve coup d'etat in Cote d'Ivoire seriously casts doubt on the world's commitment to democratic elections as a way of changing power in Africa. Admittedly, the government of Konan Bedie was corrupt, inept and repressive. Nevertheless, the military take over, while welcomed by most Ivorians, has paved the way for similar behavior in the future. Except for Canada, no Western government has been unequivocal in condemning the coup. Meanwhile, the military government has claimed to set a timetable for return to constitutional rule. A Constitutional Commission should conclude its work by April, and elections for parliament and the presidency are slated for October.

Alassane Ouattara, a candidate in the upcoming elections and a former International Monetary Fund official, visited Washington in early February to assure assuring the U.S. of his commitment to transparency and good governance. In interviews with French newspapers he justified the coup and suggested that Mr. Bedie brought upon himself his own demise. Bedie had changed the constitution to prevent Ouattara from running in the last election on the excuse that Ouattara was not "purely Ivorian" since one of his parents was from Burkina Faso.

A major factor in Bedie's overthrow was the fact that the army was not being paid on time. According to various news sources, this was partly due to the high level of corruption in the government and to the fact that the prices of cocoa and coffee, Ivory Coast's main exports, had plummeted. What will happen to a new government if it cannot change the drop in these prices? Now that Ivory Coast's first coup has taken place, the possibility of another one happening becomes more conceivable.
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