AROUND AFRICA
August/September 2000


Table of Contents
Mill Hill Priest Murdered
President Clinton's Visit to Africa
AFJN Statement on Clinton's Visit to Burundi
Action: Restrict Conflict Diamonds
Aerial Bombings Continue in Sudan
U.S. Elections -- What You Can Do!
Africa Grassroots Response Initiative


Dear AFJN Members and Friends
We are sad and outraged to report that Fr. John Kaiser, 67, a Mill Hill priest and outspoken human rights advocate with more than 30 years of service in Kenya, was murdered on 24 August near the town of Naivasha. We grieve with his family and friends and we celebrate his courageous life. AfJN is calling for the U.S. State Department to investigate the murder and condition further assistance to Kenya on strict compliance with international human rights standards. Please act on the alert found in this issue.

This is our final chance to urge you to register for Mission Congress 2000 being held in Chicago from 28 September to 01 October. Our AFJN Annual Meeting will take place on 30 September within the Mission Congress itself. In a separate mailing you will have received important Annual Meeting materials that included a slate of board nominees, the proposed AFJN Operational Plan for 2001-2002 and proxy forms for use if you cannot come to the meeting. Please see the notice in this newsletter for further information. We hope to see you in Chicago!

Blessings and peace to all of you.

Larry J. Goodwin, Executive Director
Ezekiel Pajibo, Policy Analyst
Caroline Obonyo, Organizational Advancement Manager
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Mill Hill Priest Murdered
NAIROBI, Kenya

On 24 August, Fr. John Kaiser, an outspoken American priest who was critical of the Kenyan government's human rights record, was shot and killed in western Kenya.

Kaiser, 67, a Mill Hill priest, was threatened with deportation in November after the
immigration department refused to issue him a work permit. The government agreed to renew the permit after the Catholic Church and civil rights groups accused it of trying to silence him for his human rights advocacy.

Bishop Peter Kairo of Nakuru reported that he got an anonymous call Thursday morning saying Kaiser had been shot. Kairo went to the scene and found Kaiser dead on the pavement by his car. Fellow priests said that Kaiser had told them the night before that he feared for his life.

Rev. Giulio Albanese, an official of the mission agency MISNA in Rome, noted that the slaying came the day after another Catholic cleric sharply criticized the government in a sermon at a holiday ceremony attended by President Daniel arap Moi. Some feel that Kaiser's murder was in retaliation for that sermon.

Kaiser worked for three decades in the dioceses of Kisii and Ngong. He was deeply involved in community affairs. Testifying before a special government commission earlier last year, Kaiser accused two Cabinet ministers of fomenting tribal clashes and seizing land vacated during the fighting, which broke out before the 1992 multiparty elections. The government was heavily implicated in instigating the clashes for political motives. Kaiser received an award from the Kenyan Law Society for his human rights work.

''He was very upstanding, a man who stood for justice,'' said Brother Alfons Borgman, a member of the Mill Hill Fathers. ''He was always a parish priest. For him that meant building and working for peace and justice.''

U.S. Embassy spokesman Tom Hart said Kenyan police had promised a full investigation. He said the embassy was still verifying the facts concerning his death.

Action
Write to Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr. Susan Rice, expressing outrage at the murder of Fr. John Kaiser. Insist that the U.S. publicly condemn human rights abuse in Kenya and condition U.S. assistance on strict adherence to internationally recognized human rights standards.
Write to Department of State · 2201 C Street, NW · Washington, DC 20520
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President Clinton’s Visit to Africa
President Clinton is traveling to Africa from August 25-28. No other U.S. President has visited Africa twice during his tenure, and President Clinton is only the second U.S. President to visit Nigeria in the last 22 years. President Carter visited there in 1978 when the current leader, Olusegun Obassanjo, was the military leader of the country.

In Nigeria, Clinton is expected to encourage the consolidation of democracy and Nigeria's role in regional peacekeeping activities. Former South African President Nelson Mandela has also invited him to attend the signing of a Burundian peace accord scheduled to take place in Arusha, Tanzania on August 28 (See the accompanying AFJN Statement on Burundi).

AFJN is concerned about how the U.S. intends to frame its new partnership with Nigeria in the areas of security, politics and the economy. Recently, some 40 U.S. Marines were sent to train Nigerian troops for peacekeeping duties in Sierra Leone. Yet no one has addressed previous extra-judicial executions of civilians there by Nigerian troops, documented by human rights organizations and the United Nations, in an apparent policy of "kill civilians to kill rebels." To prevent further abuse of civilians, respect for international law has to be part of the training Nigerian troops receive and adequate monitoring mechanisms must be put into place.

AFJN also questions the provision of U.S. patrol vessels to the Nigerian Coast Guard. The Niger Delta, which produces the bulk of Nigeria’s oil, is extremely volatile. Local groups have organized protests, kidnapped oil workers and called for a fair allocation of oil sale proceeds. Protesters and civilians have been killed as the government has increased its militarization of the area. Supplying U.S. patrol vessels can be interpreted as protecting U.S. oil interests by abetting the suppression of the Delta Region.

The military is a primary beneficiary of U.S. assistance since Obasanjo came to power, and the first U.S. mission to Nigeria after the elections was a military one. Critics say that stakeholders should take a broad view of Nigeria's long term security by placing greater attention on other sectors like health, education and sustainable development.

Given the entrenched poverty in the country, debt cancellation is one of the best ways President Clinton could assist Nigeria. The country’s external debt amounts to about $32 billion, much of it from the defaulted loans of former military dictators. Likewise, President Clinton could support the repatriation of money stolen by previous regimes. A preliminary investigation by the Swiss Government revealed that Nigeria’s late despot, Sani Abacha, had stashed more than $500 million in Swiss banks alone. Politically, the President needs to express solidarity with pro-democracy, human rights, civil society, women’s and labor groups, assuring them of U.S. support in their efforts to make Nigeria’s government transparent and accountable.

In anticipation of the Clinton visit, Tessie Kabiru, a street vendor, remarked that "people are hungry and maybe soon they will start to say they had more to eat under the military." Most Nigerians do not want a military return to power. In order to prevent that from happening, the U.S. must back democratic institutions and equitable development.

The Advocacy Network for Africa (ADNA), facilitated by AFJN Policy Analyst Ezekiel Pajibo, sent President Clinton a letter outlining its views on U.S. policy toward Nigeria and the region. A copy of the letter is available upon request. On August 24, Pajibo and other Africa specialists met with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. about U.S. policy toward Nigeria and Burundi. Rev. Jackson, the Special Envoy on Democracy and Human Rights in Africa, will travel to Africa with the president. The ADNA letter and AFJN’s accompanying statement on Burundi were given to the State Department, National Security Agency, House International Relations Committee, Senate Foreign Relations Committee and members of the press.
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AFJN Statement on Clinton Visit to Burundi
22 August 2000

The Africa Faith and Justice Network joins with many other human rights, development and faith-based organizations in welcoming President Clinton's second visit to Africa in three years. Like his first one, this visit will bring needed media attention to a continent not adequately covered, understood or positively portrayed.

The huge expectations of political and economic progress generated by the president's previous visit have not been borne out, and therefore this trip is not spawning similar levels of anticipation. However, it does provide American based organizations the opportunity to once again voice their concerns about Africa's continued difficulties and what U.S. policy must do to help address them.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela, who is mediating the Burundi peace process, has invited President Clinton to attend the peace agreement signing ceremony scheduled for August 28 in Arusha, Tanzania. At the moment, it is unclear whether there actually will be a peace agreement to sign given the breadth of disagreement between the contending parties. At the very least, a memorandum of understanding likely will be adopted between the disputing factions while Clinton is on hand.

The history of peace accords in Africa is punctuated with dashed hopes, squandered goodwill and lack of satisfactory international support. Will President Clinton's presence in Arusha change this? For that to happen, he would have to vigorously support those elements of the Burundi agreement that the contending parties have apparently accepted. These include

  • a transitional government (it may be important to underscore that those who take part in a transitional government will be ineligible to stand for President in an election)
  • the restructuring of the Burundian Army to reflect the country's ethnic diversity
  • a pragmatic timetable to return the country to constitutional democracy
  • the establishment of a process to redress historic wrongs and crimes against humanity
  • international support to rebuild the country.

Regarding areas of disagreement between the factions, U.S. policy should support

  • the abolition of the regroupment camps
  • the release of political prisoners
  • resources for Tanzania to effectively patrol its borders in order to forestall guerrilla attacks into Burundi.

The government and the rebels must be strictly informed that there will be a price to pay unless an early settlement of the Burundi conflict comes about, including an arms embargo and diplomatic isolation. The need to link the end of the conflict in Burundi to the entire Great Lakes region goes without saying. President Clinton must use his presence to assure regional leaders that their efforts to bring lasting peace throughout the area will receive increased and concerted U.S. support.

The people of Burundi have been at war since 1993. More than 200,000 people have been killed. Hundreds of others continue to live precariously as refugees in neighboring countries, especially Tanzania. AFJN fervently hopes that President Clinton's visit will help fulfil the Burundian people's aspirations for peace. Their yearnings cannot simply be captured in rhetorical utterances. They must be concretized by a committed, unhesitating U.S. policy that moves the country toward a lasting settlement.
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Urgent Action
Import Restrictions on Conflict Diamonds
When Congress reconvenes in September, Representative Tony Hall (D-OH) plans to reintroduce the so-called "Carat Act," a bill that places import restrictions on diamonds. Diamonds are fueling the cruel conflicts in Sierra Leone and Angola. We urge AFJN members to immediately contact their members of Congress (MCs), urging them to support the revised "Carat Act" when it comes before them.

Background
Control of Sierra Leone's diamonds by the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) facilitated a reign of terror that virtually destroyed the country. Diamonds have similarly enriched UNITA, Angola's rebel group.

Under international pressure, the diamond industry in Antwerp made commitments to a comprehensive program of assuring that the diamonds they cut, trade and export are from legitimate sources. This program of "Rough Controls" would set in place a forgery-proof delivery system and database for tracking shipments of uncut stones. Once inside cutting centers, the stones would be duly certified.

Representative Hall's revised "Carat Act" contains three provisions that address the problem of conflict diamonds.

  • UN embargoes against RUF-controlled Sierra Leonean diamonds and UNITA-controlled Angolan diamonds, and against transshipment points including Liberia, Burkina Faso and Congo.
  • Prohibition of imported diamonds from cutting or exporting centers that do not have a Rough Control system in place.
  • Certificates of origin for every diamond imported by the U.S. over a certain weight not verified by a Rough Control system.

Rep. Hall's proposed legislation calls for "birth certificates" for finished diamonds entering the U.S. but waives that provision if the industry makes good on its commitments at Antwerp. It would keep the pressure on both industry and diamond producing, finishing, exporting, and importing countries to move forward with the Rough Controls process.

Actions

  • Write a letter to your MCs. Talking points are listed below.
  • Place this urgent action in your organization's newsletter, e-mails or other materials that you send out. Mailings through mid-September are helpful.
  • Write a letter to your local newspaper asking the editor to call upon your MCs to take action on conflict diamonds.

Talking Points

  • The importation of diamonds from Sierra Leone and Angola has enriched rebel groups that commit gross abuses against unarmed people. American consumers buy 65% of diamond jewelry sold internationally, unwittingly helping these groups.
  • Urge support of the Hall legislation that requires either a country-of-origin certificate or an assurance of diamond industry controls on rough stones.
  • Urge an American boycott of diamonds imported from rebel-controlled Angola and Sierra Leone, and from countries which launder diamonds from these conflict zones, namely Liberia, Burkina Faso and Congo.
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Sudan: Aerial Bombings Continue
August, 2000

The US Committee for Refugees (USCR) reports that serious concerns exist about the survival of the UN's Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) in the face of the Sudanese Government's persistent strategy of aerial bombings and aid blockages. OLS is a special aid program to Sudan involving three dozen UN and private international aid agencies.

The Sudanese government denies OLS access to many locations in dire need, particularly in Western Upper Nile Province where new population displacement is heaviest. Sudanese authorities continue to suggest that some international aid agencies are virtual enemies of the state and that an essential OLS base camp in northwest Kenya should be closed.

OLS aid flights were suspended recently for eight days because of nearly 40 aerial bombings of civilian and humanitarian targets by Sudanese Government planes. Deliberate bombings of international relief planes while on the ground is the latest tactic by the Sudanese Government to disrupt international efforts to deliver food to needy populations in southern Sudan. The government's 1998 ban on all relief flights to stricken provinces triggered a famine that killed tens of thousands.

The Sudanese Government's actions against OLS efforts occurred in the middle of southern Sudan's annual "hunger gap" period when local farmers' food stocks are lowest prior to harvests. The UN resumed aid flights in mid-August with assurances from the government that bombings of relief operations will cease.

USCR director Roger Winter warned that Sudanese officials could again take steps to disrupt or irreparably cripple OLS. He said that UN and U.S. officials should be prepared to declare the entirety of southern Sudan a "special humanitarian zone" with automatic rights of access for all life-saving humanitarian efforts.

An estimated 2 million people have died in Sudan's civil war since 1983. More than 4 million Sudanese are internally displaced and some 300,000 are refugees in neighboring countries. Sudan is currently producing more uprooted people than any other country on earth. One of every nine uprooted people worldwide is Sudanese.
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U.S. Elections – What you can do!
In this election year, Africa advocates would do well to examine U.S. policy with an eye toward a fair deal for all Africans. If U.S. office seekers are really interested in Africa, they will

  • commit to using U.S. diplomatic and economic influence to end Africa’s wars
  • stop the flow of small arms
  • fund UN peacekeeping activities and hold accountable those responsible for human rights abuse and corruption
  • support ways to prevent Africa’s resources, notably oil and diamonds, from being used to underwrite armed conflict
  • cancel Africa’s debt, ensuring that the savings go into education, health and broad based economic development
  • support mutually beneficial trade policies that serve to develop Africa’s own capacities while increasing the level of U.S. development assistance
  • support policies that protect the rights of Africa’s workers and Africa’s fragile environment

All of this means crafting policies that put the well being of Africa’s people and land before U.S. profits. There is no other way to ensure long-term, moral, effective U.S. Africa policy.

Bring these issues to the attention of presidential and congressional candidates as we approach the November elections. Write to them, raise questions at town hall meetings and send letters to your local newspapers. Help put Africa on the U.S. agenda in a meaningful way.
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Africa Grassroots Response Initiative
AFJN has launched an important new project called the Africa Grassroots Response Initiative (GRI). With support from Catholic Relief Services, the Jesuit Office of International Ministries, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the Sisters of the Holy Child, it aims to establish an interactive electronic communication network with select justice & peace, NGO and civil society groups in Africa. The network will channel information back and forth between Africa, North America and Europe that GRI partners will use for their respective advocacy efforts on economic justice issues.

I just returned from visiting six African countries, Brussels and London where I met with 56 people from 44 different social justice organizations to generate involvement in the GRI project. During my six-week trip, I discussed the project with regional and diocesan J&P offices, grassroots NGOs and coalitions and labor, environmental and civil society groups. The response was consistently positive, based on a keen mutual sense that we have to connect with each other much more effectively to have the kind of impact we want over international economic policies affecting Africa.

The idea for the GRI project originated with the work AFJN was doing around the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, the U.S. trade bill that Congress passed earlier this year and that AFJN opposed. As the Clinton Administration mustered support for the bill among the African diplomatic corps in Washington, DC, AFJN and others in the faith-based advocacy community realized that our links with African grassroots organizations on this issue were weak. We knew we had to forge better ties if we were to bring a vigorous alternative African voice to the debate about the ever-growing importance of U.S. trade policy and the unsettling effects of economic globalization on Africa's poor majority. We also knew that we had to be able to communicate with each other quickly and regularly to assure timely coordination of information and action. Establishing an electronic network using email and a dedicated web site seemed the most viable approach.

At the same time, our GRI partners made it clear that the network must be focused and well managed. It cannot be just a steady stream of emails on myriad topics. AFJN will oversee the network's content and communication flow as the initiative gets underway. In collaboration with U.S. coalition partners, we also hope that through GRI we can bring African grassroots leaders to the U.S. to speak directly to policy makers about their concerns.

The Africa meetings produced two likely areas of concentration that we will explore with GRI partners in the next couple of weeks. As we refine our GRI agenda, we will bring it to your attention for action in upcoming newsletters, on the AFJN web site and in action alerts. The crucial and exciting part is that our AFJN actions will contain significantly more African input. This will give African grassroots groups a stronger platform in the U.S., bring more depth to our work with other advocacy coalitions and enhance our impact on Capital Hill. GRI is a tool for working with African social justice groups in a more concerted and cohesive way. That is one of its most important and positive aspects.

I'm sure you can tell that we are enthusiastic about the potential of this project. The best I can say for now is hold tight, we might be in for quite a ride.

Larry J. Goodwin
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