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Dear AFJN Members and Friends
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
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
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.
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.
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
Regarding areas of disagreement between the factions, U.S. policy should support
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
Africa Grassroots Response Initiative
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
Africa Faith & Justice Network
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