Dear AFJN Members and Friends!
We need immediate action on the debt issue! As of this writing, the U.S. Congress is on a path to scuttle the Cologne debt relief agreement. The U.S. pledge necessitates appropriating $435 million in the 2001 budget, but so far the House and Senate are proposing only about $75 m. Meanwhile, billions are allocated for outlandish missile defense systems and corporate tax breaks. Using the materials in this issue of Around Africa, please write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper immediately. Across the nation, the Jubilee 2000/USA campaign is urging everyone to do the same as part of a coordinated effort for July.
As part of AFJN's newly launched Africa Grassroots Response Initiative, Larry Goodwin leaves on 05 July for a six week, six-country trip to Africa. He will visit justice & peace activists in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana in addition to meeting Africa-Europe Faith & Justice Network (AEFJN) staff in London and Brussels. Larry will report on his trip to AFJN members at the September Annual Meeting. The initiative opens up a major new avenue for AFJN's advocacy work. You can read about it in the April issue of the newsletter, and you will hear a lot more about it in the coming months.
We wish you blessings and peace!
Larry J. Goodwin, Executive Director
U.S. Africa Policy: Inept, Negligent,
Impotent or Racist?
What went wrong? First was the administration’s overly optimistic characterization of Africa as a success story. Second was reliance on high sounding rhetoric coupled with weak follow-up. Another was the naive belief of those guiding U.S. Africa policy like Dr. Susan Rice, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and Dr. Gayle Smith, Africa Director at the National Security Council, that individuals who came to power through the barrel of the gun could be saviors of Africa.
The ineptitude of U.S. policy toward Africa is reflected in the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s bungling efforts to help resolve the Sierra Leone conflict. The U.S. Special envoy for Human Rights and Democracy for Africa, Rev. Jackson is perceived to be a close friend of President Charles Taylor of Liberia, a known human rights violator, principle supporter of the brutal Sierra Leone RUF rebel group and a possible war criminal. While in Liberia, ostensibly to broker an accord, Rev. Jackson’s likening of the RUF to the African National Congress and of Foday Sankoh, the RUF’s barbarous leader, to Nelson Mandela, created a firestorm of opposition in Sierra Leone. Feeling against him was so high that Rev. Jackson was unable to visit that country.
The Lome Peace Accord, which was supposed to end the Sierra Leone conflict by giving the outlaw RUF a major role in the government, was foisted upon the disabled country with the support of the U.S. government represented by Rev. Jackson. It was crafted largely in deference to Liberia’s President Taylor who wanted to protect his diamond interests by preventing the RUF from being held accountable for their criminal actions. Now, as the Lome Accord unravels, the U.S. is conspicuously absent from current attempts to resolve the crisis. The U.S. has yet to even contribute its share of funds for the UN peacekeeping operation in the country.
The negligence of U.S. policy toward Africa is also exemplified by its woeful lack of leadership in bringing to heel the violators of UN sanctions on UNITA. When Canadian Ambassador Robert Fowler released his report to the UN on sanctions busting in Angola, he specifically named the governments of Burkina Faso, Togo and Rwanda as principle violators. The Fowler Report recommended penalizing those countries with diplomatic isolation and an arms embargo. Following Security Council deliberations, the countries instead were granted six months to respond to the report’s charges. The U.S. did not lodge a protest. Six months was enough time for UNITA to re-group. Since then, it has retaken towns previously captured by the government, emboldened by the lack of U.S. and international resolve to forcefully act against it.
The impotence of U.S. Africa policy was also manifested in its inability to get Ethiopia, a strong ally of the United States, to agree to a peaceful settlement in its border dispute with Eritrea. Ethiopia is one of Africa’s largest recipients of U.S. aid, yet the Ethiopian government would not heed U.S. overtures for peace. Prior to the recent Ethiopian offensive that defeated Eritrea, the U.S. engaged the leadership of both countries at their highest levels in an attempt to settle the dispute. Anthony Lake, the much-respected former National Security Advisor, expended great effort to mediate the conflict. Susan Rice was in the region within a week after the conflict began, but neither was able to convince the warring nations to change their behavior. While the fighting raged, 8 million Ethiopians and 800,000 Eritreans were threatened with starvation. The high level of U.S. involvement and the fact that the leaders refused to be swayed by U.S. officials indicates the extent of U.S. weakness in the region.
Adding to the sense of US impotence is the intransigence of Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda's Paul Kagame to quit the war they are waging against Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Most recently, the two erstwhile allies engaged in a pitched battle over gold and diamonds in Kisangani, hundreds of miles from their respective borders. The fighting killed more than 160 Congolese civilians and imperiled 200,000 more by blocking food and medicine from coming into the city.
On top of its other problems, is U.S. policy toward Africa racist? Analysts spotlight the paucity of resources offered to resolve conflicts in Africa compared to elsewhere, like Kosovo, as an indication that the charge bears some weight.
Perhaps another example is the self-styled hallmark of Clinton Africa policy, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Critics of this trade bill have dubbed it "NAFTA for Africa," likening it to the North America Free Trade Agreement. However, the American, Canadian and Mexican governments negotiated the terms of NAFTA among themselves, although not necessarily with the interests of their working and poor people in mind. On the other hand, AGOA is a purely U.S. initiative, not a trade agreement negotiated between sovereign states. It did not result from African leaders hammering out an accord with their American counterparts. Rather it is the concoction of one nation, the United States, imposed unilaterally upon the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Formal negotiation sessions never took place and African finance ministers were invited to an AGOA meeting in Washington, DC only after the bill had been formulated. AGOA critics, AFJN among them, feel that the bill will only serve to subordinate Africa's economic interests to those of Western corporations. The United States has never dealt this way with any other part of the world. Why Africa?
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 respect Africans as partners. 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. They will
support ways to prevent Africa’s resources, notably oil and diamonds, from
being used to underwrite armed conflict. They will commit to cancel Africa's
debt, ensuring that the savings go into education, health and broad based
economic development. They will support mutually beneficial trade policies that
serve to develop Africa’s own capacities while increasing the level of U.S.
development assistance. They will 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 people and Africa’s sacred land before
profits. There is no other way to ensure long-term, moral, effective U.S. Africa
Turn Up the Heat for Debt
As the campaign heads toward the pivotal end of the year 2000, it will particularly emphasize the impact these debts have on poor children throughout the world. Health and education statistics indicate that nearly 18,000 children die every day in the world’s poorest countries from debt related causes. A large percent of these child deaths are in Africa. The campaign will personalize this gruesome reality with a collage of 18 baby pictures proclaiming the message "You can stop this."
Jubilee 2000/USA supporters will focus their efforts around a set of actions aimed at convincing U.S. policy makers that poor country debt is a burning moral issue demanding an urgent political solution by wealthy creditor nations and financial institutions. The campaign is mobilizing monthly actions among its supporters from now until the end of the year, insisting on debt cancellation without the oppressive conditions that have characterized official debt relief policies so far.
The Jubilee 2000/USA campaign is a top priority for AFJN. As AFJN activists, please join us in carrying out these monthly actions.
We are at a critical point in the campaign and must apply even greater
pressure – turn up the heat – on our nation’s decision makers to make debt
cancellation for the world’s poorest people a reality now! Join us in these
important actions, and engage your own communities and networks to do them with
Sample Letter to the Editor
From July 21-23, finance ministers from the seven wealthiest nations in the world (G-7) will meet in Okinawa, Japan to discuss the global economy. Last year, these wealthy countries designed a program to help relieve some of the poorest countries’ debt burden. To date, the United States has not taken steps to fully implement its debt pledges. Hopefully, the U.S. and the G-7 will commit to a more serious debt program, minus oppressive conditions, this time around.
According to UNICEF, nearly 18,000 children in the world's most impoverished and indebted countries die each day as a result of conditions caused by crushing international debt.
Children and adults who suffer from hunger, poor water, AIDS and other diseases are directly affected because their countries are forced to spend scarce funds on debt servicing rather than on health care, education, and environmental protection. Are U.S. citizens prepared to change this unacceptable situation? We can do it by insisting that Congress immediately appropriate the $435 million needed to fulfill U.S. promises.
Jubilee 2000/USA, part of the worldwide campaign to cancel the debt, asks, "How many more children a day must die before the U.S. Congress appropriates enough funds to relieve these debts?" Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), chair of the Senate banking committee, claims that the international financial institutions must be reformed before funds can be delivered, but dying children don't have the luxury of time to wait. Congress must stop holding debt relief hostage and support the $435 million to help save these children. What better way to use our abundant resources!
The withdrawal of British troops from Sierra Leone on June 15 caused apprehension in Freetown where citizens fear an upsurge of rebel activity. British troops were initially sent to secure the departure of British citizens and other foreigners. They stayed on to help facilitate UN peacekeeping activities. 200 British troops will remain in the country to train 1000 recruits to constitute the core of a new army. Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels have reportedly increased their attacks on UN peacekeepers and allied militia of the Government.
According to diplomatic sources in Sierra Leone, even though UN troop strength is expected to reach 16,000, the UN peacekeepers lack training and are ill equipped to carry out peacekeeping duties. The U.S. has not paid its portion of the UN assessment for Sierra Leone peacekeeping activities. Senator Judd Gregg has agreed to release $50 million of the $96 million assessment, but congressional wrangling is preventing the money from being disbursed.
According to the 1999 Amnesty International Human Rights Report, the RUF committed some of the worst human rights violations in Africa. Government allied militia and ECOMOG, the West Africa peacekeeping force, were also accused of serious abuses. The United Nations is considering the establishment of an international tribunal to try RUF leader Foday Sankoh for war crimes.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Uganda pledged to withdraw its troops to an area 90 miles from the city. Fears of the Rwanda military taking complete control of Kisangani have prompted calls for deployment of UN troops. This appears unlikely since the Secretary General apparently is recommending that the UN scrap its plan to send peacekeepers to the Congo at all, and he is threatening sanctions against countries that refuse to withdraw from Congolese territory.
Negotiators expressed cautious optimism about the peace deal. A recent report suggested that while Ethiopia was spending $1 million a day on its war efforts, donor countries were wary of continuing to provide humanitarian relief for 8 million Ethiopians threatened by famine. Some 800,000 Eritreans also face the prospect of starvation.
Meanwhile more than 20,000 Angolans took to the streets calling for an end to
the war. Signatories of the Angola Peace Manifesto, such as Rev. Daniel Ntoni
Nzinga, were prominent among the demonstrators. The marchers called for dialogue
to end the conflict. The speaker of the Angolan parliament, in an apparent
response, said that the government would not negotiate with the UNITA rebels.
Trade and Development Act
To quote the Washington Office on Africa "… through AGOA specifically
and through our economic might and institutions generally, we are using poverty
in Africa to force our own ideological free market agenda against the African
longing for genuine and pervasive economic and social development." AFJN
will monitor the effects of AGOA on Africa through the newly launched Africa
Grassroots Response Initiative. We will continue to advocate for U.S. trade and
economic policies that foster human development for all, not profit for the few.
Africa Faith & Justice Network
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