Dear AFJN members and friends:
As I learn more about AFJN's work over the past 18 years, I profoundly appreciate the Board and members for keeping the faith while striving for justice in U.S policy-making toward Africa. Indeed all of you who, over the years, have directly or indirectly labored to keep AFJN dynamic and help it grow are not forgotten.
I appreciate the warm welcome I have gotten as one of you. As to who I am, there's no quick answer; it's a matter of perception and judgement between us. But I can tell you where I come from and some of the paths I've taken in my life.
I am originally from Togo, West Africa. I pursued my education in Togo, France and the United
States, earning two doctorates (in Contemporary History from the Universite de Bordeaux, and in
Political Science from Syracuse University). I have served as director of an "Institut
Any new director tends to serve as a catalyst for change. We are planning some for the newsletter, building on the excellent feedback provided by many of you at AFJN's May Leadership Summit. These changes will not make "Around Africa" unrecognizable. But we want to serve you – and Africa's peoples – better. We will be working to make the newsletter
To do this, we need your help. Please share with us your ideas, comments, suggestions and criticisms. We want to know what we do well, and we need your input on what and how we can do better. I look forward to your support and collaboration.
Marcel Kitissou, PhD
Troubling developments since May have included
On July 17-19, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches denounced Mugabe’s government for bringing the country to the brink of de facto war and ruining its once-thriving economy in its effort to retain power. A South African Council of Churches representative, echoing this, said the Zimbabwe government has "run out of ideas and has no capacity to solve the country's problems." An Aug. 4 meeting of civic and human rights groups, denouncing efforts to intimidate the media and judiciary, called for strong, coordinated civil society action to avoid "serious bloodshed and economic collapse." The MDC has rejected proposals for a government of national unity as an effort to preserve the ruling ZANU party in power.
International community responds
The European Union may soon impose selective sanctions against Mugabe’s regime, and some Commonwealth members want to suspend Zimbabwe at its annual October summit. Reports indicate if sanctions are imposed, Mugabe may impose a state of emergency.
Worrying spillover in region
Many SADC members fear Zimbabwe developments are exacerbating similar conflicts over land in their countries. In mid-August Namibian President Sam Nujoma threatened to expand government takeover of white farms. In July South African squatters, encouraged by the Pan-Africanist Congress (PAC), temporarily seized land near Johannesburg despite court orders to vacate the land. The ruling ANC harshly criticized the PAC for seeking to boost its political standing by urging illegal seizure of private land. SACC general secretary Molefe Tsele and other church leaders urged calm and respect for the rule of law. But Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane also decried the "snail's pace" of government land restitution efforts since the advent of democracy in 1994. Many church groups back the PAC's call for a land forum between all affected parties.
Mugabe’s Libyan option
Despite its many problems, Zimbabwe took a significant step recently in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Zimbabwe has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world, roughly one of every four adults. In late August it passed a new law which criminalizes the deliberate transmission of HIV, recognises non-consensual sex within marriage as rape, and seeks to protect young persons and mentally handicapped persons from sexual predators.
Studies have shown that unprotected sex within marriage may be the most significant risk factor for many women in contracting HIV/AIDS. "The law sends a very clear message that women do have control over their bodies and that men cannot violate them," said a Zimbabwean women’s rights advocate.
Peace moves have gained momentum in Sierra Leone following the gradual deployment of nearly 17,000 UN peacekeepers -- the world's biggest UN operation -- over the last two years.
Rebels from the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), who have waged war against successive governments since 1991 along with pro-government militia, have begun to disarm as UN soldiers fan out across the country.
Obasanjo, who set up the panel in 1999 to investigate allegations of rights violations dating back to 1966, will be the first Nigerian ruler to voluntarily submit to public investigation. Speculation is growing that three former military heads of state -- retired generals Abdulsalami Abubakar, Ibrahim Babangida and Muhammadu Buhari -- will also agree to appear.
The government-appointed Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission began sittings in October last year and has held sessions in five cities around the country. So far, success in reconciliation has been scarce.
Rebel activity had declined markedly since January, when Sudan pledged to cut support for the LRA
in return for Uganda severing its support for the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA). The
SPLA has battled Khartoum's forces since 1983 to end domination of mainly Christian and Animist
south Sudan by the Muslim north.
29 June -- Interfaith Statement on Conflict Diamonds, which addresses the issue of gems that are used to fund warfare and civilian atrocities. The statement supports clean diamond legislation, including the Clean Diamonds Act, which would prohibit the direct or indirect importation of any and all diamonds and diamond jewelry without a global certification system in place.
03 July -- Letter sent to the House Appropriations Committee opposing fees for basic health, primary education and access to water as part of World Bank and IMF loans, debt relief actions and other policies and programs.
09 July -- Interfaith Statement on Trade and Investment, a set of five principles that should underlie ethical trade and investment practices, especially toward developing countries and regions. The Interfaith Working Group on Trade & Investment, which produced the statement, is seeking endorsements by organizations internationally. The text of the statement is on AFJN's web site under "What's New." To add your organization's name, email <firstname.lastname@example.org>
11 July -- Letter to President Bush from the Global Aids Alliance urging stronger US support for poor country debt cancellation in order to free up resources for addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
16 July -- Letter supporting the Waters-Kucinich to the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill, which would restore to the measure the ability of developing countries to pass laws for the purpose of making HIV/AIDS drugs available to their citizens. The amendment would prevent World Trade Organization (WTO) challenges to HIV/AIDS drug laws by the United States.
17 July -- Global Health Council Letter in support of the McGovern amendment to the FY 2002 Foreign Operations bill. This amendment provides for an additional $100 million for maternal health, child survival and tuberculosis programs and the funding will be taken from the military portion of the Andean Initiative.
22 July -- Latin America Working Group Letter to Congress opposing giving the president fast-track trading authority. Such authority, which would by-pass Congress' ability to amend trade legislation, would also affect trade relations with Africa in a major way.
16 August -- Letter from the U.S. Campaign to Ban Conflict Diamonds urging international
negotiations in September between 35 governments, the diamond industry and NGO groups to agree on a
certification system to end trade in conflict diamonds that includes an effective international
Trade Summit – October 2001
In early October, the Bush Administration will hold a summit with African Trade and Finance Ministers to discuss the continued implementation of the Africa trade bill passed by Congress last year. Commonly known as the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, or AGOA, the contentious measure, opposed by AFJN, forms part of the Trade and Development Act of 2000 and now sets the framework for trade relations between the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa. The October meeting between U.S and African officials stems from a provision in the bill calling for such a forum to take place on an annual basis. Provisions relating to parallel forums between NGOs and business representatives have not yet been implemented.
AFJN and the Africa Trade Policy Working Group (ATPWG) will engage in advocacy efforts at the time of the summit. They will submit to the U.S. and African delegates the Declaration of Support for African Smallholder Farmers, which supports African farmer and local community rights to their agricultural resources in the face of a worldwide trend to patent seeds, crops and other life forms. See Around Africa: April 2001 Issue and June/July Issue for reports on this major AFJN campaign.
ATPWG and the Interfaith Working Group on Trade & Investment will also submit a statement to the delegates evaluating AGOA in light of the Interfaith Statement on Trade and Investment recently published by the working group, of which AFJN is an active member. The statement lays out principles and guidelines whereby trade and investment can be evaluated from a faith-based perspective in terms of human rights, economic justice and environmental sustainability.
The evaluation concludes that the overwhelming thrust of AGOA is to unilaterally impose on Africa, as a condition of trade with the US, an economic model and framework that primarily aims to benefit US corporate interests. The policies contained in AGOA were not negotiated with African governments, which renders meaningless the notion of "partner" in the arrangement. This contradicts the principles of the interfaith statement, which stress transparency and meaningful participation of all stakeholders.
AGOA puts forth largely unregulated market practices as the singular gauge by which to define economic relationships between countries. While the market has its place in economic advancement, the statement insists that a system structured on the profit motive alone cannot meet the full range of human needs or act as society's foundation. It states that if the free market is not regulated carefully, abuses such as unlivable wages, inhuman working conditions, mal-distribution of resources and environmental destruction inevitably follow.
The working group believes that AGOA imposes a largely unregulated market system on African countries to the detriment of the role of legitimate government and its people to ensure the common good through equitable, broad-based development. In their view, AGOA's policies fail to support the values inherent in the interfaith statement - dignity of the human person, integrity of creation, protection of the common good and society's most vulnerable people, broad participation in economic decision-making and safeguarding the global commons.
See accompanying article for more information about the Interfaith Statement on Trade &
Investment and for details on how your organization can endorse the statement.
Statement on Trade & Investment
The introduction to the statement reads in part: "In an age of increasing economic integration and interdependence between the nations and peoples of the world, mounting global inequities have come into sharp focus. While technological and other advances have made it possible for segments of humanity to achieve unprecedented material prosperity, large numbers of people have become mired in poverty, hunger, and disease. In the midst of growing disparities and injustices between and within countries, governments and international economic institutions have increasingly sought market-driven policies, particularly the expansion of international trade and investment. This limited approach has too often served to aggravate the problem. We see the need for a broader, more holistic understanding of human economic activity.
It is our belief, as members of diverse faith communities, that moral and spiritual principles can provide guidance in the search for practical measures to address the profound ethical issues raised by international trade and investment --- These principles apply to all actors, public and private, engaged in international trade and investment. We believe that adoption of these principles will assist people everywhere to shape international trade and investment so that they advance the goal of a more just, more sustainable, and more prosperous human society.
Contact AFJN for the full text of the statement. The Interfaith Working Group on Trade &
Investment welcomes endorsements of the statement by organizations internationally. To add your
organization's name, email <email@example.com>.
G-7, IMF & World Bank:
Slouching Toward Debt Relief for Africa
At a July meeting with G-7 leaders, "Drop the Debt" campaigners pressed them to cancel significantly more debt as part of a "New Deal on Debt". The G-7 leaders, in a meeting with elected leaders from Africa, also welcomed their new plan for Africa’s economic recovery, part of which includes a new initiative on debt relief. The G-7 now seeks to negotiate the details of this plan and to return with a joint action plan at their next summit in Canada. Analysts are skeptical on whether this presages a new partnership with Africa - and between richer and poorer countries - or merely the latest chapter in efforts to modernize poverty.
In the months leading up to the G-7 meeting, Drop the Debt campaigners effectively documented the limited impact of debt relief delivered so far, under the supposedly ‘new and improved’ HIPC program agreed at Cologne in 1999. One study detailed how many poor countries which qualified for debt relief under HIPC were granted average cuts in debt payments of just 27%, forcing them to still spend more on debt repayments than on health care. They also commissioned another study by a UK accounting firm which demonstrated that the IMF and World Bank have sufficient resources to finance deeper debt cancellation without affecting their functioning.
During the G-7 summit, US faith-based groups, including AFJN, joined AIDS and health groups from around the world urging debt cancellation to free resources for the fight against HIV/AIDS. Jubilee campaigners sharply criticized IMF-backed "economic reforms" as precisely the policies which, driven by doctrinaire conditionalities, reproduce inequality and dependency and deepen the debt crisis. They also critiqued the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) as reinforcing Structural Adjustment Program, which for decades have failed to deliver poor countries out of chronic poverty or the debt crisis. Calling the HIPC process a "dead horse," they urged the G-7 to get serious about debt cancellation.
Support for the World Bank Bonds Boycott has grown in recent months. The Boycott demands an end to structural adjustment programs and similarly harmful lending practices; 100% cancellation of debts owed to the World Bank without using citizens’ tax dollars; and an end to environmentally destructive project lending for oil, mining, and gas projects. Groups recently committing themselves to the boycott include several central labor councils as well as the Marianist Brothers and Priests/New York Province, School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of the Holy Cross and Pax Christi.
This fall the Mobilization for Global Justice, Jubilee movement, faith-based groups, the AFL-CIO, student and women’s groups and many others have issued A Call to Action to Globalize Justice during the annual IMF/World Bank meetings. In addition to opposing the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA) and the Administration’s request for ‘fast-track’ trade negotiating authority, it urges unconditional cancellation of debts owed by the poorest countries to the IMF and the World Bank, using the institutions own resources.
These groups are organizing a Global Justice Week of Action Sept. 25-30, with events planned for Washington DC and across the country to reject the current global economic system that values profits over people. Events in Washington include:
Join people of faith in urging
Take just one minute to register your opinion!
The majority of landmine victims are civilians in poor countries with very limited access to the surgery, blood transfusions, pain medication, prosthetic limbs, and physical therapy necessary for landmine survivors. The majority of the world's nations have joined the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which bans the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of antipersonnel landmines. The U.S. has not joined the treaty. This is unacceptable given the current humanitarian disaster:
Has your church endorsed the US Campaign To Ban Landmines Faith-based Initiative? It’s designed
to generate thousands of letters to President Bush and U.S. Senators between now and December 3rd—the
fourth anniversary of the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty. Contact the National Council of
Churches/Church World Service at 202-544-2350 or firstname.lastname@example.org
3035 Fourth St.,
NE Washington, DC 20017