Dear AFJN Members and Friends
2001 has been particularly challenging for AFJN. Africa has yet to make it to the short list of priorities of the new Administration, more so after the events of September 11. Africa as a whole continues to be marginalized in the geopolitical thinking of most U.S. policymakers, its needs and moral claims on our conscience increasingly subordinated to U.S. security concerns. Only major U.S. allies on the continent, Nigeria and South Africa, each undergoing complex and conflicted transitions of their own, have been able to win some Administration attention. This adds urgency to AFJN’s efforts to educate and advocate on behalf of the poor of Africa.
Five major areas will likely preoccupy Administration and Congressional focus on Africa in the next few years:
There is no better time than now for AFJN and others to persuade our policymakers to craft more effective and less self-interested policies towards Africa.
We wish you a blessed and happy Christmas and New Year!
Marcel Kitissou, PhD
25-26 October 2001
Inspired by the theme AFJN & Africa: Sharing our Strengths, 35 AFJN members representing over 20 missionary organizations gathered in Memphis, TN to hone and affirm AFJN's advocacy directions and conduct business in preparation for the coming year. The gathering, one of the most energetic ever, was marked by a high level of interaction among the participants.
AFJN board member Phil Reed, M.Afr., opened the gathering with a moving combination of prayer, symbolism and African song through which AFJN members reconnected with each other and God in repentance and hope as they began their deliberations.
Participants received a warm welcome from AFJN Board Chair Séamus Finn, OMI, followed by a spirited opening address by AFJN Vice-Chair Durstyne Farnan, OP. She focused on the critical importance of advocacy on behalf of Africa’s impoverished at this particular moment in U.S-Africa relations and global insecurity, and the vital need for members to more actively claim ownership of AFJN's mission.
Workshops: Led by AFJN staff Marcel Kitissou, Larry Goodwin and Carole Collins, these engaged participants in exploring how to strengthen AFJN advocacy on conflict resolution, economic justice dimensions of trade with Africa, and the HIV/AIDS crisis. The workshops conveyed the complexities of the issues and policy prescriptions that AFJN faces in its day-to-day advocacy work; participants reported back their findings to the plenary.
AFJN members are invited to join an informal AFJN E-mail service for information and action on this vital issue. Send your name and E-mail address to Carole Collins at <email@example.com> to be included.
The first day concluded with a banquet to celebrate AFJN’s mission and efforts over the past year. It opened with a moving tribute to Fr. John Kaiser, the Kenya-based Mill Hill missionary whose August 2000 murder sparked an international outcry for human rights reform in Kenya. AFJN board member Mike Snyder, MM read a personal testimony to Fr. Kaiser by Carroll Houle, MM, who had worked closely with John Kaiser for many years. AFJN Executive Director Marcel Kitissou then delivered the banquet’s keynote speech. Entitled What the Geese Have to Teach Us, it explored the themes of acting in concert, having a clear sense of direction and relying on mutual support for each other as AFJN heads into the advocacy challenges in front of it.
Defending African Farmers’ Rights: Larry Goodwin led discussion of AFJN’s Africa Grassroots Response Initiative (GRI), which currently focuses on food security and ensuring African farmers’ continuing access to their own seeds, crops and other agricultural resources in the face of World Trade Organization provisions allowing commercial patents on them. AFJN is leading a campaign to urge U.S. support for an OAU initiative that would guarantee such rights under international trade laws (See Around Africa, April 01 & June/July 01).
Following a year-long campaign to gather international endorsers for its Declaration of Support for African Smallholder Farmers, AFJN played a central role in moving Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and five other Members of Congress to introduce a resolution before Congress on 2 November supporting the OAU initiative. The Agricultural and Farm Resources for the Indigenous Communities of Africa Resolution (the AFRICA Resolution – H.Con.Res. 260) upholds the principle that "African farmers have the right to access, use, exchange, and share their agricultural and biological resources, traditional knowledge, and technologies as established by customary law and practice." The resolution would also establish in U.S. trade policy the tenet that agricultural resources and other life forms should not be patented.
The full text of the resolution can be found on AFJN’s web site at <http//afjn.cua.edu>. Please use the action alert in this newsletter to urge your member of Congress to cosponsor H.Con.Res. 260.
Building More Effective AFJN Activism
Larry Goodwin helped participants examine the potential for and obstacles to greater involvement by AFJN members in public policy advocacy for Africa. The discussion affirmed individual missionaries’ strong commitment to Africa and explored how AFJN staff could better draw on their impressive reservoir of experience and knowledge. It also identified several obstacles to greater member activism, including feeling overwhelmed by the number and complexity of Africa-related political and economic issues and diminished energy levels due to age and illness.
Participants stressed the need for concise, user-friendly information and clear directives in order to make their advocacy more effective. Issues must be presented in a way that strike a chord and convey the urgency of the matter. In the coming year, AFJN plans to identify point people in missionary communities to help mobilize advocacy, and set up an action alert system using local groups and email networks.
Finance Report: AFJN Secretary Treasurer Pasquino Panato, MCCJ, presented both the 2000 Annual Report and the year-to-date financial report to the members. The figures show that AFJN is in stable financial condition and its resources are being used effectively. Membership contributions now make up some 63.7% of income. As its activities have expanded, AFJN increasingly has relied on funding from grants and put more effort into searching out other funding sources. Members were urged to help AFJN solidify its funding base.
Resolutions: AFJN and U.S. Catholic Mission Association members approved joint resolutions on HIV/AIDS and landmines. We will post them on the web site and circulate them to our coalition partners. [Participants also discussed a draft resolution on terrorism and September 11 events but did not reach consensus. They asked that it be amended for consideration at a later date.]
Board Election: Finally, AFJN members approved a slate of four nominees for a
three-year term. Rev. Ted Hayden, SMA, was selected as a new member of the board. Sr. Anne Louise
Von Hoene, MMS, Fr. Pasquino Panato, MCCJ, and Fr. Mike Snyder, MM, were reelected to a second term.
Africa: A review
of developments and AFJN work in 2001, prospects for 2002...
As the end of 2001 approaches, we thought it helpful to take stock of what progress has been made in supporting African struggles for economic and social justice, human rights and democracy and where our energies will need to be applied in the coming year. This summary review is drawn largely from the Staff Office Report presented to AFJN’s annual meeting in Memphis on October 25, 2001.
Challenges to Building an Effective Advocacy Strategy
During 2001 AFJN began a process of exploring with members how to better assist them in doing effective advocacy. Feedback from groups and individuals is starting to reshape our information-sharing, media and communications strategies, including ways to strengthen our links with African partners via the Africa Grassroots Response Initiative (GRI).
On November 2, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and 5 colleagues introduced the Agriculture and Farm Resources for the Indigenous Communities of Africa Resolution (the AFRICA Resolution - H.Con.Res. 260) -- See the report in the article above on the Annual Meeting.
The resolution will provide a new vehicle for public education and policy debate during 2002 on this critical issue for Africa’s farmers, most of them women.
AFJN’s related initiative, the Declaration of Support for African Smallholder Farmers, has been endorsed by nearly 200 organizations (over 50 from Africa) and more than 150 individuals. It was sent to all African Trade and Finance Ministers and African ambassadors in advance of the November WTO meeting, and it will be used in NGO advocacy at next year’s FAO Food Summit and UN World Summit on Sustainable Development, and other national and transnational public policy arenas.
AFJN also played a leadership role in stepping up NGO opposition to the African Growth and Opportunity Act section of the Trade and Development Act of 2000. AFJN staff helped draft a new critique of AGOA in relation to the five ethical principles drawn up by the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment (see accompanying brochure). It will continue to criticize WTO provisions that put life saving medicines beyond the reach of poor people and limit developing countries’ policy options to protect public health.
While bilateral debt of Africa’s poorest countries has largely been cancelled, their more sizeable multilateral debt has been only minimally cut. Some countries’ debt burdens continue to grow even as their economies slide into recession. During 2001 AFJN stepped up involvement in the Jubilee USA Network (successor to Jubilee 2000/USA) and the broader ‘Drop the Debt’ coalition, to press the U.S. to at least meet the minimal debt relief commitments it pledged at the June 1999 Cologne G-7 summit. AFJN and others are increasingly linking the call for debt cancellation to the global campaign to free up more resources to deal with the AIDS pandemic.
Peace & Human Rights
The extensive background in peace and conflict resolution of AFJN’s new Executive Director, Marcel Kitissou, is giving these issues higher priority in AFJN advocacy as he works to re-energize coalition efforts in this area. AFJN also:
AFJN has stepped up efforts to urge the U.S. to respond effectively to Africa’s HIV/AIDS crisis. Our participation in the HIV/AIDS and Health Care Working Group has helped us evaluate the many competing AIDS bills now pending in Congress. AFJN has placed priority on getting the U.S. to commit a minimum of $1 billion/year for the Global UN AIDS Fund, and a minimum of $750 million/year to meet related global health needs. It has also actively backed efforts, which apparently gained ground at the recent WTO meeting in Qatar, to ensure that global trade rules do not prevent African access to HIV/AIDS medications, and to persuade pharmaceutical companies to stop opposing the production of cheaper anti-AIDS generics.
AFJN Work on Specific Regions & Countries
Central Africa Close to three million Congolese have died in the past 3 years as a result of the civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). AFJN closely monitors the current civil war, sharing its information to a wide array of groups and activists through an informal but extensive list-serve. AFJN also seeks to boost aid to ease the Congo’s humanitarian crisis, press for foreign combatants to withdraw (e.g. through suspending IMF and World Bank loans to Rwanda and Uganda), effective UN peacekeeping intervention, and a halt to looting of the Congo’s resources. AFJN urges a strong role and support for civil society in the forthcoming inter-Congolese national dialogue: this is vital to generating a credible and sustainable democratic transition that will really end the war. In 2002 AFJN will continue to ‘resource’ media and policymakers on this issue, helping identify and give greater visibility to the voices of civil society.
The success of the recently agreed Arusha peace accord and of Burundi’s transitional government installed in early November is not yet assured. In 2002 AFJN will press the U.S. to assist with post-war reconstruction, while urging the transitional government to abolish all regroupment camps and release all political prisoners.
AFJN continues to urge barring companies engaged in commercial activity in the Sudan from trading its securities in any U.S. capital market unless it meets strict disclosure conditions. AFJN opposes granting non-lethal aid to combatants as likely to divide the South, call into question U.S. neutrality in the delivery of humanitarian assistance, and usurp civilian decision-making processes that seek to hold military forces accountable.
On November 4, Pax Christi International (PCI) issued a major appeal to the EU. Concerned that the effort to achieve a just and lasting peace in the Sudan might be compromised by the struggle against international terrorism, it urged a temporary ban on all new oil investment in Sudan and limits on EU purchases of Sudanese oil. PCI was moved in part by the 17 August 2001statement of Sudan’s Episcopal and Roman Catholic bishops, and the Sudan Catholic Bishops Conference’s 5 September appeal, for the global church community to oppose the use of oil to fuel the war.
The Kenya government’s failure to properly investigate the violent deaths of Mill Hill Fr. John Kaiser and other human rights activists has led AFJN to join the Kenyan Catholic bishops, Senator Wellstone (D-MN) and numerous NGO groups in continuing to call for a more effective investigation of political violence. AFJN and others remain profoundly skeptical of the FBI's recent finding of suicide in Fr. Kaiser’s case.
The conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have continued to displace civilians and generate refugee flows. AFJN is urging the U.S. to classify Sierra Leone's RUF as a terrorist organization, to back expanded jurisdiction for the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone to cover those outside the country who are undermining peace by supporting the RUF, and to expand travel restrictions on Liberian government officials. As a result of recent reports on how the region’s illegal diamond flows have generated funds for Osama Bin Laden, U.S. security concerns are emerging as a major factor in shaping Administration policy toward the region.
The Administration recently deferred all forced deportations from the U.S. of Liberians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) until at least September 29, 2002. While they welcomed this news, many Liberians seek permanent residence status. In Congress, HR 1806 would normalize Liberians’ status under TPS.
In Zimbabwe, the violent seizure of white-owned farms as well as attacks on black political opponents of the ruling ZANU party have continued, despite recent mediation efforts by Nigeria and SADC. Such violence will likely worsen in 2002 leading up to the presidential elections. Countries bordering Zimbabwe fear the ripple effects of its growing economic chaos and use of violence to resolve grievances over land. In early November the government, which had already limited absentee ballots and banned local and foreign election monitors for the presidential elections, moved to bar relief organizations from distributing humanitarian assistance to the needy, claiming they are using aid as a pretext to campaign for the opposition.
AFJN is helping to set up a Zimbabwe Strategy Group to support democracy in Zimbabwe and mobilize appropriate responses if the situation should worsen, as is highly likely. Important Zimbabwean NGO voices now support the proposed Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act [S. 494] as a means of supporting human rights in Zimbabwe.
AFJN opposed IMF and World Bank efforts to pressure Mozambique to halt
support for its vital cashew nut industry, efforts that cost Mozambicans over 8000 jobs. Stung by
its critics, the World Bank agreed to stop supporting such aid. AFJN will continue to urge immediate
cancellation of all Mozambique’s external debt and debt service payments, to help Mozambique
recover from catastrophic floods in both 2000 and 2001.
Action Alert: Urge
Congress to Support the AFRICA Resolution-
AFJN instrumental in creating congressional initiative!
Trade rules threaten African farmers' rights!
The AFRICA Resolution
Help protect African farmers' rights! Contact your Congressional Representative immediately. Urge her/him to cosponsor H. Con. Res. 260 - the AFRICA resolution.
You can view the full text of the AFRICA Resolution on AFJN's web site at http://afjn.cua.edu
Sample Letter to Congress
Dear Representative _________________,
Please cosponsor the Agriculture and Farm Resources for the Indigenous Communities of Africa Resolution (H. Con. Res. 260). This resolution upholds the rights of African farmers to freely safeguard, access, use, save, exchange and sell their seeds and crops.
International trade rules permit corporations and individuals to patent agricultural and natural resources. This practice threatens the ability of African farmers to ensure their food security, livelihoods and culture, and to safeguard Africa’s bio-diversity. Their right to control and use their own seeds, crops and plants according to the customs of generations must be upheld under international law.
Agricultural resources are part of the common heritage of humankind. Please protect African farmers’ rights by cosponsoring H. Con. Res. 260.
Rapid Response Network!
We have established a Rapid Response Network for AFJN members who have access to email! This is an easy and effective way to reach your member of Congress (MC) on important matters of just U.S. policy toward Africa. Joining the network means:
Simple, Effective Advocacy
Along with each action alert you will receive:
To Join the AFJN Rapid Response Network
Thank you for helping us to be a more effective voice for and with Africa!
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