Dear Members & Friends of AFJN
Senseless violence ... a descent into the abyss of the darkest side of human heart ... it is still hard to think about the unthinkable that has happened. Many loved ones are gone forever, the vacuum from their passing filled with grieving, words of war and preparations for prolonged conflict.
History and daily experience, however, have shown that violent conflict tends to become a spiral of endless retribution. And of mutual imitation as one adversary adopts much the same pattern of antagonistic behavior as the other. At the end of the day, one sees little significant difference between the good guy and the bad guy.
Mahatma Gandhi suggested a way out -- non-cooperation with evil. A more powerful voice almost two millennia before him offered similar advice in succinct, vivid, challenging words: "If someone strikes you on one the right cheek, turn the left cheek" (Mt: 5). Turning the other cheek is not a sign of cowardice or of absence of reaction. It is rather an invitation to find a different and creative way to respond without being drawn to the siren song of reciprocal evil.
In the wake of what happened on September 11, the vision of a world dominated by suicidal terrorist groups willing to sacrifice thousands is truly frightening. But equally frightening is the vision of a global and total war fought by all parties using similar methods. The pundits speak of these attacks as examples of ‘asymmetrical war' – where both sides use quite different weapons. But is a vision of ‘symmetrical war' ultimately any more reassuring? Or moral?
As our hearts and condolences go out to the victims of these brutal attacks - and to the loved ones they left behind - we are forced to reflect on what this tragedy signals for AFJN's work. It will likely mean less desperately needed funding for development and debt relief for the conflict-ridden continent of Africa, and less international policy attention as focus shifts to military responses to terrorism.
Africa was always low on the President's hierarchy of priorities. For example, we along with other groups had hoped the president and Congress could be persuaded to commit at least $1 billion to the fight against HIV/AIDS in Africa. Now Africa will probably be even more marginalized due to the coming fight against global terrorism.
Can AFJN change this likely scenario for Africa, of growing suffering from the unchecked spread of HIV/AIDS, of communal conflicts, of economic disintegration due to the failed development models advocated by the World Bank and IMF, of human rights abuses, and of environmental degradation?
It is only our hard efforts, joined of course to the more essential ones of our African brethren, which can help build a different, more positive scenario for Africa. Fueling the intensity of our efforts is the sad knowledge that almost the same number of people who were killed in the
horrific attacks of September 11 die every day in Africa of AIDS. Indeed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) alone, the same number die every three to four days – from the war, or from starvation or lack of access to health care caused by the war.
This is not to belittle the suffering of those who died or lost loved ones on September 11. But to remind us that all people are equal in the sight of God, and hence we must not inadvertently let our own pain marginalize our African sisters and brothers.
That AFJN's over 50 member organizations have many staff and partners on the ground in Africa provides us with a rare and special gift in our efforts to raise Africa's priority among U.S. policymakers. These – American missionaries, grassroots African activists and laity, and others – can speak potent and eloquent truths to power. If allowed to speak and be heard, they can move mountains.
While AROUND AFRICA will maintain its general focus, we want to turn it into a more effective voice for Africa and African concerns. We want to see its pages reflect more of the voices of Africa. In the coming months we will be reserving a column, ‘News from the Field', where our sisters and brothers in and from Africa can articulate Africa's concerns, anguish, needs, creativity and, yes, joy. We cannot overlook the tragedies unfolding, but we also want to hear success stories.
Can you help us do this? Please write to us with your ideas of people who can write and speak eloquently to Africa's present moment.
Marcel Kitissou, Ph.D.
During the colonial era, European powers used direct or indirect violence to impose control over -- and profit from -- Africa’s land, labor and natural resources. Africans hoped that independence would end the suffering generated by such looting and the loss of control over its economic life. At the recently concluded UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, African governments and civil society groups urged former colonial rulers to make reparations for this historic pillage and its cumulative impoverishment of African peoples’ and nations’ lives.
This appeal for reparations comes as Africa enters a new era of resource looting. Relentless pillage – of oil, minerals, gems, timber, agricultural production, genetic seed material and even humanitarian aid – has become a main motivator, and source of financing, for many of Africa’s worst conflicts (e.g. diamonds and coltan in the DRC and oil in Sudan). Such looting has generated some of Africa’s worst anti-civilian violence (e.g. diamonds in Sierra Leone). It is despoiling many local communities (e.g. oil exploitation in Nigeria and Chad). And it continues to enrich foreign economic interests, which lie behind or profit from the actions of corrupt local elites.
In this issue, AFJN launches a series of articles aimed at spotlighting the modern-day forms of pillage of African land and labor fueling many of its conflicts, the suffering it causes, and what new policies might help end this pillage.
Case #1: Coltan in the Congo...
Tantalum is a "bright, silvery, very dense metal, almost impossible to melt," according to a BBC documentary which aired in July. Most tantalum comes from the Kivu provinces of eastern Congo, where it is mined as a mineral ore called coltan. Used since the 1950s in jet engines and nuclear reactors, coltan’s high conductivity made it ideal for use in electronic components, especially computer chips, allowing them to be made even smaller.
Because there are ready buyers of coltan in the west, rebel factions opposed to the Kinshasa government have fought over the coltan mines, often committing atrocities against civilians. Some reportedly have forced Congolese civilians to mine coltan for them.
Profits from exploiting coltan have helped finance combatants in the Kivus. Last April, a UN experts' panel described the ongoing war in the DRC as "mainly about access, control and trade of key mineral resources." Their report highlighted how coltan helped finance both the Rwandan-backed RCD rebel group controlling much of the Kivus – as well as the Rwandan army's presence in Congo.
In 1998 the Rwandan army started by simply stealing the coltan, flying out 1,500 tons that had been previously mined but unable to be moved because of the war. At a time of peak coltan prices, this coltan was worth around £500 million, or more than 10% of Rwanda's GDP. The coltan trade’s overall economic effect, says the UN report, is to underwrite a war, which the Rwandans could not afford to fund from their official budget. It is a war in which atrocities against civilians are committed by all sides, including the Rwandan army and the rebel RCD Goma forces.
The report names Rwandan army officers engaged in the coltan trade. Shipments are usually flown out of Rwanda, initially to Belgium. Belgian academic Philip Reyntjens told BBC that "Rwandan army [aircraft] are used to ferry soldiers into a particular region in eastern Congo and are then used to ferry coltan back to Kigali." He also noted that the Rwandan foreign intelligence service’s ‘Congo desk’ now has a section called ‘Production’.
The BBC describes how the high prices commanded by coltan combined with the deprivations of war to generate a ‘gold rush mentality’ among many Congolese. Desperation has led many to leave their families and youth to drop out of school for mining, in hopes of earning income for their families. Few miners, however, reap much profit, selling below the true world price. It is the middlemen, or the rebel soldiers who commandeer the coltan production, who know the true value of coltan because the prices at which the coltan has been sold in Congo are significantly below those of the world market.
Thus a valuable resource that could finance economic development in the Kivus is, instead, worsening the region’s social problems and helping undercut both food production and the local environment. Amnesty International recently reported that the RCD-Goma and Rwandan forces had forcibly cleared Congolese peasants off their land in areas rich in coltan (34,000 were forced to flee from the Shabunda area), to make it easier to mine uninterrupted. In some areas, this has caused food production to plummet. When the price of tantalum peaked last December, thousands of hungry miners moved into the DRC’s Kahuzi-Biega park, a world heritage site, seeking their fortune. They rapidly decimated several endangered species such as the eastern lowland gorilla.
RCD-Goma claims that taxes on 40 tons of coltan it exported earned about US$1.6 mn for health care and public sector salaries. But total coltan exports from Eastern Congo reportedly have reached around 10,000 a month – worth around US$2 billion.
What can be done?
A recent Refugees International (RI) report indicates a recent fall in coltan prices may now be forcing Kivu rebel groups to seek alternative sources of income. The price collapse is due both to a global slump in the technology sector and to the opening of a major new coltan mine in Australia. The price drop may be "the most positive development in the war-torn DRC today," says the report.
Unfortunately, this has led cash-strapped rebel groups such as RCD-Goma to seek other funding
sources. "One obvious target is the international humanitarian community based in eastern DRC,"
noted the RI report. Humanitarian donations from the international community are usually tax-exempt.
But RCD-Goma recently informed one international NGO that they would have to pay a 5% tax on the
commercial value of shipments of donated medicines or risk their being impounded. Another Bukavu-based
international NGO was reportedly asked for US $100,000 in back taxes on salaries paid to
expatriates. Thus the looting hasn’t stopped – only shifted to another sector, again
jeopardizing the lives of civilians in the region.
In late August, Ugandan opposition leader Francis Kizza Besigye, fearing arrest, fled his homeland. A retired colonel of the Ugandan army and the former personal physician of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Besigye had served in other high government positions, including Advisor to the President and Ministry of Internal Affairs. After he and his wife became increasingly active in the democratic reform movement in Uganda, he ran for the presidency against Museveni in Uganda's March 2001 elections. Although Besigye lost, winning the support of 28% of Ugandan voters made him a powerful figure for those advocating political change and greater democracy in the country. He unsuccessfully challenged Museveni's electoral victory in court.
In meetings and interviews in Washington in early September, Besigye criticized Museveni's rule as a one-man regime, both corrupt and lacking respect for human rights. He urged that the international community pressure Museveni to allow greater democratization. He also accused Ugandan troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo of plundering that country's natural resources with impunity.
His critique of Museveni and the situation in Uganda – often praised for its economic recovery,
campaign against HIV/AIDS and democratic transition -- sharply contradicts Uganda's general image in
the US. Despite unease at Museveni's continued ban on party politics, most US policymakers view him
as a factor for stability in a highly volatile region of Africa. Thus Besigye's appeal for greater
international pressure on Museveni may win little support. Besigye's account of his hardship
parallels that of other African politicians who have become victims of a system they helped put in
place. It also highlights the difficulties of efforts to change current African regimes from within.
Like many other politicians, Besigye is seeking external sources of support to achieve his goals,
though in the process he may inadvertently reinforce his country's dependency.
29 June -- Interfaith Statement on Conflict Diamonds addressing the issue of gems used to fund warfare and civilian atrocities. It supports the Clean Diamonds Act, which would bar 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 <email@example.com>
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 amendment to the Commerce-Justice-State Appropriations bill, affirming developing countries= right to pass laws in order to ensure HIV/AIDS drugs are available to their citizens. It would also bar U.S. challenges to such HIV/AIDS drug laws within the World Trade Organization (WTO).
17 July -- Global Health Council Letter supporting the McGovern amendment to the FY 2002 Foreign Operations bill, which provides for an additional $100 million for maternal health, child survival and tuberculosis programs, and stipulates that the funding 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. By bypassing Congress' ability to amend trade legislation, such authority would affect trade relations with Africa in a major way.
16 August -- Letter from the US 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 monitoring component.
01 September -- A Call for Equitable Patent Rules by Oxfam citing WTO provisions that put life saving medicines beyond the reach of poor people and calling for trade rules that allow governments the widest range of policy options to protect public health.
09 September -- Third World Network Letter calling for review and reform of WTO Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that promote corporate monopolies over natural resource technologies, seeds, genes and medicines.
18 September -- New Economics Foundation Letter urging US leaders to protect innocent citizens of all nations in the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
21 September -- Interfaith Response to Terrorism offering consolation to the families of the victims, appealing for restraint in the wake of the terrorist attacks, and calling for protection of innocent Americans from indiscriminate reprisal because of their ethnicity, national origin or religion.
25 September -- Letter from the Latin America Working Group warning against the US
Administration's request for waiver authority on various kinds of human rights restrictions
worldwide in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
At a police checkpoint near the town of Katiola, Cote d’Ivoire, a large passenger bus waits at the side of the road while a middle-aged man argues with a police officer. The bus, which is headed north toward the borders of Burkina Faso and Mali, has traveled less than 250 miles in 7 hours due to the frequent stops it must make at police and military checkpoints. The passengers, most of whom are immigrants on their way home to visit relatives in Burkina Faso or Mali, are used to waiting while the police check and recheck their travel documents and extort money from those whose papers are not in order. But the middle-aged man claims that his papers are correct and refuses to pay the bribe. A woman from the bus pleads that the man put aside his principals and pay the officer so that the bus can continue its long journey northward.
Scenes such as this are common throughout Cote d’Ivoire, a country that maintains an ambivalent relationship with the 26% of its population that are foreign citizens. Such instances of petty harassment might seem like minor inconveniences, but are in reality a constant reminder to foreign residents that their most basic rights may not be assured.
From the 1960s through the 1980s Cote d'Ivoire encouraged foreigners from neighboring countries to come there to work on the large commercial farms that made Cote d’Ivoire one of the most prosperous countries in West Africa. In the 1990s, when coffee and cocoa prices collapsed, locals began to view foreigners as competitors in the struggle for a piece of the shrinking economic pie. Many accuse the then president, Henri Konan Bedie, of exploiting this animosity for his own political gain. In the mid-1990s, the Bedie government fostered the concept of "Ivoirité" which can be translated either as "Ivoirianness" or "Ivoirians first". Harsh, often inflammatory rhetoric from the government implied that foreigners were responsible for the countries economic woes and may have helped to provoke the ethnic violence of November 1999 in which immigrant farmers from Burkina Faso were driven from their land in southwestern Cote d’Ivoire.
In December 1999, General Robert Guei overthrew Bedie’s government in a military coup and promised to hold elections. But persecution against foreigners continued. Moreover, citizens from northern Cote d’Ivoire with ethnic and religious ties to Burkina Faso and Mali were also seen as suspect and of questionable "ivoirité". (Many northerners and immigrants practice Islam while Christianity is more prevalent in the south). Northerners were outraged when the former Prime Minister and fellow northerner, Alassanne Ouatara, was excluded from presidential elections due to questions about his nationality. Many believed that nationality restrictions, adopted by the Constitutional Court in July 2000, were imposed specifically to exclude Mr. Ouattara and more generally to disenfranchise northerners.
Presidential elections were held in October 2000 but were boycotted by many northerners. Laurent Gbagbo won the election but General Guei tried forcibly to reject the results. However, after two days of mass demonstrations in which several people were killed, Guei handed over power. Supporters of Mr. Ouatara (mostly northerners) continued to protest and demanded that new elections be held. In the days following Gbagbo’s victory, widespread human rights violations were committed against northerners and supporters of Mr. Ouatara. According to a recent report by Human Rights Watch, security forces began targeting civilians solely on the basis of their ethnic group, national origin or religion. According to the report, the authorities were responsible for "the shooting of civilians, the torture of hundreds of detainees held by the police and security forces, the disappearance of at least 15 young men and the sexual abuse of young women by gendarmes and police."
Since the beginning of this year, the government claims it has taken steps to promote
reconciliation and bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights violations. A national forum is
being planned to allow citizens and foreign nationals to discuss their grievances and familiarize
themselves with common problems. The government also held investigations into alleged human rights
violations. However, in August a group of soldiers were found not guilty of a particularly brutal
crime in which 57 civilians were abducted, executed, and buried in a mass grave. According to a
recent article on <www.AllAfrica.com>, "Several human rights organizations and
investigation teams, including one from the United Nations, concur that the gendarmerie [military
security] bear the greatest responsibility for the killings."
The Washington Office on Africa (WOA) issued the following alert on 10 September. AFJN works closely with WOA on this and other initiatives. The alert is abbreviated here because of space considerations. See also Around Africa, June/July 2001 on this topic.
The Sudan Peace Act (HR 2052) has now passed both the House and Senate and is headed into Conference Committee. There are two provisions appearing in the House version that do not appear in the Senate, and in our view, they need our immediate attention.
Capital market sanctions
We support capital market sanctions as an extremely important avenue toward peace. Even the Senate – which excludes this provision – declares in its findings that "the Government of Sudan has repeatedly stated that it intends to use the expected proceeds from future oil sales to increase the tempo and lethality of the war." There is absolutely no question that it is already doing so.
Our African partners have clearly urged that there by no further oil exploration or exploitation until the end of the war. These partners include the New Sudan Council of Churches and the Catholic and Anglican bishops of the Sudan.
The availability of substantial oil revenues to the Khartoum government provides a major disincentive for them to search for peace. Thus what the House capital market prohibition wisely does is to put effective pressure upon the Khartoum government to seek peace.
The Bush administration has made it clear that it opposes capital market sanctions, essentially on the grounds that the economy is thereby being "politicized." This thinking artificially divorces "the market" from societal needs and justice concerns. Every administration and every Congress crafts economic policy to serve particular political and social interests – often very narrow ones. To suggest that it is inappropriate to restrict access to US capital that will be used to sustain a tragic civil war does as much to reveal Bush values as any action his administration has yet taken.
Non-lethal aid to combatants
The Bush administration has just named former-Sen. John Danforth as its special envoy to the Sudan. There are plans to end the UN’s sanctions this month, and it appears that the US will undertake a mediation effort between the Khartoum government and the South. The particular thrust of this effort is unclear at this time, but the prohibition of capital market access may help contribute to the peace process and strengthen Sen. Danforth’s hand in negotiations with Khartoum.
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Under the pact, to be reviewed at the Commonwealth leaders' meeting in Australia in October, Britain and other donors would provide funds to compensate white farmers for the confiscation of their land, and the UN Development Program would help Zimbabwe design an "effective and sustainable land reform." In return, Zimbabwe’s government agreed to end illegal occupations of white-owned farms and to broaden political reforms, including ensuring freedom of expression, and taking firm action against violence and intimidation.
But many wonder if Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who was not in Abuja, will honor its provisions. In the three weeks since Abuja, ruling party militants have invaded at least 20 new farms and continued to mount attacks on political opponents of ZANU, especially after the main opposition party won the hotly contested election for mayor of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second largest city. After maneuvering to install a new pro-ZANU chief justice of the Supreme Court earlier this year, Mugabe in mid-September asked the Court to declare his government’s land reform program (and land seizures consistently declared illegal by lower courts) legal.
African leaders increasingly fear that Zimbabwe’s violence may spill across borders. Five Southern Africa presidents met with Mugabe immediately after Abuja to press for an end to illegal land seizures. They also hosted a non-public meeting between Mugabe and sectors of Zimbabwe’s civil society – including the head of the opposition MDC party Morgan Tsvangira. SADC will monitor a special committee that would include officials of Mugabe's government and the opposition MDC, tasked with initiating a national dialogue on how to resolve the ongoing crisis.
The Abuja pact may have pre-empted imposition of international economic sanctions for the moment, but preventing the imminent collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy will require more than a land deal, notes the UN news agency IRIN. Zimbabwe’s economy will likely shrink as much as 8% in 2001. The cost of most basic commodities has surged by over 300% since June, when the price of fuel rose 70%. Most prices are now rising by an average 25% a week.
In addition to disruption of food production by the illegal land seizures, reports state that many Zimbabweans face "desperate" food shortages due to a bad harvest and deepening poverty that has exhausted household coping mechanisms. While the government says it only needs 100,000 tons of imported maize to cover Zimbabwe's food requirements up to next year, other food experts estimate it will need 700,000 tons.
Opposition to Mugabe is growing. Zimbabwe’s labor movement has threatened more mass work stoppages unless the government seriously grapples with the economic crisis. The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) also threatened mass action if the government refused to guarantee free and fair presidential polls scheduled for 2002.
Zimbabwe continues to be mired in the war in the Congo. A Global Witness report says that Mugabe
recently struck the world’s largest logging deal with DRC President Kabila. If Zimbabwe raises the
capital, it may be poised to harvest 33 million hectares of prime rainforest, estimated to cover
about 15% of the DRC or an area almost 1.5 times the area of the UK.
Obstacles to NGO efforts... Hindrances to achieving better anti-HIV/AIDS policies and higher aid commitments have been many:
!Re the Global Fund for AIDS, TB and Malaria proposed by UN Sec-Gen Kofi Annan -- both the President and Congress have backed meager levels of financing for the Fund.
!Re poor countries’ access to generic anti-HIV/AIDS drugs -- the Administration views unhindered access as a violation of patent property rights under WTO guidelines, despite poor countries’ efforts to ensure that these rules do not harm public health.
!Re accountability and transparency -- officials of the newly formed Office of National AIDS Policy are refusing to share names of those attending its inter-agency discussions on the UN Fund, and indicate the US will act bilaterally, not multilaterally, on this issue.
!Re proliferating HIV/AIDS legislation -- The high number and diversity of anti-HIV/AIDS bills has confused many activists and ordinary citizens as to which one(s) stand the best chance of being passed and effectively impacting the global AIDS/HIV crisis.
What we can do...
!Re use of Global Fund resources: Urge that the US continue to back an integrated approach on prevention, care, support and treatment when programming Fund resources
!Re debt cancellation: Urge the US to back canceling 100% of the debts owed to the IMF and World Bank by poor countries, especially those most impacted by HIV/AIDS.
!Re transparency and accountability: Urge greater access to the workings of the Interagency Task Force on HIV/AIDS and to those shaping US AIDS policy. The role of pharmaceutical companies in setting Global Fund policies needs to be clarified.
!Re US trade policies, intellectual property rights and access to anti-HIV/AIDS drugs -- Sign the global petition to end US trade policies that keep AIDS medications from people in impoverished countries. Visit <http://www.oxfam.org.uk/e-campaigns/unclesam/uspetition.html> to sign the petition.
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