Around Africa
April 2002 
A Publication of the Africa Faith and Justice Network


 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction
African NGOs Mobilize for Farmers' Rights
Action Alert
Mobilizing a Local Parish for Africa
Togo - Inching Toward the End of an Era
Madagascar - Political Face-Off Continues
New Partnership for Africa's Development




DEAR AFJN MEMBERS AND FRIENDS:  

As globalization continues apace, it is generating many changes largely unnoticed by much of the general public.  I want to address four of them.

 

First, the current increase in the US military budget reflects a conscious policy change in American military doctrine, posture and structure, not just the growing weight of the US in world  affairs.  In 2001, the US accounted for 36% of the world’s military expenditures; that proportion will grow to 40% in 2002.  One area to be watched is how this policy change will shape the announced review of the African Crisis Response Initiative.

 

 Second, the March Conference on Financing for Development in Mexico was designed to strengthen the role of the IMF, World Bank and WTO in managing the global economy.  The June G-8 Summit in Canada and the September World Conference on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in South Africa will likely reinforce their dominance, based on the trilogy of ‘open-market, private sector and profit’, and thus undermine economic self-determination in the emerging global society, especially in Africa.

 

 Third, Jeune Afrique magazine reported that 10 developing countries have experienced a steady 3 to 4% annual economic growth over the past decade, including two African countries:  Mauritius (7th) and Tunisia (9th).  The combined population of all 10 countries is close to 3 billion, i.e., half of the world population. While the US should support this positive development, it also needs to be committed to helping those nations left behind, most of which are in Africa.

 

Fourth, Africa’s small holder farmers face immense challenges just to survive. One direct threat is posed by the patenting of seeds, which would deny Africans the rights to their collective indigenous knowledge and technologies.  Patenting seeds and other genetic material also begs a fundamental question: "who has the right to own life?"  Life in all its forms is part of the integrity of creation and should be the inheritance of all, not a source of profit for the few. 

 

Marcel Kitissou, Ph.D
AFJN Executive Director  
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AFRICAN NGO'S MOBILIZE FOR COMMUNITY
& FARMER RIGHTS

By Larry J. Goodwin

 

On 01-08 March 2002, I was privileged to represent AFJN and the Africa Trade Policy Working Group* (ATPWG) at a meeting on community and farmer rights, which was held at the Valley Trust, 1,000 Hills, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa.  Forty-three participants took part, representing 31 NGO and professional groups from 12 African countries, and Asia, Latin America, North America and Europe.  We met to support the rights of African local communities and farmers to sustainable agriculture, food security and sovereignty, bio-diversity, indigenous knowledge and technologies.

 

Background:  As Around Africa readers know, AFJN has helped lead a 2-year effort to persuade the US Government (USG) to back the rights of African farmers to freely access, use, save, exchange and sell their seeds, plants and food crops.  Global trade policies that mandate the patenting of these agricultural resources threaten African farmers’ food security and livelihoods.  Multinational pesticide and agribusiness companies, many from the US, have already laid claim to seeds and plants that Africans developed and have used for generations.  By asserting exclusive rights over these agricultural resources – often termed “biopiracy” – the companies are in a position to deny local farmers access to them, or to exact fees for their use. 

 

 In another twist to the issue, international trade rules favor multinational companies introducing genetically altered seeds and plants (Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs) into developing countries.  This raises serious concerns for Africa about GMOs’ effects on biodiversity (contamination/replacement of local species), development (cost to farmers of using these untested technologies and their chemical inputs) and land ownership (GMOs induce large-scale industrial agriculture, which spurs land consolidation to the detriment of small holder farmers). 

 

 The USG aggressively backs the patenting of living organisms (including seeds, plants and crops) and the dissemination of GMOs, where US companies hold the international research and marketing edge. The USG is the chief opponent of Africa’s attempts to overturn WTO provisions requiring the patenting of life forms.

 

  Africa’s response:  One of Africa’s most innovative responses to the threats its sustainable agriculture faces is the formulation of African Model Legislation for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders, and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources, or simply African Model Law.  This instrument, initiated by the African Union (formerly Organization of African Unity), seeks to introduce the principle of community rights over agricultural resources into international law in contrast to the present sole recognition of individual/corporate rights.  The African Union has reaffirmed its commitment to the African Model Law at two high-level   meetings, and it is urging individual African countries to incorporate it into national law.

 

AFJN and its colleagues in the Africa Trade Policy Working Group, backing this critically important African initiative, have launched a series of efforts to bring African farmers’ rights to the USG’s attention.  In 2000, we organized an on-going international sign-on campaign for the Declaration of Support for African Smallholder Farmers that now has nearly 400 endorsers [see http://afjn.cua.edu/GRI-Declaration for the text and list of endorsers].  In November 2001, we worked closely with Rep. Maxine Waters’ (D-CA39) to introduce a resolution (H. Con. Res. 260) into the House of Representatives upholding the principles of the African Model Law [see Action Alert].  We are currently trying to get a companion resolution introduced into the Senate, and we have initiated an organizational sign-on letter to Congress urging passage of the resolution [see Action Alert on page four].

 

The South Africa meeting:  In view of the key role the USG is playing in this issue and AFJN/ATPWG efforts to generate support for the African Model Law, African partners invited me to attend the South Africa meeting.  I came away greatly impressed by the caliber of the participants, mostly from African grassroots organizations highly committed to community rights, sustainable agriculture and the protection of indigenous knowledge, especially related to food and medicinal plants.

 

There was keen awareness of the role local agriculture plays in African culture, family life and livelihood systems.  Food security and sovereignty figured prominently in our concerns, as did the importance of enhancing the viability of sustainable agriculture.  We agreed strongly on the threat GMOs, patenting and the resultant corporate control of agriculture pose to community and farmer rights; we affirmed the need to expand the capacity of farmers to employ sustainable agricultural techniques and to participate in local, national and regional policy decisions. 

 

Each country group devised strategies for on-going action.  The African NGOs committed themselves to intensified collaboration with partner groups to lobby their legislatures and regional bodies in support of community and farmer rights.  They laid plans to liaise with farmer and community organizations to create awareness of how GMOs and patenting living organisms could undermine sustainable agriculture, community rights, food security and biodiversity. 

Participants placed considerable emphasis on the UN’s Aug/Sep 2002 Earth Summit (World Summit on Sustainable Development, or WSSD) – the follow-up to the 1992 Rio Summit – that will devise and promote international environmental and development policies.  We agreed to contact our delegates to the summit, urging inclusion of the principles of the African Model Law in the final declaration.  There is great concern that proponents of market-style globalization, who oppose community rights over agriculture, are steering the summit away from initiatives such as the African Model Law.  NGOs from many developing countries are organizing an alternative “People’s Summit” to coincide with the WSSD as a way to make their positions known to the delegates and media on critical issues like community rights, sustainable agriculture and food security.

 

A major outcome of the meeting was the Valley of 1,000 Hills Declaration [See http://afjn.cua.edu/VTH Declaration].  This statement sums up the principal concerns and commitments that came out of our discussions.  We agreed to circulate the declaration widely, using it as an educational and lobbying tool to advance African community and farmer rights.

 

 We face monumental challenges from USG and WTO policies, multinational corporations and even UN bodies in mobilizing support for including community and farmer rights in international law and agreements.  The stakes are high, and the only real hope for successfully resisting the economic and political forces seeking to privatize and control the seeds, plants and crops on which food security rests is the combined efforts of citizens and grassroots groups committed to community rights and sustainable agriculture.  That is the urgent message I brought home from the Valley of 1,000 Hills.

 

Play your part by joining AFJN and the Africa Trade Policy Working Group in urging Congress to support H. Con. Res. 260 - the AFRICA Resolution.  See Action Alert below.

 

* ATPWG is part of the Advocacy Network for Africa (ADNA), a coalition of nearly 200 US-based NGOs that seek a greater focus on human rights and economic justice in US policy toward Africa.


Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN  
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  MOBILIZING A LOCAL PARISH FOR AFRICA
By Rev. Fidele Dikete, CICM

 

For the past year I have been serving as a transitional deacon at St. Anthony’s of Padua Catholic Church in Falls Church, Virginia.  As an African and an AFJN  intern, I am moved by Africa’s dramatic and inhuman situation.  I worked with Father Tuck Grinnell, St. Anthony’s Pastor, to identify appropriate ways for the parish to respond to the US Catholic Bishops’ November 2001 statement, “A Call to Solidarity with Africa.”  We decided to organize a series of three introductory lectures on Africa, which has led to setting up an Africa Support Group committee for the parish.

 

I began by writing a 2-page insert in the parish bulletin inviting parishioners to join me for the lectures.  AFJN Policy Analyst Carole Collins offered the first talk with an overview of “Africa and its challenges: HIV/AIDS, regional conflict, democratization, and the impact of globalization.” Larry Goodwin, AFJN Associate Director for Organizing, spoke the following week on “How Global Trade is Threatening African Farmers.”  AFJN Executive Director Marcel Kitissou completed the series with a talk on “Style of Communal Conflict Resolution in Africa.”  Over 30 people registered for each lecture and actively participated in group discussion after the presentations.

 

At the conclusion of the series, seven participants volunteered to form an “Africa Support Group of St. Anthony of Padua Church” in order to deepen the parish’s engagement with Africa.  AFJN agreed to provide the group with initial educational assistance.  We discussed a Mission Statement for the group, ongoing education of parishioners about Africa, possibilities for twinning St. Anthony’s with an African parish, school or clinic and channeling assistance for HIV/AIDS.   

I am amazed by the way people responded to the lectures and to the Bishops’ call for solidarity with Africa.  Many were shocked to hear about Africa's many challenges and frustrations, and most vowed to do something constructive in response.  The lecture series raised tremendous awareness about and interest in Africa.  

 

I recommend this type of initiative to others.  Join AFJN in its efforts to advocate for just US economic and political policies that will benefit Africa's poor majority, facilitate an end to war, cancel Africa’s crushing debt, establish equitable trade and investment, combat HIV/AIDS, promote education of women and children and advance ecologically sound development.  We can do this!


Fidele Dikete is an intern at AFJN
 
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ACTION ALERT

 

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA35) has introduced the Agriculture and Farm Resources for the Indigenous Communities of Africa Resolution (the AFRICA Resolution - H. Con. Res. 260).  The AFRICA Resolution expresses the sense of Congress that African farmers' rights to access, save, use and exchange their seeds, plants, crops and other biological resources should be upheld under international trade law.  The resolution is consistent with the position of the Africa Group at the World Trade Organization that agricultural genetic resources should not be patented.   

  • Help protect African farmers' rights!  Urge your Congressional Representative to cosponsor H. Con. Res. 260 - the  AFRICA resolution - immediately [See http://afjn.cua.edu]

  • Ask your organization to add its name to the sign-on letter urging Congress to pass the AFRICA Resolution.  E-mail goodwin@afjn.org with your organizational endorsement  [See http://afjn.cua.edu].

  •  

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TOGO - INCHING TOWARD THE END OF THE EYADEMA ERA
By Paul Allyn
 

 

Togo’s transition to a multi-party democratic electoral system – and the replacement of Africa’s longest ruling president, Gnassingbe Eyadema – has again been put on hold.  On March 6 the Togolese government postponed the presidential election (rescheduled to March 10) for a third time, citing a ‘non-functioning” electoral commission boycotted by opposition forces as the main reason.  However, its surprise March 18 release of opposition leader Yaovi Agboyibo, jailed since August for allegedly denigrating Togo’s prime minister, renewed hopes that the political impasse might be resolved.    

 

The government and opposition groups have been at loggerheads since a disputed 1998 presidential election.  The1 999 Lome Peace Framework Agreement, brokered by the European Union, set up a joint election commission to oversee a new election.  But government efforts to unilaterally alter Togo’s electoral laws caused opposition leaders to refuse to serve on the commission, saying it would only legitimize an uneven electoral playing field.  A February 20 meeting of opposition leaders with President Eyadema in Lome failed to break the impasse.

 

President Eyadema’s rule has extended beyond that of any previous African president.  He came to power in a violent 1967 coup d’etat, imposing a one-party political system, and Togo has been a one-man state ever since.  When the Cold War ended, Togo’s former allies began to urge democratic reforms, term limits, and other electoral reforms.  But the US State Department characterized Togo’s subsequent  presidential elections of 1993 and 1998 as rife with “systematic fraud.”  A 1999 Amnesty International report went further, detailing the murder of hundreds of opposition supporters by Eyadema military allies during the ’98 elections.  The government halted the vote when the count showed Eyadema losing. 

 

Opposition parties have boycotted recent elections.  But with the release of Agboyibo and Eyadema’s possible cooperation, a multi-party democratic system may be on the horizon.

 
Paul Allyn is a student and AFJN intern from Georgetown University
 
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POLITICAL FACE-OFF CONTINUES IN MADAGASCAR
By Katie Donohoe
 

 

Over the past month Madacasgar’s rival Presidential candidates, incumbent Didier Ratsiraka and challenger Marc Ravalomanana, both continued to claim the presidency.  Ravalomanana, the only serious challenge to Ratsiraka in the December 2001 elections, claims that he won over 50% of the vote and is therefore the legal president.  Ratsiraka, however, claims that although Ravalomanana defeated him, he failed to win over 50% of the vote and thus must run in a second run-off election round.  Ravalomanana insists the vote counts were rigged, and that outside observers should be allowed to check the government results and ballots against those of civic and religious groups.    

 

After nearly a month of general strikes and failed OAU negotiated talks, Ravalomanana laid claim to power February 22 in a peaceful inauguration ceremony.  He quickly appointed a parallel government, naming a Prime Minister and cabinet.  His followers also took over all of the major government offices in Antananarivo, the nation’s capital, and clearly control the city.  Ratsiraka responded by moving his offices to Tamatave, a major east coast city and Ratsiraka stronghold, declaring the city the new capital.  Five out of six provincial governors have since expressed support for Ratsirake by recognizing Tamatave as the new capital and Ratsiraka as president.  Ratsiraka supporters also set up a roadblock on the road from Tamatave to Antananarivo, cutting off the supply of gas and other essentials to the capital.    

 

The crisis, largely peaceful until recently, has become increasingly violent:  twenty people have reportedly been killed in recent weeks.  Ethnic tensions, also on the rise, underlie some of the political divisions on the island.  Madagascar is home to eighteen ethnic groups, which speak dialects of a shared language.  Mr. Ravalomanana is a Merina, from an ethnic group found in the highlands that is widely considered to be the most prosperous and powerful.  Ratsiraka is a Betsimisaraka, from a group of coastal peoples.  Some view voting for Ratsiraka as a vote against the Merinas’ perceived political and economic domination. Others believe Ravalomanana is hesitant to participate in a run-off election because, if free and fair, he might lose.  Some who voted neither for Ratsiraka nor Ravalomanana in the first election round may vote for Ratisiraka to protest perceived Merina domination.    

 

Church and civil groups in and outside of Madagascar continue to urge the international community to support a comparison of the original ballots. Three different independent surveys assert that Ravalomanana did win more than 50% of the vote.  Allegations of human rights abuses by the Ratsirika government also have surfaced.  Meanwhile, the stalemate continues.  Latest reports indicate that Ravalomanana would be willing to reopen dialogue only if the roadblock is lifted, and Ratsiraka would consider new talks only if Ravalomanana ends the general strike.  Many, noting how much international attention has been given to Zimbabwe’s recent election, are frustrated by the lack of international pressure and of diplomatic efforts to solve Madagascar’s democratic crisis.


Katie Donohoe is Development Coordinator at AFJN
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THE NEW PARTNERSHIP FOR AFRICA’S DEVELOPMENT
By Marcel Kitissou
 

 

The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) grew out of the merger of two strategies proposed by African leaders to achieve Africa’s economic development: South Africa’s Millennium Partnership for Africa’s Recovery Program (MAP) and Senegal’s and Nigeria’s Omega Plan.  The Organization of African Unity approved this merged strategy last July as the New African Initiative (NAI).  NEPAD will be a major topic of discussion at the forthcoming July G-8 meeting in Canada and September World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg.  In preparation for the G-8 Summit, presidents and officials from up to 20 countries are meeting in Abuja (Nigeria) to discuss the three broad sections of a NEPAD committee report: vision and philosophy, strategy, and specific projects. 

 

The initial document assesses the state of Africa today, noting that: 

  • 340 million people live on less  than $1 per day

  • The mortality rate of African children under 5 years of age is 140 per 1,000

  • Life expectancy for Africans at birth is only 54 years

  • Only 58% of Africans have access to safe water

  • The rate of illiteracy among Africans over 15 is 41%

  • There are only 18 mainline telephones per 1,000 people in Africa, compared to 146 for the world in general and 567 for high-income countries

 

NEPAD proposes addressing these problems and promoting its economic recovery through: 

  • Promotion of intra-Africa trade Improvement of Africa’s negative image through conflict resolution and good governance

  • Encouragement of regional cooperation and integration

  • Tackling the pandemic of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other communicable diseases

  • Promotion of the role of women in social and economic development

  • Maintaining law and order

  • Creation of agro-industries and manufacturing units for domestic consumption as well as for exportation

  • Protection of small farmers through reducing poverty, promoting gender equity, providing  irrigation systems and using biotechnology

 

NEPAD also proposes to accomplish this with a clear timetable in specific areas. Examples are:

  • Boosting Africa’s GDP growth rate to above 7% per year for the next 15 years

  • Enrolling all African children of school age in primary schools by 2005

  • Protection of small farmers through reducing poverty

  • Promoting gender equity, providing  irrigation systems and using biotechnology

  • Reducing Africa’s maternal mortality ratios by 3/4 by 2015

  • Reversing the loss of environmental resources by 2015 

 

Some critics feel NEPAD did not emerge from a sufficiently democratic consultation with grassroots groups and movements across the continent to reflect a true African consensus on a strategy for sustainable development.  Others fear it is an instrument (and a bad one) for entrenching Africa more firmly in a global economy that is profoundly unequal and unfair, and that it is designed largely to benefit Africa’s economic elites rather than grassroots people.   

 

Others view it, even if flawed, as an important expression by Africans of their continental vision from "Cairo to Capetown," of their development needs, and of the kinds of support they seek internationally.    

 

Many feel that the election outcome in Zimbabwe poses a real political test for NEPAD among donors, since NEPAD argues that African governments are best placed to ensure democratic and good governance on the continent.  


Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director of AFJN

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