Around Africa
August-September 2003 
A Publication of the Africa Faith and Justice Network
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Editorial
Liberia at the Crossroads
African Farmers Resolution
President Bush's Trip to Africa
Bush Visit Humiliates Senegal
Bottom of the Barrel: Africa's Oil
Africa in Brief
Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate


  

DEAR AFJN MEMBERS & FRIENDS:

The last couple of months have been event-rich in Africa. Among other things, Charles Taylor left Liberia and found refuge in Nigeria. In Ivory Coast, government and rebel armed forces signed a peace agreement on July 4th. In the DRC a two-year transition began on June 30 (the 43rd anniversary of Congo’s independence) with the formation of a Government of National Unity. All three cases featured peace agreements among combatants. Will politicians follow?

At times, when communal conflict becomes intractable, people have to decide a date for a new beginning of their collective history. To that effect, leaders also have to provide and promote a new common vision.

In a document, Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy (summary in 9/03 Atlantic Monthly), the World Bank reviewed 52 such conflicts from 1960 to 1999. The study concludes that the roots of civil strife are more economic than ethnic: in a given five-year period, a low income country has a 17.1 % chance of falling into civil war. That risk drops to 12.3 % if 2 % of economic growth is sustained for a decade. Economic diversification is also an important factor. If primary- commodity exports (oil particularly) account for 10% or less of the GDP, the risk is reduced to 11 % but rises to 33 % when such exports exceed 30% of the GDP. Similarly, societies with dominant ethnic groups are more likely to fall into civil war compared to those so diversified that no single group can dominate.

All things considered, history is the one single best predictor of the likelihood of civil war. “A country that has just emerged from a civil war runs a 44 % risk of return to conflict within five years”.

It is my view that mechanisms of transitional justice (the International Penal Court included) are important in bringing closure to the past and new hopes for the future.

Marcel Kitissou, Ph.D
AFJN Executive Director
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Liberia at the Crossroads
By Bankole Thompson

The good news is that Charles Taylor is out of Liberia and the rebel factions in the protracted battle have signed a peace deal. The deal provides for a power-sharing administration to come into effect in October 2003 that will usher the country into democratic elections in 2005. This means that Liberia now has the potential to return to peace and the rule of law. Should all factions in the scramble for power - including the army Taylor left behind - lay down their arms, the country could make a fresh start.

The bad news is that the peace accord will remain fragile as long as the LURD and MODEL rebels and the government of Moses Blah continue to fight over sensitive Cabinet portfolios in the National Transitional Government. The issue of power and who wields it always take central stage in the conflicts that have ravaged Africa. Liberia is manifesting the potentially dangerous symptoms of a power vacuum often created by state failure.

Even though Taylor has gone, it is not clear how much influence he has on Blah’s running of the country or on the armed forces. His remark, “God willing I will be back,” while boarding a plane to asylum in Nigeria contained menacing overtones.

The jubilation in Monrovia’s streets demonstrated that Liberians breathed a sigh of relief at seeing one of Africa’s most ruthless warlords removed. But the litmus test for the government and the rebels will be in the coming days and months ahead. There is no gainsaying that Blah, Taylor’s former second-in-command, must decide between the Liberian people and his former boss. Where his allegiance lies will largely determine how far the country will go in achieving peace and reconstruction. The rebel groups must understand that they stand to remake the country or destroy it further. And since their argument for fighting Taylor was that he was destroying the country, now that he is gone they have to lay down their weapons. All parties to the conflict must work together with civil society for a government of national unity.

For too long Liberians have suffered, not because they deserve it but because of unchecked despotism. Not because they chose suffering in place of peace but because of greedy politicians who saw political leadership as a birthright. This is the tragedy of African politics exemplified by Liberia.

Many wonder why the US, with its close historic ties to Liberia, did not step up to the plate when the insurgence began in 1990. To avert a bloodbath in Liberia and a recurrence of 1990, many influential voices now call on the US to take a leadership role in the peacekeeping effort. By all indications Washington has no interest in such a role. While supporters of the administration say that the US is stretched thin with the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, critics argue that a fraction of the resources spent in those countries could assist Liberians in speedily restoring their nation.

AFJN supports a US peacekeeping and humanitarian role in Liberia if it is done in close cooperation with other international players, especially the UN and ECOWAS, and not carried out in unilateral fashion. With that stipulation, the US should commit to seeing through the process leading up to the installation of a legitimate government. It should help ensure the disarmament of combatants and safe corridors throughout the country for humanitarian aid to vulnerable populations. Finally, it should put the weight of its influence firmly behind the peace deal signed by all parties on 18 August 2003.

Bankole Thompson is a visiting journalist at AFJN
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AFJN’s vital initiative to secure African farmers’ rights to their seeds, crops and plants under USA trade policy continues unabated in the current 108th Congress. Working again in close collaboration with AFJN and our advocacy partners, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-35-CA) re-introduced the AFRICA Resolution (H.Con.Res. 269) into the House of Representatives on 25 July 2003. The issues it addresses are fundamental to African food sovereignty, economic rights and biodiversity -- farmers’ prerogative to freely safeguard, access, use, save, exchange and sell their seeds and crops over the claims of corporations and others to exert private ownership and control of them. This issue goes to the heart of globalization, trade and social justice.

Rep. Waters’ resolution again challenges the USA to respect and uphold the principles of the African Model Law, on which we have reported extensively in Around Africa, as the world’s trade leaders prepare to gather for another WTO Ministerial in Cancun, Mexico, beginning on 10 September. Smallholder farmers around the world have mobilized to fight for the future of ecological agriculture and against corporate control of the global food chain. Africans have provided a valuable tool for that struggle in the African Model Law.

Urgent Action -- urge your congressional representative to co-sponsor H. Con. Res. 269 - the AFRICA Resolution (Agriculture and Farm Resources for Indigenous Communities of Africa) ·Contact your representative by phone at 202/224-3121 ·Or write to your representative at: U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515

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SAMPLE LETTER TO CONGRESS

Representative _____________________ U.S. House of Representatives Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative _________________,

I strongly urge you to cosponsor the AFRICA Resolution (H. Con. Res. 269). This resolution upholds the rights of African farmers to freely safeguard, access, use, save, exchange and sell their seeds and crops.

International trade rules encourage corporations and individuals to claim exclusive rights over agricultural and natural resources in Africa. This threatens the ability of African farmers to ensure their food sovereignty, livelihoods and culture, and to safeguard Africa’s bio-diversity. Farmers’ rights to control and use their own seeds, crops and plants must be upheld by international law.

Agricultural resources are the common heritage of humankind. Please protect African farmers’ rights by cosponsoring H. Con. Res. 269 right away.

Respectfully,

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Background Trade Rules Threaten African Farmers' Rights -- Backed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) with strong support from the USA, patents and other forms of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) over African agricultural resources threaten the time-honored ability of local farmers to access, use and save their seeds and crops. IPRs put local food security and farm income at risk by taking away control of traditional resources from local farmers. The mono-cropping practices they engender threaten long-term harm to bio-diversity and encourage an industrial type of agriculture ill-suited to smallholder farmers and African patterns of land ownership.

The AFRICA Resolution -- Originally introduced in the previous Congress and based on the principles of the African Model Law, Rep. Waters’ resolution expresses the sense of congress that African farmers' rights should be upheld under international trade law.

The resolution is consistent with the position of the Africa Group of delegates to the WTO that seeds, plants, crops and other agricultural genetic resources should not be patented.

View the full text of the AFRICA Resolution on the Africa Faith & Justice Network website at http://afjn.cua.edu. AFJN is grateful to the Greenville Foundation for generously supporting our work on African farmers’ rights.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
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From July 7-12, 2003 President Bush traveled to Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Uganda and Nigeria on a 5-day visit. The view presented by the White House was crisp and neat - the US is fully engaged in helping Africans find peace, fight disease and build prosperity. People in Africa and elsewhere pointed to the many contradictions and complex motives behind the trip.

In announcing the itinerary, the White House set forth the President's Africa Policy: “In Africa, promise and opportunity sit side by side with disease, war and desperate poverty. This threatens both a core value of the United States - preserving human dignity - and our strategic priority - combating global terror.” The strategy was to focus on bilateral engagements with influential countries, build coalitions for conflict mediation and peace operations, and strengthen those states and sub-regional organizations open to reform.

Later, the President spelled out his agenda before the Corporate Council on Africa, a group representing US corporate interests. It was to: 1) establish peace and security, 2) make health and literacy widely available, 3) develop free economies through aid and trade. Under the first goal the US would provide training and logistical support to African peacekeeping forces, including $100M over 15 years for counter-terrorism. Under the second the US would provide $15B over 5 years to fight AIDS, $1B for food emergencies and famine, plus $200M over 5 years for teacher training and scholarships. Under the third the US would provide $10B in new development aid over 3 years with the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) [Not all of these monies are for Africa. AIDS money is for 12 African and 2 Caribbean countries. MCA money includes other poor countries in Latin America and Asia. Only 3 to 4 African counties are expected to qualify for MCA money in the first year, 2004].

In each country visited, President Bush reiterated his stated Africa policy. On Goree Island, he addressed human dignity and freedom by speaking of slavery and “how the struggles of African Americans against the injustices of slavery and segregation help redeem the promise of America’s founding.” In Pretoria, he spoke of President Mbeki’s critical role in promoting regional security to help achieve a peaceful change of leadership in Burundi, creating a transitional government in the Congo and working for the return of democracy in Zimbabwe. In Gaberone, he hailed Botswana as a model of economic reform with one of the highest sustained growth rates in the world. In Uganda, he spoke of President Museveni as a leader in the fight against AIDS, a strong advocate of free trade and a leader in resolving regional disputes. In Nigeria, he spoke of President Obasanjo’s commitment to trade and markets, to regional peace (Liberia) and his focus on education and battling AIDS.

Many people in Africa and elsewhere pointed out that Mr. Bush did not visit a single rural village or urban slum, or see the poverty and despair bred by centuries of oppression, war and disease. They saw the trip as reaching out to Africa in search of alternative oil supplies from those in the gulf and Middle East (Africa's share of US oil is now 17% and expected to reach 25% in 10 years).

There was no mention of canceling more of Africa’s $350B in debt, or reducing the $200B in US agricultural subsidies that are inconsistent with the President’s speeches on trade. Even the billions promised for AIDS were qualified by Mr. Bush’s appointment of a pharmaceutical executive as Global AIDS Coordinator and insistence on strict patent rules and intellectual property rights that make HIV/AIDS drugs too costly for the 30 million Africans infected with AIDS. And President Bush’s 2004 budget only calls for $1.6B for global aids. Will he now push the Appropriations Committees in Congress to give the higher amounts he promised in Africa?

Despite the slaughter of millions in civil wars funded by diamonds and oil, the US is slow in implementing the Kimberly Process and unsupportive of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. And ten African countries are liable for punitive measures imposed on countries that do not waive penalties on US citizens brought before the International Criminal Court.

This trip was not a signal that Africa is taking on new importance in US foreign policy. US interest has grown, but not necessarily out of compassion and justice. As Mr. Bush said during his last presidential campaign, “While Africa may be important it doesn’t fit into the national strategic interests, as far as I can see them.” If he changed his mind, the trip did not show it.

Peter Jacxsens is a volunteer at AFJN
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As in any politicized situation, Senegalese have diverse reactions to the Bush visit. But most of the reactions are negative. Descriptions of the visit are peppered with words like “humiliation” and the “rebirth of slavery”, as well as bitter remarks about how Bush came for his own political needs (African American votes) and paid little if any attention to African priorities like debt relief, fair trade, and peace-keeping.

Among the most deeply felt humiliations was the treatment of the residents of the tiny island of Gorée---a place mythologized as the “port of no return” due to its 18th century, red “slave house” with its famous one-way door onto the sea. The emotions evoked on a visit to this beautiful little house, where slavers lived on the second floor and their “chattel” awaited their fate on the first, are intense. Gorée has long been the site of pilgrimages for African Americans and others willing to confront the horrors of the Atlantic slave trade, including--most famously--the Clintons and the Pope. But none of Gorée’s visitors have evoked the deep anger Bush managed to stir up during his two-hour passage. In the name of security, all of the island’s 1200 residents were forced to evacuate their houses, leaving doors, windows, closets and even drawers open so that American dogs could sniff their belongings. People were forced to wait out the two-plus-hour visit in a small area used by local kids to play soccer. As one woman showed us the spot, she remarked acidly, “They put up barriers and put us inside to “decorate” the place.” (“On nous a ornés là-bas.”)

All this was done, of course, in the name of post-September 11th security. But surely, as the Senegalese put it, “les Américains ont exagéré”. U.S. warplanes circled above Dakar for the whole night preceding “The Visit.” Senegalese security forces were “demobilized” and replaced with Americans. Members of Parliament had to submit to a security search before coming anywhere near Bush.

Senegalese press coverage is full of outrage at American arrogance and hypocrisy. It galls people that President Bush brought his own food rather than eating African cuisine with President Wade and the seven other African presidents who gathered in Dakar to meet with him. But at this same dinner, he strongly recommended organically modified foods (highly controversial here) as a way to reduce “African famines”. Even worse, he “invited” African Heads of State to reduce their already almost non-existent agricultural subsidies to their poorest citizens---peasants struggling to survive international competition---while everybody here is aware that the U.S. agro-industries they have to compete with enjoy billions of dollars in “support” from the Bush administration.

Many, many Senegalese are angry with President Wade for allowing this level of humiliation. And also for knuckling under to the American demand that Senegal sign an agreement not to extradite Americans to the International Criminal Court. Was this a “requirement” for “The Visit?” The Presidency (sic) here is not talking, but people are openly wondering how much else was given away----besides their dignity.

Jeanne Koopman, Institut des Sciences de l’Environnement, Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar
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Is sub-Saharan Africa’s oil boom an “excrement of the devil” or a golden opportunity for improving the lives of the poor through increased investment in education, health, water, roads and agriculture? A recent report by Catholic Relief Services (CRS) co-authored by Ian Gary (CRS Strategic Issues Adviser-Africa) and Terry L. Karl (Professor of Political Science at Stanford University) addresses that dilemma.

By the end of this decade the continent will double its oil production capacity. Its share in US oil imports will rise to 25%. In the same period, over $50 billion (the largest investment in African history) will be spent on oil fields. According to CRS conservative estimates, governments will receive over $200 billion in oil revenues over the next 10-years.

This boom coincides with a period when foreign aid is falling and trade is touted as an instrument of poverty reduction. It therefore becomes a moral obligation and an economic opportunity to make the best use of the oil boom. The record of oil exporters in the Third World (Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East) shows that oil-dependence is a perilous path to development. In Africa, long-time producing countries have proven unable to convert oil wealth into broad-based poverty reduction. On the contrary, they have erupted in political unrest, conflict and war.

The report recommends transparency, accountability, fairness, democratic reforms and administrative capacity building for all oil stakeholders in Africa.

Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN
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Africa-In-Brief
By Bankole Thompson

Ivory Coast Government Moves to Integrate Army The Ivorian government has ordered the reintegration into the armed forces of all soldiers who took up arms in the recent rebellion, according to defense ministry officials. The move, seen as essential to maintaining stability in the country, came after the Ivorian Parliament voted unanimously to grant amnesty to all former rebel fighters.

Death of Foday Sanko The man who subjected Sierre Leone to a 10-year civil war, leaving behind thousands of women and children with amputated limbs, died July 29, 2003. The Libyan-trained Sanko was indicted by a Special United Nation’s court for being the mastermind behind one of Africa’s most brutal wars. He died rendering no information to the court.

Ethiopia Responds to UN Call to Help Liberia The government of Ethiopia has pledged to send troops to join the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia. Abadula Gemeda, Ethiopian Defense Minister, said the gesture is in response to the UN Refugee Council’s call for all African countries to support the UN peace mission in Liberia.

Togo President Grooms Son Inquiries into Togo President Gnassingbe Eyadema’s regime reached a crescendo when he placed his 37-year old son at the head of the country’s sensitive Ministry of Mines, Equipment, and Telecommunications. Rumors are rife in Lome that the president is grooming his MBA Yale graduate son Faure Essozinam Gnassingbe to replace him when he vacates power.

Amin’s Death Announced Idi Amin, remembered for unleashing a reign of terror in Uganda from 1971-1979, died August 17, 2003 in Saudi Arabia. During his reign, upwards of 400,000 Ugandans were said to have been killed or disappeared until a combined force of Ugandan exiles and the Tanzanian army flushed him out of power in April 1979.

Sudan Peace Talks Fail In Kenya, peace talks between Khartoum and the Southern Sudanese rebels have been postponed indefinitely according to press reports. Both sides failed to agree on an agenda, although much of the blame seems to rest on Khartoum’s intransigence. After a week of deadlock, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development adjourned the talks.

Bankole Thompson is a visiting journalist at AFJN
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The Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) is a religious congregation serving on all continents of the world. The Oblate journey began in 1816 when Saint Eugene De Mazenod founded a group of priests in France to minister to poor people living in rural areas.

Today’s Oblates remain dedicated to that mandate through different ministries such as serving victims of HIV/AIDS, refugees and migrants, and youth outreach. Oblates in many parts of the world offer their witness amidst conflict and extreme poverty.

Saint Eugene De Mazenod instructed his Oblates that “we must lead people to act like human beings first of all, and then like Christians, and finally, we must help them to be saints.” Oblates fulfill that commission through initiatives like the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, which coordinates OMI social justice advocacy. One of its main focal points is the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, an initiative that promotes just practices and policies by corporations in their worldwide operations.

Oblates protect the human and cultural rights of Indigenous people. They serve as pastors, animate Base Christian Communities and empower civic initiatives and development projects. This is their way of bringing Christ to others and making the world a better and more humane place in which to live.

George Ngolwe Kombe is an OMI seminarian interning with AFJN
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