Around Africa
December 2003 
A Publication of the Africa Faith and Justice Network
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Editorial
Christmas Message
AFJN-Key 2003 Highlights
Africa-Update on Recent Events
Liberia
HIV/AIDS
AFJN-Looking toward 2004
AFJN-Recent Sign-Ons


  

DEAR AFJN MEMBERS & FRIENDS:

One of our biggest challenges is to find a way to ensure social, political and economic development in Africa, and devise approaches to peaceful resolution of conflict and building sustainable communities.

Have we ever thought of how to destroy a country? Samantha Power (Harvard University) gave us a recipe in “How To Kill A Country, Turning A Breadbasket Into A Basket Case In Ten Easy Steps-The Robert Mugabe Way” (Atlantic Monthly, Dec. 2003). To be sure, Zimbabwe has become a textbook case in that area.

(1) Destroy the engine of productivity. About 4,000 large-scale commercial farmers owned 70% of Zimbabwe arable land in 2000, the year the regime failed in a constitutional referendum (nearly 2/3 of those lands were bought after independence in 1980). A violent countrywide land grab began. (2) Bury the truth. The government downplays the country’s needs and fails to adequately combat starvation. (3) Crush dissent. 70,000 incidents of torture and abuses were recorded last year. (4) Legislate the impossible. Overabundance of laws can lead to lawlessness. Citizens cannot keep track of new and numerous economic edicts. (5) Teach hate. What is going on is every body’s fault except the government’s. (6) Scare off foreigners. No comments. (7) Invade a neighbor (the case of DRC). (8) Ignore a deadly enemy (1/3 of the population is HIV infected and life expectancy has dropped from 56 in the 70s to 35 today). (9) Commit genocide (the massacre of the Ndebele during the liberation war). (10) Blame the imperialists.

“Although Zimbabwe is as broken a country as any country on the planet, it offers a testament not to some inherent African inability to govern but to a minority rule as oppressive and inconsiderate of the welfare of citizens as its ignominious white predecessor” -- a lesson to be learnt by Africans and all those concerned with the continent’s development.

Marcel Kitissou, Ph.D
AFJN Executive Director
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CHRISTMAS MESSAGE
By Marcel Kitissou

 

On behalf of our staff and board of directors, I want to wish you an especially joyful Christmas this year. Given the state of the world in general and of Africa in particular, we need to take comfort in and heed the angels’ message to the shepherds that echoed across Bethlehem’s plains on the first Christmas (Lk:2,8-14). The world was a hard and insecure place then too, yet God’s word was of hope.

Three short years ago the New Millennium began with a burst of rhetoric about fresh beginnings, a new world order and a confident future. That promise appears to be in tatters after the events of 9/11 rocked our world and we find ourselves mired in two nasty wars, both dubious in purpose and outcome. Elsewhere the list of suffering and injustice seems endless, with local and regional conflicts still the scourge of the developing world, HIV/AIDS exacting its horrific toll, and a global economic system bent on profits, not people, that concentrates wealth and power in fewer and fewer hands.

“Peace on Earth!” Does that message still resound meaningfully for us? It does, and it must. The angels’ song was a pledge that God’s reign is real, that God’s presence is living among us. The birth of Jesus is God’s commitment to be with us forever, through thick and thin, always within reach and inexorably sowing the love that will heal our vulnerable lives of the self-destruction we inflict upon ourselves. And we see that love in our families and friends, in the heroes and heroines who untiringly work for peace, in those who keep vigil at the bedsides of HIV/AIDS victims, in people who quietly but persistently fight for human rights, in parents who do the best they can everyday and don’t give up.

At AFJN we have a part to play in God’s reign too. We take up the angels’ song every time we advocate for policies and resources to stop armed conflict, to uphold the rights of African farmers, to support the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to protect water as a fundamental human right, and when we demand that the WB and IMF cancel unjust debts of poor countries.

As we celebrate Christmas this year, let’s thank God for the promise of peace in Jesus’ birth. And let’s commit to be peacemakers ourselves; that’s the best present to bring to the manger. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Marcel Kittisou is Executive Director at AFJN
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AFJN-KEY 2003 HIGHLIGHTS
By Larry J. Goodwin and Marcel Kitissou

 

Congressional Actions
AFJN was a key NGO leader in developing two congressional actions. The Agriculture and Farm Resources for the Indigenous Communities of Africa Resolution (H. Con. Res. 269), upholding African farmers’ rights to their seeds, plants and crops, was introduced on 25 July; and the Water for People and Nature Resolution, which declares freshwater to be a fundamental human right, will be introduced in January 2004. AFJN will place a major focus on both of these initiatives during the next session of Congress. The Greenville Foundation and Society of the Holy Child Jesus supported AFJN’s work on these initiatives.

Additionally, AFJN heads up the Policy Committee of the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment (IWGTI), a DC-based coalition, which has drafted language for a congressional resolution on ethical principles of trade as part of a national Trade Justice Campaign about to be launched. IWGTI plans to have the resolution introduced in Congress early next year.

Issue Briefings
AFJN organized a series of briefings on conflict issues with the help of a grant from the Adrian Dominican Sisters -- on Liberia in the Post-Taylor Era at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in June; on Interlocking Conflicts: Liberia and the Mano River States at the Brookings Institution in July; and on Human Dimensions of Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Africa at the National Press Club in August. This series brought prominent experts and practitioners to provide analysis and recommendations on conflict resolution and peacekeeping operations in Africa.

The lessons drawn were two-fold: (a) there is no panacea for resolving conflict; every case is unique; (b) when it comes to practice, forget the theory.

AFJN brought certain experts from Africa for the briefings. Catherine Majtenyi, a free-lance journalist based in Nairobi, is AFJN Correspondent for East Africa. She also works for the Voice of America. In October, she joined Marcel to co-lead a workshop on The US Presence in Djibouti and the Horn of Africa at AFJN’s Annual Meeting, and presented a paper on Sudan Peace Talks at a Peace Studies Conference co-organized by Cornell University and Ithaca College.

Dr. Sultan Somjee is an Asian-African from Kenya. He was the curator and founder of the Mennonite Peace Museums Foundation in Nairobi and has recently settled in Vancouver, Canada. As a guest of AFJN, he spoke at the Catholic Task Force on Africa in Washington, DC, at Cornell University Institute for African Development and at Utica College of Syracuse University on East African Indigenous Mechanisms of Peacekeeping and how they can be used for community building and sustainable economic development.

We are very grateful to the President of Utica College, Dr. Todd Hutton, for sponsoring Dr. Sultan Somjee’s visa and for organizing a formal dinner to honor him and AFJN’s Executive Director.

AFJN 20th Anniversary Celebration
Members came from all over the country to celebrate AFJN’s 20th anniversary, entitled “Sankofa: Looking Back, Moving Forward,” which was held from 10-12 October at the Dominican Retreat House in McLean, VA. Throughout two packed days of speakers, discussions, workshops and business meetings, members found time to worship, sing, dance and share in an African-style feast. Archbishop Michael Francis of Liberia and Sr. Teresa Okure, SHCJ, of Nigeria headlined the events’ special guests, who also included Luc Coppejans, M.Afr., from Belgium and Cathy Majtenyi from Nairobi. The AFJN Annual Award was presented to the Adorers of the Blood of Christ in honor of the five American sisters who were murdered in Liberia in 1992.

Members also took the occasion to recognize and thank AFJN’s four former Executive Directors for their valuable contributions in helping the organization grow and evolve. All of them are still actively engaged in social justice advocacy on behalf of Africa. [See AA, Oct-Nov 2003]

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing and Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN
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AFRICA-UPDATE ON RECENT EVENTS
By Phil Reed, M.Afr.

 

Dated 04 November 2003 -
Liberia -- There seems to be a lot of fragile peace around the continent. Peace, fragile or not, is progress. Liberia made the transition to a new interim government early in October headed by Gyude Bryant, a businessman who remained in Monrovia throughout the years of war. The transitional assembly elected a founding member of LURD as its new speaker. Radio stations began broadcasting once again. Things are looking up in Monrovia but rural areas are still unstable, awaiting peacekeeping forces that are due after the New Year.

Cote d'Ivoire -- In neighboring Cote d'Ivoire the peace process stuttered a little, requiring the intervention of the Presidents of Nigeria and Ghana. Both men flew to Abidjan to meet with President Gbagbo and attempt to put the process back on solid ground. Attention on Liberia had distracted everyone from Cote d'Ivoire, which still has very serious issues to address. Obasanjo and Kufuor are trying to get Gbagbo to take action on constitutional reform (to allow Ivorians of mixed parentage to occupy top government posts), revision of the nationality law (making it easier for immigrants to obtain full Ivorian nationality) and enactment of new laws on land ownership.

Burkina Faso - Burkino Faso felt the political waves of the region when a coup was attempted there. Sixteen people were arrested, including the leader of an opposition party, a move interpreted by opposition parties as an attempt to intimidate them. The Prosecutor General accused foreign governments of being involved without naming them. However he did accuse the coup plotters of meeting with officials in Cote d'Ivoire and Togo. One of the mutineers, born in Cote d'Ivoire, died in custody.

Nigeria - Nigeria has begun complying with the International Court of Justice ruling of one year ago to give up areas in the northeast to Cameroon. They expect to be out of the region by the end of the year. The other disputed area between the two countries is the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula. President Obasanjo has so far refused to comply with that part of the order. There is so much oil in Nigeria that it can even be 'rustled.' The Nigerian navy intercepted a Russian-registered vessel filled with allegedly stolen crude, siphoned off of pipelines in the Niger Delta. It is estimated that 20,000 barrels a day are stolen from the Delta's swamps, with each stolen cargo worth about $10 million.

Mauritania - Mauritania may be moving into the oil world by 2006. Conservative estimates say that the country could earn $100 million a year by 2008. A successful testing took place at an appraisal well offshore, where there is no need for expensive pipelines and no hassle with nosey civil society groups.

Sao Tome and Principe have accepted bids from 20 companies wishing to exploit the nine offshore blocks controlled by the state and Nigeria. Sao Tome would get 40% of the proceeds. Many of the big oil players bid on the blocks convinced that the country sits on billions of barrels of oil. The recently nearly overthrown President of Sao Tome promised to be open and accountable with the new oil wealth.

DRC -- Meanwhile, allegations of plundering in the Congo (DRC) were published in a report to the UN Security Council. Human rights groups called for a probe of multinational companies and some neighboring countries. UN officials fear that naming the countries will jeopardize the DRC peace process. UN peacekeepers took up positions for the first time outside Bunia. Over the next few weeks they hope to spread out into areas that have seen bloody clashes between the Hema and the Lendu as recently as early October. At the same time MONUC complained that its military observers are not free to go everywhere in the East. It seems that Rwandan soldiers or proxies are keeping them from certain areas. In a hopeful move Ugandan and Congolese ministers signed a document pledging to "normalize relations, regulate eventual differences through dialogue and diplomatic talks, and interrupt support given to rebel formations." The Congolese minister who signed the document had been allied with both Kampala and Kinshasa during the war.

Uganda -- In October the Ugandan President and all his ministers had to publicly declare their financial assets. Apparently, no one had profited from the war in the Congo! The declarations are open to public scrutiny, but whistle blowers can go to jail if their challenge is considered to be in bad faith.

Burundi -- Another shaky peace quivers in Burundi. Mozambique provided 217 troops, funded by the UK, to bring the total number of peacekeepers to over 2,800. However fighting persists, even around the capital, Bujumbura, and many citizens are fleeing. Meanwhile, an African Regional summit set to take place in Dar-es-Salaam to discuss the peace process was postponed by two weeks without explanation. Three hundred thousand Burundians have lost their lives in the ten years of war.

Sudan -- Yet another peace process is moving forward in Sudan. Both parties committed to ending the civil war by the end of the year. Serious issues remain, including whether Islamic law will apply in Khartoum, how oil revenue is to be shared, what type of international supervision will take place, and the status of three central areas. Colin Powell pushed hard to get the agreement and was a little more optimistic than the parties themselves. Meanwhile, the USA extended sanctions on Sudan for another year. Sudan became the 140th state to ratify the anti-mine convention. Elsewhere, the first newspaper in a generation has been launched in southern Sudan. It's first 20,000 copies were flown into the South with the headline "Peace in our Time."

Zimbabwe -- President Mugabe of Zimbabwe is apparently still in good health. He was not in a hospital in South Africa, as reported, but at a Cabinet meeting in Zimbabwe, though he may have 'visited' South Africa. That story was provoked by media reports that Mugabe had collapsed at the end of October. His country continues on a downward spiral with devastating hospital strikes, continued harassment of the media, and suffering caused by the land reform.

Pharmaceuticals -- Bill Clinton burst upon the African scene again in October when his foundation brokered a deal with four pharmaceutical companies to lower the prices of their AIDS drugs for nine Caribbean and four African countries. The treatment would cost 40 cents a day. Mozambique, Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa would benefit. South Africa's Competition Commission recommended that Glaxo pay a penalty equivalent to 10% of its annual drug sales for failing to make AIDS drugs available to the poor. Another recommendation was that Glaxo and its rival Boehringer be obliged to let generic drug makers produce cheap copies of their AIDS medications in return for royalties. The ruling will now be referred to the Competition Tribunal, which can enforce the recommendation.

Horn of Africa -- A final peace process that stumbled recently was in the Horn of Africa. The demarcation of the border, decided by the independent Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, was to have taken place by mid-October. Ethiopia, however, still refuses to accept the ruling that gives the town of Badme to Eritrea. Ethiopia is ready to demarcate other areas in the meantime, but Eritrea will not engage in dialogue with Ethiopia until the demarcation is complete.

Phil Reed is Chair of AFJN's Board of Directors
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LIBERIA
By Marcel Kitissou

 

In November, 2003 the news broke out that, while approving a presidential bill, the USA Congress appended a clause placing a ransom of $2 million on Charles Taylor, the former Liberian dictator, to bring him to the Special Court in Sierra Leone. Taylor is currently living in Calabar, Nigeria, surrounded by close family members, personal guards and servants. The UN asked donors to assist Liberia with $137 million for humanitarian aid next year. The Liberian Catholic Church said that a war crimes court should be established to prosecute gross abuses of human rights committed after August 18 (signing of the peace agreement in Ghana). Others, such as the World Wide Mission of Liberia, are requesting the organization of a National Conference on reconciliation. Cessation of wide-spread violence, thanks to the international community, does not end the conflict. It only creates the conditions for Liberians to collectively address and resolve their own conflict.


Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN
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HIV/AIDS
By Larry J. Goodwin

 

As of this writing, House and Senate conferees have agreed upon appropriations totaling $2.4 billion to confront HIV/AIDS for 2004. Several months ago President Bush signed the USA Leadership against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Act, which authorized $3 billion in spending in 2004. In spite of that, the white house only sought around $2 billion, including research funds, for Fiscal Year (FY) 2004.

The $2.4 billion appropriations figure means that the House and Senate are prepared to appropriate $400 million more than the White House wants, most of which will go to the Global Fund - an effective multilateral effort to fund global HIV/AIDS initiatives.

Even so, that higher figure is still inadequate for the crisis. Nor does it reflect the USA's fair share, which is usually pegged at one-third of need, based on the typical USA share in multinational initiatives and less than its GNP percentage of the global economy.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
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AFJN-LOOKING TOWARD 2004
By Larry J. Goodwin and Marcel Kitissou

 

2004 looks to be a challenging year for AFJN. Among the many items on which we will place our energies, here are four that will feature prominently on our agenda:

Small Arms Trafficking
Globalization has many tentacles. This includes the scourge of illicit small arms trafficking. “Numbering in the hundreds of millions, these weapons take…an estimated 500,000 lives per year, stunt economic growth, and perpetuate the lawlessness upon which terrorists and other criminals thrive.” The case of Eastern Europe dumping their stockpile of Soviet era weapons on Africa is well known. Less so are trans-oceanic transactions among illegal groups and dealers. Matthew Schroeder of the Federation of American Scientists documented one case. In January 2001, Aziz Nassour, a Sierra Leonean arms and diamonds trafficker, e-mailed Shimon Yelenik, an Israeli arms dealer operating out of Panama, listing weapons he wanted for clients in Africa, e.g. Charles Taylor, the RUF in Sierra Leone, and even Osama Bin Laden’s network. Ultimately, the deadly arsenal was not delivered. Unfortunately, other attempts have proven successful. AFJN will work closely with AEFJN in 2004 to address this important issue.

International Military Education and Training (IMET)
Response to terrorism has led to significant policy changes in USA foreign affairs. As a consequence, IMET has become a dominant feature in USA foreign policy. Some implications of this change are increasingly a matter of concern. One is the prominence of the Department of Defense over the State Department in determining foreign policy. Military training and transfer of technology are becoming principal tools of diplomacy and, for receiving countries, including in Africa, almost a substitute for economic development. A second concern is the role of the Defense Department, which has fewer constraints (with respect to human rights in particular) than the State Department, in implementing these programs. There are currently more than 270 IMET training sites in the USA. AFJN and others are creating a working group to monitor their effects on Africa.

Ecumenical Advocacy Days - March 2004
Under the theme “I will feed them with Justice,” next year’s Ecumenical Advocacy Days event follows on a successful initiative in February 2003 that brought over 300 people to Washington to lobby members of Congress on social justice. In 05-08 March 2004, AFJN and the other major sponsors want to double that number, equipping participants to advocate on a wide-range of issues related to Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. Economic justice, especially trade and debt, and nuclear disarmament, will feature prominently on the agenda.

AFJN is helping plan the program, which will include nationally and internationally known speakers, plus workshops, plenaries and advocacy training, in addition to worship and a special banquet dinner. We are urging strong AFJN representation at the event. Please see the brochure you received with the Oct-Nov newsletter.

Just Trade
Few issues today touch on economic justice as directly as trade. Globalization has meant the concentration of power in the hands of formidable international institutions and multi-national corporations in league with governments worldwide. AFJN has taken on aspects of trade through its work on African farmers’ rights and the right to water. While continuing that important focus, our attention next year will center on two critical items. One is the proposed Free Trade Agreement with five countries in southern Africa known as FTA-SACU. A lot is riding on this agreement, now being negotiated, in terms of agriculture, access to essential medicines and control of services and investments, as it will serve as a model for other regional agreements in Africa. A second is the Trade Justice USA Campaign, which AFJN is helping organize. It will cover important points on AFJN’s agenda as well as things like fair trade in coffee and cocoa.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing and Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN
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RECENT AFJN SIGN-ONS By Larry J. Goodwin

 

In the past several months AFJN has signed onto a number of letters and statements linked to our agenda from partner organizations. We do not have space to list them all, but here is a sampling of some of them.

16 May 03 - Letter to President Bush from the Advocacy Network on Africa urging support for cancellation of external debt so as to increase resources for fighting the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

06 June 03 - Letter to Congress from DC-based NGOs about foreign aid appropriations covering Africa, HIV/AIDS, debt, Latin America, and Middle East issues, making the basic point of lack of attention in budget priorities to satisfying human needs, which is essential as a step towards "authentic security."

24 July 03 - Letter to President Bush from the Advocacy Network on Africa urging him to support efforts to end the Liberian crisis, work alongside any multi-national operation in the case of USA troop deployment, ensure that the operation was adequately resourced and had a clear mandate that included protection of civilians and the opening of humanitarian access for United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations. It also urged effective disarmament of all combatants and accountability for war crimes.

16 October 03 - Letter to Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) from the Water for All Campaign and a range of consumer, environmental, human rights, faith, labor and solidarity groups, urging her to introduce a Congressional Resolution protecting water as a public trust and a fundamental human right.

03 November 03 - Letter to Presidential Candidates including President Bush from Health GAP (Global Access Project), urging them to endorse a 9-point platform pledging to address the global AIDS crisis. The platform commits candidates to support treatment programs, debt cancellation, provide 33-percent of the Global Fund’s needs and support access to less expensive generic drugs.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
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MERRY CHRISTMAS!