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

 


TABLE OF CONTENTS

Editorial
USA Pushes FTA with Southern Africa
Urgent Action - HIV/AIDS
African & Middle East Activists Lobby Congress
Africa Social Forum: Response to Emerging Chaos
Zambia: Jesuits Ruffle GMO Feathers
Congregation of the Holy Spirit
Update: Child Soldiers Campaign


 

Dear AFJN members and friends:

 

Is Africa marginalized in the world economy?  A “yes” answer seems to be self-evident. Discussions at the Africa and the Middle East Advocacy Days Conference that just took place in Washington, DC support that idea.

 

However, Carolyn Nordstrom of the University of Notre Dame challenged that perception at her workshop on Resource Looting and African Conflicts.  Africa is not marginalized.  Its resources are central to the world economy and its marginalization needs to be qualified.  We both agreed that the real issue is to move Africa from pawn to player in the international arena.

 

The weeks to come will present a test in that matter if the war on Iraq materializes.  This March 2003, Guinea is assuming the presidency of the UN Security Council.  Angola and Cameroon are two other African voting members of that body.  And the UN Secretary General if from Ghana.

 

War or no war on Iraq, the political map of the Middle East is likely to change.  In Africa an on-going war in Ivory Coast is already changing the political map of West Africa.  The international community has barely noticed it.

 

In 1979 rumors had it that Emperor Bokassa of Central African Republic tortured children in the prisons of Bangui.  Under  intense pressure from the USA, France sent a 500-man commando unit to remove Bokassa from power.  A quarter century later, i.e. this year, the peace agreement between the parties in conflict in Ivory Coast was signed in Paris; and representatives of more than 50 African countries (out of 54) gathered – in Paris, not Addis-Ababa - to hammer out their position regarding Iraq - not Ivory coast.

 

Was the Paris communiqué really meant to promote international peace or to ensure a bright future for African dictatorships?  There comes the true marginalization of Africa in world affairs.

 

Marcel Kitissou, Ph.D.

AFJN Executive Director

Return to top of page

  

USA PUSHES FREE TRADE AGREEMENT WITH SOUTHERN AFRICA

By Larry J. Goodwin

 

In November 2002 the USA’s Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert B. Zoellick, informed the Senate and House of the Bush Administration’s intention to pursue negotiations establishing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.  This news holds enormous implications, not just for those countries but for the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, given that the agreement will likely constitute a model for future FTAs with other parts of the continent.

 

In light of FTAs the USA is already pursuing with other countries and regions, such as North, Central and South America, we fully expect the USA to use its negotiating clout with the SACU countries to pry open African markets more aggressively than ever for American businesses, privatize water, health services and education, and restrict labor and environmental oversight.  With its tremendous political and economic resources, the Bush Administration will be in a position to basically call the shots.

 

Zoellick’s letter makes clear the USA's intention to advance its own trade interests, offset EU trade advantages with Africa, push USA-based “Intellectual Property Rights” on medicine and agriculture, and combat restrictions on USA services firms.  Tellingly, Zoellick says that the USA will use its ongoing bilateral and multilateral development assistance and trade-related technical assistance to get SACU countries to support its version of the FTA.

 

The letter subtly but clearly signals USA intentions to foist genetically engineered food and cash crops on Africa, viz: the USA will "seek to eliminate SACU country practices that adversely affect USA exports of perishable or cyclical agricultural products." 

 

USA agricultural subsidies will be protected, while African and other subsidies are rejected, viz: the USA will "pursue a mechanism with SACU that will support achieving the USA objective in WTO negotiations of eliminating export subsidies on agricultural products, while … preserving USA agricultural market development & export credit programs."

 

Zoellick relates his plan to use FTA negotiations to advance American objectives at the WTO.  While the FTA strategy in one way circumvents the WTO by giving the USA an opportunity to push for more stringent trade conditions through regional agreements, it also sets precedents for the adoption of narrower rules at the WTO itself. 

 

All of this bodes ill for smallholder farmers and small-scale or fledgling African businesses, who will be ill-equipped to pit themselves against the economic might of American multinational corporations. 

 

On 17 December the Africa Trade Policy Working Group, which AFJN facilitates, sent a letter to Ambassador Zoellick, responding to a call for public commentary on the proposed southern African FTA.  We underlined the need for USA trade policy to flow from ethical principles [AA Aug/Sep 2001, pg. 5] such as human rights, primacy of the common good, authentic local participation and ecological protection.

 

We lifted up the need to safeguard African smallholder farmers’ rights as formulated in the Waters’ Resolution (H.Con.Res. 260), introduced in the last Congress [AA Nov/Dec 2001, pg. 3].  We stressed that agricultural genetic resources should remain in the public domain and that water is a basic human right to be treated as a public good and not a mere commodity. 

 

We noted that the bi-lateral trade agreement recently struck with Chile moves to strengthen protection for multinational patent holders at the WTO and expressed our fear that this same approach would characterize the FTA with southern Africa at the expense of local communities and farmers.

 

Action:  Write to Ambassador Robert B. Zoellick · USTR · 600 17th Street, NW · Washington, DC 20508.  Urge him to base USA trade negotiations with Africa on principles of human rights, the primacy of the common good and protection of the global ecosystem.

____________________

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN

Return to top of page

  

URGENT ACTION
Ask President Bush and Congress for Funding to Stop Global AIDS

 

This sign-on letter from the Advocacy Network for Africa, of which AFJN is an active member, calls on President Bush and Congress to support adequate funding for global AIDS programs.  It is especially urgent because the president seems to be backing away from promises he made to Africa during his January State of the Union Address. 

The letter needs as many organizational signers as soon as possible because Congress is making key decisions on this issue right now [re: AA Jan/Feb 2003, pg. 3].   

Dear President Bush and Members of the U.S. Congress:

 We are committed to a full-scale effort to stop the global AIDS pandemic in all regions of the World.  Inspired by President Bush's call for emergency action to combat the pandemic, we urge you to accelerate the funding so that there can be rapid implementation of comprehensive programs of prevention, care, treatment with lifesaving anti-retroviral drugs, and support for orphans and vulnerable children.

 

We call on you to provide $3.5 billion for FY 2004 to stop global AIDS.  Of this, $1.8 billion should go to new and existing bilateral AIDS programs, including at least $300 million for orphans and vulnerable children. The balance of $1.7 billion should go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria.  This portion for the Global Fund reflects the US share of the world economy.  We also call upon other donor nations to pay their fair share.

 

To ensure that the Global Fund can supports its third round of grants in October 2003, we urge that at least $500 million of the above $3.5 billion be provided as FY 2003 emergency supplemental funding.

 

In addition, we call for accelerated debt cancellation for countries heavily impacted by the AIDS pandemic so they can use their own resources to fund locally-determined poverty-reduction and AIDS programs.

 

Without bold investment now, projections are that up to 100 million people will become infected by 2007. The AIDS pandemic and its related causes in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, and elsewhere threaten to destabilize nations and undermine global security. We believe that taking immediate action to ensure adequate resources to combat AIDS, TB, and malaria is one of the best ways the US can exert leadership in a troubled world.

________________________

 

Note: Please e-mail your organization’s signature immediately to: ADNAsignon@globalaidsalliance.org

Return to top of page

 

AFRICAN AND MIDDLE EAST ACTIVISTS LOBBY CONGRESS

By Larry J. Goodwin

 

Washington, DC – From 23-26 February nearly 300-activists gathered at National City Christian Church to participate in a special “Africa and Middle East Advocacy Days” event organized by AFJN, Washington Office on Africa, Church World Service, Lutheran Stand with Africa Campaign and Churches for Middle East Peace.  It marked a unique opportunity for concerned people from a broad ecumenical spectrum to join efforts in urging Congress to grasp how the common threads of peace, justice and development have to prevail in both regions for true security to take hold.

While the participants shared certain plenary sessions and times of joint worship, most activities were split between an Africa Track and a Middle East Track for workshops, panels and issue briefings during the first 2-days.  The event culminated in a lobby day, when everyone visited the offices of their members of Congress, personally and passionately sharing their viewpoints about critical issues facing Africa and the Middle East.

The Advocacy Days event opened on Sunday evening with the USA premiere of the film “Judgement Day” by Kevin Harris.  It offered a powerful comparison between the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict with the previous struggle for liberation and democracy in South Africa, making a universal statement about war and the effects of war on young people on both sides of the conflicts.  The film provided reference points in South Africa’s history of apartheid that resonate with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict today.

Rogate Mshana from the Economic Justice Unit of the World Council of Churches offered the keynote address to the Africa Track on Monday morning.  He spoke to some of the main issues facing Africa today as it struggles to attain democracy and equitable economic development, such as debt, trade and war, and the colonial past and present global structures that have laid the foundation for and foster the deepening spiral of current crises.

He was followed by a panel discussion in which Yao Graham, Third World Network-Ghana and Bill Fletcher, President of TransAfrica Forum, elaborated on the themes raised by Mshana.  Graham concentrated on the need for much closer collaboration between USA and African groups working on economic justice, especially to more ably address issues at the level of the World Trade Organization, World Bank and IMF.  Fletcher lambasted the self-interest and shortsightedness of current USA administration policies toward Africa.

The afternoon was taken up with workshops that, for the Africa Track, focused on critical issues of HIV/AIDS, debt, African development and the USA trade agenda, the Bush Administration’s proposed Millenium Challenge Account, conflict and resource exploitation, and the Sudanese crisis.  A joint workshop for both tracks was offered on the topic of terrorism and USA policy toward the Global South.  Monday ended with an evening worship, open to the public, at which Rev. John L. McCullough, head of Church World Service, was the preacher.

Tuesday’s Africa Track was devoted to exploring alternative visions for Africa and immediate preparations for the Wednesday Lobby Day.  The session on alternative visions was led by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA39), Salih Booker, Executive Director of Africa Action, and Imani Countess, Africa Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee.  Each of the speakers insistently linked African realities to USA policy priorities, emphasizing how a genuine commitment to things like conflict resolution, access to HIV/AIDS treatment, fair trade, food sovereignty and debt cancellation could mean a genuine partnership in justice with Africa.  To the contrary, the USA drive for global economic dominance and political hegemony often plays itself out at the expense of poor people and communities, serving to impoverish and marginalize them even more.  What came out loud and clear in the speakers’ presentations was their keen awareness of the cost to real people of failed American policies.  Undoubtedly the most damning example was the USA’s unconscionably feeble response to Africa’s AIDS crisis, in which the current administration exhibits barely any support for the UN’s Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria.

AFJN led the afternoon session, facilitating a briefing on issues selected for the next day’s lobbying and guiding the participants in key elements of a successful lobby visit.  Tuesday ended with a Capitol Hill reception in the evening hosted by Rep. Waters.  Rev. Robert Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, acted as Master of Ceremonies.

A major snowstorm on Wednesday did nothing to dampen the spirits of the participants as they fanned out to lobby their members of Congress.  For the Africa Track that meant urging the USA to pledge $3.5 billion to fight global AIDS, TB and Malaria, fully support sustainable and affordable access to essential medicines for treating HIV/AIDS, and backing legislation to significantly reduce African debt to more manageable levels.  The ultimate aim is the cancellation of that debt.

The question at the end of an event like this is always “what did it achieve?”  Did people hear a few good talks and then just go home?  Did anything happen that made a lasting difference to the participants?  Were the minds of policy makers changed on important issues?

All very important questions and often difficult to answer with precision.  I can say this with certainty, however.  The majority of participants left on Wednesday afternoon with a heightened sense of ownership of the issues they confronted during the event and of the power of their citizenship to address those issues.  We face enormous challenges in directing the USA toward more just African policies.  The complexity of those challenges is the curse.  The blessing is that we live under a system that allows us to address them!  Public policy advocacy is a long-term proposition and not for the faint of heart.  Seeing people empowered through an event like this to take up those policy challenges, no matter how they may or may not have changed policy makers minds, at least in the short-term, was a stamp of its success.

________________________

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN

Return to top of page

 

AFRICA SOCIAL FORUM: A RESPONSE TO EMERGING CHAOS

By Marcel Kitissou

 

The current state of world affairs seems more and more subject to the vertigo of chaos.  The tyranny of that rising turmoil can be felt at three levels: economic, military and political. 

The economic chaos is the result of the combination of a market fundamentalism and the debt of the majority of countries, the bankruptcy of many of them, and the collapse of some.  The military chaos stems from the willingness to solve issues of intolerance and hatred by bombing on the one hand and designing strategies for pre-emptive wars on the other.  The political chaos finds its expression in the existence of an off-shore super-power determined to solve the problems of living on earth through “air power,” eventually with the assistance of a “coalition of the billing” (those who are paid off for their support), as a radio commentator recently put it.  In the absence of mutual respect, that behavior is a sort of sword of Damocles, likely to fall indiscriminately on any deviant player in the international game.  In the meantime, no one is offering a vision of a future world community where the hungry can be fed, the sick cured, the mind nourished, and the earth truly viable and livable.

 

In the face of this, two movements are striving to propose an alternative world: Porto Allegre (Brazil) and the Africa Social Forum.  While the annual meetings of the wealthy and powerful in Davos (Switzerland) bring together star representatives of global liberalism, Porto Allegre creates a forum for grassroots people committed to offer an alternative to the neo-liberal economy, in theory as well as in practice.  Both Davos and Porto Allegre are well known, well attended and well publicized.  Barely known is the Africa Social Forum - even within Africa let alone among third world grassroots movements.  The first Africa Social Forum (ASF) took place in Bamako (Mali) in 2001.  The second was held last January in Addis-Ababa (Ethiopia).

 

The Addis-Ababa Africa Social Forum attracted more than 250 participants representing 43 African countries.  Only two extra-continental countries were represented: NGOs from Italy and the United States.  Knowing the difficulties of communication in Africa (it took several days for some participants to reach the capital city of Ethiopia) and the paucity of resources of African grassroots organizations, the level of participation was a laudable success.  French Cooperation and organizations such as Oxfam provided some financial assistance to bring people there.

 

The purpose of the ASF is to create a forum for grassroots movements in Africa, offer an alterative to an Africa in the process of NEPAD-ization, find a way to loosen the claws of neo-liberal globalization, obviate the dreams of those who dream of an Africa without Africans, and give Africa a voice in its own right in international affairs.  For this to happen, they feel the need to “educate” African “leaders.”  African elites have been acting as extensions of colonial powers and as the bridgehead of external harmful forces.  Four presidents, who are spearheading NEPAD, are criticized for promoting the exploitation of their countries: Abdelaziz Bouteflika of Algeria, Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa.

 

The Forum also addressed the problem of compensation.  Not compensation for slavery and colonization.  It is closer to home, and both more pressing and depressing: compensation for structural adjustment.

 

Precisely for all those same reasons, some African organizations abstained from participating in the Africa Social Forum.  They are afraid of losing the support of their sponsors in the north and the subsidies of international organizations.  Economic aid, with all its potential benefits, can be a handicap for the exercise of freedom and the expression of an alternative discourse.  By not participating in the creation of a different vision of the future, however, they legitimize the situation their very works are expected to change.

 

Africa is in the position to lecture to the world about global trends.  The early versions of globalization led to slavery, colonization, neo-colonization and structural adjustment.  As they say, history can sometimes stutter.  If it does repeat itself - if the first time it is a tragedy - the second time it cannot be anything but a comedy.

________________________

Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN

Return to top of page

  

ZAMBIA: JESUITS RUFFLE GMO FEATHERS

 

For three years AFJN has been strongly advocating for African farmers, urging the USA to use its trade and development policies to uphold their customary rights to seeds, food crops, plants and traditional knowledge, notably in the face of multinational patents on African agricultural genetic resources.  A closely related issue concerns the push, largely by USA agribusiness corporations, to impose genetically engineered or modified food and cash crops onto Africa’s agricultural sector [re: AA Aug/Sep 2002, pg. 5]. 

 

American politicians and corporate leaders recently have severely criticized the Jesuits in Zambia for their stand opposing genetically modified food aid from the USA.  The following is an account of the controversy from the Jesuit Social Apostolate.  Fr. Henriot, SJ, who directs the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection in Lusaka, is a long-standing AFJN member, with whom AFJN collaborates on this and other economic justice issues.

 

Lusaka, February 2003 -- Are the Jesuits fostering famine in Zambia?  In their defense of domestic economic interests have they become insensitive to hunger?  A group of American and European scientists are accusing some Jesuits of committing a crime against the poor.  A document challenging the position of these Jesuits was delivered to James Nicholson, USA Ambassador to the Holy See, and to Andrew Natsios, head of the US Agency for International Development.  A copy was forwarded to the Jesuit Superior General and called for his intervention.

 

What are the reasons for this controversy?

"Zambia should not be pushed into accepting genetically modified maize," said the Jesuits from the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre (KATC) and the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR).  Accepting genetically modified (GM) maize for relief purposes does not just risk consumer health, but also risks having a negative impact on Zambian agriculture.  According to a study conducted by agro-scientist Bernadette Lubozhya, GM crops are likely to bring many long-term problems, including lower yields, increased herbicide use, less bio-diversity, erratic performance and poor economic returns to the small-scale farmers who produce 80 percent of Zambia's food.  They would become closely dependent on multinational corporations, and food production in Zambia would ultimately fall under the monopoly of a few agro-business concerns.  Subsistence agriculture will be displaced by the intensive commercial food production carried out by large mechanized farms, resulting in increased unemployment and a threat to the food security of the country.

 

On the advice of many Zambians, including KATC, the government turned down a USA offer of GM maize distributed by the World Food Program (WFP). The denunciation and the attack followed closely.  The KATC and JCTR, keenly aware of the current food shortage, have supported the government's efforts to obtain non-GM maize, both within Zambia and from neighboring countries.  Hunger in Zambia is an undeniable fact, but it is primarily the result of poverty, which, in turn, results in chronic food shortages.   There is no dearth of alternatives: donor countries and international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF could respond positively to the Government's precarious financial position and increase developmental support so critically needed.

 

Peter Henriot, SJ, directs the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection

Paul Desmarais, SJ, directs the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre

_________________________

-- Adapted from News from the Jesuit Social Apostolate [2003/2] --

Return to top of page

 

AFJN MEMBERS
Congregation of the Holy Spirit


In Paris on Pentecostal Sunday, 1703, a young seminarian, Claude Poullart des Places, gathered a group of poor theology students and established a residence for them.  The community of the Holy Spirit was born.  The residence grew to become the famous Seminary of the Holy Spirit, and its students became priests dedicated to difficult ministries, particularly in the colonies of France, e.g. Guyana, Haiti, Mauritius and Reunion.  The seminary and the priests (Spiritans) that it produced ultimately became the Congregation of the Holy Spirit.

 

The ravages of the French Revolution left the congregation decimated.  New life was breathed into the institute by the incorporation of a vibrant new missionary community founded by Francis Libermann, a Jewish convert.  Libermann, with his strong focus on Africa, led the Spiritans in the 19th century evangelization of Africa from both the western and eastern shores of the continent

 

Today Spiritans serve in 58 countries, over 3,100 strong.  Coming to the United States in 1872 to minister, especially to minority and ethnic groups, the Spiritans worked closely with St. Katharine Drexel in the apostolate to African-Americans in the urban North and small towns of the South and Southwest.  Rapidly growing provinces in Francophone Africa, Brazil, Nigeria, Ghana, Angola and East Africa are sending out missionaries to Asia and other non-evangelized areas of their own continents.

 

Des Places and Libermann were both visionaries of great faith.  Their legacy is being commemorated this year in a special way.  The Spiritans are celebrating 300 years of faithful service to the missions and to ministry in parishes and education.

Return to top of page

 

 

UPDATE: CHILD SOLDIERS CAMPAIGN
By Sr. Beverly Lacayo, MSOLA

 

The USA Campaign to eliminate the use of Child Soldiers continues its work with a new impetus since the United States deposited the instrument of ratification for the optional protocol on the Rights of the Child at the United Nations in December 2002.  The U.S. government can now weigh in credibly with three countries receiving pressure to stop using children in warfare -- Uganda, Colombia and Burma.


The Congressional Human Rights Caucus held a briefing on 12 February 2003, during which Jo Becker of Human Rights Watch, Adam Isacson of the Center for International Policy and Jane Lowicki from the Women's Commission for Refugee Women and Children presented the latest information on the international campaign.  Jane Lowicki, recently returned from Uganda, gave an update on the situation in the northern part of the country where the situation continues to be critical.


USA Campaign representatives, who met shortly after the briefing, are mobilizing support for a "Dear Colleague" letter in Congress, urging the Bush Administration to take stronger action on ending the use of child soldiers in priority-designated countries.  In terms of northern Uganda, the letter is expected to target three primary needs – a UN special envoy for abducted children, educational assistance to former child soldiers, and assurance that USA military aid is used to protect civilians, especially children.

  ________________________ 

Sr. Beverly Lacayo, MSOLA, is a staff associate at AFJN

Return to top of page