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

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Editorial
Update on Clean Diamonds Campaign
Fighting in Delta Region Continues
NEPAD and the G8
Central African Republic
DRC On Way to Democracy
Water is a Human Right


  

DEAR AFJN MEMBERS & FRIENDS:

A USA- and UK-led war on Iraq followed 12-years of UN economic sanctions. Famine-driven North Korea is challenging the USA. In the 1990s, American troops had to withdraw from famine-prone Somalia. Is there a common denominator? Yes - natural disaster, social crisis, foreign intervention and the rise of nationalism.  

Recent studies by historian Mike Davis show the link between drought, famines and imperial enterprises. A striking case is the forgotten holocaust that claimed an estimated 30-million lives in the 19th century. Three big droughts and famines: 1876-1879 in Java, the Philippines, New Caledonia, Korea, Brazil, north China, northern and southern Africa; 1896-1991 in India, Korea, Brazil, Russia and, more seriously, Ethiopia and Sudan (with a probable loss of one third of the population); 1896-1902 in the tropical area and the northern part of China. Aggravating factors were epidemics of malaria, cholera and measles.

The combination of natural and social disasters had made those areas candidates for imperial adventures, colonization and what is known today as the Third World. European powers, Japan and the USA moved in and fashioned a global but unequal economy while building democracy at home. For example, Italy attacked Ethiopia following its 1889-1891 famine. The British undermined the Zulu kingdom in South Africa. Today, the USA is considering a Free Trade Agreement with southern African states devastated by drought, famine, debt and HIV/AIDS.

However, Ethiopia defeated the Italians at Adowa in 1896. A century later the USA encountered stiff resistance in Somalia. African nationalism has changed the face of colonization, and as the roots of domination are a combination of natural and political phenomena, subsequent nationalism tends to emerge as ideologies with political, social and religious overtones.

In general, three factors condition attitudes of powers: speculation of companies in new markets, the will of states, and the extent to which mass protests can influence policies.

Marcel Kitissou, PhD
AFJN Executive Director
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The Clean Diamond Trade Act (HR 1584) passed the House on 08 April and the Senate at the end of that week. President Bush is expected to sign it into law.

The measure represents the fruition of over three years of efforts by Congress, the Executive, NGOs and the USA diamond industry to choke off a key funding source for some of the world's most brutal regimes, rebel groups and extremist armed networks, who use the resources to finance egregious human rights abuses.

HR 1584 will enforce an international system known as the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), which will ensure that diamonds entering the USA are legally mined and traded and have not funded human rights abuses linked to wars or terrorism.

The Act commits the USA to mandatory implementation of the KPCS. Among other things HR1584 directs the president to prohibit USA trade in uncertified rough diamonds and conduct annual reviews of USA entities that issue Kimberley Process Certificates. It declares Congress’ support for the US Trade Representative to promote the adoption of the KPCS by the international community and sets forth civil and criminal penalties for violation of the act. Importantly, it urges the president to strengthen the KPCS by keeping and publishing statistics about the production and trade of rough diamonds, making them available to interested parties and taking the lead in negotiating a standard way for Kimberley participants to report such statistics.

It was critical that HR 1584 pass before the next Kimberley plenary meeting in Johannesburg on 27 April. The measure deserves support but several concerns remain. There are questions over USA internal coordination and who will be in charge of regulating Kimberley Process diamonds coming into the United States. In terms of the Kimberley Process itself, it still has no official secretariat to deal with concerns or oversight. There is no uniform system of gathering statistics on the movement of rough diamonds, which is a significant problem. Being able to contrast statistics on diamonds exported from a producing country and diamonds entering a processing country is key to identifying conflict diamonds. Without a uniform system, loopholes will remain that will allow conflict diamonds to enter the legitimate market.

In addition, the details of voluntary monitoring by KP participants have not been established. Many in the NGO community are asking for independent monitors. Unfortunately, this is adamantly opposed by some in the diamond industry and some governments. Nor does the legislation include polished diamonds and jewelry, as NGO advocates had sought. Nevertheless, HR 1584 is a significant step toward preventing conflict diamonds from being sold in the United States, protecting American consumers from underwriting the costs of warfare and human rights abuses in Africa and elsewhere. But it is an ongoing effort that will need to be improved upon. The next step is to ensure that it is effectively implemented.

You can find the bill at: Thomas - U.S. Congress on the Internet

This article is adapted from materials supplied by Washington Office on Africa, Oxfam America and Catholic Relief Services.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
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The Niger Delta is in turmoil again as fighting broke out around Warri in the oil-rich region on 13 March. Clashes between the Ijaw and Itsekiri ethnic groups erupted in response to the latest election ward delineation in the area. Reports indicate that militants of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities in Warri South issued a statement contesting the ward lines, claiming that they favored the Itsekiri group and issuing a 7-day ultimatum for changes. The Ijaw refused to participate in the voter registration exercise, and violence broke out as the 7-day ultimatum expired. Four Ijaws were killed in the initial encounter. Since the beginning of the conflict at least 100 people have died in the region, including ten Nigerian soldiers.

Shortly after the violence began, Nigerian troops were dispatched to the region but have proven unable of stopping the violence. Residents in the region fear that the military will use excessive force in dealing with the Ijaw militants. Their fear is not unwarranted as the military has been accused of tyranny in the past, avenging the death of 12 soldiers by leading a massacre on the town of Odi.

The war has caused a major slowdown in oil production, which is having serious economic repercussions in Nigeria, a country heavily dependent on oil revenues. According to official Nigerian government estimates, the oil sector accounted for 76.5% of government revenues in 2001. Chevron Nigeria Limited has shut down oil stations in the region, resulting in a loss of 440,000 barrels a day, and Shell Oil has stopped production at ten oil stations, resulting in the loss of over 370,000 barrels per day. In addition, as of mid-April the Ijaw activist group had control over 11 facilities from three different oil producers. In total, the major oil producers in the region have cut production by 800,000 barrels per day, approximately 40 percent of Nigeria’s crude oil production.

Despite calls from Human Rights Watch to the main oil companies operating in the area to “publicly urge the Nigerian government to restore security in a manner that respects due process and fundamental human rights, and that is not disproportionate to the threat,” the companies have remained quiet. Notable also for its silence is the USA government (USG), which has yet to issue a statement about the violence or to urge the Nigerian government to keep peace in the region. The USG has looked to Africa increasingly in recent years to meet its energy needs. American officials estimate that 15-percent of USA oil imports come from Africa, and is expected to increase to 25-percent by 2015.

The violence continues as presidential elections take place. Early results from exit polls at the time this article goes to press show that the incumbent, Olusegun Obasanjo, has a nearly 50-point lead over his closest challenger, Muhammadu Buhari. With nearly 12-million votes in, the French News Agency reported that Obasanjo had over 70-percent of the vote, compared with 21.5 percent for Buhari. Nigeria has nearly 61-million registered voters. Obasanjo must gain a simple majority and 25-percent of the votes in at least two-thirds of the 36 Nigerian states in order to avoid a run-off. Charges of fraud are widespread as opposition groups are already challenging election results in the courts. International observers have reported vote rigging in the southern states of Delta, Rivers and Bayelsa, as well as no voting in the southern Delta region due to intimidation and threats of violence.

Katie Donohoe is Development Coordinator at AFJN
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NEPAD AND THE G8
By Peter Jacxsens

As the G8 prepares for its summit at Evian, France in June 2003, there is mounting concern that the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) may not get the attention that it did a year ago at Kananaskis, Canada. The aftermath of the war in Iraq and continuing world economic concerns may be bad news for Africa. The recent failure of the WTO negotiations (Doha Round) to make progress on trade agreements to help poor countries may reflect a growing non-cooperative mood among some members of the G8.

NEPAD’s prior experience with the G8 has been favorable. In 2001 at the Genoa Summit, the G8 endorsed NEPAD and committed itself to working with African heads of state on the new initiative. Later in March 2002 at Monterrey, Mexico, the G8 announced substantial new development assistance commitments, linking them to good governance, “sound” policies, economic liberalization, aid effectiveness and development success. These goals also echo much of the NEPAD strategy.

At the Kananaskis Summit the G8 released the Africa Action Plan, the result of cooperative effort with African heads of state. In it the G8 committed to provide financial aid linked to eight mutually agreed-upon priority areas of development: 1) peace and security, 2) good governance, 3) market access, 4) official development capital flows and debt relief, 5) human development, education and knowledge, 6) health and HIV/AIDS, 7) agricultural productivity and 8) water resources. The G8 also committed themselves to respond to southern Africa’s drought and famine.

The G8's new financial aid commitments promise to increase total Official Development Assistance (ODA) by 50%, or $12b annually, by 2006. Half of these new funds, or $6b annually, could go to Africa if a strong response is made by African nations to the above priorities. This is still far below Africa’s hopes and needs. According to the NEPAD plan, annual investments of $65b are necessary to reach the goal of 7% annual economic growth.

Nevertheless, African leaders welcomed the Africa Action Plan as a boost to NEPAD and repeated their commitment to the basic principles of good governance and to pursuing policies that promote economic growth. They in turn called upon the G8 to make structural reforms in ODA, extend debt remission to medium income countries and remove the rich countries' structural restraints to Africa’s international trade competitiveness, such as agricultural subsidies.

African recovery and NEPAD are a top priority for France, which holds this year’s G8 summit presidency. France is determined to prove that the Africa Action Plan can provide the momentum and basis for initiatives that will transform the continent.

A series of international meetings have taken place in preparation for the G8 summit to discuss agricultural development and food self-sufficiency, economic and trade policies, and to examine continental and regional infrastructure issues that are at the heart of NEPAD.

The June summit will attempt to move forward on the priority areas of the Africa Action Plan. Some of the key items on the agenda will be: [1] achieving the millennium goal to halve the number of people without access to safe drinking water and sanitation by 2015, [2] augmenting the global fund for HIV/AIDS and improving poor countries access to medicines at affordable prices, [3] completing the Highly-Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, [4] implementing measures against international terrorism, [5] spelling out the financial, social, environmental and ethical principles underpinning a responsible market, [6] agreeing on food aid and agricultural trade policies to remove those elements that destabilize African smallholder farming and traditional food production, and [7] investing in the infrastructure (transportation, communication, energy, etc.) essential to the regional integration and economic growth of the continent.

The Advocacy Network for Africa (ADNA) coalition, in which AFJN plays an active role, has joined progressive African NGOs in critiquing NEPAD and ways in which it evinces the G8 agenda. Looming large among the complaints of African NGOs was the absence of African civil society participation in NEPAD’s evolution. While it contains good human rights language, it lacks clear benchmarks for human rights performance and fails to ratify human

Peter Jacxsens is a volunteer at AFJN
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“Mister President, it’s time for you to leave the country.” “Give me time to collect myself and find a place to go.” “All right, you have 48 hours.”

This could be a virtual conversation between George W. Bush and Saddam Hussein on March 18. But it is an actual one, that same day in Cameroon, between the Minister of Territorial Administration of Cameroon and former President Ange Felix Patasse of the Central African Republic (C.A.R.), overthrown in a March 15 coup d’etat. He was then attending a conference in Niamey, Niger. The place he chose for refuge was Togo. “You are at home”, responded Eyadema, the Togolese president, “I will take all necessary measures.” On March 21, the former president and his wife, Angele Patasse, were in Lome.

According to Jeune Afrique (no. 2202), the shopping habits of Angele Patasse may have saved their lives. The March 15 departure from Niamey was delayed due to her errands. At the time of landing at Bangui, gunfight was raging around the airport. Bongo (Gabon) recommended Cameron to his “brother.” Kaddafi (Libya), Tandja (Niger), Eyadema (Togo), Bongo and Nguesso (Congo-Brazzaville) expressed their solidarity. So did France, while making clear it would not intervene militarily unless compelled by the safety of its nationals. No further action was taken to restore legality in C.A.R. The former Chief of the Joint-Chiefs-of-Staff, General Francois Bozize, proclaimed himself president in Bangui.

The C.A.R. case, after Ivory Coast, shows both the limits of regional African diplomacy and the status of France as a super-power in Africa. Since last year France has made a big come-back on the continent: (1) February 2002 meeting on NEPAD in Paris with African heads of state; (2) September 2002 military intervention in Ivory Coast; (3) January 2003 meeting of Ivorian belligerents and parties in Marcoussis; (4) February 2003 Africa-France 22nd summit in Paris [52 of 53 African countries were represented. Mugabe of Zimbabwe was present as a condition for Nigeria and South Africa to be there. Somalia was not invited due to internal chaos. The statement supporting France’s position on Iraq was devised with the three African members of the UN Security Council, Angola, Cameroon and Guinea. Others were invited to sign it without debate, reminiscent of the way Houphoet-Boigny (Ivory Coast) was given the constitution sanctioning the “independence” of his country]; (5) March 2003, Jacques Chirac’s visit to Algeria.  

France’s policy in Africa is not without criticism. For example, in 1994 President Bedie undertook to open the Ivorian market to other countries. General Guei, within 15 days of his return from a trip to France, implemented the1999 coup. He was said to have been encouraged by French companies. More recently, Gbagbo’s economic policy once again threatens the French quasi-monopoly of the Ivorian market. Most of the contracts end in 2004 and Ivory Coast intended to launch an international bid for their renewal. A rebellion erupted in September 2002. Marcoussis agreements were imposed and a new Prime Minister appointed with increased power at the expense of the president. In C.A.R., Francois Bozize left France incognito and implemented, within weeks, a coup in Bangui. In France itself, a number of Franco-African scandals are coming out: “Angolagate,” which involved politicians trafficking weapons in Angola; and monies diverted from the oil company ELF (now Total-Fina-Elf) to corrupt some African leaders, among them Omar Bongo (Gabon) and Dennis Sassou Nguesso (Congo-Brazzaville).

Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN
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Have the “on again – off again” Congolese peace talks finally succeeded in opening the doors to democracy? The beginning of April 2003 was historically marked by the signing of final peace agreements by Congolese parties in Sun City, South Africa.

About 360 delegates representing the government, rebels, militias, political parties and civil society participated in the summit facilitated by former Botswana President Ketumile Masire. The presidents of South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe were also present. They witnessed the beginning of a third transition in the country’s modern history since its independence from Belgium in 1960. The first was under Mobutu (1991-1992) and the second under Laurent Kabila in 1997.

The parties approved the agreement reached in Pretoria on December 17, 2002, which provides for a two-year transitional government aimed at paving the way for democratic elections. They also approved two agreements adopted on 06 March this year, namely the transitional constitution and a memorandum on military reform and security matters. The new Constitution provides for a multi-party and inclusive government led by Joseph Kabila as president. He will be aided by four deputies (vice presidents), two of whom will come from the two main rebel groups –the Rwandan-backed Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD) and the Congolese Liberation Movement (MLC), with the others chosen from the government and the political opposition.

The memorandum on military reform and security matters provides that the government and rebel groups’ forces would merge into a restructured national army and police force under the supreme command of President Joseph Kabila. This accord foresees the arrival of foreign military forces for the training of the new national army. Belgium, France and the United Kingdom have offered to provide support for the training. Uganda has also expressed its willingness to help train the Congolese military, but it is not clear whether this particular offer will be accepted given Uganda’s reputation and involvement in the DRC crisis. On the security aspect of the memorandum, it was agreed that an international peacekeeping force under the auspices of the UN would provide security in Kinshasa and other areas deemed vulnerable to crisis. South Africa and the UN have offered to sponsor such a peacekeeping force [WorldNews.com, 11 April].

Moreover, all the agreements approved at the summit were grouped under a document called the “Final Act,” which Joseph Kabila ratified four days later since he was not present at the summit.

As part of the provisions of the Final Act, a national follow-up committee has been established with the mandate to oversee the implementation of the agreements under the leadership of Joseph Kabila. Also, an international committee chaired by Amos Namanga Ngongi, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy to the DRC, has been established to assist the national committee. This body is composed of representatives of the UN’s special mission in DR Congo (known as MONUC), the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Great Britain, Russia and the USA), Canada, South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and the European Commission.

Many analysts consider this to be the best chance of restoring peace and promoting reconciliation in DRC. Kofi Annan considers it a breakthrough and a potential model for the whole of Africa [Radio Netherlands, 3 April].

However, peace in DRC has proved elusive for so long that one wonders whether these new agreements can hold. There are still remaining questions that require immediate attention and effective solutions. Among them are the issues of military reform, the continued serious unrest in northeastern Congo (particularly Ituri and Bunia regions) and the attitudes of Rwanda and Uganda.

All in all, the situation in DRC is still very precarious. The “Final Act” may be a reason to hope, but only a reason to hope.

Fr. Alphonse Mpia is a volunteer at AFJN
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WATER IS A HUMAN RIGHT
By Larry J. Goodwin

The United Nations has proclaimed 2003 the International Year of Freshwater. Along with that it has issued a comprehensive assessment of the world’s water, stating that shrinking freshwater resources pose a serious threat to public health, political security and the environment.

In November 2002, as a prelude to the proclamation, the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights adopted the General Comment on the Right to Water, which states that the human right to drinking water is fundamental to life and health, and sufficient and safe drinking water is a precondition for the realization of all other human rights. The Comment defines water as a social and cultural good, not solely as an economic commodity; it is an interpretation of the right to food (article 11) and the right to health (article 12).

Available freshwater represents less than half of 1-percent of the world’s total water stock with global consumption of water doubling every 20-years. 2.5 billion people have no access to proper sanitation and more than 5 million people (mostly children) die each year from water-related diseases, 10-times the number of people killed in wars, on average, every year.

Global depletion of acquifers by unsustainable industrial agriculture leads to falling water tables and ground water salinization, while threatening the sustainable livelihoods of smallholder farmers. If continued, these trends virtually assure a drop in food production and jeopardize local food sovereignty.

Many people around the world also face serious threats to their land and culture due to large dam projects, which often have led to human rights violations, impoverishment and environmental degradation, with an estimated 40-80 million people forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for dam construction. A growing concern in many communities throughout the world, not only in Africa and other developing regions but in the USA too, is the push toward water privatization, handing control of municipal services, treatment facilities and rural irrigation systems to corporate entities.

Coinciding with the adoption of the UN’s General Comment on the Right to Water, representatives of Catholic faith communities at the United Nations issued a statement called “Waters for Life, Streams of Justice,” which upheld access to water as a basic right for all living beings. Decrying the tendency to reduce water to a “commodity with a price tag,” the religious called on governments to commit themselves to achieve access for poor people to clean drinking water and sanitation by 2015.

AFJN is currently working with several USA-based NGOs to get a resolution introduced into Congress this year that affirms water as a fundamental human right. Among other things it would call on Congress to affirm the goals of the UN’s International Year of Freshwater; affirm water as a global public good, not merely a private market commodity; affirm every human being’s right to clean and affordable water; and oppose international loan, debt and trade policies that impose water privatization on countries. We are confident of seeing the resolution make its way into Congress. When that happens, we will ask AFJN members to mobilize behind its passage by lobbying their members of Congress to cosponsor it.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
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