Around Africa
June-July 2004 
A Publication of the Africa Faith and Justice Network
 

TABLE OF CONTENTS
Editorial
Niger River Basin: A Common Good
Liberia's Rocky Road to Peace
G-8 Summit
Africa and G-8 Plan for Peace Support
Water for the World
Jubilee USA Action Alert
Save the Dates!


  

DEAR AFJN MEMBERS & FRIENDS:

Are tension and instability in Iraq products of Saddam Hussein's regime alone? If the answer is yes, then there is hope for peace. If the answer is no, then the U.S. is waging a lost battle. And I am afraid the answer is no. One has just to observe what is going on in oil producing countries. Prominent among them are Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and many African countries, including Algeria, Gabon and Nigeria.

In Saudi Arabia, around 10,000 princes are showered by stipends ranging from $800 to $270,000 per month. At the same time, the growing population is seeing its opportunities decline. Venezuela has drifted from democracy toward an authoritarian regime. In Algeria, the cancellation of democratic elections in the 1990s was followed by years of terrorism. Nigeria constructed a whole new capital city, Abuja, but proved unable to address the needs of the oil producing Niger delta region and failed to respond to the frustration of its Northern population, ultimately expressed through the adoption of Sharia law and religious conflict. Confronted with the finance- and technology-intensive oil industry, Gabon abandoned its agriculture, now importing tomatoes from South Africa and potatoes from France. Can those living on a $1 a day afford that lifestyle?

In the US, the new energy plan calls for access to more foreign oil, located in countries either unstable or hostile. Removing obstacles to this access implies enforcement of an open market policy and a huge expansion of military activities, “allocating $450 billion per year for the military and a meager $15 billion (at most) for development assistance” (J. Sachs, The Economist, 5/20/04).

The proliferation of military training programs in Africa exemplifies such expansion. Generally speaking, considering the domestic adjustment required by such a policy in each individual country, will any regime be left immune from totalitarian temptation amidst the rhetoric of democratic reforms?

Marcel Kitissou, Ph.D
AFJN Executive Director
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The Niger River is the third largest in Africa after the Nile and the Congo. From its source in Guinea to the Niger Delta in Nigeria it stretches over 4,200 km. Shared by nine riparian states (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger and Nigeria), it services an estimated 110 million people.

Rivers have a perverse habit of wandering across borders…and nation states have a perverse habit of treating whatever portion of them that flows within their borders as a national resource at their sovereign disposal. How can 'sovereign' states, pursuing national self-interest and those policies that seemingly ensure a regime's survival, cope with the challenge of bi- or multi-national coordination in the use of a common resource?” asked Professor John Waterbury of Princeton University in a 1979 book. Tampering with a common water resource risks becoming a serious point of contention and could ultimately cause a war in which everyone loses. However, the instinct for survival may also lead to compromise. We can currently observe such an instance in the Niger River basin.

There are many problems in the Niger basin. The population is growing rapidly while an estimated one-third of river volume was lost in the past three decades. In Niamey, for example, the annual average was 30 billion cubic meters in the 1970s and only 20 billion today. Climate change caused droughts in 1985 and 1990 with parts of the river going completely dry and consequent navigational problems affected local markets. Pollution is serious with many cities, including Bamako in Mali and Niamey in Niger, draining untreated waste into the river. Downstream in Burkina Faso it is unsafe to drink the water, while the deterioration of fish stocks affects local economies and lifestyle. Silt is out of control and water-born diseases, particularly bilharziosis and gastritis, compound the threat of HIV/AIDS and related illnesses.

Local traditions call the river the preferred son of God. As water levels recede, one might feel that the preferred son of God is fading away.

Le Monde (April 27, 2004) reported that Jacques Chirac and seven African Heads of State met in Paris on 26-27 April to discuss saving the Niger River and explore solutions for reinforcing the Niger Basin Authority. Focused on technical problems and the extent of the crisis, that gathering on the shores of the Seine rather than the shores of the Niger still shows the depth of Africans' political and diplomatic weaknesses in addressing regional problems.

Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN
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LIBERIA'S ROCKY ROAD TO PEACE
By Ted Hayden, SMA, CSC

For nearly 25 years Liberia has been plagued with unrest, which has caused the deaths of over 200,000 citizens, displaced 1,000,000 people and destroyed the economic infrastructure of the country. Considering that Liberia has a population of only 3,000,000, this has severely disrupted the social fabric of the country.

At present 13,500 United Nations peace keepers are patrolling the main roads and keeping peace in the major towns and cities. However, just a few miles from the patrolled roads remnants of the rebel forces continue to harass people and pillage homes. Rich agricultural areas lie fallow because it is not safe for farmers to return to their homesteads. The rebel group MODEL (Movement for Democracy in Liberia) still controls three counties in the southeast, while members of the rebel group LURD (Liberians United for reconciliation and Democracy) continue to move freely in Loffa County, the bread basket of Liberia. Thus even with such a large UN force most of the country remains unsafe.

The economy of Liberia is in shambles. Unemployment hovers around 90% and, because of the lack of security, it is difficult for the country to attract significant international investment. Civil servants go unpaid and in March Liberian teachers went on strike because they were more than six months in arrears for their salaries. In the capital city of Monrovia there is still no electricity or running water. In February 2004 the international community pledged $520 million for reconstruction but so far there is little evidence of it.

Liberia has a difficult political future. In the peace accord of August 2003 rebel groups and the civilian government reached a power sharing agreement. LURD received the ministries of finance, justice, labor, and transport; MODEL received the ministries of agriculture, commerce, lands-mines-energy, public works, and foreign affairs. This is a perfect case of putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop. However, allowing the rebel forces to participate in the civilian government was the only way to get them to agree to lay down their arms.

The international community must face the challenge of working with the present Liberian governmental structures because peace in Liberia is the key to peace in the entire sub-region of West Africa. The UN and the US government possess the diplomatic skills to do so; it remains to be seen if they have the will.

There are widespread concerns about the elections scheduled for October 2005. Many Liberians want to see a census conducted beforehand. Voter registration presents a problem because over 500,000 Liberians live in camps for displaced people while over 100,000 Liberian refugees reside in neighboring West African countries.

In the midst of these difficulties Liberians remain quietly resilient. While there has been a broad attack on family structures during the past twenty years, many basic human values are still operative. Sharing of food, water and shelter are widespread, and crime in towns and villages is minimal. The UN and international NGOs are actively involved in disarming and rehabilitating rebel soldiers with special attention to child soldiers. Retraining the Liberian police force has already begun and there are plans to recruit and train an entirely new army.

Unemployment and the lack of cash circulating in the economy are major obstacles to rehabilitation. The international community can help by financing economically sound, quick-impact projects. Six million dollars a year would ensure paying teachers' salaries and allowing children to return to tuition free schools. Grading and improving rural roads would facilitate transportation while supplying local people with jobs. Providing seeds and hand-held farm tools would increase the food supply.

Liberia's road to recovery will be long and difficult. The United States will have to continue to assist Liberia for the foreseeable future.

Rev. Ted Hayden is a member of AFJN's Board of Directors
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G-8 SUMMIT JUNE 8-10
By Peter Jacxsens

For much of the past year it looked like few, other than the G-8 Leaders, would be going to Sea Island, Georgia. President Bush wanted a short, straightforward day and a half summit with the emphasis on Iraq, the broader Middle East initiative, the war on terror and the world economy.

Then on May 18, barely three weeks before the summit, Bush invited the leaders of six African countries. The group included four NEPAD leaders - Bouteflika (Algeria), Obasanjo (Nigeria), Wade (Senegal) and Mbeki (South Africa), who have attended the G-8 since Okinawa, Japan in 2000, and Museveni (Uganda) and Kufour (Ghana). The White House indicated that the President wanted to continue the G8's commitment to the Africa Action Plan adopted at Kananaskis, Canada in 2002.

Discussions with the African leaders took place during lunch on the last day. The Africans highlighted their progress in democracy, conflict resolution and the fight against AIDS. They also asked the G-8 to follow through on expanding debt relief, ending agricultural subsidies, providing peace support, investing in NEPAD infrastructure projects and making AIDS medicines affordable.

At the summit's conclusion the G8 announced a series of initiatives. Many were relevant to Africa, and of $2.8b in new commitments, $1.9b (70%) will go to Africa:

  • The G-8 urged resumption of the Doha Round of WTO trade negotiations by end of July;
  • It launched a plan on Applying Entrepreneurship to the Eradication of Poverty, focusing on foreign private investment, mobilization of foreign remittances ($100-150b/year), improving the business climate and encouraging micro- and local finance for housing and water;
  • It pledged an additional $1b and extended HIPC for two years to complete cancellation of official bilateral debt to poor countries;
  • It launched a plan to expand Peace Support Operations by training and equipping 75,000 peacekeepers worldwide (50,000 in Africa) and pledging $961m over five years;
  • It issued a Statement on Sudan, calling for an end of conflict, full respect of the cease-fire and unimpeded humanitarian access in Darfur;
  • It pledged $365m to establish a Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise and accelerate vaccine development;
  • It committed $200m to close the funding gap and eradicate polio by 2005;
  • It issued a document on ending famine in the Horn of Africa, continuing the Evian Famine Action Plan to raise agricultural productivity and promote rural development;
  • Participating G-8 countries signed a compact with Nigeria (one of four) agreeing to aid Nigeria in its efforts to enhance transparency (including management of petroleum receipts), use public resources wisely and fight corruption.

At a press conference after the summit African leaders expressed their appreciation for the G-8's decisions on peacekeeping, HIV/AIDS and famine. They also conveyed their disappointment on debt relief and agricultural subsidies, and that the G-8 development initiatives were only tangential to the NEPAD process.

The African leaders could have added among other things that the plan for Applying Entrepreneurship to the Eradication of Poverty needs to include labor rights, environmental concerns and public responsibility for health, water and sanitation; or that the Statement on Sudan needs a contribution of resources to aid the Sudanese Government in disarming the groups responsible for massive human rights violations; or that the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise does nothing for the 30 million Africans currently living with AIDS, of which only 2% have access to life-saving medicines; or that the Famine Action Plan could be furthered by respecting African farmers' rights to traditional seeds and plants.

Next year the UK will host the G-8 summit. Prime Minister Blair has made it clear that doubling development assistance and expanding debt relief will be at the core of the agenda.

Peter Jacxsens is a volunteer at AFJN
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According to a Fact Sheet released by the White House, the G-8 Leaders at the June, 2004 summit in Sea Island, GA endorsed an action plan to expand global peacekeeping capability, with a particular focus on Africa. The plan, expected to cost $660 million over five years, is meant to bring stability and security to troubled regions. It stems from the conclusion that the number of peace support operations throughout the world continues to grow while there is a lack of -- and need for -- well trained and equipped units.

The Action Plan on Expanding Global Capability for Peace Support Operations will consist of:

  • Training and equipping 75,000 troops by 2010 (African leaders at the summit asked for 50,000) to increase global capacity for peace support operations;
  • Creating a “clearinghouse” function to exchange information and coordinate G-8 efforts to enhance peace training operations and exercises in Africa;
  • Developing a transportation and logistics support arrangement to help in deploying peacekeepers, and logistics support to sustain units in the field;
  • Establishing a Gendarme (Constabulary) Center of Excellence in Italy to increase capabilities and inter-operability of gendarme forces for peace support operations, and support for other existing centers dedicated to that purpose.

However, many U.S. initiatives are already taking place, particularly in Africa. These include:

  • The African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program (ACOTA) that has provided training and equipment to over 12,000 peacekeepers from 10 African countries;
  • The Enhanced International Peacekeeping Capabilities program (EIPC) that has assisted 29 countries with peacekeeping capacities;
  • The Combined Joint Task Force for the Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), created in 2002 and based in Djibouti. Its tasks include joint military exercises with local military forces and a range of civil-military operations;
  • The Eastern Africa Counter-Terrorism Initiative (EACTI), a $100-million, 15-month initiative announced in June 2003 to expand counter-terrorism efforts with Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania;
  • The Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI) that covers the Sahel region. It is a Department of State program but implemented by the Department of Defense and civilian contractors. Its mission is to assist Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad in borders protection;
  • Low Maintenance Bases (LMB) that foresees the establishment of half a dozen “low maintenance” bases at airports or remote camps, each one manned by up to 200 US troops.

However, not everyone sees security issues as primarily military. For example, in a June 8, 2004 Report Oxfam called on the G-8 “to put protection of civilians at the top of their discussions on Iraq, and not to allow the Iraq crisis to eclipse attention to pressing conflicts elsewhere, especially in Africa.” It noted that 90 percent of all casualties in armed conflicts worldwide are now comprised of civilians. In the past decade, 77 percent of deaths caused by conflict took place in Africa. And today in Darfur, Sudan, in what the UN called “the world's worst humanitarian crisis,” 2.2 million people are affected. Oxfam insists on relief and recommends that relief distribution be based on need, not politics. Statistics are telling: Iraq has absorbed resources needed for “Africa's forgotten emergencies.” 90 percent of the UN Consolidated Appeal for Iraq was funded, while Sudan has received some 42 percent, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has attracted 30 percent of funds it needs, and Liberia has to be content with 24 percent.

“International Humanitarian law is the cornerstone of human dignity during conflict. Without it, any talk of freedom rings hollow,” said Shannon Scribner, Oxfam Policy Advisor.

Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN
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WATER FOR THE WORLD
By Larry J. Goodwin

We are elated that Rep. Janice Schakowsky (IL-09) introduced her Water for the World Resolution in the House of Representatives on 24 June 2004.

In the previous issue of Around Africa [May 2004, pg. 2] we previewed how the resolution describes the growing global water crisis and urges Congress to affirm that water is a public trust and a public good, not a private commodity, and to recognize that governments have the duty to ensure equitable access to water for everyone. It holds that all members of society should meaningfully participate in water conservation and distribution decisions. It affirms the UN's Millennium Development Goals and rejects using international loans to force water privatization on countries.

Lack of access to life-giving water affects millions of people in Africa and elsewhere. Mother Jones Magazine drove home this fact in a striking article called “South Africa's Driest Season” [Nov/Dec 2002, pg. 39]. It profiled families in Mbabe village, KwaZulu-Natal Province. There people like 70-year old Metolina Mthembu must support her family on a pension of $50 per month. In 2000 the government had installed a metered water tap just steps from her home, but she cannot always find the $7 per month she needs to use it. When she falls behind in her payments the local utility disconnects the tap. Mthembu has no choice but to walk a quarter-mile to a small, muddy brown river to fetch water. Many women and children trudge considerably farther than that. She knows the river water is unsafe; she and others in the village, including her daughter, came down with cholera from drinking it. In fact, shortly after local authorities throughout the country began shutting off water to people for late payments, South Africa endured one of the worst outbreaks of cholera in its history.

Why meters for people who cannot afford to pay for the water? Mother Jones points out that “Pressured by international lenders such as the World Bank and IMF, the government adopted a conservative fiscal measure known as 'cost recovery,' which requires public services such as water and electricity … to pay for themselves, often through increased fees; it also encourages turning those utilities over to private companies. Several South African cities have already turned over their water operations to multinational companies like France-based Vivendi Universal and Suez. For the nation's remaining municipal authorities, the first step toward privatization is to try to turn public utilities into profit centers that can attract investors.”

Across the globe privatizing water operations has become a $300-billion-a-year business. Proponents promise improved efficiency and delivery, but the reality, according to NGOs and relief agencies, is too often the opposite. In 1999, following World Bank advice, Bolivia granted a 40-year privatization lease to a subsidiary of the Bechtel Corporation, giving it control over the water on which more than half a million people survive. Immediately the company doubled and tripled water rates for some of South America's poorest families. After months of public protest and a week of massive public uprisings in the city of Cochabamba that left several people dead, the government finally severed its contract with Bechtel Corporation, which in turn sought $25 million in damages for lost profits.

Back in South Africa, studies at Wits University suggest that half the country's households earn less than $100 per month, yet use a quarter of their income for utilities. This underlines one of the strongest moral reasons for keeping water in the public domain, which the Water for the World Resolution espouses.

Action - contact your congressional representative right away; urge him/her to cosponsor H.R. 468.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director at AFJN
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AFJN is a member of the Jubilee Network Council and works closely with Jubilee USA in the campaign to cancel unjust debts of poor countries.

URGE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TO CO-SPONSOR THE JUBILEE ACT

Call your representative and ask him/her to co-sponsor the JUBILEE Act, which calls on the IMF to cancel 100 percent of the debt for 50 impoverished countries.

You can reach your representative via the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.

A Critical Moment on Debt!

At the G-8 summit last week, leaders considered though ultimately failed to act on a proposal that would cancel 100% of the multilateral debt of impoverished nations. The leaders instead agreed to extend the current World Bank/IMF debt relief program -- the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) -- for two years. But they also left open a window - between now and the next G-8 summit - in which they may agree to support a UK-US proposal for 100% cancellation. It is thus critical that we pursue all avenues to demand full debt cancellation for impoverished nations! Right now, our best vehicle for pushing forward our demand for 100% cancellation is the JUBILEE Act - just introduced into Congress two weeks ago.

On June 3, Maxine Waters [D-CA-35], Spencer Bachus [R-AL-6th], Barney Frank [D-MA-4th], Barbara Lee [D-CA-9th], and James Leach [R-IA-2nd] introduced the JUBILEE Act, which calls on the IMF to use its own resources to cancel 100 percent of the debt of 50 impoverished nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

We need a strong bipartisan list of co-sponsors to build support for this bill and to help educate congressional members and staff about debt cancellation. The more co-sponsors we have, the more likely the bill will be able to move through committee this year.

Some Talking Points on the JUBILEE Act

  • The JUBILEE Act would require the U.S. Treasury to work in appropriate multilateral settings to achieve 100 percent cancellation of the debts of 50 nations by the International Monetary Fund from their own resources without harmful conditionality.
  • The cancellation of debts owed to the IMF would remove a major impediment to poverty reduction and economic growth in Asia, Africa and Latin America and enable the nations to invest their resources in health care, education, and poverty reduction.
  • Resources freed up through debt cancellation can be used to fight AIDS and help achieve Millennium Development Goals, thus building healthier and more sustainable communities, which will in turn build regional stability.
  • Over the past eight years initial debt relief has proven highly effective. When a country has more access to their own resources, these resources have enabled nations to raise health and education spending by 40-90 percent.
  • The JUBILEE Act encourages recipient nations to commit 20 percent of their budgets to meeting the basic needs of their nations in accordance with the UN's 20/20 initiative.
  • The JUBILEE Act will require that the IMF pay its fair share of the burden of debt cancellation, and will not cost the U.S. taxpayer a dime.
  • The Act conditions any future U.S. funding for the IMF on the IMF's completion of debt cancellation for the eligible countries and the IMF's termination of structural adjustment conditionality.

URGE YOUR REPRESENTATIVE TO CO-SPONSOR THE JUBILEE ACT

Have your representative call Kathleen Sengstock in Rep. Maxine Waters' office at (202) 225-2201. If your representative has already co-sponsored the bill, please thank them. For more information visit Jubilee USA's website www.jubileeusa.org or call 202/783-3566.
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SAVE THE DATES

2004 -- AFJN ANNUAL MEETING -- 2004

 

02-03 October 2004 – Louisville, KY

 

AFJN will hold its Annual Meeting in conjunction with the US Catholic Mission Association Conference.

AFJN will meet from 02-03 October; USCMA will meet from 03-06 October.

 

You will receive an Annual Meeting registration brochure soon!

 

Meanwhile, please save the dates -- and a place for yourself at the table!  We hope for a strong turnout to discuss and plan AFJN’s advocacy as a new Congress begins next January!

 

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