June/July 2000

Table of Contents
U.S. Africa Policy: Inept, impotent or racist?
Africa Trade Bill Update
Chad Cameroon Pipeline
Turn Up the Heat for Debt Cancellation
African Updates
Child Soldiers

Dear AFJN Members and Friends!
The 2000 Mission Congress and AFJN Annual Meeting are only three months away! The Mission Congress takes place in Chicago from September 28 - October 1. We will hold our AFJN Annual Meeting during the congress on Saturday, September 30. Please make every effort to join us for both important events. You should have received your Mission Congress registration form already. If not, please call the U.S. Catholic Mission Association at 202/832-3112 right away. Look for the AFJN Annual Meeting check-off box on the registration form. We will also send you a separate registration form in August.

We need immediate action on the debt issue! As of this writing, the U.S. Congress is on a path to scuttle the Cologne debt relief agreement. The U.S. pledge necessitates appropriating $435 million in the 2001 budget, but so far the House and Senate are proposing only about $75 m. Meanwhile, billions are allocated for outlandish missile defense systems and corporate tax breaks. Using the materials in this issue of Around Africa, please write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper immediately. Across the nation, the Jubilee 2000/USA campaign is urging everyone to do the same as part of a coordinated effort for July.

As part of AFJN's newly launched Africa Grassroots Response Initiative, Larry Goodwin leaves on 05 July for a six week, six-country trip to Africa. He will visit justice & peace activists in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana in addition to meeting Africa-Europe Faith & Justice Network (AEFJN) staff in London and Brussels. Larry will report on his trip to AFJN members at the September Annual Meeting. The initiative opens up a major new avenue for AFJN's advocacy work. You can read about it in the April issue of the newsletter, and you will hear a lot more about it in the coming months.

We wish you blessings and peace!

Larry J. Goodwin, Executive Director
Ezekiel Pajibo, Policy Analyst
Caroline Obonyo, Organizational Advancement Manager
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U.S. Africa Policy: Inept, Negligent, Impotent or Racist?
An AFJN Appraisal
The Clinton Administration has said more about Africa than the previous two administrations combined. Mr. Clinton's 1998 visit to Africa demonstrated an engagement unmatched in the past. However, in real terms the situation in Africa has not improved. The Clinton pledge that U.S. annual assistance to Africa would reach an historic high has not happened. That high was actually attained with President Bush’s $1 billion aid level. Under President Clinton and the Republican Congress, that level has fallen steadily to around $700 million. The administration has noticeably retreated from its much touted "African renaissance" and "new breed of leaders" rhetoric.

What went wrong? First was the administration’s overly optimistic characterization of Africa as a success story. Second was reliance on high sounding rhetoric coupled with weak follow-up. Another was the naive belief of those guiding U.S. Africa policy like Dr. Susan Rice, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and Dr. Gayle Smith, Africa Director at the National Security Council, that individuals who came to power through the barrel of the gun could be saviors of Africa.

The ineptitude of U.S. policy toward Africa is reflected in the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s bungling efforts to help resolve the Sierra Leone conflict. The U.S. Special envoy for Human Rights and Democracy for Africa, Rev. Jackson is perceived to be a close friend of President Charles Taylor of Liberia, a known human rights violator, principle supporter of the brutal Sierra Leone RUF rebel group and a possible war criminal. While in Liberia, ostensibly to broker an accord, Rev. Jackson’s likening of the RUF to the African National Congress and of Foday Sankoh, the RUF’s barbarous leader, to Nelson Mandela, created a firestorm of opposition in Sierra Leone. Feeling against him was so high that Rev. Jackson was unable to visit that country.

The Lome Peace Accord, which was supposed to end the Sierra Leone conflict by giving the outlaw RUF a major role in the government, was foisted upon the disabled country with the support of the U.S. government represented by Rev. Jackson. It was crafted largely in deference to Liberia’s President Taylor who wanted to protect his diamond interests by preventing the RUF from being held accountable for their criminal actions. Now, as the Lome Accord unravels, the U.S. is conspicuously absent from current attempts to resolve the crisis. The U.S. has yet to even contribute its share of funds for the UN peacekeeping operation in the country.

The negligence of U.S. policy toward Africa is also exemplified by its woeful lack of leadership in bringing to heel the violators of UN sanctions on UNITA. When Canadian Ambassador Robert Fowler released his report to the UN on sanctions busting in Angola, he specifically named the governments of Burkina Faso, Togo and Rwanda as principle violators. The Fowler Report recommended penalizing those countries with diplomatic isolation and an arms embargo. Following Security Council deliberations, the countries instead were granted six months to respond to the report’s charges. The U.S. did not lodge a protest. Six months was enough time for UNITA to re-group. Since then, it has retaken towns previously captured by the government, emboldened by the lack of U.S. and international resolve to forcefully act against it.

The impotence of U.S. Africa policy was also manifested in its inability to get Ethiopia, a strong ally of the United States, to agree to a peaceful settlement in its border dispute with Eritrea. Ethiopia is one of Africa’s largest recipients of U.S. aid, yet the Ethiopian government would not heed U.S. overtures for peace. Prior to the recent Ethiopian offensive that defeated Eritrea, the U.S. engaged the leadership of both countries at their highest levels in an attempt to settle the dispute. Anthony Lake, the much-respected former National Security Advisor, expended great effort to mediate the conflict. Susan Rice was in the region within a week after the conflict began, but neither was able to convince the warring nations to change their behavior. While the fighting raged, 8 million Ethiopians and 800,000 Eritreans were threatened with starvation. The high level of U.S. involvement and the fact that the leaders refused to be swayed by U.S. officials indicates the extent of U.S. weakness in the region.

Adding to the sense of US impotence is the intransigence of Uganda's Yoweri Museveni and Rwanda's Paul Kagame to quit the war they are waging against Laurent Kabila in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Most recently, the two erstwhile allies engaged in a pitched battle over gold and diamonds in Kisangani, hundreds of miles from their respective borders. The fighting killed more than 160 Congolese civilians and imperiled 200,000 more by blocking food and medicine from coming into the city.

On top of its other problems, is U.S. policy toward Africa racist? Analysts spotlight the paucity of resources offered to resolve conflicts in Africa compared to elsewhere, like Kosovo, as an indication that the charge bears some weight.

Perhaps another example is the self-styled hallmark of Clinton Africa policy, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Critics of this trade bill have dubbed it "NAFTA for Africa," likening it to the North America Free Trade Agreement. However, the American, Canadian and Mexican governments negotiated the terms of NAFTA among themselves, although not necessarily with the interests of their working and poor people in mind. On the other hand, AGOA is a purely U.S. initiative, not a trade agreement negotiated between sovereign states. It did not result from African leaders hammering out an accord with their American counterparts. Rather it is the concoction of one nation, the United States, imposed unilaterally upon the countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Formal negotiation sessions never took place and African finance ministers were invited to an AGOA meeting in Washington, DC only after the bill had been formulated. AGOA critics, AFJN among them, feel that the bill will only serve to subordinate Africa's economic interests to those of Western corporations. The United States has never dealt this way with any other part of the world. Why Africa?

In this election year, Africa advocates would do well to examine U.S. policy with an eye toward a fair deal for all Africans. If U.S. office seekers are really interested in Africa, they will respect Africans as partners. They will commit to using U.S. diplomatic and economic influence to end Africa’s wars, stop the flow of small arms, fund UN peacekeeping activities and hold accountable those responsible for human rights abuse and corruption. They will support ways to prevent Africa’s resources, notably oil and diamonds, from being used to underwrite armed conflict. They will commit to cancel Africa's debt, ensuring that the savings go into education, health and broad based economic development. They will support mutually beneficial trade policies that serve to develop Africa’s own capacities while increasing the level of U.S. development assistance. They will support policies that protect the rights of Africa’s workers and Africa's fragile environment. All of this means crafting policies that put the well being of people and Africa’s sacred land before profits. There is no other way to ensure long-term, moral, effective U.S. Africa policy.
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Turn Up the Heat for Debt Cancellation
The Jubilee 2000/USA Campaign is turning up the heat for canceling the unjust debts that the world’s poorest countries are obliged to pay the U.S. and other wealthy nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

As the campaign heads toward the pivotal end of the year 2000, it will particularly emphasize the impact these debts have on poor children throughout the world. Health and education statistics indicate that nearly 18,000 children die every day in the world’s poorest countries from debt related causes. A large percent of these child deaths are in Africa. The campaign will personalize this gruesome reality with a collage of 18 baby pictures proclaiming the message "You can stop this."

Jubilee 2000/USA supporters will focus their efforts around a set of actions aimed at convincing U.S. policy makers that poor country debt is a burning moral issue demanding an urgent political solution by wealthy creditor nations and financial institutions. The campaign is mobilizing monthly actions among its supporters from now until the end of the year, insisting on debt cancellation without the oppressive conditions that have characterized official debt relief policies so far.

The Jubilee 2000/USA campaign is a top priority for AFJN. As AFJN activists, please join us in carrying out these monthly actions.

  • July -- National grassroots media action aimed at generating letters to the editor and op-eds in local newspapers. Below is a sample letter to the editor that you, your church or campus group can use to write to your hometown press.
  • August -- Grassroots visits to members of Congress who are at home during the congressional recess. The Jubilee campaign has a simple, user-friendly packet showing you how to set up your visit and express your basic Jubilee message. It contains helpful background fact sheets on the issue that you can use for yourself and also leave with your member of Congress.
  • September -- Letters to Congress as the new school year begins. Send letters to Congress with baby pictures or perhaps school pencils symbolizing how debt deprives children of education. The Jubilee 2000/USA campaign will provide sample letters for you to use.
  • The Jubilee 2000/USA campaign will announce actions for the late fall and end of the year as the time approaches.

We are at a critical point in the campaign and must apply even greater pressure – turn up the heat – on our nation’s decision makers to make debt cancellation for the world’s poorest people a reality now! Join us in these important actions, and engage your own communities and networks to do them with you.
Write to your local newspaper in July. Use the sample letter below to help frame your message.

Sample Letter to the Editor
Dear Editor,

From July 21-23, finance ministers from the seven wealthiest nations in the world (G-7) will meet in Okinawa, Japan to discuss the global economy. Last year, these wealthy countries designed a program to help relieve some of the poorest countries’ debt burden. To date, the United States has not taken steps to fully implement its debt pledges. Hopefully, the U.S. and the G-7 will commit to a more serious debt program, minus oppressive conditions, this time around.

According to UNICEF, nearly 18,000 children in the world's most impoverished and indebted countries die each day as a result of conditions caused by crushing international debt.

Children and adults who suffer from hunger, poor water, AIDS and other diseases are directly affected because their countries are forced to spend scarce funds on debt servicing rather than on health care, education, and environmental protection. Are U.S. citizens prepared to change this unacceptable situation? We can do it by insisting that Congress immediately appropriate the $435 million needed to fulfill U.S. promises.

Jubilee 2000/USA, part of the worldwide campaign to cancel the debt, asks, "How many more children a day must die before the U.S. Congress appropriates enough funds to relieve these debts?" Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX), chair of the Senate banking committee, claims that the international financial institutions must be reformed before funds can be delivered, but dying children don't have the luxury of time to wait. Congress must stop holding debt relief hostage and support the $435 million to help save these children. What better way to use our abundant resources!

Signed …
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Sierra Leone
The withdrawal of British troops from Sierra Leone on June 15 caused apprehension in Freetown where citizens fear an upsurge of rebel activity. British troops were initially sent to secure the departure of British citizens and other foreigners. They stayed on to help facilitate UN peacekeeping activities. 200 British troops will remain in the country to train 1000 recruits to constitute the core of a new army. Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels have reportedly increased their attacks on UN peacekeepers and allied militia of the Government.

According to diplomatic sources in Sierra Leone, even though UN troop strength is expected to reach 16,000, the UN peacekeepers lack training and are ill equipped to carry out peacekeeping duties. The U.S. has not paid its portion of the UN assessment for Sierra Leone peacekeeping activities. Senator Judd Gregg has agreed to release $50 million of the $96 million assessment, but congressional wrangling is preventing the money from being disbursed.

According to the 1999 Amnesty International Human Rights Report, the RUF committed some of the worst human rights violations in Africa. Government allied militia and ECOMOG, the West Africa peacekeeping force, were also accused of serious abuses. The United Nations is considering the establishment of an international tribunal to try RUF leader Foday Sankoh for war crimes.

Democratic Republic of the Congo
Following six days of intense fighting in Kisangani between Rwanda and Uganda, a cease-fire was reached between the two sides in June. Relief groups reported that over 160 civilians were killed while several hundred were wounded. More than 200,000 Kisangani residents whose lives were imperiled by the fighting have started to get relief assistance.

Uganda pledged to withdraw its troops to an area 90 miles from the city. Fears of the Rwanda military taking complete control of Kisangani have prompted calls for deployment of UN troops. This appears unlikely since the Secretary General apparently is recommending that the UN scrap its plan to send peacekeepers to the Congo at all, and he is threatening sanctions against countries that refuse to withdraw from Congolese territory.

Ethiopia/Eritrea War
Ethiopia and Eritrea have agreed to sign an accord to cease hostilities. Both countries are to withdraw to positions they occupied prior to the war that started in May 1998. A 13 mile-wide buffer zone is to be created, and Ethiopians would patrol the disputed area of Badme. About 2,000 UN troops are expected to deploy in the buffer zone to demarcate the borders and police the accord.

Negotiators expressed cautious optimism about the peace deal. A recent report suggested that while Ethiopia was spending $1 million a day on its war efforts, donor countries were wary of continuing to provide humanitarian relief for 8 million Ethiopians threatened by famine. Some 800,000 Eritreans also face the prospect of starvation.

Relief supplies for the beleaguered people of Angola are running dangerously low. According to UN sources, 1.5 million uprooted Angolans face starvation. The UN is concerned that the number of people in need is increasing rapidly while the level of donations is lower compared to previous years. Of the $158 million required to assist Angolan war victims, only $73 million has been pledged so far.

Meanwhile more than 20,000 Angolans took to the streets calling for an end to the war. Signatories of the Angola Peace Manifesto, such as Rev. Daniel Ntoni Nzinga, were prominent among the demonstrators. The marchers called for dialogue to end the conflict. The speaker of the Angolan parliament, in an apparent response, said that the government would not negotiate with the UNITA rebels.
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Child Soldiers
On 25 May 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. The new protocol establishes 18 as the minimum age for participation in armed conflict, for any compulsory recruitment, and for any recruitment or use in armed conflict by armed groups. It calls on governments to raise their minimum age for voluntary recruitment, but regrettably, still allows governmental armed forces to accept voluntary recruits from the age of sixteen, subject to certain safeguards.

Governments are urged to sign the new protocol at the upcoming Millennium Assembly of the UN General Assembly in September and to ratify it as soon as possible thereafter. It also called on governments to adopt a minimum age of at least eighteen for voluntary recruitment, and to stipulate this age in binding declarations made at the time of ratification.

The United States has not yet confirmed that it will sign the Optional Protocol, but there have been signals that it may do so. With lobbying support from the U.S. Coalition, resolutions have been introduced in the House and Senate supporting signature and ratification.
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Trade and Development Act of 2000
On 18 May, President Clinton signed into law the Trade and Development Act of 2000, combining Africa and Caribbean trade measures into one bill. The legislation incorporates the bill formerly known as the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). AFJN consistently opposed AGOA as it moved through Congress, believing that it would impose unfair requirements on Africa as conditions of trade and primarily benefit U.S. businesses rather than Africa's poor majority. The Africa portion of the new trade bill retains essentially the same provisions to which AFJN objected all along.

To quote the Washington Office on Africa "… through AGOA specifically and through our economic might and institutions generally, we are using poverty in Africa to force our own ideological free market agenda against the African longing for genuine and pervasive economic and social development." AFJN will monitor the effects of AGOA on Africa through the newly launched Africa Grassroots Response Initiative. We will continue to advocate for U.S. trade and economic policies that foster human development for all, not profit for the few.
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Chad Cameroon Pipeline
On June 6, the World Bank approved $3.7 billion for an oil well and pipeline project linking oil fields in Chad to Cameroon's Atlantic coast. The plan includes developing 300 wells in Chad and construction of a 673 mile-long pipeline through inhabited areas and pristine forest. Environmental and human rights groups, including AFJN, strenuously opposed it. Cameroon Catholic bishops and Protestant leaders joined in a statement of grave concern about the project's impact on the lives and survival of millions of men and women. Their call for an independent commission of neutral experts and humanitarian leaders to reexamine the project was rejected. It is not known how many people will be dislocated by the scheme or to what extent bio-diversity and wildlife will be harmed. The bank insists that poor people in both countries will reap major economic benefits from the project. The Chad and Cameroon governments are both known for their high levels of corruption.
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