Table of Contents
Dear AFJN Members and Friends
Please join us in sending Ezekiel to Africa with blessings and prayers for continued success in his work and mission. He has shaped AFJN in innumerable ways, and he leaves behind him a solid legacy of passion for justice. On behalf of the AFJN board, Caroline Obonyo and myself as staff, and all our members and friends, we say: Thank You, Ezekiel! God be with you.
Rays of Hope Amid
In Senegal, the March election of Abdoulaye Wade ended the Socialist Party's four-decade rule. The gracious acceptance of defeat by Abdul Diouf, only Senegal's second president since independence from France, cemented the Senegalese people's adherence to civilian rule and their determination to maintain the ballot box as the mechanism for popular choice.
After more than 20 years of rule by Jerry Rawlings, Ghana's longest serving president, Ghanaians will go to the polls in December to choose a new government. The elections are being carefully watched. Absent any recourse to violence, they are expected to seal Ghana's path towards peaceful transition based on a popular mandate by the people through electoral politics.
In other parts of West Africa the picture is less bright. In July, Liberia returned to low-level warfare in the northern part of the country, close to its borders with Guinea. Both countries have traded accusations of blame for the fighting. Indications are that the war is escalating as Liberian rebels open a new front in Nimba County, an erstwhile stronghold of President Charles Taylor. Two new rebel groups have announced their intention to violently overthrow the Liberian Government. In Guinea, meanwhile, a new rebel group has been formed, which seeks to oust the military dictatorship of Alpha Conde. The United States has deployed U.S. marines to Guinea to assist in the training of Guinean soldiers, apparently in a bid to prevent the fall of the Conde Government.
At the same time, the war in Sierra Leone continues to limp on, preventing the country from recovering from nine years of devastating civil conflict. In early November, the Sierra Leone Government reached yet another agreement with the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The new accord, signed in Abuja, Nigeria, calls for a 30 day cease-fire, full deployment of United Nations troops, and the return of all weapons, ammunition and other equipment captured from peacekeeping troops by the RUF. A few days following the signing of the accord, Liberian President Charles Taylor and the RUF called for the withdrawal of British troops from the country. Their demand was condemned by the Sierra Leone Government and by peace activists in the country. On November 24, more than 20,000 Sierra Leoneans marched in Freetown in support of keeping British troops in the country. The British now have in excess of 500 troops there. According to London, this is a demonstration of British commitment to "assisting the government of Sierra Leone in their quest for a lasting and peaceful settlement."
In late November, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa convened a meeting of seven African heads of state in Maputo, Mozambique in a fresh bid to get the Congolese peace process back on track. Presidents from Rwanda, Uganda, DRC, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa were all in attendance but none of the various DRC rebel groups were were represented. According to reports, the Maputo meeting sought to disarm Ugandan and Rwandan rebel groups in the DRC and to enforce the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country. Speaking in Maputo, DRC President Laurent Kabila said that he would allow "greater freedom of movement to United Nations observers" who are mandated to monitor a cease-fire agreement, which all sides have violated repeatedly.
Horn of Africa
Somalia appears to be putting its house back in order. In late September, following more than six months of negotiations, a transitional government was selected in Arta, Djibouti. More than 2000 Somalis, representing a cross section of the population, participated in the deliberations. Abdiqasim Salad Hasan was named the Interim President and a Transitional National Assembly was established with Abdullahi Abdulla Derow as Speaker of Parliament. President Hasan named Ali Khalif Galeyr as Prime Minister. However, two members of the government have been assassinated and various warlords, as well as the breakaway Northern Somaliland, are opposed to the new government.
In early November, the UN unveiled a plan to support the transitional Somalia Government, stating that "Somalis have now moved from the struggle for survival to the struggle for peace." Against this backdrop, the world body is proposing a program called "First Steps: An Operational Plan to Support Governance and Peace-building in Somalia." The UN hopes the plan will provide an incentive to consolidate peace through local initiatives that would access vulnerable members of the population, especially children, and lead to a reestablishment of law and order in the country.
So far donors have not come forward in support of the UN plan or the new transitional government. The new government has been reaching out primarily to its neighbors in East Africa. Officials so far have visited Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. Somalia was recently seated as a member of the Intergovernmental Association for Development (IGAD), a regional peace and development consortium of East African countries.
In Zimbabwe, protesters took to the streets in mid-October to vent their anger at a 30 % increase in the price of bread. The general state of the economy is dismal. Unemployment is a whopping 56 percent while inflation hovers near 60 percent. With a minimum wage of Z$1,500 (about US $27), Zimbabweans spend close to 88 percent of their daily income for two loaves of bread. In 1983, the Zim-dollar was exchanged for US $1.03 but today one Zim-dollar equals three U.S. cents. The continued dispute over land settlement, serious fuel shortages, and Zimbabwe's role in the DRC war also serve to undermine the government's ability to rein in the economy.
RENAMO, the largest opposition group in Mozambique and a former guerilla group created by Apartheid South Africa, recently threatened a return to war following a protest against the December 1999 elections. The elections, which resulted in the ruling FRELIMO party maintaining power after capturing 52.2% of the votes, were judged free and fair by international monitors. However, RENAMO continues to protest the results and has boycotted parliament for the last seven months. Supporters took to the streets in early November, almost one year after the elections were held. The protests turned violent with at least 38 persons killed, including seven police officers. The Government has launched an investigation into the violence. Human rights groups have said that the Mozambican police are to blame for the deaths. In late November, the situation worsened when more than 80 inmates died under mysterious circumstances in the north of the country, which is a major support base for RENAMO and was the scene of the demonstrations. According to preliminary investigations, the inmates' deaths may have been caused by conditions of over-crowding. RENAMO contends it has the right to appoint governors in six central and northern provinces, where it won a majority of the votes. However, according to the constitution, RENAMO's majority is not enough to give it the authority to appoint governors.
On the 25th Anniversary of Angola's independence from Portugal, President Jose Eduardo dos Santos called on his compatriots to be reconciled and to join his government's efforts at nation building. He told Jonas Savimbi, the leader of the rebel UNITA movement, to seek peace, promising to present a law to the National Assembly that would "grant amnesty to individuals, who have committed crimes against humanity in armed conflict, if they renounce the war." Dos Santos claimed that the war has de-intensified and cannot hinder the country's reconstruction and development.
UNITA has rebuffed the government's amnesty pledge and has been blamed for recent attacks in the northern part of the country, including the recapture of Quiculungo, which some analysts feel could shift the balance of power away from the government in the Kwanza-Norte Province.
In late October, a three-person delegation led by Dom Zacarias Kamwenyo, Catholic Archbishop of Lubango and president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Angola and Sao Tome, visited Washington, DC and New York City. The delegation met with U.S. government officials, aides to members of Congress and the U.S. mission at the United Nations to appraise them of civil society efforts in Angola to promote peace and ensure a role for civil society in building a durable peace in the country. In meetings with various U.S. based non-governmental organizations, the delegation called for solidarity from their American colleagues in the daunting task of bringing peace to Angola. They argued that Angola needs the same kind of support accorded to the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, and they noted that much of Angola's current dilemma is a result of Apartheid South Africa's former destabilization campaign in the region.
Finally, trade unionists in Swaziland have been
protesting monarchic rule and calling for democratic liberties. Their protests,
which at times were violently put down by the government, have created political
tension in the country. The union leaders have threatened to blockade the border
with South Africa, thereby preventing the import of goods. The Congress of South
African Trade Unions (COSATU) has said that they will support their cousins
across the border. King Mswati III, who rules by decree, exacerbated the
situation in early November when he banned trade union meetings, re-introduced a
sixty-day detention law and closed the University of Swaziland for two weeks.
Political parties are not legal in the southern Africa kingdom.
Clinton Trip to Africa
The relationship between the U.S. and Nigeria continues to be driven more by military interests than assisting the country to consolidate its democracy. Witness the absence in U.S. policy of a commitment to cancel Nigeria's debt as advocated by AFJN and others, or the lack of U.S. support for repatriating funds stolen by former military dictators and stashed away in foreign banks. Nigeria's difficulties, whether they involve the emergence of Islamic Law in the North or restiveness in the oil-rich Delta Region, are related to issues of economic justice. If Nigeria’s economy could be organized to improve the living standard of its people, the country’s difficulties would be much more manageable.
In the case of Burundi, the country is no closer to a peaceful resolution of its conflict than it was in August, and Nelson Mandela is beginning to show signs of frustration with the situation. Vigorous and concerted diplomacy by the U.S. could help move the peace process forward. More importantly, public statements by the U.S. condemning arms suppliers to the region would go a long way toward establishing the basis for more dialogue. At a recent meeting on Burundi, a researcher noted that during a visit to the country a few years ago, guerrillas operating in the region did not have enough supplies of arms. Now, they have more arms than they have men willing to fight.
U.S. Assessment of AIDS in Africa
Congress Funds Debt Relief
AFJN and others, who advocate for justice and
peace in Africa, will continue trying to convince public officials and the
general public that Africa matters. An important way to achieve that aim is to
pursue a credible campaign, which assists Africa to emerge from its
impoverishment through just international and domestic policies.
Signs are already moving in that direction. The Tanzanian government's patience has worn thin. Animosity between the refugees and their Tanzanian hosts has increased in the face of rising insecurity in the region. The fatigue of the international community with the impasse in the Burundian peace negotiations and a desire for a quick resolution to the conflict has led to signing an accord that
Food rations in the camps have been cut by 40 percent. The World Food Program has officially stated that the fault lies in insufficient funding.
However, on previous occasions, like that of the forced repatriation of Rwandan refugees from Tanzania in 1996, cutting food rations has been used by the international community to create a "push factor" to get refugees to return home. It is reported that a statement to this effect was recently made by a UNHCR official in Dar es Salaam. The UNHCR has set up camps in Burundi to receive refugees returning from Tanzania. In a recent BBC broadcast, the UNHCR spokesperson expressed regret that no one had returned yet. The UNHCR repatriation contingency plan has apparently not included the participation of the wider NGO community.
Burundian members of Parliament have recently visited the camps, and Nelson Mandela is also expected to visit sometime soon. This has led a number of people familiar with the situation to suspect that a repatriation plan is already unfolding.
Meanwhile, fighting in Burundi continues and has even intensified, while more than 4,000 additional refugees fled the country into Tanzania last fall. As of mid-September, over 300,000 people were still internally displaced in Burundi itself. The present agreement cannot guarantee that hostilities will cease and that security will prevail. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a sober reminder of that fact.
All concerned parties must proceed with caution. The governments involved and the international community must assure that any repatriation takes place in safety, with dignity, and that each refugee must be given the chance to make her/his own decision to return or not.
North American and European leaders must persuade
those responsible for implementing a peace accord to avoid the temptation of
seeking an expedient solution, which is not rooted in the hearts and well-being
of the Burundian people. A hasty move with respect to repatriation could lead to
increased hostilities, risking the lives of innocent people and defeating
efforts to seek a lasting peace for Burundi.
Attendance was at an all time high of nearly 100 people as we settled a range of issues from electing board members to approving a joint AFJN/USCMA resolution on the debt crisis in developing countries. Herein are some of the main items approved by the membership at this year's Annual Meeting.
AFJN Board: October 2000-October 2001
AFJN Operational Plan 2001-2002
The plan lifts up the centrality of economic justice for Africa. Trade and investment policies, key mechanisms of globalization, profoundly affect food security, poverty, agriculture and bio-diversity in Africa. AFJN will address those issues primarily through its Africa Grassroots Response Initiative (GRI). The on-going debt crisis continues to be a top AFJN priority.
In the area of peace and human rights, AFJN will continue to push the U.S. to support peaceful solutions to the conflicts plaguing sub-Saharan Africa. This will include adequately funding international peace initiatives, banning land mines, curbing the flow of small arms to the continent and demobilizing African child soldiers, helping to reintegrate them into society. At the same time, AFJN will maintain its efforts to have the U.S. be unequivocal in upholding high standards of human rights in its Africa policies. HIV/AIDS has also become a key AFJN priority.
One of the main challenges and needs for the future is to increase the level of effective activism among AFJN's individual and organizational members. Expanding activism is one of the most essential elements required for increasing AFJN's impact. In the next two years, AFJN wants to consult more closely with its organizational supporters and generate more contact between AFJN members and key policy makers in the U.S. government, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization.
The full operational plan is available from the national office. You can also obtain it from AFJN's web site if you click on "AFJN Information" at the bottom of the page.
Of particular note this year was the production of AFJN's first-ever Annual Report, compiled from the 1999 audit that AFJN commissioned, and which will be undertaken on a yearly basis from this point onward. The audit and Annual Report provide us with a way to be more accountable to our membership and funders than has been possible before. The Annual Report is available upon request from the national office.
AFJN Annual Award
Staff Office Report
The full office report is available from the
national office. You can also obtain it from AFJN's web site if you click on
"AFJN Information" at the bottom of the page, then go to the
"Annual Meeting 2000" heading.
Whereas the Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN) and the United States Catholic Mission Association (USCMA) affirm that adequate nutrition, shelter, health and education, environmental sustainability and a secure livelihood are basic requirements for a dignified human existence; and
Whereas Africans are striving to create accountable and transparent governments, social institutions that respect human rights and mechanisms to resolve armed conflict and establish durable conditions for peace; and
Whereas Africa is the only continent where most social indices are negative, including the fact that life expectancy is falling, fewer Africans have access to education and health, and a growing number of Africans are exposed to armed conflict; and
Whereas wealthy industrial nations, the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) profess concern about poverty in Africa but, together with African governments, have failed to take adequate measures to improve the material conditions of Africa’s poor majority; and
Whereas responsibility for Africa's debt crisis lies with both lenders and borrowers; and
Whereas many of Africa's poorest countries must shift scare resources away from schools, health services, agriculture, roads and other essential investments in order to service their debts, thereby unjustly impeding their abilities to meet basic human needs; and
Whereas the Highly Indebted Poor Country Initiative and its derivatives deliver debt reduction too slowly, exact conditions that prevent Africans from attaining a dignified way of life and fall far short of canceling Africa’s debt; and
Whereas the process of economic globalization is marginalizing Africa’s poor majority, placing them in a subservient role within the global economy; and
Whereas Africa’s armed conflicts and impoverishment are often a function of Africa’s economic realities;
Therefore now be it resolved that
AFJN and USCMA will persist in rousing their members to persuade the U.S. to champion the cancellation of Africa’s bilateral and multilateral debt.
AFJN and USCMA members will strongly urge their
members of Congress to support the administration's request of $810 million
through 2003 for debt reduction for poor countries. Further, we oppose any
policy reforms, such as those mandated in structural adjustment programs,
imposed from the outside. Policy changes must be democratically derived within
the debtor countries, be plainly consistent with eradicating poverty, and
protect the natural environment.
I am writing to express my gratitude to Congress for passing the Joint Resolution condemning the death of Fr. John Kaiser, MHM, who was murdered in Kenya on 24 August 2000. The resolution also denounces the killings of many others besides him, who have worked to promote human rights and justice in the Republic of Kenya. I can assure you that U.S. missionary groups remain very interested in the outcome of this case.
Father John Kaiser became a human rights defender while working among people displaced by the brutal ethnic clashes prior to Kenya's 1992 multi-party election. He testified that high officials in the Kenyan ruling party were involved in fomenting this violence which killed 1,500 and displaced more than 300,000 people. He also helped alleged rape victims bring their cases to the Kenyan branch of the International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA). Kenyan members of FIDA have received anonymous death threats, following the filing of rape charges against a Minister of State in the Office of the President.
Solidarity with Kenyans and missionaries like Father John Kaiser prompted the Catholic Task Force on Africa to send a statement, signed by 205 missionaries, to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October. I urge you to continue pressing for the full disclosure of all the circumstances of his murder.
Thank you again for your concern for the plight of the Kenyan people.
eyes to Your presence
life, help us find the cure now
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