April 2001

Table of Contents
African Farmers At Risk
Congo & Central Africa
Uganda Election Controversy
Sudan Legislation Proposed
Zimbabwe Bill Introduced
African Debt Campaigns

Dear AFJN Members and Friends
Under the heading of its Africa Grassroots Response Initiative, AFJN is playing a major role in launching a campaign to support African farmers' rights. Current trends in the formulation of global trade regulations put small-holder farmers in Africa - and the developing world generally - at risk of losing control of their seeds, crops and other agricultural resources to international business interests. The head-long dash toward privatization in the world economy, epitomized by the attempt to foster the patenting of nearly everything, including all manner of life forms and microorganisms, could spell disaster for public sector and community control of traditional food security systems. Not to mention the consequences for local culture, family life, livelihoods and patterns of land ownership.

I urge you to join us as we get this important campaign to support African small-holder farmers underway. In addition to the information in this edition of Around Africa, we will soon be making available other materials to help you effectively present the campaign to your communities.

Happy Easter to each of you.

Larry J. Goodwin
Executive Director

African Small-Holder Farmers At-Risk
Among the most fundamental of human rights is the right to food. This involves more than having enough to eat. It means that nature’s resources on which humans depend for sustenance -- the seeds we use to produce grains, fruits and vegetables – belong to the common heritage of the human race. As such, for countless generations humans have saved, shared and exchanged seeds, the genetic repositories of the nutrient systems that maintain our lives. We have grown, harvested, stored, traded and sold the crops that derive from the seeds, breeding new varieties in the process. Until very recently, the notion that whole varieties of seeds and plants used to produce food crops could become someone’s personal property was unthinkable. A traditional farmer could grow wheat, maize, carrots or potatoes to feed the family. She could sell her produce and freely save seed from the crop for the next planting season. He might buy, exchange or barter for seeds from a neighbor or trader, but no one would claim exclusive rights, for example, over an entire species of millet such that he had to pay them for permission to cultivate it.

Globalization's Impact
Economic globalization has dramatically altered that landscape. The worldwide push to industrialize agriculture, the advent of genetically modified plant and animal organisms (GMOs) and the expansion of the scope of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) to lay claim on life forms through patent systems significantly change the human relationship to nature. These patents clash with the principle that living organisms exist in their own right, not by human invention, and belong in the public domain, where humans share both access to them for food and medicine and the responsibility to conserve them.

The relationship between IPRs and the right to food finds some parallels in the Intellectual Property Rights debate over HIV/AIDS medicines now being played out between pharmaceutical companies and developing countries. In the developing countries' quest to obtain alternative, more affordable medicines to meet the AIDS pandemic, corporations insist that their patent rights take precedence over individual needs for medicines. In the case of agriculture, industry asserts the precedence of IPRs over communal and traditional knowledge and practice.

As the process of economic globalization unfolds, attempts by international agribusiness to extend the industrial agricultural model to the developing world loom large. The privatization of the agricultural sector goes hand in hand with the industrial model, including rights over seeds and crop varieties, and the widespread attendant use of commercial fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides and other chemical or synthetic inputs.

Concerns about GMOs
There are major concerns about the effects of GMOs on human health and the environment. In spite of the fact that agribusiness corporations and some U.S. Government agencies claim there is no danger, there has been no independent, long-term testing to really find out. The fact is that no one knows what the long-term effects are. And once they are introduced into the environment, you can't take them back. Nor can they be readily controlled as the recent case of "Starlink" genetically modified corn has shown in the U.S. It was supposed to have been isolated from non-GMO corn in both growing and storage processes, but it was found to have contaminated hundreds of corn food products sold to the public before it was discovered.

Since GMOs are intended primarily for large-scale commercial agriculture, they foster mono-cropping (planting a single crop over large areas), which destroys bio-diversity and invites heavy pest infestation by the very nature of the method. The chemicals necessitated by GMO crops destroy microorganisms needed for the maintenance of healthy soil. The increased irrigation requirements and agricultural run-off that accompany industrial agriculture can also adversely affect local water resources.

Land ownership and usage
The industrial model of agriculture that GMOs promote can seriously affect patterns of land ownership and usage. The focus on cash and export crops poses the real risk of cutting local food production, thereby weakening traditional food security systems. In addition to shifting production away from growing food for individual and local consumption -- creating dependence on retail foodstuffs in the process -- it demands lots of acreage, which means that small-holder farmers risk being pushed off the land to make way for larger individual or corporate operations. In Africa, the potential devastation to food security, culture, family life, rural livelihoods and bio-diversity is painfully obvious.

By contrast, documented experience shows that systematic organic and natural farming methods can match or better the yields of industrial agriculture without the negative effects of chemical or synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides or the contamination of GMO cropping. These methods are much better adapted to the multi-crop, limited use acreage of small-holder farmers.

When it comes to globalization's impact on Africa's agriculture, a lot depends on the kind of rules being formulated at the World Trade Organization (WTO). True to the WTO's market-oriented approach, which largely reflects that of the industrialized nations who shape it, privatization and unregulated competition lie at the heart of its policies. In establishing international trade rules and standards, the WTO works to give transnational corporations maximum access to developing country economies and markets, allowing foreign corporations the same rights and privileges as local citizens and enterprises. A large part of this process involves the WTO supporting the privatization of natural resources. One of the principal ways this happens is through what are called Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). While TRIPS may not be a household term, these trade provisions carry enormous implications for Africa's farmers. TRIPS are the mechanism used to promote the global patenting of life forms and processes, that is seeds, plants and animals and the functions they perform. The WTO is using TRIPS to try to legitimize patents over life forms in international trade policy.

African Initiatives
Africans are taking the lead in contesting this trade policy. In preparing for the 1999 WTO Ministerial Meeting in Seattle, the Africa Group issued a communication on reviewing the TRIPS Agreement that formally opposed the patenting of life forms. Specifically they said, "The review process should clarify that plants and animals as well as microorganisms and all other living organisms and their parts cannot be patented, and that natural processes that produce plants, animals and other living organisms should also not be patentable."

On another front, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) has developed African Model Legislation for the Protection of the Rights of Local Communities, Farmers and Breeders, and for the Regulation of Access to Biological Resources. This model legislation aims to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of Africa's biological and agricultural genetic resources, and safeguard the rights of the public sector over them. The OAU's hope is that individual African governments will use the Model Legislation as a basis for drafting national laws codifying its principles.

While it is still too early to assess the impact of the OAU model legislation, some African governments are becoming more aware of the urgency to implement measures dealing with these issues. Promoting the model legislation could help African governments establish domestic regimes to regulate biotechnology, control access to genetic resources, ensure equitable benefit sharing from their use, and protect the rights of local farmers, communities and plant breeders. Without protection, small-holder farmers could be blocked from continuing their traditional practices of breeding, saving and exchanging the seeds that they have been growing for generations. They could be pressured into abandoning traditional crop varieties, substituting genetically altered food and cash crops, which have unknown effects on health and the environment, and which could make them dependent on synthetic and chemical agricultural inputs.

AFJN and Advocacy Partners
As African NGOs urge their governments to adopt the African Model Legislation, AFJN and its colleagues are launching a parallel initiative to urge the U.S. government to respect and support the model legislation's principles in U.S. trade policy and at the WTO. Championing the model legislation offers AFJN and its advocacy partners the opportunity to collaborate on an African-initiated educational and advocacy campaign. It connects us to a wide-ranging network of African NGOs who speak to the issue from a grassroots perspective. It links us to North American and European NGOs and organizations, which consider the impact of TRIPS on African agriculture a priority.

Declaration of Support
The main tool for conducting this campaign is the Declaration of Support for African Small-Holder Farmers (see box). AFJN and colleagues in the Africa Trade Policy Working Group are circulating this declaration for endorsement by church organizations, NGO and public policy groups, and organizations that focus on agricultural issues, especially in developing countries. We plan to present the declaration to key officials in the U.S. Administration and Congress before the next WTO ministerial to be held in Qatar in November. We count on your help in pressing the U.S. Government to make its trade policy compatible with the rights of African small-holder farmers.

We are developing background pieces for a popular audience to support the declaration -- a summary of African Model Legislation and explanatory materials laying out the issues at stake and why they are so urgent. These will be available soon. Meanwhile, urge your community or organization to endorse the Declaration of Support for African Small-Holder Farmers. Make this AFJN campaign a focus of your social justice efforts this year.

Please approach your religious congregation, church or community organization to add its name to the Declaration in Support of African Small-Holder Farmers. Send endorsements to us by e-mail at <>.
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Congo and Central Africa

The momentum toward peace in the DRC continued throughout March despite a brief upsurge in fighting in northern Equateur province. Rwanda, Uganda and other parties to the conflict carried out scheduled withdrawals of their troops from the frontlines; some Rwandan and Ugandan troops returned home.

Progress was somewhat hindered, however, by intensified fighting in Burundi and difficult negotiations over who would head an interim government there, as well as sharpened hostility between Uganda and Rwanda. On March 21in Butembo, MaiMai militia reportedly signed an accord with the FLC, a Ugandan-backed Congolese rebel group headed by Jean-Pierre Bemba, to set up a joint peacekeeping force in North Kivu.

In mid-March, UN human rights envoy Roberto Garreton arrived in the DRC to pursue an investigation of alleged massacres that took place following Laurent Kabila's seizure of power in 1997. His mission, blocked by the late Laurent Kabila, was welcomed by the new DRC president, Joseph Kabila. Garreton will also investigate the recruitment of child soldiers ('kadogos'), especially in areas controlled by Ugandan troops, and recent Hema-Lendu ethnic massacres in the Ituri region.

In March, Joseph Kabila appointed a new cabinet of advisers and visited Europe, where he urged Belgium, the UK and other governments to pressure Rwanda and Uganda to withdraw their forces completely from the DRC. (He has not pressed for disarming ethnic militias backing regrouped ex-Interahamwe forces, however.) The European Community (EC) subsequently pledged US$109 million in aid to the DRC if it made "concrete progress" and maintained the momentum of the regional peace process. Kabila Jr. also met with former Botswana president Ketumile Masire, the UN envoy tasked with facilitating the inter-Congolese dialogue. But he cancelled a meeting with political parties, which want the ban on political activities lifted.

Human rights groups welcomed Joseph Kabila's March 8 announcement that all detention centers not directly answerable to the public prosecutor's office will be closed. However, the groups remain concerned at the continued detention of a number of civil society actors and journalists.

In a March 16 report, the International Crisis Group warned that positive steps on disarmament and disengagement in the DRC were "being undermined by the ongoing political struggle for influence and access to resources," which might turn any inter-Congolese dialogue into a new theatre of strife between competing interests. It urged stepped up international pressure on all foreign belligerents to withdraw completely from the DRC. (see full ICG report at:
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Uganda Election Controversy Continues

On March 12 Yoweri Museveni was re-elected to a five-year term as president of Uganda with over 69% of votes cast. But his main challenger, Dr. Kizza Besigye, citing voter intimidation and vote-rigging, petitioned Uganda's Supreme Court to nullify the results and call a new election. He also called on the international community to withdraw aid to Uganda's "illegitimate government."

International election observers differed on how free and fair the election was: while some saw no voting irregularities, others reported stuffed ballot boxes, officials marking ballots for voters and other instances of vote-rigging. Besigye reported his agents were chased from many polling stations and barred from entering the Electoral Commission offices. However, the chair of the Post Referendum Support Group (PRSG), composed of Uganda's donors, declared the elections reflected a genuine choice by Ugandans.

Although it cited instances of violence and intimidation, particularly involving state agents, which made the campaign period neither free nor fair, the NGO Election Monitoring Group-Uganda ultimately endorsed the election results.

Since the election, a series of bombings and sporadic political violence have continued. On March 16, Amnesty International urged Museveni and his political opposition to reaffirm their respect for human rights and condemn any acts of violence by their supporters. More troubling were government efforts to link Dr. Besigye, the main opposition leader, to the bombings on seemingly tenuous grounds. Police questioned Besigye for 3 hours over sedition and terrorism charges a day after military intelligence, alleging links to the bombings, barred him from boarding a flight to South Africa.
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Sudan Legislation Proposed

On January 25 Senators Frist and 7 co-sponsors (Feingold, Brownback, Lieberman, Dewine, Santorum, Cleland and Sessions) introduced the Sudan Peace Act (S. 180) in the Senate. On March 7, the same bill was introduced in the House as H.R. 931 by Rep. Tancredo and 23 co-sponsors.

The bill is intended to facilitate famine relief efforts and a comprehensive solution to Sudan's civil war. It would support an internationally sanctioned peace process; support multilateral pressure on combatants to reach a peace agreement; and work to end the practice of slavery in the Sudan.

S. 180/H.R. 931

  • condemns human rights violations by all parties to Sudan's conflict (including the Sudanese government), the ongoing slave trade there, and the Sudan government's use and organizing of raiding and slaving parties in Bahr al Ghazal, the Nuba Mountains, Upper Nile, and Blue Nile regions;
  • asserts raiding and slaving parties are being used as a tool for creating food shortages as a systematic means to destroy the societies, culture, and economies of the Dinka, Nuer, and Nuba peoples in a policy of low-intensity ethnic cleansing.

The bill authorizes use of State Department personnel to support ongoing negotiations on, and eventual implementation of, a peace agreement between the Sudanese Government and opposition forces. It also says that the UN should be used as a tool to facilitate peace and recovery in Sudan.

Should the Sudanese government impose a ban on Operation Lifeline Sudan, the measure directs the president to develop a contingency plan, outside of UN auspices, to provide the largest portion of U.S. and private relief to all affected areas, including the Nuba Mountains, Upper Nile, and Blue Nile. The bill also requires the Administration to report on:

  • how Sudan is financing and exploiting oil reserves; how this is affecting local Sudanese in oil field regions and the Sudan government's ability to finance its war activities; and whether any financing came from the U.S. or involved U.S. citizens;
  • the extent of aerial bombings by the Sudan government in areas outside its control;
  • the extent to which humanitarian relief has been obstructed or manipulated by the Sudan Government or other forces for the purposes of the war in Sudan.

At a March 22 press conference, a bipartisan group of members of Congress -- including Reps. Dick Armey (R-TX), Donald Payne (D-NJ) and Charlie Rangel (D-NY) -- denounced 'blood oil' and urged stronger sanctions against the government of Sudan. Payne announced the formation of a bipartisan "Sudan Caucus," to be co-chaired by Rangel and Frank Wolf (R-VA), to press for more forceful action. The NAACP Washington bureau director also read a statement from NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume calling for strong U.S. sanctions.

In a March 15 report entitled "The scorched earth: Oil and War in Sudan," Christian Aid (UK) urged foreign oil companies to immediately suspend all operations in Sudan, and for oil giants BP and Shell to divest their shares in companies whose parent corporation is complicit in atrocities in Sudan. The report noted growing pressure for an international divestment campaign due to massive human rights violations in and around the Sudanese oilfields where foreign companies like Lundin, Talisman and others operate. In early March, BP rejected shareholder resolutions challenging its 2.2% holding in PetroChina, whose parent company is deeply involved in Sudan. In early March the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted to divest its shares in Talisman, a Canadian-based company. In letters sent in early March to the chair of the NYSE, the acting chair of the SEC and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, Rep. Wolf voiced concern over foreign oil companies' 'inadvertent' role in perpetuating human rights abuses by the Sudanese government.

Sudan's Justice Ministry has recommended that former Parliament speaker Hassan al-Turabi be charged with "inciting hatred against the state" and sedition, both punishable by death or life imprisonment, for his dealings with the SPLA. He may be brought before the courts soon. Reports indicate that over 70 colleagues have been arrested as well. On March 18, eight Sudanese National Democratic Alliance (NDA) opposition leaders went on trial, charged with espionage for allegedly meeting with a US diplomat to plan an armed uprising. Meanwhile, Umma Party leader and former prime minister Sadiq el-Mahdi has reportedly accepted an invitation to go to Washington to discuss democracy and the Sudanese civil war with U.S. officials. The NDA and SPLA have said that peace talks with the Sudan Government can only resume under certain conditions, including release of all political prisoners, lifting the state of emergency, suspension of constitutional clauses relating to Islamic Sharia, lifting the Public Securities Act and ending the ban on political parties.
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Zimbabwe Bill Introduced

On March 8, Senators Bill Frist (R-TN) and Russ Feingold (D-WI) introduced the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 (S. 494). This bill, which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations, declares it U.S. policy to back the Zimbabwean people "in their struggles to effect peaceful, democratic change, achieve broad-based and equitable economic growth, and restore the rule of law."

S. 494 would provide for certain bilateral and multilateral debt relief for Zimbabwe -- including setting up a Southern Africa Finance Center to help develop commercial projects there and in southern Africa -- but only if the U.S. President can certify that:

  • the rule of law has been restored in Zimbabwe;
  • certain conditions to ensure a free and fair presidential election or pre-election environment have been met;
  • the Government of Zimbabwe has shown its commitment to an equitable, legal, and transparent land reform program;
  • such government is making a good faith effort to end the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo;
  • Zimbabwean armed forces, police and security forces have become subordinate to and serve the elected Zimbabwean civilian government.

S.494 would restrict multilateral assistance to Zimbabwe until such certification is made, although the President could waive such requirements if in the U.S. national interest.

The bill would authorize the president to provide foreign assistance to Zimbabwe only for projects supporting freedom of the press; an equitable, legal, and transparent land reform process that would pay the costs for acquiring land and resettlement of individuals; and democratic rule and good governance.

S. 494 also includes non-statuatory language urging the President to consult immediately with the governments of European Union member states, Canada, and other appropriate foreign countries on implementing travel and economic sanctions on individuals responsible for violence and the breakdown of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

Crisis Worsens

Zimbabwe's economic crisis continued to worsen during March as fuel shortages began affecting emergency services. Many buses and cargo and passenger trains were cancelled due to lack of petrol. Zimbabwe ministers met March 18-19 with their South African counterparts to discuss the crisis but did not reach clear agreement on resuming S.A. fuel shipments to Zimbabwe.

On the same day that the Mugabe government fired two editors of government-owned papers for failing to toe the government line, representatives of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) met with Zimbabwean ambassador to the U.S. Simbi Mubako to convey their concern about threats to press freedom in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe government rejected a March 20 Commonwealth decision to send a fact-finding mission (composed of the foreign ministers of Australia, Barbados and Nigeria) to investigate alleged government abuses in Zimbabwe and report back to the Commonwealth summit next October. The European parliament urged that development aid channeled through the Zimbabwe government be suspended, and a probe of the assets of President Mugabe and his closest associates held in EU countries be initiated.

At a special one-day emergency congress March 21, the mostly-white Commercial Farmers Union opted for taking a new, more conciliatory tack: to initiate talks with the government on a possible plan to help resettle landless Zimbabweans and provide them with free tillage, fertilizer and seeds. The CFU remains divided over whether to drop or pursue its legal challenges to the government resettlement program.
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African Debt Campaigns Continue

Although the year 2000 has ended, Jubilee 2000's call to cancel the debts of the world’s poorest countries continues to resonate across Africa. Northern campaigns, including the Jubilee USA Network, are increasingly focusing on Jubilee themes which have been central to most African debt campaigns, such as:

  • ensuring a more transparent and participatory process of deciding on national budgets and negotiating debt relief with multilateral financial institutions;
  • avowing the fundamental illegitimacy of the debt of the poorest countries, not just the unpayability of those debts;
  • opposing specific macro-economic policies such as forced privatization of public services and resources like water, often insisted upon by creditors as a quid pro quo for debt relief.

National African debt campaigns have played a vital role in educating both ordinary citizens and their own government officials on debt issues. They have launched many creative initiatives and made serious national advances over the past 24 months, including coordinating an "African Day of Action Against Debt" last May 25. A sampling of recent African debt campaign activities:

  • Uganda Debt Network, a leader of Uganda’s Jubilee 2000 movement, helped persuade the government’s Poverty Action Fund to use NGO input in deciding how to spend the savings from debt relief, and has successfully challenged some government budget items. It inspired Ugandan members of Parliament (MPs) to oppose lending further monies for re-privatizing a government-owned commercial bank until a better rationale was provided (MPs rarely challenge Finance Ministry loan requests).
  • A Nigerian academic staff union asked Nigeria’s Federal High Court last October to declare illegal IMF and World Bank pressures on President Olusegun Obasanjo to implement their economic policies -- such as ending subsidies on fuel and fertilizer; commercializing education; privatizing public enterprises; and pruning federal workers. And Nigerian legislators, insisting on greater transparency by the IMF, last July urged their government not to use an IMF standby facility until its conditions were revealed to the National Assembly. Currently, Nigerians are mounting nationwide mass protests against fuel price hikes urged by the IMF, a reprise of similar protests last June.
  • On Feb. 10, Jubilee 2000-Angola asked the Angolan National Assembly to publish the entire draft national budget so that it could be publicly debated; to limit debt repayments to 5% of export earnings; and to earmark savings from any debt cancellation for health and education.
  • In February, Jubilee 2000-South Africa criticized the government budget as again prioritizing the servicing of the illegitimate Apartheid debt, intensifying privatization of public assets, and continuing to squeeze social expenditure at the expense of working and poor people. All of this despite an overwhelming AIDS/HIV crisis (1 in 9 South Africans are infected). J2000/SA participates in the South African Anti-Privatization Forum, a collective of community-based organizations and labor unions mobilizing against privatization of local government services, including water. On Feb. 14, the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) strongly denounced the government’s decision to sell Johannesburg’s water to Suez-Lyonnaise, a multinational notorious from Paris to Chile for over-pricing water, and its lack of transparency in barring public access to contract documents.
  • Jubilee 2000-Zambia, with the help of the Catholic Conference on Justice & Peace, has trained local parishes to monitor the impact of IMF and World Bank structural adjustment policies in local communities, publishing their findings in a quarterly newsletter. During 2000, it worked to strengthen local links to the national campaign. Last July it was invited for the first time to speak at the annual government and donor’s Consultative Group meeting. At government request, it also began to facilitate civil society participation in the World Bank's "Poverty Reduction Strategy Program" process in Zambia.
  • The Mozambique Debt Group organized a workshop for members of Parliament in 1999 to educate them on how IMF and World Bank conditions were negatively affecting Mozambique’s economic development and social programs. Last August, Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano called for total debt cancellation at a SADC summit.

Increasingly, African campaigns seek to collaborate on joint strategies. In mid-December, over 200 participants - representing 22 African countries and several debt cancellation campaigns around the world - met in Dakar, Senegal to seek a clearer civil society consensus on the failure of creditor-driven international debt relief measures. They also dealt with the need to work not only to cancel illegitimate debt but also to support new African initiatives, and reparations from rich countries to Africa. The "Dakar Manifesto" urged:

  • immediate, total and unconditional cancellation of African debt as not only unpayable but also odious, fraudulent and immoral, often used to finance dictatorships. It argues that "reimbursement of that debt is immoral: its service is diverting resources essential in the struggle against poverty, illiteracy and AIDS."
  • an end to Structural Adjustment Programs, recently renamed Poverty Reduction Strategy Programs (PRSPs)

Participants committed themselves to a program and its effective implementation, including

  • more transparent and democratic rule;
  • measures to stabilize the prices of raw material and commodities;
  • accelerated economic integration of African countries to create regional markets and viable monetary areas;
  • strengthened South-South cooperation;
  • reparations owed Africa as a result of colonization, slavery and the plunder of Africa’s wealth;
  • support for an Africa–based development that is participatory, inclusive and democratic; that reflects African needs and is not elite-based.
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