Around Africa
August/September 2002 
A Publication of the Africa Faith and Justice Network

Congo Peace Accord but Conflict Grows
Sign-On Letter to Sec. Colin Powell
Africa Gripped by Famine
Eat GMOs or Starve?
Africa: From Organization to Union
Women Must Be Equals in Africa Union
AFJN's Peace & Security Program in Action
News from St. Cloud Diocese
Recent AFJN Sign-Ons

Our Annual Meeting is approaching fast. Enclosed you will find another registration form. This is your last chance to plan to join us in shaping, in an active and meaningful way, AFJN's agenda for action in the next two years in the post-election period.

The theme of the meeting, Speak Hope, Claim Justice , is symbolic in diverse ways. As we enter AFJN 20th year of existence, it reflects both AFJN's faithful commitment to Africa and the continent's resilience in face of adversity. It is also a witness to the challenges of our times. From the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) to the months following September 11 (2001), we seem to have moved from one Cold War to another. The interim twelve years presented a unique window of opportunity for ensuring that respect for human rights and human beings and commitment to genuine democracy became the prevailing values of our nation's foreign policies.

That window has largely closed. Corporate greed, (re)militarization of foreign policy, primacy of security over human rights concerns, secrecy of action and decision-making based on covert intelligence have become the pillars of our current foreign policy-making craft. The distinction between the developed and the developing worlds is becoming increasingly blurred. Lacking any viable role model for sustainable people-centered development, Africa now more than ever needs to reinvent itself. We have deep faith that Africa can do this and that another world is possible. Come and be part of the debate and history in the making.

Marcel Kitissou, PhD
AFJN Executive Director
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On July 30, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Rwanda signed a UN/South African-brokered peace accord to end their hostilities. The accord raised hopes that peace might be on the horizon. But both before and since the accord was signed, local conflicts have worsened in eastern Congo, as rebel factions and warlords maneuver to seize as much territory and loot as they can:

  • in early August, over 100 people, mostly women and children, were brutally hacked to death in and near Bunia, in an area under the occupation of the Uganda army.
  • fighting has escalated between rival rebel splinters fighting over a gold mine in Uganda-controlled Ituri province;
  • more Rwandan troops were recently deployed to attack Banyamulenge - Congolese Tutsis whose need for protection from attack by MaiMai ethnic militia once served as a main pretext for Rwandan occupation of the Kivus - because the latter finally broke with Rwanda-backed rebel forces and initiated peace talks with the MaiMai.

These recent and past killings - by all sides, including Kinshasa - reflect the continuing impunity enjoyed by combatants on all sides of the Congo war. More concerted international - and US - pressure is need on all parties, big and small, to persuade them to end the use of violence, respect human rights and allow genuine civil society groups a much larger role in the structures and processes of both national and local governance. On July 30 US-based NGOs emphasized these points in a letter to US Secretary of State Colin Powell [see box below] urging a more pro-active, public and forceful US "diplomatic attention to the Congo's human rights and governance as well as security issues."

Many are skeptical of the accord, arguing that:

  • Mbeki backed an imperfect accord short on concrete details in order to boost the credibility of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)'s stated commitment to conflict resolution;
  • the accord fails to agree on:
    • what nation(s) will provide troops to disarm the genocidaires (though South Africa has offered some);
    • who will finance these troops in disarming the genocidaires and for how long;
    • what UN or other mandate these troops will have to do so;
    • who exactly is considered a genocidaire and how many there are (Kinshasa and Kigali have long differed over estimates);

  • Congolese President Kabila has withdrawn from peace processes before, as have Rwanda and Uganda under various pretexts;
  • The agreement does nothing to undercut the economic incentives for Rwanda and Uganda to resist ending the occupation of eastern Congo, which has proved enormously profitable to those involved in looting the DRC's natural resources. (NGOs in Europe, the US and Canada are planning to launch an international effort to end such pillage when a UN experts' report documenting examples of such looting by all belligerents is released at end October.)

The accord also fails to address the concerns of the many other parties to the Congo's conflict, armed or unarmed, or suggest how they will be addressed. These parties include external belligerents (Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe), internal ones (including Jean-Pierre Bemba's MLC, RCD-Goma, RCD-ML and its various splinters, the MaiMai militia and the Banyamulenge) and civil society (NGOs, students, the church and political parties). While civil society participated actively in the Sun City talks' commissions, they were marginalized by the April 2002 power-sharing agreement between Kabila and Bemba (which has now all but collapsed) over who would occupy which ministerial posts.

Others note the agreement's positive aspects and potential:

  • it puts in place a process affirmed by two key parties, and monitored by the international community, to finally force some decisions on how to deal with Rwanda's security issue, rather than Rwanda continuing to deal with it unilaterally;
  • it likely moved Ugandan President Museveni in mid-August to agree to withdraw UPDF soldiers still in the DRC, though he has promised this before;
  • it may have encouraged Congolese president Kabila to step up informal negotiations with the RCD-Goma and other Congolese groups (in August he named Vital Kamhere to represent Kinshasa in following up on the Great Lakes peace process; and
  • on August 9, RSA and the UN agreed to establish a joint secretariat to implement the July peace agreement.

But a key fear remains that the accord may make these two belligerents less willing to compromise with rival parties to the conflict, moving some to use violence to defend their interests. While the DRC's Catholic bishops initially backed the Kabila-Bemba accord, they have more recently pushed for inclusion of RCD-Goma in order to ensure a viable peace process.

Key to bring real peace to the lives of ordinary Congolese will be:

  • strengthening the role, mandate and performance of UN forces in the DRC, both to monitor and halt human rights abuses.
  • ending human rights abuses in the Congo through greater public diplomacy on this issue.
  • restarting a more broadly inclusive inter-Congolese Dialogue that does not marginalize civic society in deference to armed groupings.

AFJN has been active in convening ADNA's Congo Working Group, which on August 20 co-sponsored a press briefing with Human Rights Watch in Washington, DC (taped and broadcast by C-SPAN) on the human rights situation in the DRC. It is currently exploring prospects for Congressional hearings and a meeting with State Department officials. Still other US-based NGOs with on-the-ground operations in the DRC have been meeting regularly on how to support civil society participation in the (currently suspended) Inter-Congolese Dialogue.

Carole Collins is Senior Policy Analyst at AFJN
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In a 30 July 2002 letter to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, AFJN and other NGOs - including AFSC, Amnesty International, CMSM, NETWORK and WOA - asked to meet with him to discuss concerns about human rights and other issues related to the war in the DRC. The NGOs welcomed the July 30 peace accord - but warned that rapid progress towards a comprehensive power-sharing agreement including Congolese civil society as well as armed actors was essential to reduce the climate of mistrust and uncertainty in the DRC working to undercut the political momentum generated by the peace pact.

The letter also noted that the U.S. "government's public silence on human rights issues has fed the perception among many Congolese that the U.S. de facto supports the belligerents." While welcoming extension of the U.S. Rewards for Justice initiative - to arrest the organisers of the 1994 Rwandan genocide - to the DRC, the NGOs maintain that "our government's public silence on bringing to justice perpetrators of violence against civilians in the Kivus, especially those killed by Rwandan-backed forces in Kisangani this past May, has outraged many Congolese."

In addition to urging that pressure be maintained on both the DRC and Rwanda governments to live up to the agreement's provisions, the letter highlighted two other areas where more active U.S. diplomacy was urgently needed, in:

  • stepping up efforts to end local conflicts and extensive human rights abuses in the eastern Congo, a region largely controlled by rebel forces assisted by Rwandan and Ugandan military forces, and bring perpetrators of such abuses to justice; and
  • providing greater US political and financial support for the U.N. peacekeeping presence and human rights monitoring in the eastern Congo.

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Since early spring, drought and famine have posed a growing threat to the lives of Africans across the continent. A combination of natural disasters, conflicts and man-made errors (bad policies, corruption, etc.) has left many governments unable to feed their people. While southern Africa appears to be the most severely affected, countries from Cameroon to Ethiopia, Senegal to Somalia are also struggling to combat hunger and malnutrition.

On August 6 the All Africa Council of Churches (AACC) - comprised of 168 member national churches and 39 national christian councils - asked donor governments to expedite food relief for an estimated 12 million southern Africans at risk of starvation. "Time is not in our favour. We have to act now or we shall be overtaken by events," said AACC Interim General Secretary Mr. Melaku Kifle in issuing the appeal. He asked the global ecumenical family and AACC member churches to press their respective governments to dispatch "desperately needed relief", noting that the region was suffering from its worst drought in the last five years.

Even the World Bank and IMF are responding. In an August 6 joint letter, the heads of the Bank and Fund wrote "conditions are expected to deteriorate rapidly over the next few months (and) up to 13 million people are likely to require sustained food assistance." The food shortfall for six of the most affected countries - Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe - will be close to 3 million tons in 2002, equivalent to about US$750 million.

For over 30 years, the Sahel region of Africa has suffered the longest sustained droughts in the world. In some places, rainfall has fallen between 20-50 per cent. A June New Statesman (UK) report on new research, however, indicates that industrial pollution from factories and power stations in North America and Europe may be exacerbating Africa's cyclical droughts, by pushing the Saharan rain-belt south.

While the number of southern Africans who need food this year (12 mn) is not as great as those who went hungry in 1992 (18 mn), this year's level of need is due less to drought and more to political and other man-made factors.

  • In Zimbabwe, the government's chaotic and violent land acquisition program and pre- and post-election tensions have multiplied the impact of the drought, leaving an estimated 6-7 mn people at risk, roughly half the nation's population.
  • In Malawi, the sale of the strategic grain reserve by corrupt government officials negatively affected food prices and has undermined household food security, leaving an estimated 4 mn people - almost a third of the population - at risk of starvation.
  • Zambia has suffered from both severe drought, pervasive AIDS infection rates and the economic burden of feeding an influx of new refugees from Angola. The UN estimates 17.6% of Zambia's children are orphans, about two thirds having lost their parents to AIDS.
  • Government policies have favored investing in export-oriented commercial and industrial agriculture at the expense of those growing food for consumption.

AIDS/HIV is a growing factor in this famine as never before. The ICRC on August 19 predicted 3 mn orphans would be hardest hit by the current famine unless donors respond soon. These orphans have lost a mother or both parents, mainly to the AIDS epidemic. Countries with prevalence rates of 25 per cent or higher have seen food production drop significantly as the farming population has sickened or died. Incomes of urban and migratory workers affected by AIDS/HIV have likewise dropped, leaving their families unable to purchase sufficient food. And those with AIDS/HIV are most vulnerable to the negative health effects of hunger and malnutrition, given their damaged immune systems.

Donors have responded slowly to the crisis. The European Union has agreed to cover an estimated 20 per cent of the region's total estimated food shortfall; 40 per cent of EU aid will go to Zimbabwe to be distributed exclusively by NGOs and/or the WFP. But the UN currently estimates that 14 million people, including 2.3 million children under 5, are at risk, and without more effective action at least 300, 000 people in the region could die from hunger and disease in the next six months.

Carole Collins is Senior Policy Analyst at AFJN
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By Larry J. Goodwin

In late spring Zimbabwe announced that it would not allow the import of American genetically-engineered maize as food aid despite a devastating drought which threatens to leave 6 mn of its people without enough food. To most western analysts, this was but another example of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's callous behavior toward his country's citizens. And indeed the government's efforts to force white commercial farmers off their land has contributed to food shortages throughout the region, where Zimbabwe had previously been a regular grain exporter.

While some, including the International Food Policy Institute's Per Pinstrup-Andersen, accuse the Zimbabwe government of using food to play politics, other African nations - notably Zambia - have also rejected imports of GMO maize. Several southern Africa nations - Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Namibia - are concerned that GMO maize, if imported as emergency food and later planted by poor farmers who have no money to buy local seeds, will contaminate their indigenous maize strains, which are central to sustaining their agricultural sectors in the long-run. This might not only destroy genetically unique indigenous maize strains but also bar these countries from access to European grain markets, which bar GMO-affected crops.

Because of extensive use of GMO-modified maize strains, virtually no US maize exports can be certified as GMO-free and have been barred from European markets. Some observers believe the US wants to use food-starved African countries as a back door into European markets. Both Zimbabwe and Zambia have said they would accept milled US grain even if it had genetically-modified (GMO) content rather than whole grain which, if planted, would risk genetically contaminating its native crops. Such milled maize cannot be utilized as seeds. The US, however, citing the added cost of milling, has insisted that these countries accept US genetically-altered maize or receive nothing.

Roger Winter, USAID's Assistant Administrator for Humanitarian Assistance, told the Washington Post July 31 that Zimbabwe had no choice but to take the GMO grain. But Carol Thompson, a political economist at Northern Arizona University, accused the USA of using its power to impose unwanted GMOs on Africa. AFJN Senior Policy Analyst Carole Collins, also quoted in the Washington Post article, expressed AFJN's concern that the establishment of corporate-controlled GMO crops could lead to African farmers losing the rights to their agricultural resources.

AFJN believes that food aid should not be used to abrogate a country's right to protect its farmers, food security, agricultural sector and indigenous genetic inheritance. In this instance the US - not Mugabe - seems to be using food to play politics by using food aid as a means to create and control market access for itself.

As a new US study released August 21 indicates, GMO crops are an uncertain technology. Their long-term effects on human health and the natural world are largely unknown. US companies have rushed them to market because they stand to profit enormously as leaders in the ag-biotech industry. But this is no excuse to undercut the efforts of other countries to protect their agricultural resources because they are currently too weak to resist.

As of this writing, Zimbabwe has entered a rather complex agreement with the UN World Food Program and USAID to accept American maize, perhaps intending to mill it, in exchange for handing over to the UN agency an equivalent amount from its own maize stores for distribution to the population.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
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On a Saturday in late May 1963, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was born in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, 2.5 km above the sea level. On a Monday in early July of 2002 it died on the shores of South Africa's port city of Durban. As on a grave, the most important things are not the two dates but the hyphen connecting them.

Many critics argue that the OAU did little to resolve Africa's major problems or provide a sense of direction or coherent strategy of development to the continent. Supporters argue it was instrumental in helping to decolonize Africa and end the brutal sway of apartheid over South Africa's people and neighboring countries. It is thus ironical that the OAU died in Durban and symbolic that South Africa became the birth place of the new African Union (AU)! The OAU reflected an effort to apply pan-Africanism to a continent. While many see the AU as deepening this effort, others feel the AU largely reflects the vision of one leader, Muammar Kaddafi, to create a sort of United States of Africa.

First proposed by Kaddafi in September 1999, his vision became an OAU project at a meeting in Togo in July 2000. By May 2001 a quorum of African nations had ratified the proposal to form the AU and, meeting later that year in Zambia, began to take steps to implement it. On July 9 of this year 53 of Africa's 54 countries declared the formation of the AU. [Because Morocco withdrew from the OAU in 1984 to protest its admission of the Saharaoui Arab Democratic Republic as a member, no one is clear about its status and standing within the new AU.]

The AU is an ambitious undertaking with both strengths and weaknesses. Many - drawing lessons from the difficulties encountered by the European Union, which took half a century to move from 6 to 15 members with coal and steel agreements, a common market, free trade, and common currency - feel no other efforts in history have sought to build so quickly a continent-wide and comprehensive political union. EU admission criteria are strict: political (democracy, rule of law, human rights); economic (openness and transparency). Efforts are made to bring potential members closer to the level of development of current members before formal entry.

Over 39 years, the OAU expanded from 32 to 54 members. The new AU inherits this membership, but no comparable credible criteria for admission and expulsion and a limited consensus on a shared vision.

Concerning the proposed New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), views diverge as to whether it should be run by the AU (Nigeria's view) or by a special agency (SA's view). The lack of consensus can be seen in the intense competition for national representation on NEPAD's 20-member implementation committee. Governments believe greater NEPAD-related visibility might allow them to channel more projects and investment to their country. Yet for civil society representatives, excluded from participating in the development of NEPAD and its policy agenda, its opening Africa's doors even wider to the G-8 and international capital will only increase inequality and poverty among Africa's peoples and communities.

Marcel Kittisou is Executive Director at AFJN
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By Sr. Beverly Lacayo, MSOLA

Frene Ginwala, Speaker of South Africa's parliament and the first woman Speaker to be appointed since the historic 1994 multi-racial elections, warned that the absence of women representatives in the former OAU must not be repeated in the new African Union. Her rational before the heads of State gathered in Durban in July was that "the relative absence of women at this meeting does not augur well for democracy in our continent." Two decisions taken by the group responded to Ms Ginwala's exhortation: five of the ten AU commissioners, who will be drawn from the five regions of Africa, will be women; and the AU protocol also stipulates that at least one woman from every country should be represented in the proposed pan-African parliament. Speaker Ginwala's firmness on this last point was made clear when she proposed (in an interview) that any delegation arriving without a woman should not be allowed into the meeting. For her it is not a question of quotas, but of basic democratic representation of half the population.

Beverly Lacayo is a Staff Associate at AFJN
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Initiated in late 2001, this new AFJN program is still being defined as events sharpen priorities and new networking defines the range of possible activities. The program was set up to help address the persistence of conflicts on the continent and how the policies of the US - the world's only superpower capable of truly global reach - could be better focused and deployed to help resolve them in ways most just to grassroots people and communities. It is clear that:

  • neither modern diplomacy nor traditional methods of peacemaking are working well to resolve existing conflicts;
  • resorting to violence and military means also does not provide a sustainable solution to political conflicts; and
  • the USA's current counter-terrorism strategy is serving to undermine respect of human rights, genuinely democratic transitions, resolution of internal conflicts and post-conflict reconciliation in Africa.

Recent activities of this new program have included:

  • Participating in a series of meetings with the Arms Transfer Working Group to develop an advocacy strategy to ensure any US foreign military aid is tied to the respect of human rights (and linking ATWG's legislative strategy to its grassroots campaign for "No Arms to Dictators", i.e., regimes that have (a) no democracy, (b) no civilian control over the military, (c) no respect for human rights, (d) with aggression against other countries, and/or (e) no transparency. (On August 2nd, President Bush signed the Defense Emergency Supplemental, allowing the President to effectively ignore human rights criteria for military aid in current law. Clearly there is a need for work in this area to be stepped up.)
  • In July, AFJN co-organized a discussion session with the Center for Defense Information (CDI) on the illegal transfer of weapons to Africa. Following a video showing, a State Department official addressed the more than 30 organizational representatives who attended. An emerging consensus is that such arms transfers are not a product of chance but of a well-organized international system of public and private actors which initiate transactions (factories and arms dealers), handle money flows (banks), protect arms transfers from scrutiny or regulation (state agencies which ignore unregistered air flights), load and unload the shipments, as well as 'end-users' who (not so spontaneously) use these weapons to explode in anger after shipment are received.

In coming months, planned project activities include:

  • increasing advocacy on arms transfer issues
  • helping organize a forum on conflict and peace in the Mano River area of West Africa
  • producing a report on AIDS and African militaries (and the importance of integrating AIDS/HIV education activities into demobilization strategies for former combatants)
  • continuing to provide leadership to the NGO community on responding to the conflicts in the DRC and Zimbabwe
  • presenting a paper on terrorism and international law in September at a Peace Studies Conference at Colgate University
  • presenting a paper on political assassinations and intractability of conflict at the December African Studies Association annual meeting
Marcel Kittisou is Executive Director at AFJN
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By Lorna Plana

The St. Cloud Mission Office (Central Minnesota) in association with Catholic Relief Services is taking a new proactive role towards "mission". It has partnered with the Diocese of Homa Bay, Kenya in efforts to create not only partnership but a family in Christ.

Delegations visiting from St. Cloud to Homa Bay and from Homa Bay to St. Cloud have allowed the formation of personal relationships. The leadership teams in both dioceses make decisions guided by their experiences and interactions from their time abroad.

Sustainable community based projects are ways in which awareness are raised and resources shared. The first project is the metal silo project with aim to increase food availability through reduction of storage losses. Partnering has made it possible to learn from each other and grow together in spirituality.

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06 June -- Halifax Initiative letter to the Finance Ministers of the Group of 7 major industrialized countries at their June meeting urge them to fundamentally change the governance of International Financial Institutions and the global economy to address increasing inequality, poverty, environmental stress, and unjust distribution of power and opportunity.

11 June -- Letter by ActionAid USA, Africa Action, 50 Years Is Enough Network, and TransAfrica Forum urging the G-7 to commit to an agenda addressing Africa's most critical economic challenges and to remove impediments to poverty reduction in Africa.

11 June -- Letters to Senators Frist (R-TN) and Kerry (D-MA) thanking them for their work on legislation to support the Global Fund Against HIV/AIDS, TB & Malaria, and urging them to tailor funding to documented needs.

18 June -- Global Exchange letter to the president of M&M/Mars, Inc. urging his company to purchase Fair Trade Certified cocoa as the best way to end child slavery and poverty on cocoa farms in West Africa and elsewhere.

29 June -- Arms Transfer Group Letter to House/Senate conferees expressing concern about appropriations for the "War on Terrorism" that would provide large amounts of money to governments with dubious human rights records, and calling for the highest possible level of accountability and congressional oversight for military aid and weapons transfers programs.

08 July -- Pesticide Action Network North America Letter to the Executive Director of the World Bank protesting its Rural Development Strategy, which bases its entire analysis and plan on the assumption that trade liberalization and privatization by themselves will reduce poverty in poor countries.

30 July -- Letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell highlighting areas where more active USA diplomacy could be effectively focused for peace in the DRC: ending extensive human rights abuses in the eastern Congo and pressing the DRC government to end all support for those clearly implicated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

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