Around africa 
March 2002
A Publication of the Africa Faith and Justice Network

AFJN Annual Meeting
U.S. Focuses on Somalia
U.N. Official Questions Lack of Aid to Liberia
Looting Africa's Resources: The Oil Industry
Zimbabwe Update
West Africa Cotton Threatened
Opposition Leader Seized Power in Madagascar
Humanitarian Crisis Deepens in Angola
U.S. Trade Bill Abets African Sweatshops
Nigeria's Ethnic Problems Fueled by Disasters and Poverty

Of special concern to AFJN is the fate of the democratic movements that emerged in Africa in the 1990s and how they will fare in this new post-September 11 era. Key elements of President Bush’s stated African policy are support for democracy, rule of law and free trade. Yet African democracy may have become a casualty of the Bush Administration’s war against terrorism, as reflected in the U.S. government’s changed stance towards Sudan and its continuing silence about Kenya's political difficulties.

The Bush Administration is intent on rooting out ‘Talibanism’. But U.S. downplaying of human rights concerns to ensure African governments’ loyalty to its anti-terrorism agenda may inadvertently encourage the type of undemocratic, dictatorial governance that lies at the heart of both al-Qaeda and Taliban rule. Such rule disregards citizens' dignity and most basic rights, arbitrarily and harshly punishing offenders without any due process, brutalizing and killing opponents with impunity. Our government should join with Africans to ensure that such ‘Talibanism’ is not allowed to take root and proliferate on the continent. Fighting global terrorism requires fighting globally for human rights.

The U.S. has not yet grappled fully with several contradictions inherent in its current Africa policy. In some countries, African democracy has largely been an exercise for the urban elite, little more than a battlefield for competing political entrepreneurs (what many Congolese call the ‘classe politique’). Absent continuing and deeper democratic reforms, backing free trade policies and the ‘rule of law’ – and placing priority on property rights before all others – may well deepen social injustice, widen class differences, and continue to erode respect for human rights. Insisting on free trade policies also may weaken the very governments expected to enforce the rule of law in the first place.

Let's make democracy in Africa not a privilege for the few but a right for all, poor and rich, blacks and whites, and the rainbow of colors in between.

Marcel Kitissou, PHD
AFJN Executive Director

AFJN Annual Meeting 2002
Friday, 04 October - Saturday, 05 October in Washington, DC
Save the Date!

Please plan to join us for our 2002 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC., which we are holding this year at the Educational Design Center near Catholic University of America.

We will inform you soon about the details of the program.
Meanwhile, save the date

By Michael Kauder

Following the September 11 attacks, the U.S. has intensified its focus on Somalia as a possible haven for terrorists. In the past six months:

  • the U.S. froze the assets of Al Barakaat, Somalia’s largest money transfer company after claiming it was a "conduit for terrorist funds"
  • the Bush administration added the Somali movement Al Ittahad al Islamiya (‘the unity of Islam’) to its list of terrorist organizations
  • the U.S. increased surveillance flights over Somalia and, in January 2002, several thousand U.S. troops engaged in military exercises with Kenyan troops off the Somali coast
  • the U.S. Assistant Secretary for African Affairs visited Somalia’s neighbors, Kenya and Ethiopia, reportedly to discuss possible use of Kenyan bases in the event of a U.S. led attack on Somalia
  • several U.S. officials, escorted by members of the Ethiopian military, reportedly visited the town of Baidoa in Somalia, currently controlled by a faction opposed to Somalia’s Transitional National Government (TNG).

Concern re: possible U.S. intervention: Military and other media sources indicate the U.S. is considering possible military intervention in Somalia to prevent its being used as a base for al-Qaeda operations. This has generated widespread anxiety throughout the country which, says Randal Kent, U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, threatens to "disturb the economic and social relations" in the country and "damage its fragile recovery from years of war." A senior TNG official noted that "many people have been sending their families from urban areas to the countryside" in fear of a U.S. attack. In late February foreign ministers from the Horn warned the U.S. against precipitous intervention in Somalia.

Rather than bombing campaigns such as those undertaken in Afghanistan, U.S. sources suggest that U.S. intervention might involve backing a "proxy force" based on the example of the Afghan anti-Taliban coalition and\or the "extraction" of suspected terrorists.

Limited terrorist presence: Most experts agree, however, that the view of Somalia as a terrorist center and "one of the most likely alternative havens for Osama bin Laden" is largely an exaggeration. Professor Ken Menkhaus, a longtime Somalia watcher and former special political advisor to United Nations operations in the country, noted recently that "there are at this time no terrorist bases and training camps in Somalia and – let it be emphasized here – everyone in the U.S. government knows this." He characterizes Somalia’s al Ittihad organization as, "in the pantheon of worldwide Islamic radicalism, small potatoes ... mainly focused on a domestic, not global, agenda.... Its role in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania are, as best we can tell, incidental." Ted Dagne of the Congressional Research Service concurs, noting that "they (members of al Ittihad) don’t have a regional reach, let alone a global reach."

As for the reported presence of foreign terrorists in Somalia, according to a recent article, "reconnaissance missions conducted by U.S. soldiers and CIA agents have now determined that al Qaeda’s presence in Somalia is relatively small and unsophisticated." Menkhaus agrees: "The number of Somali nationals who have significant links to al Qaeda is quite small..... We are probably talking about a list of ten to twelve individuals at most."

The Washington Post notes that "the new U.S. military operation in Somalia ... is intended more to prevent additional al Qaeda members from getting into Somalia than to act against those already there." But many believe al Qaeda unlikely to seek refuge in this war torn country because, as Kent observes, "in Somali society, everyone knows everything.... It would be very difficult to sneak into Somalia and hide." And given the ever-shifting nature of Somali alliances, argues Menkhaus, "any non-Somali foolish enough to flee to Somalia stands an excellent chance of being turned over by his hosts."

Deepening humanitarian crisis: Meanwhile a new humanitarian disaster looms. In December, the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a report stating that approximately 300,000 people, mostly in the south of the country, are "threatened by starvation and in urgent need of food assistance" due to late and erratic rainfall which has caused both drought and flooding. The effects of the crisis have been worsened by the cut in remittances from abroad and by Saudi Arabia’s ban on imports of Somali livestock due to fears of the disease Rift Valley Fever. Funds available to buy food in nearby countries were significantly cut by the U.S. freeze on assets of al-Barakaat, a major Somali-based remittance transfer company. Hussein Ali Soke, a Somali correspondent for The Africa Conflict Journal, notes that over 90% of families in Somalia depend on remittances from family members overseas.

Many fear the global preoccupation with terrorism may cause the international community to not respond effectively to Somalia’s growing humanitarian crisis. U.N. World Food Program country director for Somalia Kevin Farrell warns that "the current drought, the very low level of humanitarian assistance, the prevailing climate of insecurity and the fears of further disruption could push an already very precarious situation over the edge."
Michael Kauder is an SMA Lay Missionary
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By Michael Kauder

In early February Liberian president Charles Taylor declared a state of emergency after rebels approached within 25 miles of Liberia’s capital, Monrovia. The fighting has sparked a flood of displaced persons, many of whom were already living in refugee camps after fleeing from fighting in the north of the country. In a BBC interview Ross Mountain of the U.N. Office of Humanitarian Affairs urged "the international community [to] put aside any differences it has with the government of Liberia and come to the assistance of some 60,000 people caught in the military unrest in that country."

Aid to Liberia has dropped steadily since President Taylor came to power four years ago, largely due to his government’s alleged involvement in gun running and diamond smuggling. Mountain noted that the present situation is particularly acute: "These are people who have been displaced multiple times and … reduced to carrying their worldly goods on their head, and looking for their families." The BBC article goes on to state that "aid workers, not to mention the people themselves, are in a typical humanitarian dilemma – condemnation of the Liberian Government won’t fill hungry mouths."
Michael Kauder is an SMA Lay Missionary
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By Carole Collins

This is the second in a series of AFJN articles intended to spotlight modern-day forms of looting of African resources fueling many of its conflicts, the suffering this pillage causes, and what new public policies might help end it. [The first article, on the looting of coltan in the DRC, appeared in Around Africa, October 2001.]

Background: (Desp)oiling African economies...
For most people, the term ‘looting resources’ evokes images of illegally smuggled diamonds, gold, coltan (an ore used to manufacture cell phones) or other valuable mineral resources. Far fewer recognize the effective looting of natural resources that occurs ‘legally,’ under flawed or corrupt contracts concluded by oil companies with inexperienced, oft-undemocratic or corrupt governments. Instead of generating resources for development, such resource exploitation consumes scarce public resources, helps underwrite military conflicts, and ends up disrupting community life and despoiling the environment.

The global oil industry’s exploitation of Africa’s oil resources presents a prime example of such ‘legal’ looting. In many countries, oil profits have depended on government or corporate repression and intimidation to silence opposition by communities and peoples negatively affected by oil operations.

The role of the oil industry and U.S. oil companies in Africa is of growing policy concern to Americans because more and more of our oil imports come from Africa (indeed three African countries – Algeria, Libya and Nigeria – provide 10.5% of global oil exports). More and more of Africa’s oil earnings are coming from U.S. companies. And the Bush Administration has been particularly concerned to protect the huge investments by U.S. oil corporations in Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa.

Eight of the world’s 25 oil-dependent states are African. The tragic irony, however, is that most citizens of such oil-rich African countries do not benefit from their country’s oil wealth. A sobering October 2001 report, Extractive Sectors and the Poor, written for OXFAM-America by UCLA Professor Michael Ross documents how developing countries heavily reliant on oil or mineral exports have a "worse record of alleviating poverty than states with similar levels of income but little or no mineral wealth. Oil and mineral exports do not simply fail to alleviate poverty; they appear to make it worse." As Meredith Turshen notes in a special Association of Concerned African Scholars Bulletin (No. 60/61, Fall 2001) on oil, such countries have higher infant and child mortality rates; more malnutrition; lower primary school enrollment and literacy rates; and face a greater danger of civil war than other poor countries.

Negative effects: African communities have voiced many concerns about oil operations in their countries, including:

  • lack of transparency about oil revenues: Many African citizens cannot get information on the earnings of their state oil company, or on how oil revenue is spent. Indeed some have difficulty getting access to the national budget
  • environmental risks: these are often minimized in project plans, in particular the risks posed by pollution to agricultural land, fish resources and drinking water. The roads needed for oil exploitation often open up areas to logging as well
  • inadequate compensation paid to local communities affected by oil projects: Compensation is often paid to individuals (e.g. local government officials) rather than to a community account subject to democratic accountability for its use
  • limited information and communication with affected local communities: Many local residents are unaware that employment on an oil project is usually limited and temporary. Local firms often lack information that would enable them to bid to participate in a project
  • use of oil revenues to prolong conflict: Oil revenues have played a key role in both Sudan and Angola in allowing government forces to purchase more weapons and ammunition to prolong sustained civil conflicts
  • repression and human rights abuses, which tend to be greatest in those regions where oil is located.

Examples of oil ‘looting’:

  • Chad/Cameroon oil pipeline: Planned by several western oil companies – including ExxonMobil, Chevron and Petronas – with World Bank funding, this project has sparked fierce opposition from groups in these two countries over failure to adequately estimate environmental damage, compensate local peoples, or involve the latter in the planning process
  • Sudan: The Khartoum government has perpetrated ‘scorched earth’ policies in oil-rich areas of central Sudan in order to create "security’ for the foreign oil companies and the oil revenue they generate for the Islamic fundamentalist government. Many believe that oil revenues now represent the greatest obstacle to resolving the conflict between Northern and Southern Sudan. Since oil began to be exported in August 1999, acknowledged military spending by Khartoum has doubled and helped make it military self-sufficient in several areas
  • Angola: Turshen notes that Angola is the most oil-dependent of the world’s 25 most oil-dependent states (90% of its export revenue comes from oil), yet ranks lowest on the U.N.’s human development index. And over 20% of its GNP went to military expenditures in 1997. Lubango Archbishop Zacarias Kamuenho, president of the Ecumenical Committee for Peace in Angola (COIEPA), in a speech December 12 to the European Parliament, noted that greater transparency re extractive industries like oil in Angola would make it more difficult to use oil revenues to support war
  • Nigeria: The Ogoni people began to protest during the 1980s against the negative effects of oil exploitation in the Niger Delta area. The Nigerian military regime’s response, backed by the oil companies, was to arrest a key Ogoni leader, Ken Saro-Wiwa, accuse him falsely of murder, and execute him. The massive international outcry that followed was greatly responsible for the imposition of sanctions against the military regime. All U.S. oil companies involved in Nigeria – Shell, Mobil, Chevron – were closely allied to the military dictatorship, helped it campaign against sanctions, and relied on it to help suppress popular protests against their operations.

Defending African peoples’ rights: Africans have organized to defend their rights in various ways. And Catholic organizations in Africa, Europe and the U.S – such as Catholic Relief Services (CRS), CIDSE and the USCCB – are increasingly vocal about the negative effects of oil exploitation.

  • in Congo-Brazzaville, the Pointe Noire Justice and Peace Commission asked CRS to help them address government management of oil revenues and has visited oil activists elsewhere in Africa to see how they are addressing the same problems
  • Nigerian activists, with CRS help, hosted a British group coordinating shareholder actions to look into Shell and other oil companies’ operations in the Niger Delta, Ogoniland and Rivers State regions of Nigeria
  • CRS facilitated a visit last November by the Secretary General of Cameroon’s Episcopal Conference to meet with U.S. and World Bank officials on the negative effects of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project and the PRSP debt relief process in Cameroon
  • the Angola Jubilee 2000 Committee demanded greater government transparency and, as part of its work to help Angola qualify for official debt relief, set up a working group on production policy (including for oil)
  • in the U.S., several groups have brought a federal class action suit in New York against Talisman Energy of Canada, alleging it has participated in human rights abuses against southern Sudanese. The U.N. in November called for greater documentation of how the Sudanese government is using its oil revenues, saying oil has continued to undermine human rights there. The USCCB is currently researching moral, legal and political implications of imposing capital market sanctions on oil companies operating in the Sudan, as called for in the Sudan Peace Act.

Carole Collins is Policy Analyst at AFJN
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ZIMBABWE UPDATE: Zimbabwe faces a deepening crisis on the eve of its March 9-10 presidential elections . Police fired upon main opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai after barring him from addressing a political rally in Masvingo. More recently, news accounts indicate that he faces a charge of high treason after the elections. The EU has withdrawn its election observers, and the EU and the USA have imposed targeted sanctions on President Mugabe and his close associates. On 08 February, the Jesuit Fathers and Brothers issued a very strong statement condemning government violence as sinful (visit AFJN’s web site at for the text of the statement). They have committed themselves to providing sanctuary for potential victims of such violence.

AFJN Policy Analyst Carole Collins will offer a detailed analysis of the elections and their aftermath in the April issue of Around Africa.
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By J. Philip Reed, M.Afr.

It sounded like good news. This past year the West African farmers in Benin, Mali and Burkina Faso produced a record harvest of cotton. Burkina Faso alone produced 42% more cotton in 2001 than the year before. Mali, the primary cotton producer in the region, did even better. However, when it came time to sell the cotton, the price on the international market had collapsed. Instead of being worth 50 cents a pound as it was on January 1, 2001, the price hovered a little below 30 cents. Ten years ago the price averaged about 60 cents.

How did that happen? For one thing, there is more and more competition from synthetic materials. There is also, however, a cotton glut. Production has far exceeded the demand. European and American cotton farmers won’t be worrying too much about it. On both sides of the Atlantic, subsidies, direct and indirect, are paid to them. Therefore, both Europeans and Americans will still receive a guaranteed price for their cotton, assuring that they will make no losses. The ten million West Africans, however, who depend on cotton for their livelihood, will not be so lucky. Where the Europeans are guaranteed about a dollar for each kilogram of raw cotton that they produce, the West Africans will get about 30 cents. It costs them more than that to produce that kilogram.

The United States is the biggest cotton producer in the world. The level of aid and subsidies guaranteed to U.S. cotton farmers in the year 2000 rose to 4.2 billion dollars. That comes to about 6 times the annual budget of Burkina Faso. Because the Americans and Europeans are assured of being paid for their cotton, they continue to increase their production, flooding an already saturated market, which causes the price to fall. If this keeps up, it will effectively mean the squeezing out, even the annihilation, of the African cotton industry all together. This is the kind of global competition that some refer to as free trade.

The West Africans are embittered by the odds stacked against them but have decided not to throw in the towel yet. They suspect that this is an intentional effort to eliminate competition. Their professional organizations met on November 21 and issued an appeal on the Internet. In it, they explain their situation and ‘solemnly ask the United States and the European Union to end their subsidies in favor of their cotton farmers.’ They add, "We ask that all who wish to build a more just and fraternal world join us in putting pressure on the E.U. and the United States so that they end the subsidies." On December 19 the organizations of cotton producers of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Benin formally signed the appeal. Their livelihood if not their very lives being on the line, they are carrying their campaign to the international media, to the governments concerned, and to all groups interested in helping them defend their right to a level playing field in producing and selling their cotton.
J. Philip Reed, M.Afr. is Director of the Missionaries of Africa Peace & Justice Office and an AFJN board member
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By Katie Donohoe

On February 22, opposition candidate Marc Ravalomanana declared himself to be president of Madagascar, a country of close to 15 million people about 250 miles off the coast of Mozambique. This followed two months of mass protests, triggered by controversy over the outcome of the December 16 presidential election. Daily protests by hundreds of thousands of people have brought Madagascar’s capital city, Antananarivo, and much of its economy to a virtual standstill.

Ravalomanana claims that the election was rigged and votes were tampered with. He insists that he won 52% of the vote, making a second run-off election unnecessary. His campaign has drawn nearly 500,000 supporters a day to protests that have effectively shut down the city. He has also drawn considerable support from church and civic leaders, who have noted serious irregularities with the election process and evidence that ballots had been altered. One church leader called the crisis "a decisive moment when justice must win over a government built on corruption," and another wrote to President Bush urging the U.S. to support an analysis of the differing vote counts.

Incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka, who has held power for more than 20 years, insists that the official election results – showing Ravalomanana with 46% of the vote and Ratsiraka with 42% of the vote – are accurate and require a run-off election, since neither candidate won more than 50% of the vote. Ratsiraka has remained quiet through out the protests, saying only that the results were accurate and a run off election will take place.

Ravalomanana, the widely popular mayor of the capital, Antananarivo, has consistently insisted that he would not participate in any run-off election until the official tally sheets were compared with those of outside observers. After initially agreeing to a postponed date for the run off elections (now scheduled for March 24), he abruptly changed course the following day and announced that he would take power. As AFJN went to press, it was unclear how he plans to legitimize his presidency, or how the Ratsiraka government will react. The military will remain "neutral", according to the Defense Minister.
Katie Donohoe is Development Coordinator at AFJN
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By Katie Donohoe

Since early 2001, conditions in Angola have steadily deteriorated and are now "truly shocking," according to the latest U.N. report. Ongoing conflict between the Angolan government and rebel UNITA forces has generated one of the world’s largest populations of internally displaced persons. An estimated 4 million Angolans, one-third of the nation’s total population, have been driven from their homes, fleeing fighting between the two forces. The number of displaced has more than doubled since 1999.

Many have blamed the Angolan government’s "scorched earth" tactics for worsening the humanitarian crisis. Government forces striving to drive UNITA forces out of Moxico province reportedly have sought to remove civilians from the area who could provide UNITA rebels with support. Many civilians have fled to an overcrowded camp outside of Luena, 5,000 in January alone; more than 60,000 more may arrive between February and May. Humanitarian agencies, stretched to their limits, have been unable to adequately assist this massive influx of people.

In January the Angolan government approved a U.N. initiative to try to restart peace negotiations with UNITA. Several U.N. meetings with UNITA had reportedly taken place before the sudden death of long-time UNITA head Jonas Savimbi February 22. Many are urging that his passing become a catalyst for moves to end the war. Others, however, fear his death may provoke a prolonged succession struggle within UNITA and/or intensified Angolan government efforts to eliminate UNITA through military means rather than seeking a peaceful transition.
Katie Donohoe is Development Coordinator at AFJN
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By Larry J. Goodwin

In May 2000, the U.S. Trade and Development Act was signed into law. The Africa title (or section) of that bill, known as the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), was touted for the jobs it would provide for Africans, especially in the textile sector. AFJN and others warned of the potential for worker and environmental abuse in the bill's mandate for unregulated African markets.

Recent reports indicate these fears were well founded. A recent investigation by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations in the Netherlands has uncovered evidence that American stores like The Gap and Wal-Mart benefit from sweatshop conditions in Lesotho linked to AGOA. Women there face abusive work environments that rank among the worst in the world. The investigation found regular factory lockdowns, forced and unpaid overtime, bans on trade unions, dangerous and oppressive conditions, unlawful dismissals, chronic job insecurity, and wages ranging from 25 to 30 U.S. cents an hour – far below the minimum required for a family's survival. Export Processing Zones in Madagascar reportedly offer a similar example of worker abuse, according to the Clean Clothes Campaign in Europe.

Another twist to this story is reflected in a Washington Post article that profiled poverty in Zambia, where jobs have disappeared because duty-free imports of foreign-made clothes have led to textile factories shutting down on a massive scale [WP, 19 Feb 02]. Thus the trade policies that foster sweatshops in one place occasion large-scale unemployment in others, always to the detriment of local people.

AFJN and the Africa Trade Policy Working Group have written to Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA39), who recently visited Lesotho with promises of greater U.S. market access, asking that he initiate a serious inquiry into the situation in that country. More broadly, AGOA's effects on local people and communities merit close monitoring as the U.S. continues to promote it as an economic boon for Africa.

Visit the web site of the Clean Clothes Campaign for more information at:
Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
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By Sr. Beverly Lacayo, MSOLA

The Nigerian government, which deployed troops to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia to help maintain stability, now faces internal instability of its own with a population nearing 120 million and multiple ethnic and religious groups. A series of unfortunate accidents in this oil-rich but mismanaged country have helped trigger ethnic tensions. These include:

  • a fire which gutted the commercial part of Jos six months ago, fueling riots (termed religious by some media) in which over 500 people died
  • a second fire in the same district in February which destroyed 1,200 shops and kiosks and caused traders from different ethnic groups to accuse each other of starting the fire (federal troops were deployed to prevent further riots)
  • a fire in a Lagos ammunition dumb in January which killed more than 1000 people and also sparked ethnic riots which killed 100.

Despite oil resources earning Nigeria close to US$280 billion in the last 30 years, poverty is pervasive and endemic there. The World Bank estimates about 66 percent of Nigerians now fall below the poverty line of about a dollar a day. Government acceptance of IMF and World Bank liberalization and deregulation policies have helped fuel inflation by devaluing the local currency (now at 142 Naira to the U.S. dollar). (Some economists also cite the high demand for foreign exchange by Muslims traveling to Mecca on pilgrimage as contributing to this inflation).
Sr. Beverly Lacayo is a volunteer with AFJN
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