Around Africa
April 2003 
A Publication of the Africa Faith and Justice Network

Struggling for Peace
AFJN Supports Statement on Iraq
Djibouti: USA & French Tug of War
Ivory Coast: To Win or Not to Lose
Securing Food in African Refugee Camps
Open Letter to Congress on USA Africa Policy
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers


As the crisis has developed at the UN Security Council (UN-SC) over the war on Iraq, a new perception of Africa has emerged. Powerful countries have courted Angola, Cameroon, and Guinea as members of the UN-SC. France has organized a Franco-African summit in Paris, with emphasis on "partnership."


Africa is not a "country;" it has countries. However, they are so insignificant that it is ridiculous to allow them to play a major role in a dispute among the USA, UK, France, China and Russia.


That debate overlooks Africa's role in shaping contemporary history. Africa contributed economic resources and hundreds of thousands of soldiers in WW I and WW II. She contributed to freedom of and democracy in Europe, then began her own liberation struggle. The continent has been used, as today, to protect sea lanes and intervene in the Middle East. Were Africans the first to write Western history books, they would have started WW II in 1936 (the invasion of Ethiopia by Italy) not in 1939.


In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Algerians took up arms against French colonization. A subsequent crisis in France brought General de Gaulle to power. Then the construction of Europe began. Portuguese colonial wars in Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mozambique created a crisis in Portugal that led to the military coup of the mid-1970s and to the democratization of that country.


Beyond Iraq, what is being contested is either the USA domination of the world or the way its power is being exercised. Against it, a counter-weight may emerge. It might include France, Germany and Russia. Other combinations are also possible, in which South Africa may be a candidate.


Many may be tempted to repeat the plea of de Gaulle in the heat of WW II, appealing to Africans: "Darkness is descending upon the world. Stand by us."


Marcel Kitissou, PhD
AFJN Executive Director
Return to top of page

By Marcel Kitissou


Current events justify the efforts of AFJN staff and board to monitor peace and security issues in Africa. We are very grateful to the Adrian Dominican Sisters for providing us with a generous grant to enable our work in this critical area.


Due to the resources provided by the Adrians, AFJN has managed recently to add considerably to its initiatives toward peace building in Africa. Our undertaking is grounded on a few key principles: (a) violence is not a necessary ingredient of conflict. It has a lot to do with how people perceive themselves and others; (b) violence is a learned behavior and can be un-learned; (c) conflict and violence can be disconnected.


Since the beginning of this year, AFJN has initiated actions at five different levels: diplomatic, legislative, educational, networking, and policy analysis.


In conjunction with the Advocacy Network for Africa, AFJN was instrumental in writing a letter encouraging the ambassadors to the UN and USA from Angola, Cameroon and Guinea (the three African countries on the UN Security Council, over which Guinea currently presides) to hold fast their position of non-support for a war with Iraq. The 1991 Gulf had a negative impact on African economies.

As the one responsible for the Adrian grant, I have worked closely with the Arms Transfer Working Group (ATWG) to create awareness about Africa within the group and make Africa one of its main areas of concern. In light of President Bush's 2004 proposed budget, ATWG has studied how the budget's military component might affect Africa, formulating some proposals for legislative action related to it. We believe that funding, training, and professionalizing African armies will not lead to the desired goal of political stability. That stability can only be based on social and economic justice. The income gap between officers and troops makes armies revolt and coup-prone. The mono-ethnic composition of many of them creates conditions for ethnic clashes, violation of human rights and dictatorships. We are advocating for a system of recruitment and promotion that makes African armies truly national, for post-training accountability, regular inventories of military materials and transparency in armaments acquisition and management. On behalf of AFJN I attended a hearing of the House Africa Sub-Committee of International Relations on the Africa Democracy Agenda, and initiated and testified at a briefing on West African security matters before the same sub-committee.


Last February, I was invited to three different campuses to speak on African peace issues. I gave two lectures at Cornell University's Africana Studies and Research Center on Oil, Conflict and Power in Sub-Saharan Africa. My key point was that the crisis between France and the USA over Iraq may have started in Africa. France has developed oil-producing capacities in Africa since the 1960s to be independent from both the Middle East and the United States. Now, African oil is considered an I integral part of America's national security interest. At the Institute for African Development, I spoke on The Power of Place in African Conflict and Conflict Resolution, stressing the fact that it is not only history and sociology, but also locations and the emotions attached to them that play an important role in the escalation and de-escalation of communal conflict. And I presented a keynote address to the Peace Fair at Utica College of Syracuse University. In front of an audience of more than 200 people from Central New York, I spoke on the issue of The Temptation of War and the Limits of Imagination. Among other things, I referred to an article by James Fallows in the Atlantic Monthly of November 2003. According to Fallows, the reconstruction of Iraq may take so long and at such a cost that Iraq will virtually become the 51st state! After all, "Merely itemizing the foreseeable effects of a war with Iraq suggests reverberations that would be felt for decades. If we can judge from past wars, the effects we can't imagine when the fighting begins will prove to be the ones that matter the most." That same week, I participated in training more than 20 students in Interpersonal Mediation Skills at SUNY-Oswego and I am planning on participating in a series of workshops on diplomacy and conflict transformation at the University of Maryland. I will also present a paper on Oil and Conflict in Africa at the annual conference of the New York African Studies Association held at Cornell University this month.


Our work on African peace issues has enabled us to invite Dr. Sultan Somjee, curator of the Mennonite Peace Museums Foundation of Nairobi, Kenya, to do a speaking tour in the USA. We were also able to invite Carolyn Nordstrom, Professor of Anthropology at Notre Dame University, to lead a workshop at the recent February Advocacy Days event [AA March 2003, pg. 4]. Last but not least, I am privileged to have been appointed a Visiting Fellow with the Institute for African Development at Cornell University. The challenges are great, but over time we can make inroads for peace.

Marcel Kittisou is Executive Director at AFJN
Return to top of page


Friday, 21 March - AFJN signed onto a letter from national religious groups to the American government and people, opposing the USA-initiated war on Iraq. Entitled "War Against Iraq: A Defeat for Humanity" and containing over 300 signatures, the letter was drafted by Catholics for a Peaceful End to War and Terrorism and asserts that the endorsers' religious traditions almost unanimously characterize the war as unjust and immoral.


Decrying the conflict's senseless bloodshed, the groups pledged non-violent opposition and resistance the war. "All life is sacred, and we mourn the loss of any life - Iraqi or American, civilian or military. That the conflict has now begun does not make it any less unjust, nor the arguments made to justify it any more truthful," the letter states.


It calls people to engage in public witness, pushing for an end to the killing. It declares that "nothing is more patriotic than peace. Nothing is less patriotic than to pursue an aggressive and unjust war."

Addressing the issue of whether the United States should be permitted to impose its will on the world regardless of the opinions of humankind, the letter calls the USA action a crime against peace, which threatens to destabilize international peace and security and opens the way for disregard of the United Nations Charter and international law by other nations.


AFJN signed onto this letter because Africa, like the entire world, is deeply affected by this conflict. Critical assistance for health and education will be channeled to the war. American policies toward Africa will place USA national security over every other priority, creating a litmus test of loyalty that African nations will have to pass to retain development benefits. For the sake of innocent Iraqi people, Africans and, indeed, the soul of the United States itself, this war must cease.


Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
Return to top of page


The United States' clash with France over the question of war against Iraq is spilling over into a tiny African country on the shores of the Red Sea. A former French colony, Djibouti is now home to an increasing number of USA troops, stationed there ostensibly to fight terrorism in the Horn of Africa. As events unfold, it is becoming clearer that the USA-French wrangle in Djibouti is about much more than a war with Iraq.


Towards the end of last year, approximately 400-American troops joined 900-Special Forces already stationed in Djibouti with the aim of rooting out terrorist cells in the area.


Meanwhile, some 2,800-French troops are in Djibouti, protecting France's interests, ensuring stability, and dealing with rebellions in Central African Republic, the Sahel, and other areas. Djibouti is France's largest foreign military base.


As the USA seeks support for its war against Iraq, throwing the USA and French armies together might seem to deepen their rift. But relations are cooperative. American naval vessels and aircraft use Djibouti's facilities, the two countries perform joint military exercises and they share information on their operations in the country.


"The USA mission has no direct link to potential operations in Iraq," says Major Stephen A. Cox, Public Affairs Officer. "Our mission is founded on the global war on terrorism, with a specific focus on the Horn of Africa region. Our operations are not in support of, or contingent upon, operations in Iraq."


Prof. Cirino Hiteng, a lecturer of international relations and politics at the United States International University-Africa Campus in Nairobi, has his doubts: "There's no way they are going to separate their [anti-terrorism] activities from what's going on in Iraq," he says. He considers that it would have made much more sense for the American force to be based in Kenya or Ethiopia, close to foreign embassies, Western tourist destinations, and other locations vulnerable to terrorist attacks, rather than in remote Djibouti, which is less likely to be targeted by terrorists.


The Djibouti situation reflects a wider power struggle between the USA and France over access to Africa's resources. "Americans are interested in holding onto their political turf here in sub-Saharan Africa, but it's now going to be geared not only on maintaining it, but also pre-empting any French diplomatic moves in the region," says Dr. Moustafa Hassouna, lecturer at the University of Nairobi's Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies.


For its part, the USA feels threatened by the "sympathy and admiration" that France is winning from Africa for its stance on Iraq. "This is something that is not going down very well in Washington right now," says Hassouna. In turn, what motivates France is the "Gaullist policy of appearing to chart an independent path away from the United States and the Anglo-Saxon alliance in NATO in order to show that they are independent."


France's very vocal opposition to a war against Iraq is, in part, due to the fact that the French historically and culturally have wanted "to portray themselves as friends of the Arabs," says Hassouna. But far from suffering from this American-French tug-of-war, Djibouti will come out the clear winner, he feels. "This is a win-win situation for them. They don't stand to lose anything except perhaps a little bit of their sovereignty, which has always been compromised by the French presence." This is a window of opportunity for Djibouti to get help from the Americans in the future. Indeed, the USA is becoming more and more a friend to Djibouti, and vice versa, with discussions taking place on investment and development opportunities, strengthening bilateral cooperation, the fight against terrorism, and the Somali peace process.


Development assistance to Djibouti from the USA has risen from $3-million in 2000 to about $9-million, with much of the increase earmarked for upgrading the international airport.


Cathy Majtenyi is a correspondent for AFJN in East Africa
Return to top of page


Efforts at resolving the Ivorian imbroglio continue in spite of poor results from the unusual mobilization of the international community. Parties involved, including France, seem to have one thing in common - the drive to win and determination not to lose. Hence, peace negotiations have become the continuation of war by other means. France is facing a choice between two extremes: abandoning its military operation and leaving behind chaos and destruction, or removing President Laurent Gbagbo in order to allow a new political regime to emerge. Meanwhile, weapons continue to arrive in Abidjan from the former Yugoslavia, and in Ouagadougou from Belarus, Monrovia and the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Jeune Afrique reports that, while a couple dozen French mercenaries returned to Paris, some South Africans, Angolans and Ukrainians simply became Ivorian citizens.


It is customary to blame the international community for not fulfilling its "obligations" vis-à-vis Africa. However, to maintain their margin of freedom, African leaders often fail to behave responsibly vis-à-vis the same international community.


Thanks to France, Ivory Coast has received a lot of attention. In addition to efforts led by leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), parties meeting in Marcoussis, France, signed a peace agreement in January 2003. Heads of State and international leaders gathered in Paris to offer their support. Besides Jaques Chirac of France, Kofi Annan, the UN General Secretary, Thabo Mbeki, as president of the African Union, and representatives of the European Union, Canada and Japan were present. A new Ivorian Prime Minister, Seydou Diarra, was appointed by "consensus." On February 4th, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1464 approving the Marcoussis accord.

An international team has been formed to monitor the implementation of the agreement and report to the Security Council. The group is chaired by Albert Tevoedjre from Benin. It comprises André Salifou (Niger), Lansana Kouyate (Guinea), Ralph Uwechue (Nigeria), Gildas Le Lilec (France), Paolo Sannela (EU), Arlene Render (G-8), Mamadou Dia (World Bank), General Emmanuel Beth (France), and General Kalilou Fall (ECOMOG).


In the terms of the accord, President Gbagbo will remain in place until 2005, when his mandate ends. There should be a sharing of power, particularly the "ministries of sovereignty," ten in total. It took two weeks for President Gbagbo to explain the accord to the population. When he did, he clearly did not intend to replace the constitution by the text of the Marcoussis Agreement. He is reluctant to give up his constitutional prerogatives and does not want to leave the ministries of Defense and Interior in the hands of his opponents. Between the lines, one can see that the peace is only a "tactical pause," at least as long as the Gbagbo supporters control the most productive part of what used to be the national territory. In the meantime, freelance justice continues.


Francophone Africa is displeased by the seemingly colonial manner in which France has treated the Ivorian President. If there is a lesson to be learned, African continental diplomacy is still non-existent. Gross violations of human rights remain an overwhelming feature of African conflicts. More importantly, the way the Ivorian crisis is solved or not solved can set an example for neighboring countries. The same political and social conditions exist throughout the region. In that light it appears that some of the mediators have been trying to shape a solution that will legitimize their own power at home. That does not necessarily help Ivory Coast, but it does turn the whole region into a gigantic powder keg ready to explode.


Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN
Return to top of page

By Sr. Beverly Lacayo, MSOLA


For women and girls it may mean trading sex for food, according to a press release received this month from Refugees International. At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last month, James Morris, the World Food Program's Executive Director, spoke clearly to the problem. Some 45 African countries are currently hosting approximately three million refugees. In the camps the refugees have few income-generating options, and food shortages make circumstances ripe for sexual exploitation.


Drought in Africa has created life-threatening food shortages for 38-million people, and refugees are among the most vulnerable because they are confined to the camps and usually not allowed to work in the host countries. This massive displacement of people often means the separation of families and the loss of their own small farms to grow food. Countries like Kenya and Tanzania, which offer a haven for refugees from other countries, are facing increasing burdens from the large camps, say members of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), one of the major organizations involved in the work of helping African refugees.


Now with the Iraq war and massive humanitarian needs pending, the urgent appeal of the United Nations for $84-million in food aid to refugees in Africa risks falling on deaf ears. Already food rations in many camps have been slashed up to 50%. Malnutrition and increased mortality are inevitable. The $84m needed in food aid is estimated only for the coming 6-months. Tanzania, host to tens of thousands of people fleeing Congo and Burundi, fears riots in the camps because of hungry refugees. The government has already started forced repatriation of the refugees because of the deteriorating situation, thus sending them back to the conflicts they hoped to escape.


Increasingly the host countries are looking for other ways to help. In Kenya, a long-time refuge for people from Sudan and other countries, authorities are considering relocating refugees to agriculturally viable areas to allow them to farm and own cattle. This would reduce their dependence on humanitarian aid from the international community - but not completely. The donor countries still need to share the burden with African countries for these people, who otherwise face demeaning and life threatening situations far from their homes and through no fault of their own.


Sr. Beverly Lacayo is Staff Associate at AFJN
Return to top of page


At the beginning of February the Advocacy Network for Africa (ADNA) sent an open letter to Congress raising Issues of concern about USA policies toward Africa. ADNA is a network of 231 USA-based human rights, religious, advocacy and development organizations working with African networks to address common concerns regarding USA-Africa policy. It is one of AFJN's most important coalitions.

Expressing its commitment to a more just and mutually beneficial relationship between the USA and Africa, the letter notes that Africa represents a great opportunity and a daunting challenge to USA policy makers. Among key issues the letter urges Congress to address are:


Prioritize Economic Justice: African countries saddled with unsustainable debt cannot provide basic human services for their people. Congress should act to cancel those debts, including the ones owed to the IMF and World Bank, without imposition of harmful conditions. Debt remains the single greatest obstacle to poverty reduction in Africa.


The USA should support African community and farmer rights to agricultural resources and traditional knowledge, notably in the proposed Free Trade Agreement with southern Africa (ref H.Con.Res. 260 - 107th Congress).


The New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) seeks to create a common vision for Africa. While NEPAD did not include the participation of African citizens and embraces problematic economic policies, it does provide an opportunity for a broader debate about Africa's development.


The president will send Congress legislation to create a Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) to increase development assistance over 3-years. The MCA arises from international commitments - Millennium Development Goals - to halve extreme poverty by 2015. It deserves support provided that it targets poverty reduction and country-ownership of development programs, but not at the expense of other assistance programs.


Advance Africa's Right to Health: The USA should support the rights of all people to necessary medicines and clean water. Congress should authorize and appropriate $3.5 billion in new funding for global AIDS this year. At least $2.25 billion should go to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Congress should also ensure that USA trade officials not seek to restrict Africans' use of generic drugs.


Promote Peace and Security throughout Africa: The "war on terrorism" has spread to Africa requiring Congress' attention to worrisome consequences, which include: (i) more focus on security than economic development and public health; (ii) counter-terrorism training without post-training accountability, (iii) repression of dissidents and (iv) small arms trafficking.


In Sudan, the United States must continue to support the ongoing IGAD negotiations, in particular agreements on cessation of hostilities, guarantees of humanitarian access, and prohibiting attacks against civilians. It must encourage the broader inclusion of civil society in the peace process.


In Congo (DRC), the USA should apply pressure on all signatory parties, with specific attention to Rwanda and Uganda, to fully implement the December 2002 Pretoria II agreement, particularly regarding the cease fire and withdrawal of all troops. The USA should investigate American companies cited in the UN report on the looting of natural resources and adopt effective diamond certification legislation.


Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
Return to top of page


Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers is a Roman Catholic Society of priests, Brothers, associate priests and seminarians - 580 strong - working to restore dignity and hope among people oppressed and poor in 32 countries throughout Africa, Asia, Latin America and the United States.


Maryknoll Missioners are bound by a singular purpose-to live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and to build a world where all peoples enjoy the blessings of God's creation.


With its international Center located 35 miles north of New York City in Ossining, Maryknoll derives its name from the physical location of the campus, atop a hill dedicated to the Blessed Mother. Since 1911, Maryknoll priests and Brothers have made lifetime commitments to prayer and liturgy, evangelization, human rights, Interreligious dialogue and mission education.


Maryknoll missioners engage in ministries related to the global challenges of our time: health care and AIDS, hunger and poverty, education, women's and children's issues, refugee resettlement, and Christian communities and parish life


Maryknoll was established in 1911 as the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America. Responsibility for its development fell to two diocesan priests, Fr. James Anthony Walsh and Fr. Thomas Frederick Price, with the commission to recruit, send and support U.S. missioners in areas around the world. Maryknoll's first missioners left for China in 1918.


Maryknoll Father and Brothers work in partnership with those they serve, striving to model compassion, mercy and understanding, which is at the heart of true religion. They know that to experience true peace at home, you must work as an ambassador for justice abroad.
Return to top of page