Around Africa
October-November 2003 
A Publication of the Africa Faith and Justice Network

AFJN's 20th Anniversary
Justice: Key to Peace
USA Presence in Djibouti
Recipe for Justice
Seeds and Water
NEPAD Two Years Later
AFJN Annual Award 2003



“We condemn, and invite you - particularly you the leaders of our countries - to condemn, the new forms of trade and slavery that consist in the exploitation of our daughters for prostitution, sexual tourism, commerce of children, forced enrollment of our children and adolescents in wars -fratricide, neocolonial- and the looting of the resources of African soil. Equally, we condemn, and invite you to condemn, all forms of exclusion: ethnic, tribal and regionalist that are dangerously undermining our societies.” (Archibishop Monsengo, 13th SECAM, Dakar, October 1-12, 2003).

By reaffirming their social commitment, the 150 dignitaries, on behalf of Africa’s Catholic Church, were following the double recommendation of Pope Paul VI in Kampala (Uganda), 1969: (a) Africa should strive by itself to spread the Christian faith and (b) craft an “African Christianity, better equipped to respond to Africans’ needs.”

Between 1978 (since John-Paul II) and 1996, there was a 46% increase in the number of priests. In 1998, with more than 117 million members, Africa housed 12.2% of Catholics and 18% of Christians in the world. A decade earlier, they were only 54.8 million. With this weight, the Catholic Church cannot be anything but a real force in civil society. And it is. It functions at the crossroads of local, national, regional and global markets of ideas.

However challenges are multi-fold and still lie ahead: in 10 years, the number of Catholic schools in Africa has doubled while the number of school-age children has tripled; over 30 million HIV/AIDS patients require a great deal of attention and financial resources.

In the 1990s, the Catholic Church was deeply involved in the management of democratic transitions, such as in Bénin, Congo-Brazzaville, Togo and the former Zaire. Nevertheless, with the exception of one of them, dictatorship, conflict and gross violations of human rights still persist in those countries.

Marcel Kitissou, Ph.D
AFJN Executive Director
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As we look back and move forward, AFJN’s 20th Anniversary was placed under the symbol of Sankofa, the akan word meaning “return and pick it up”. The symbol, represented as a bird facing forward with its head turned to look over its back, is interpreted to mean, “As the present generation advances, it should not hesitate to look to the past for values it hopes to retain”.

The AFJN 20th anniversary Annual Meeting chose this symbol to remind us that as we focus our vision always ahead and seek to be successful in pursuing the mission of our organization, we should not hesitate to look to those who preceded us and retain ideas and methods from the past that proved valuable and effective.

The event took place from October 10-12, 2003 at the Dominican Retreat House in McClean, VA. We were honored by having outstanding guests from Africa. At the opening ceremony Archbishop Michael Francis of Liberia gave the keynote on Justice: the Key to Peace and Stability in Africa, with particular emphasis on the paradoxes of an increasingly unified world, the mission of the Church, and the Liberian experience.

In her keynote address the following day, Sr. Teresa Okure, SHCJ, from Nigeria, Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament at the Catholic Institute of West Africa, reflected on Micah 6:8: A Prophetic Recipe for Justice and Peace in the Twenty-First Century. Of particular importance for her was “truth in relationship”, “knowing ourselves”, “walking humbly with God” and “claiming the Gospel.”

Also, of significant importance was the participation of Catherine Majtenyi. Cathy is freelance journalist working from Nairobi for the Voice of America as well as with AFJN. In her talks she provided valuable and first-hand information on the rationale and activities of US forces in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Djibouti.

Numerous African priests and religious were also present at the celebration. Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN) was represented by Rev. Luc Coppejans, its Executive Coordinator. Luc gave an update of the work of AEFJN and mentioned the progress of an emerging African version of AFJN.

Workshops included Peace and Security in the Horn of Africa (Marcel Kitissou and Cathy Majtenyi), NEPAD: Two Years Later (Peter Jacxsens) and Water and Seeds (Luc Coppejans and Larry Goodwin).

Two new Board members were elected -- Rev. Robert Dowd, CSC, from Notre Dame, IN, and Rev. Charles Phukuta Khonde, CICM, from Wendell, NC. They replaced Br. Philip Armstrong, CSC, from Notre Dame, IN and Rev. Tony Gittins, CSSp, from Chicago, IL, who both served for six years on the AFJN Board.

The 2003 AFJN annual award went to the Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC) in recognition of their sacrifice on behalf of Africa. They began working in Liberia in 1971, when they established their first mission in Kru Coast. A second ASC mission near Monrovia was opened in 1973 and a third one in 1982. In October 1992, five of their Sisters were killed in Liberia: Sisters Barbara Ann Muttra, Mary Joel Kolmar, Kathleen McGuire, Agnes Mueller, and Shirley Kolmar. The five “Martyrs of Charity” continue to live in the heart of the Liberian people. In June of 1993, the Sister Barbara Ann Muttra Memorial Health Center and the Sister Agnes Mueller Memorial Maternity Center were dedicated in Gardnersville. The school at St. Mulumba Parish was named after Sister Kathleen McGuire. And the Catholic parish of Barnersville has been dedicated to the five Sisters and named Holy Martyrs Church.

In Monrovia, on October 20th, 2002, Archbishop Michael K. Francis announced the appointment of a three-member commission to investigate the lives and deaths of the five nuns. The findings are to be forwarded to Vatican, a move toward possible canonization. This year, on the 11th anniversary of their death, Pope John Paul II called them “Martyrs of Charity”. AFJN joins the many voices who honor the memory of these American missionaries to Africa.

In the spirit of Sankofa, AFJN former and current executive directors were recognized as part of the 20th Anniversary celebration: Fr. Joseph “Sjef” Donders, M.Afr., Fr. Ted Hayden, SMA, Sr. Maura Browne, SNDdeN, Larry Goodwin and Yours Truly.

The good energy and spirit of the celebration found expression in the banquet at the end of the event. The tasty West African food was accompanied by Malian music, laughter and dancing. We want to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the organizing committee, to all contributors in resources and in kind, and to all participants for the gift of their precious time and energy.

Marcel Kittisou is Executive Director at AFJN
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Summary of Archbishop Michael Francis’ Keynote Address

AFJN 20th Anniversary Celebration – The last century brought great calamities yet great hopes to humanity, such as the birth of the United Nations Organization with its definition and establishment of human rights. “Human rights are closely linked to the Church’s mission in the world. They are the basis of social and international peace.” The increasingly unified world is filled with paradoxes: unity of science and multi-faceted technology, waste and limitation of resources (air and water particularly), communication and antagonisms, interdependence and injustice, high fortunes and deep poverty.

“We must be prepared to take on new functions and new duties in every sector of world society, if justice is really to be put into practice. Our action is directed above all towards those people and various nations which, because of various forms of oppression and because of the present character of our society, are silent, indeed voiceless, victims of injustice….The Church has the right, indeed the duty, to proclaim justice on the social, national and international levels, and to denounce instances of injustice, when the fundamental rights of peoples and their very salvation demand it. The Church indeed is not responsible for justice in the world; however she has proper and specific responsibility which is identified with her mission of giving witness before the world; a witness of love and justice is contained in the Gospel message, a witness to be carried in Church institutions themselves and the lives of Christians”. The “Liberian bitter experience” bears that witness.

The trigger of the Liberian crisis was sparked in 1979 with the April Riots. Their roots, however, can be found in the very history of the country. Liberia was founded in order to resolve the United States internal social problems at the beginning of the 19th century. Surrounding areas were becoming the colonies of Guinea, Sierra Leone and the Ivory Coast. Inhabited by as many as 29 tribes with autonomous chiefdoms, the Grain or Pepper Coast was selected by the American Colonization Society for the repatriation of “Freed-men of Color,” an “imitation of the British Foundation of the Sierra Leone Colony and the town of Freetown.”

The settlers were more conscious of their “American-ness” than of their “African-ness.” These “intrepid pioneers” viewed themselves as other than the “indigenous people.” This false start can explain the chain of grievances, revenge and ensuing regimes and conflict up to this date.

For Archbishop Francis, practicing justice and love at all levels -- local, national and international -- is the way out of this collective madness. “The solution to the different civil unrest in Africa is the elimination of the culture of violence, through justice.”

Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN
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By Marcel Kitissou and Cathy Majtenyi


Workshop Summary on the Horn of Africa

AFJN 20th Anniversary Celebration -- This workshop was co-presented by Marcel Kitissou and Cathy Majtenyi. The United States has had a military presence in Djibouti for several years. However, since 9/11, the U.S. military presence in Djibouti is key to the U.S. government-led “War on Terror,” especially in the Horn of Africa (which consists of Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea) and East Africa. Its efforts and presence in Djibouti have even accelerated since the end of last year. From the United States’ perspective, Djibouti is the perfect location to set up a military base.

Firstly, it borders Somalia (in fact, approximately 60% of Djibouti’s 700,000 people are ethnic Somalis who cross back and forth between the porous border). According to U.S. intelligence reports, al-Qaeda (the terrorist group led by Osama bin Laden) has links to a Somali-based group called al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, or Islamic Unity. The U.S. believes Islamic Unity allowed al-Qaeda to train in Somalia before al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzana in 1998. Plus Somalia has been without a functioning government since 1991, which could theoretically make the country a breeding ground for terrorists and certainly for arms flows. So the U.S. can monitor any terrorist activity in Somalia without actually being in that country, something the U.S. probably doesn’t want to do since its military and PR disaster in the early 1990s.

Secondly, Djibouti has been described as one hour’s speedboat ride from Yemen, the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden. The U.S. believes there are al-Qaeda cells operating in Yemen and that bin Laden is in contact with them. So the U.S. can easily monitor what’s happening in Yemen, the Red Sea, and the Gulf of Aden from Dibouti.

Thirdly, Djibouti is in the neighborhood of Sudan, a country still being watched for terrorism activities. Osama bin Laden lived in Sudan for several years in the 1990s.

Fourthly, a very likely – but controversial – reason why U.S. military presence has increased in Djibouti in the last couple of years is that it is an ideal base to strike out against Iraq. In fact, some analysts say this could be the prime reason why the U.S. is in Djibouti.

It is interesting to note that on January 19 and 20 of this year, U.S. forces had a live firing exercise in Djibouti in which they fired naval guns and bombers 30 miles north of Djibouti town, ostensibly to train forces in the Horn of Africa taskforce (CJTF). Fuelling the CJTF’s counter-terrorism work is what is known as “Country Desk Teams,” which provide political and military intelligence reports from Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Yemen. Some work at the American embassies in these countries. There is also the CJTF-HOA Intelligence Section, also known as CJ-2, which works around the clock at the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility to gather up-to-date information about terrorist activity in the seven countries listed above. The CJTF’s intelligence systems are linked into inter-agency information from across the U.S. Departments of Defense, State and Justice.

Some analysts say that the U.S. is playing a tug-of-war with France over control and influence in Djibouti. The U.S. may be trying to go head-to-head with France’s 2,800 troops, France’s largest foreign military base, and minimize or wipe out French influence in the country and region. It’s also worth mentioning that the U.S. is in a good position to guard commercial and other non-military sea craft plying the lower end of the Red Sea, which is one of the most dangerous seas, particularly around Somalia, where banditry poses a real threat.

M. Kitissou is AFJN Director and Cathy Majtenyi is AFJN correspondent in East Africa
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By Larry J. Goodwin


Summary of Sr. Teresa Okure’s Keynote Address

AFJN 20th Anniversary Celebration – Sr. Teresa Okure, a Sister of the Holy Child Jesus and noted Nigerian theologian, offered an insightful and deeply personal interpretation of the Micah passage; one that, in many ways, is especially apt for missionaries.

She framed it as a recipe and uncovered some of its most key ingredients. She noted that the central words in the passage – act, love, walk – are action words. To “walk humbly” with our God implies that we need a goal for the walking, a purpose and clear direction. We have to be ready to face barriers that we are sure to encounter.

We have to walk humbly too. She noted that our humility should be like that of children, who are far from thinking that they are nothing (look at how demanding they are), yet they accept their dependency and the love their parents bestow on them because of it.

Even more telling, in instructing us to walk humbly, doesn’t this say that God is humble too? Isn’t that the meaning of Jesus pouring himself out for us? Walking with God means we are free to be our true selves, and that we’re called to allow others to be free too.

Humility, love and life go together. Humility is also truth; knowing ourselves in our walk with God means being immersed in the truth of God, and in the core truth that we are all created in God’s own image. Accepting that truth, absorbing and living it, leads to the real justice of human rights equally shared, recognizing each others’ humanity created in the divine likeness, where there is no room for separation, discrimination, and dehumanization of others.

And loving tenderly, the way Jesus loved Peter after he denied him three times, is to reclaim the Gospel in its essentials, becoming re-rooted in its life and energy. Returning to the heart of the Gospel brings one to “truth in relationship,” the fundamental goal of the walk with God.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
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By Larry J. Goodwin


Workshop Summary on African Farmers’ Rights and Right to Water

AFJN’s 20th Anniversary Celebration – Rev. Luc Coppejans, M.Afr. and Larry Goodwin co-presented an update on the advocacy work AFJN and AEFJN are doing on two related issues of vital importance to African rural communities and poor urban populations – the rights of farmers’ to their seeds, plants and crops, and the basic human right to freshwater for drinking and sanitation.

Luc, the Executive Coordinator of Africa-Europe Faith & Justice Network, first gave an interesting overview of how AEFJN is organized throughout several countries in Europe, with branches or “antennae” in each one linked to the main office in Belgium. Together, the antennae determine a common agenda of issues on which they will focus for purposes of education and advocacy. Each national antenna then mobilizes its members around the agenda to lobby their national parliaments. At the same time, the Brussels office channels its efforts to lobbying the European Parliament on the same slate of issues. In the past couple of years AEFJN and AFJN have collaborated on African farmers’ rights versus attempts by multinational corporations and institutions to patent seeds, plants and crops, thereby putting at risk farmers’ traditional practice of saving, using and developing those resources; and more recently they are jointly focusing on water as a fundamental human right, again in the face of global policies that would privatize water for profit. In 2004 AEFJN has determined that it will address the issue of small arms trafficking and its devastating impact on Africa, an issue that AFJN takes to heart as well. Both organizations are keen to see how they can work together to confront this violent trade.

Luc and Larry pointed out how distinct their advocacy efforts necessarily are due to the differences in the political characteristics of Europe and the USA. For example, whereas AFJN focuses its energies largely on Congress around issues like water as a human right, AEFJN aims its attention at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, which Luc explained in some detail. Luc also pointed out that citizen advocacy has a longer tradition and is more widely accepted in the USA than in Europe, although that is changing.

Larry brought participants up to date on AFJN’s intensive efforts to get two resolutions introduced into Congress on the African farmers’ rights and water issues. The former has been introduced into the House of Representatives as the AFRICA Resolution (H.Con.Res. 269); AFJN members are currently urging their representatives to cosponsor it. The Water for People and Nature Resolution will be introduced into the House in January. A summary is available from AFJN and can be found on the website.

AFJN and AEFJN find common cause in the issues on which they engage their members. Both agree firmly that they must deepen their collaboration with NGOs in Africa and with each other because “seeds and water”-- like HIV/AIDS, arms trafficking, debt -- are global in scope and need all of our combined efforts to address them effectively.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
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By Peter Jacxsens


Workshop Summary on NEPAD

AFJN’s 20th Anniversary Celebration -- If the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) is to eradicate widespread and severe poverty and end Africa's marginalization in the globalization process, it will need to establish the conditions necessary for sustainable development -- peace, security, democracy, good governance, regional cooperation and global integration. This will need to be reinforced by rich countries actions on debt relief, development aid reform, market access and resources for capacity building.

Much progress has been made in the two years since NEPAD's inauguration. It established the African Peer Review Mechanism, through which African nations will work together to identify breaches of peace and security, non-democratic governance, violations of human rights and economic corruption, and take corrective actions. It developed Action Plans for implementing initiatives in priority sectors (i.e. agriculture,education, health, infrastructure and environment), furthering regional integration and mobilizing resources through market access and capital flows. It worked to engage civil society, regional economic communities, individual states and international institutions. This progress represents both its commitment to Africa's people, and its challenge to rich countries to reform their development assistance and trade policies.

World leaders have responded with pledges of support for Africa's homegrown development plan. The G8 has endorsed NEPAD and pledged to increase aid by 50%. The international institutions have adopted NEPAD as the framework for engagement with Africa.

However, at the current rate of progress NEPAD is unlikely to meet its Millennium Development Goals (i.e. to halve by 2015, the portion of Africans living on less than $1/day). More African leaders need to undertake reforms and address the challenges of implementing NEPAD. The seventeen leaders whose countries have acceded to "Peer Review" are a good start, but many heads of state offer only weak commitment and a few remain hostile.

The vast majority of people are still ignorant of NEPAD. African leaders need to popularize NEPAD. They need to improve civil society participation and to empower civil society organizations to contribute to, monitor and evaluate the NEPAD planning and implementation processes. Linking civil society’s concerns, research, education and advocacy with NEPAD’s strategies, policies and implementations will do much to move Africa towards the millennium goals. "Peer Review" provides a great opportunity to improve the trust between people and their governments. Civil society organizations must educate their constituents and enjoin on African governments to provide good leadership.

African nations, working together, need to continue to press rich nations and international institutions for fair and just treatment, including additional debt relief, access to affordable medicines and removal of trade barriers and agricultural subsidies.

Rich nations' pledges of help need to be turned into action. Neither the war on terrorism nor the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should be allowed to eclipse the focus on eliminating poverty and underdevelopment in Africa, with 34 of the world’s poorest nations.

Peter Jacxsens is a volunteer at AFJN
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AFJN ANNUAL AWARD 2003 By Sr. Beverly Lacayo, MSOLA


Mary Joel Kolmer, Shirley Kolmer, Kathleen McGuire, Agnes Mueller and Barbara Anne Muttra – five American women who gave their lives in Liberia. They were Sisters Adorers of the Blood of Christ (ASC) from the Ruma Province in Illinois, serving the poor, the sick and the powerless in a country ravaged by conflict.

In October, 1992 they were killed in a war that had been raging since 1989. The exact circumstances of their deaths probably will never be known. Speculation on the exact circumstances of the sisters’ death raises more questions than it answers, but two facts are sure: they returned to a country still experiencing unrest because they felt the people needed them, and they were killed while trying to help the people whom they loved.

Adorers of the Blood of Christ from the United States began working with the Church in Liberia in 1971 when Sisters Bonita Wittenbrink and Alvina Schott established the first ASC mission.on the Kru Coast. A second mission near Monrovia was opened in 1973 and a third in l982. Until the civil war forced their return to the States in August 1990, the Adorers’ presence in Liberia was uninterrupted as they engaged in health care, education and parish work among the people.

Then in March of 1991 they returned to Gardnersville to resume their work, taking on the added ministry of helping the people to regain spiritual and psychological health after their experiences during the brutalizing war. It was this work in which the sisters were engaged when they were murdered in October of 1992.

The five Martyrs of Charity continue to live in the hearts of the Liberian people. At a commemorative Eucharist held in Monrovia on October 20th, 2002, Archbishop Michael Kpakala Francis announced the appointment of a three-member commission to investigate the lives and deaths of the five nuns. The findings are to be forwarded to the Vatican, apparently a moved toward possible canonization of the five Sisters.

This year, the 11th anniversary of the deaths of the women whom Pope John Paul II has called “Martyrs of Charity,” Africa Faith and Justice Network honored the memory of these American missionaries to Africa, presenting its Annual Award to the Adorers of the Blood of Christ community. Members of the congregation’s leadership were present to receive the Award.

Sr. Beverly Lacayo is a Staff Associate at AFJN
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