Around Africa
April 2004 
A Publication of the Africa Faith and Justice Network

AFJN at Notre Dame
Haiti: Use and Misuse of Africa
Speak Truth to Power
Kenya: Struggling for Constitutional Reform
Millennium Challenge Account
Save the Dates!



Will Mouammar Qaddafi become a Nobel Peace Prize warrior? Following his “leaving” the presidency to become the “Spiritual Leader” of the Jamahiriya (i.e. Libya, for the uninitiated) and his announced abandonment of weapons of mass destruction (WMD),rumors have it that preparations are underway for a campaign to nominate Qaddafi for a Nobel Peace Prize.

That being the case, it is worth revisiting the idea that Saddam Hussein's change of fortune may have induced a change of heart in the Libyan leader. Let's examine the circumstances that may have made a pariah into a potential ally of the United States. Four arguments, at least, support this complete about-face.

First is the existence of a common enemy, al Qaeda. Qaddafi was among the first to condemn the 9/11 attacks. He took that opportunity to remind public opinion that, six years earlier, he launched an arrest warrant against Osama Bin Laden who, allegedly, was financing a radical local Islamic group plotting to assassinate him. Exchange of information led the US to put the Islamic Jihad group on its terrorist list.

Second, Libya lacks the scientific basis and the technological infrastructure for sustainable WMD programs. For example, it has at its disposal about 30 nuclear specialists compared to around 500 in Iran and 1,000 for Pakistan. As a result, Libya began to buy nuclear equipment on the black market but the parts are not always compatible.

Third, the double sanction imposed by the US in 1982 and the UN in 1992 has practically excluded Libya from world trade and advanced technology.

Fourth are realpolitik calculations. The US is envisioning a Greater Muslim-Arab Middle East, stretching from Mauritania to Pakistan; and NATO is considering extending its operational zone to North Africa, Israel and Jordan. It is better for Libya to be friend rather than foe in this emerging strategic environment. And it will even be better, for Qaddafi, if a rapprochement with the superpower can help him exercise influence in the region.

Marcel Kitissou, Ph.D
AFJN Executive Director
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AFJN supporters are launching an AFJN chapter at Notre Dame University and Saint Mary's College. In February, more than fifty students and several faculty members attended a meeting for those interested in learning more about Africa. Those present were briefed about the work of AFJN and invited to become individual members. Many students, especially a group of students just returned from Africa, expressed the desire to join in the educational and advocacy efforts of AFJN.

The establishment of an AFJN chapter at Notre Dame and Saint Mary's is a sign of the growing interest in Africa at Notre Dame and Saint Mary's. That interest has been sparked by Holy Cross priests, brothers and sisters who have worked in Africa and have returned to the campuses to share their stories, faculty members who specialize in the study of Africa, and events that have recently taken place on campus at Notre Dame. A key event was the conference, “Solidarity with Africa,” that took place last September, sponsored by the Institute for Church Life, the Department of Theology at the University, and the United States Catholic Bishops' Conference. That conference provided students, faculty and staff with an opportunity to think seriously about the social, economic and political challenges that Africans face. In January, a group of students, faculty and staff journeyed to Nigeria to follow up on Notre Dame's September conference. For many, it was their first journey to Africa. Young hearts and minds were stirred.

The Notre Dame-Saint Mary's AFJN chapter hopes to promote awareness on campus of the most pressing challenges that Africa faces today and to boost AFJN's advocacy efforts vis-à-vis US policy. The chapter also plans to send representatives to AFJN's annual meeting in Louisville, Kentucky and to sponsor various events throughout the academic year on campus at Notre Dame and Saint Mary's. Other options for involvement might include taking part in the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days event in Washington, DC that AFJN has helped organize the past two years. We will keep the wider AFJN membership informed about the Notre Dame-Saint Mary's chapter's progress.

Perhaps our experience will be helpful to other campus groups, who might consider starting AFJN chapters of their own!

Robert Dowd is on faculty at Notre Dame and an AFJN board member
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With approximately 8 million inhabitants, Haiti is the most African of Caribbean states. It is also the poorest in the region. Its independence from France was declared on January 1st, 1804 in Gonaives. From that symbolic city, in 1985, protests began that led to the fall of the dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier (“Baby Doc”) in 1986, under the watchful eye of President Ronald Reagan. The same city was seized by the rebellion that sent President Jean-Bertrand Aristide into exile on February 29, 2004.

In 200 years of independence, Haiti has known 46 heads of state, all dictators, with 29 of them either assassinated or overthrown. Jean-Bertrand Aristide was the first democratically elected President. The Bush administration has not developed a good working relationship with the former priest. And he irritated the French Administration by requesting the reimbursement of the 150 million gold-francs his country had to pay to Charles X in 1825 as a price for independence won against the armies of Napoleon.

Zo Kwé Zo, “a man is a man.” According to Francis Kpatindé (Jeune Afrique, No.2252), General Francois Bozizé, the Central African strongman, greeted Aristide in Bangui with these words in the Sango language to show respect to his guest even though Aristide was no longer in power (Bozizé himself took power last year by coup d'etat).

Versions abound to explain the abrupt departure of Aristide from Port-au-Prince on February 29. For Aristide, it was a “modern coup d'etat” by kidnapping. The US Departments of State and Defense deny that. According to them, US officials and marines went to the presidential palace around 4:30AM at Aristide's own request and accompanied him to the airport, where a US military Boeing 757 awaited him. There, the president handed his letter of resignation to Luis Moreno, the number-two official at the US embassy.

Actually, the State Department had begun looking for a country of asylum on February 28th. Colin Powell contacted South Africa, but with elections scheduled for April 14, the ANC was reluctant. Why not Morocco, which gave asylum to Zaire's Mobutu in 1997? Again, another refusal. France was eager to repair its relationship with the US, damaged by disagreements over Iraq. Colin Powell asked Dominique de Villepin, the Foreign Minister, about the possibility of finding a friendly country for Aristide. Contact was made with Omar Bongo of Gabon. The Bush administration was blocking an IMF loan to his country. The situation presented a window of opportunity for a better relationship but, according to official statements, with many Haitians living in Libreville, the security of Aristide could not be guaranteed. And for certain Bongo has his own image to worry about.

Finally, not wanting to miss the opportunity to please the US, Bongo contacted the Central African Republic. As Kpatindé reported, Bozizé offered a qualified “yes” and, after internal consultations, accepted to grant temporary asylum to Aristide. In the meantime, Aristide's plane was in the air. Dominique de Villepin and Francois Bozizé had a phone conversation, followed by another with Colin Powell. On March 1st the plane landed in Bangui bringing Aristide and his wife. Central Africa, urgently needing money to pay the salaries of its civil servants, expects to be rewarded for its cooperation.

Until the “guest” eventually moves, as presumed, to South Africa after its elections, Aristide's relationship with the US will continue to be characterized by accusations and inflammatory statements. That may help explain why Aristide has been shifting around so much.

Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN
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“Speak truth to power,” the noted Quaker exhortation, harbors a web of complex layers that distil the meaning of social justice advocacy down to its essentials. For one thing faith calls us to speak truth to power. Moses went to Pharaoh, and the prophets to the kings of Israel and Judah, to present them with God's patent insistence on changing their hearts. Jesus confronted the political and religious leaders of his day in unequivocal language for their hypocrisy (Mt:15,1-20). When it came to justice, Paul didn't hesitate to take on even Peter (Gal:1,11-14).

Nothing says that power has to listen though. There are plenty of examples from Pharaoh, Elijah, Amos, Jesus and Paul on down that show that most of the time, it didn't. Resistance, oppression and even persecution were more typically the response, as Jesus warned (Jn:15, 18-20) and as his ministry exemplified. Archbishop Oscar Romero and Martin Luther King vividly remind us that in our own time power still inflicts harsh reprisals on those who speak truth to it.

And does it make any difference to speak truth to power? Does power change because of it? Is our world a better place for those who have spoken out? Yes, incrementally over a long period of time, but definitely yes, difficult though it may be to see. Human and civil rights, solidarity with marginalized peoples, labor rights, women's rights, peace movements and environmental awareness all trace their roots to those who, over countless generations, forced institutions of power to face up to the universal dignity of people and all living things. Hopefully we are inexorably stumbling to a point when power evolves from self-serving into service; if so, the journey is still arduous and far from certain of outcome.

Some of us are blessed because we live in a society with institutions that protect our right to speak truth to power. Not everyone can do that, or at least not easily. This crucial fact also imparts to us a corresponding responsibility to exercise that right.

From 05-08 March 2004 over 500 people from 41 states and at least a dozen denominations came to Washington, DC to do exactly that by addressing their social justice concerns to members of Congress, whose power affects countless lives - and future generations - in this country and throughout the world.

AFJN played a key role in organizing the second annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice. Sponsored by a broad coalition of Christian churches and organizations, the conference offered six separate “tracks” in which participants, according to their interests, took part in workshops and discussions, and heard a wide array of expert speakers. The tracks included Africa, Asia, Economic Justice, Latin America, Middle East and Nuclear Disarmament.

AFJN, the Washington Office on Africa, the Lutheran “Stand with Africa” Campaign and the Missionaries of Africa principally organized the Africa Track, which pulled in over 100 participants. Our main guest speaker was Neville Gabriel, who heads the Justice and Peace Office for the South African Conference of Catholic Bishops. Neville spoke to some very complex issues, like how debt affects local people's everyday lives, the relationship between debt and trade, especially USA trade policy, and the “New Partnership for Africa's Development” (NEPAD) - the economic framework African leaders forged in recent years to advance Africa's interests. Pretty heady stuff, but Neville had an amazing ability to grab and hold people's interest by the way he spun out those issues, relating them to the urgency of real-life situations. For example, what happens to the poorest people if government privatizes water services as a precondition for an international loan, rendering it unaffordable to them? He summarized NEPAD as an initiative that holds out lots of good principles and goals, but falls down at crafting a strategy to meet them, getting muddled over “free market” practices versus socially responsible policies needed to regulate markets and ensure fairness.

From Saturday morning through noon on Sunday, the Africa Track offered an impressive selection of workshops to its participants. The diversity of issues covered showcased the conference's depth and substance. Topics included: the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) being negotiated between the USA and countries in southern Africa; how USA trade policies inhibit affordable essential medicines in Africa; African farmers' rights; water privatization; the USA's thirst for African oil; the challenge of peace in Sudan; small arms proliferation; HIV/AIDS and the USA agenda; the crises in Liberia and DRC; and Millennium Challenge goals.

On Sunday afternoon, the Africa Track and Economic Justice Track (focused on international trade and debt), joined together in a “lobby skills” session that prepared participants for their visits to Capitol Hill the next day. Participants ran the gamut from newcomers who had never lobbied before to those who were old hands at it. The session began with a thorough briefing of the issues they would raise with their representatives and senators. These were to support legislation calling for substantive debt reduction for the poorest countries, co-sponsor the just trade resolution recently introduced into the House [see Around Africa, March 2004, pg. 4-5] and ensure that the southern Africa FTA respect established agreements about making available essential medicines for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

The session also covered the basics of a lobby visit, how to organize for the meeting and stay focused on the group's specific “ask.” Volunteers staged a lobby visit role-play, which helped everyone to assess techniques and styles of what works well and what is less effective. Plenty of time was given over to questions, allowing participants to cover all the bases so that they would feel equipped and ready to engage members of Congress and their staffs.

Monday was the culmination of the event, when more than five hundred motivated activists flooded the halls of Congress, speaking truth to power about matters of peace, just trade, essential medicines, debt cancellation, development and protecting people's rights to resources for meeting basic needs. Did Congress roll over and accede to these requests on the spot? No, we knew they wouldn't do that. The important thing was that we said what had to be said and, in so doing, we set in motion a process that, if maintained, will ultimately effect change. Social justice advocacy is a dogged business; it needs to be constant and relentless in order to make a difference.

I have to raise a tough question here, not in a judgmental way, but to stir self-examination. Why have barely a handful of AFJN members taken part in Advocacy Days the last two years, the foremost opportunity we have for direct lobbying?

AFJN exists to inform lawmakers and advocate with them about just USA policies toward Africa. Last year we celebrated our 20th anniversary, a time to reinvigorate our commitment to our mandate. We chose as our logo the African Sankofa symbol of a bird with its head turned to look over its back, meaning that we advance while keeping our eyes fixed on past or original values we want to retain, notably advocacy for Africa.

Perhaps we would do well, in the spirit of Sankofa, to devote time in our prayer, meditation, biblical reflection and community discussion to question ourselves on what “Speak Truth to Power” in fact means to us. Perhaps AFJN could be a major presence at the Advocacy Days event in 2005.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
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Nairobi, March 23 - Emotions ran high when the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) presented its draft constitution to Attorney General Amos Wako. More than 600 delegates representing a wide cross-section of Kenyans had worked on the document for more than a year. Once the CKRC converts it into the form of a bill, Wako is expected to present it to Parliament for debate and eventual adoption.

For years, Kenyans had been calling for the constitution to be rewritten. Modernization, coupled with the dictatorial rule of former President Daniel arap Moi, had made it necessary to update the constitution since the 1960s independence days.

In the months leading up to Kenya's December 2002 presidential election, the current coalition government headed by President Mwai Kibaki made constitutional reform one of its main platforms. Many members of the National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) had suffered under Moi and were eager to dilute the powers of the president by creating the new post of prime minister and redistributing many of the president's powers to the new post. More than a year later, Kenyans are on the verge of seeing their dream of a new constitution come true. But unfolding events might prevent that from happening.

It appears that a clique close to Kibaki is having second thoughts about sharing the president's powers. Before the December 2002 election, in a Memorandum of Understanding, Kibaki had promised the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Raila Odinga, that he would get the prime minister's post.

Now, Kibaki and his associates are advocating for a weak, almost ceremonial prime minister, and seem to be shying away from naming Odinga as the candidate. This has caused many of NARC's member political parties to lose faith in the coalition and to even take tentative steps to break out on their own in preparation for the 2007 elections.

An analyst with the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research, Preston Chitere, says the government's reluctance to give the prime minister substantial powers threatens to further divide the already fragile coalition government. “The Memorandum of Understanding was very clear between the parties as they came together to form the new government,” said Chitere. “Now that the government is in power and a few people are at the top, I think they want to retain the status that was there earlier.”

Nevertheless, a sizeable majority of the constitutional conference's more than 600 delegates was pushing for a relatively strong prime minister and a weaker president. Dissatisfied with the direction the constitutional conference was taking, government delegates pushed for the creation of what they called the “consensus committee,” headed by Catholic Bishop Philip Sulumeti.

On March 16, the Sulumeti committee - which, like the Kibaki clique, advocated for a strong president and a weak prime minister -- was to present its report to the delegates for debate and adoption. But that never happened. All but a few government delegates quit the constitutional conference. Subsequently, the March 23 hand-over ceremony almost didn't happen. The afternoon before, three delegates appeared before Kenya's High Court seeking an injunction to stop the Attorney General from receiving the draft constitution on the basis that there was no debate on the Sulumeti committee's report. They got their court injunction, in spite of which the Attorney General proceeded with the handing-over ceremony anyway.

The other conflict on the horizon is the issue of how the new constitution will receive final approval. The government said it would introduce new legislation that would allow Parliament to make changes to the draft constitution before putting it to a national referendum. But the CKRC argues that, according to the Constitution of Kenya Review Act, Parliament has no choice but to adopt the draft constitution and can only make changes as situations arise.

Cathy Majtenyi is a correspondent for AFJN in East Africa
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By Peter Jacxsens

The most important change in US development assistance in 40 years may soon become reality. Two years ago, in March 2002, just before attending the UN International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, President Bush announced the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) as “a major new commitment by the US to bring hope and opportunity to the world poorest people.”

The basic idea behind the MCA is to select a small number of the world's poorest countries based on their commitment to sound policies, provide them with enough money to make a difference, and hold them accountable for achieving results.

In January 2004 the president signed the MCA Act into law creating the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which will run the aid program with oversight from a board of directors composed mainly of Cabinet level officials and led by a CEO nominated by the President. Congress approved initial funding of $1 billion for 2004 and President Bush submitted a budget of $2 billion for 2005. The President has pledged to increase funding to $5 billion by 2006, a 50% increase over the current level of US aid. In May the MCC will invite selected countries to develop proposals to receive aid.

The MCC will use 16 quantitative criteria to select countries that are “ruling justly, investing in their people and establishing economic freedoms.” The criteria include measures for rule of law, civil liberties, political rights, corruption, immunization rates, primary education completion rates, health expenditure, credit ratings, inflation, regulatory quality, budget deficits and trade policy. The selection process is designed to be transparent; most of the data comes from the World Bank Institute, Freedom House, UN, Institutional Investor magazine and The Heritage Foundation.

To qualify, a country must score above the median in half the indicators in each of the three broad categories: ruling justly, investing in people, and establishing economic freedoms. It must also score above the median on corruption.

In the first year only 75 countries with annual per capita incomes below $1,415 (the cutoff for the World Bank's concessionary lending) will be considered. Of these, 12 are ineligible to receive US assistance due to existing legal provisions (8 being in Africa - Burundi, Central Africa Republic, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe), leaving 63 that may receive funds.

According to analysis by the Center for Global Development, 13 countries are likely to qualify in the first year. Five are from Africa - Benin, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Lesotho and Senegal - with a combined population of 22 million and an average per capita income of $1.20 per day.

Over the past two years NGOs, academics, aid donors and potential recipient nations engaged in discussion and advocacy around MCA. Many of their concerns were incorporated into the legislation, so that the selection criteria must consider the rights of people with disabilities, sustainable management of natural resources, respect for workers' rights and labor unions, and investments in women's and children's health and in girls primary education.

While AFJN welcomes the MCA's potential for more effective development assistance, it sees areas that need continued scrutiny. Will there be a just balance between strategies to achieve market-driven economic growth and those to eliminate extreme poverty? Will eligibility criteria on trade policy consider the often-disruptive effects of rapid trade liberalization on employment, local markets, domestic industry and agriculture, especially smallholder farmers? Will the MCA respect a government's responsibility to provide social goods and services to its citizens, especially the poor, and not pressure countries to privatize essential services such as water, health and education? And given that MCA selection criteria is performance-based, rather than needs based, what happens to very poor countries that do not qualify for the program?

Peter Jacxsens is a volunteer at AFJN
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2004 -- AFJN ANNUAL MEETING -- 2004


02-03 October 2004 – Louisville, KY


AFJN will hold its Annual Meeting in conjunction with the US Catholic Mission Association Conference.

AFJN will meet from 02-03 October; USCMA will meet from 03-06 October.


Look for more information in upcoming newsletters and on our website!


Meanwhile, please save the dates!  We hope for a strong turnout to discuss and plan AFJN’s advocacy as a new Congress begins next January!






AFJN’s mission statement reads “Africa Faith and Justice Network is a Catholic network of individual and group members focused on Africa and the experience of its people.  AFJN is committed in faith to collaborate in the task of transforming United States mentality and policy on Africa.  It seeks to be an instrument of education and advocacy on behalf of justice for Africa.”


Who exemplifies this vision for you -- either an individual or organization?

Is there someone you would like to nominate to receive the AFJN Annual Award at the  2004 Annual Meeting?


Send your nomination to AFJN’s Executive Director, Marcel Kitissou

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