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

When the Wars End
Managing Africa's Water Resources
Trade Justice for All
Just Trade Resolution
Eritrean/Ethiopian War: Democracy loses
Diego Garcia: One Island, Many Realities
Save the Dates!



In view of the huge problems confronting Africa, it is sometimes tempting to honestly ask ourselves, “What kind of people live there?”

Let's take two lives, totally different -- Joseph Ki-Zerbo, a famous historian from Burkina-Faso, and an ordinary man, Kimani Nganga Maruge, living in the village of Eldoret, Kenya.

A recent book by Réné Holenstein, based on interviews with Ki-Zerbo received the Temoin du Monde prize last November. Titled A Quand l'Afrique (roughly “Awaiting Africa's Era”), the book was edited simultaneously in five African countries, France and Switzerland. Ki-Zerbo portrays Africa amidst the current stream of globalization--after having evolved the human species Africa now has to redefine its own identity in order to become a player in international affairs. In 1958 when Guinea became independent, France abruptly withdrew its technical assistance. Many Africans went to Guinea to work and help the country. Ki-Zerbo quit his professorship in Senegal to do just that. For political reasons, he spent years in exile away from his country, Burkina-Faso (Upper Volta until 1984).

In his blue uniform of the Kakpendiuywo elementary school, Maruge is 78 years older than the average student in the classroom. He is 84 and a veteran of the 1950s Liberation War. He decided to go to school when the newly elected Kenyan President, Mwai Kibaki, made elementary education free. Widowed and the father of 15 (10 have died), he is as rigorous as any other student. His immediate goal is to learn arithmetic and reading so that he can read the bible and take care of his pastoral business. His longer-term goal is to become a veterinarian.

To do the impossible, one has to see the invisible. It is that challenge both Ki-Zerbo and Maruge ask all of us to confront.

Marcel Kitissou, Ph.D
AFJN Executive Director
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By Marcel Kitissou
Symposium on Security, Reconciliation and Reconstruction in Africa
April 23-24, 2004 at Cornell University
(Co-sponsored by AFJN, Cornell University and Binghamton University)

Wars weaken the authority of the state, breed insecurity, and erode institutions of civil society. Post-conflict societies are characterized by lack of respect for the rule of law, gross human rights violations, impunity, and economic devastation and decay. The end of conflict does not automatically bring peace, security and an end to violence.

Demobilization is typically accompanied by an upsurge in criminality and other forms of violence. There is also always a continuing risk that the conflict might resume. In such societies, some of the most difficult tasks include the articulation of the vision of a new society, dealing with the past, defining the fundamental principles by which the country will be transformed, distribution of power within the country among the various segments of the population, engaging in effective reconstruction, and establishing and securing enduring peace. The manner in which these processes are handled can play an important role in the consolidation of peace.

The symposium will bring together an interdisciplinary group of experts to discuss the issues raised above. It is hoped that the exchange of views and experiences at the symposium will help determine the variables that underline success in the approaches to reconciliation and reconstruction in post conflict societies.

The symposium is organized along the themes indicated below.

  • Session I: The Social and Economic Dimension of Conflict Nature of African conflict, causes, political economy of the conflicts
  • Session II: Impact of Conflict on Women and Children
  • Session III: Reconciliation and Past Human Rights Violations
  • Session IV: Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration of Ex-combatants and Reconstruction
  • Session V: Role of the International Community · Session VI: Closing Remarks

The organizers cordially invite AFJN members to attend the symposium. For free Registration, board and lodging for the event, please contact Cornell University at the address below.

For more information and to register, contact: Ms. Jackie Sayegh
Cornell University
E-mail: Jackie Sayegh
Tel. (607) 255-5499

Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN
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The Niger River is 4200 km long. It is shared by Guinea, Mali, Benin, Nigeria and the Republic of Niger, for which it is the only source of fresh water. In the last 30 years the river has lost 30 percent of its water, passing from 67 cubic meters per second in 1970 to 22 cubic meter per second today. In the process the desert has been advancing by 100,000 hectares per year. Climatic changes (the droughts of 1985 and 1990 parched the city of Niamey), human activities and industrial pollution cause the water level's decline.

Amidst this dire circumstance, Niger's 12 million-strong population, which is 80 percent rural, increases by 3.6 percent per year. As a solution, plans for the Kandadji dam were conceived in 1970. There is high hope that its construction will finally begin in 2005. It will provide fresh water and allow trough irrigation to increase croplands from 13,000 ha to 122,000 ha. Development of fisheries and cattle herding are among the benefits expected from this ambitious project. Other hydraulic projects are also under consideration. Currently, only 46 percent of Nigériens have access to potable water and 6 percent enjoy the privilege of a faucet. As the government tries to improve the quantity and quality of water for its population, and under pressure from the World Bank, it privatized its Société Nationale des Eaux in 2001, which was taken over by the transnational Vivendi. Since then there has been a 13 percent spike in the price of water.

However, among many possible weaknesses of CAADP, I would like to point out three: · There should be a drastic revision of the structures of African governments' public expenditures. While they tend to be high in military expenses, on average they devote only 1 percent of their budget to agriculture. · CAADP wants to rely on sustainable water control systems, emphasizing the utilization of irrigation schemes. It does not seem to take into account the multiple and competitive uses of water. In the case of Niger, the river should provide for drinkable water, irrigation, fisheries and cattle herding, not counting environment protection. How are those uses going to be reconciled or prioritized? There is need for integrated management of the river water. · The Republic of Niger and particularly Niamey, its capital city, are the most vulnerable users of the international river. The sustainability of a water control system developed in total isolation -- country by country and village by village -- has no guarantee of success. Rather, the situation needs a basin-system management scheme in which all relevant riparian communities and states participate in policy formulation and decision implementation.

As NEPAD seeks continent-wide integration, Africa cannot miss this is golden opportunity.

Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director at AFJN
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By Larry J. Goodwin

Trade hits people where they live. It may seem like a distant, esoteric topic, too complicated to understand except by experts, but it impacts the nooks and crannies of people's lives all over the globe, ours included. In this era of globalization, fluid capital and borderless transnational corporations, it is one of the foremost economic and social justice issues of the day. None of us can escape being entangled in its web, and often we don't even realize it.

We hunt for bargains on the clothes, shoes and electronic gadgets we buy, dimly aware if at all that low-wage, abused workers - and children - in poor countries produce many of them. They earn pennies on the dollar under harsh conditions for our benefit, while corporations pocket the lion's share of the profits and domestic laborers lose their jobs. Workers are pitted against workers, whether USA and foreign labor or poor country versus poor country - in a competitive low-wage “race to the bottom,” where powerful private-sector interests call the shots. This is the dirty underside on which much of our prosperity rests.

The USA, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization back each other in institutionalizing a global economic system built solely to serve the interests of private profit - a system that scorns notions of the common good and public domain. Wealthy economies like the European Union, Australia, Japan, Canada and others are an integral part of the mix. Post-colonial developing countries and regions, on the other hand, find themselves backed against the wall and under tremendous pressure to go along if they want the badly needed investments the dominant economies can provide.

Africa gets locked into this dead-end system through arrangements like the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which ostensibly offers development and investment opportunities to certain African countries but, in reality, cements the “trade, not aid” agenda of international business, for which Africa is often an easy target. AGOA is not a trade agreement at all but a unilateral piece of USA legislation that determines which African countries can trade with the United States and under what conditions -- with USA interests primarily at the fore. Africans had nothing to say about it. That's not to claim that Africans gain nothing from AGOA, although how much is a matter of hot dispute [See Clean Clothes Campaign -- search under “Lesotho” for an example of sweatshop allegations in this AGOA-certified country]. In return for what many consider meager benefits, Africans must allow American businesses, against whom they are largely ill-equipped to compete, unrestricted access to (i.e. control of) their markets, services and resources. The USA does not reciprocate in kind, nor can the Africans do much about it.

The Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment (IWGTI), of which AFJN is a founding member, has mounted a national Trade Justice Campaign [Trade Justice USA] allied to the international Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance. IWGTI has worked closely with Rep. Marcy Kaptur to introduce a resolution into the House of Representatives (H. Res. 532) setting out principles of just trade. Rep. Kaptur states in her resolution that “International trade operates according to economic logic but without an ethic,” a flaw her measure seeks to address. We will never fashion a just trade system without the principles H. Res. 532 espouses. And we will never see those principles enacted unless we insist that our lawmakers do so.

Action: Urge your congressional representative to cosponsor H. Res. 532 today! Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to connect you to your representative's office.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
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H. RES. 532
February 24, 2004


Expressing the sense of the United States House of Representatives that the United States should adhere to moral and ethical principles of economic justice and fairness in developing and advancing United States international trade treaties, agreements, and investment policies.


Whereas all human beings, regardless of any distinction, share the same intrinsic and inalienable rights and dignity;


Whereas international trade operates according to economic logic but without an ethic;


Whereas international trade and investment should respect the rights of people above markets and involve the meaningful participation of those affected by trade;


Whereas international trade and investment should uphold international labor rights and promote the advancement of women in social and economic development;


Whereas hundreds of millions of workers worldwide labor under inhumane conditions in sweatshops, often linked to multinational corporations, without a sustainable wage, basic benefits, or collective bargaining rights;


Whereas international trade and investment should advance democratic principles, broad-based equality, sustainable human development, and poverty alleviation and secure the Earth's natural environment;


Whereas international trade and investment should respect the right and responsibility of people to maintain the global commons through the sustainable use of their local and traditional resources;


Whereas government exists to serve the needs of society and has an essential role in setting priorities and making decisions about trade and investment in order to advance the common good;and


Whereas exclusive reliance on market liberalization and free trade often exacerbates economic and social inequalities within and between countries: Now, therefore, be it


Resolved, That henceforth the House of Representatives will adhere to the following principles in evaluating, approving, and advancing all United States trade and investment treaties, agreements, and policies:


(1) International trade and investment systems should respect and support the dignity of the human person, the integrity of creation, and our common humanity.


(2) International trade and investment activities should advance the common good and be evaluated in the light of their impact on those who are most vulnerable.


(3) International trade and investment policies and decisions should be transparent and should involve the meaningful participation of the most vulnerable stakeholders.


(4) International trade and investment systems should respect the legitimate role of government, in collaboration with civil society, to set policies regarding the development and welfare of its people.


(5) International trade and investment systems should safeguard the global commons and respect the right of local communities to protect and sustainably develop their natural resources.




After Eritrean and Tigrean (from Ethiopia) insurgent movements collaborated to defeat the Ethiopian military regime in 1991, they did not join forces to create a new Ethiopia.   Neither did kinship nor the camaraderie forged in wartime prevent a split from taking place.   On the contrary, Eritrea seceded.   The respective movements, led by two cousins (Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia and Issayas Afewerki of Eritrea), began their new journey in separate and hostile states.   Ethiopia, with a population of 60 million, became an ethnic-based federation.   Eritrea, with its 3.5 million people, developed into an ethnic-based centralized state.


Following September 11, 2001 both Ethiopia and Eritrea strongly supported the USA in its war on terrorism.   They were the only African countries to publicly join the “Coalition of the Willing” in the war against Saddam Hussein of Iraq.   However, for them the friend of a friend is not necessarily a friend; and for the USA, the enemy of a friend is not necessarily an enemy.


Between 1998 and 2000 the two drought-prone countries waged a protracted war.  Up to 100,000 people were killed and a million forced into exile or internal displacement.   Meager resources needed for development were diverted into inter-state war.   War costs amounted to the equivalent of the annual GDP for Ethiopia, and much more for Eritrea.   The usual vicious cycle of institutional failure to deliver services and political failure to build functional political systems became particularly acute in the region.   A Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in Algiers on December 12, 2000 with the co-sponsorship of the United States, European Union, African Union (then OAU) and the United Nations.   Nevertheless the propaganda war continues, mainly as a tool for strengthening internal political power.   In this game any incident, however small, may trigger a new war.


In structures based on ethnic nationalism, Meles Zenawi rules Ethiopia with the Tigrean-dominated Popular Front of Liberation.   Although Tigreans form less than 7 percent of Ethiopia’s population they dominate the government, and for some the dream of forming a “Great Tigrea” is still very much alive.   In this atmosphere, Addis-Ababa could see the Algiers Agreement as an obstacle to national ambitions, which in turn could lead to conditions that might trigger another war.


Conversely, Eritrea requests the full application of the Algiers Agreement and asks the UN and African Union to mount pressure on Ethiopia to that end.   The local Cold War is also an instrument of legitimacy and survival for the regime of Eritrea.   Although Ethiopia and Eritrea are both the USA’s friends, American efforts to resolve the conflict are not much in evidence.   The 2000 Algiers Agreement seems to be no more than an alibi for doing nothing for democratic reforms or sustainable peace in the region.


However, the potential for cooperation and economic integration between the two countries is real.   For example, Ethiopia is rich in raw materials but it is landlocked and needs access to the Red Sea via Eritrea.   Eritrea in turn can greatly benefit from an economic cooperation with its neighbor.   Instead of deporting 50,000 Ethiopians living in Eritrea and about 75,000 Eritreans living in Ethiopia as happened in 2003 -- deemed to be a threat to the national security of the two respective countries --, the two countries might be better off creating a space for partnership in economic development and community building.


The USA should encourage those efforts.   If Ethiopia -- at ten times the size of Eritrea and fifteen times the size of its neighbor’s population -- collapses, risks are high that we will see the Horn of Africa begin to look like Somalia.


Marcel Kitissou is Exective Director at AFJN
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It is common knowledge that the island of Diego Garcia holds a USA military base. It is less commonly known that it is the largest American military base outside the USA. As a country, Diego Garcia has indigenous inhabitants and a distinct political, social and cultural history. That being recognized, the Americans and Diego Garcians each have their own side the story.


According to the U.S. Navy, Diego Garcia's 6,720 acres were discovered (my emphasis) by the Portuguese in the early 1500s -- the largest of the 52 islands of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. In 1965, when the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) was formed, Diego Garcia was placed under the administrative control of the British government of the Seychelles. In 1976, at the independence of the Seychelles, the BIOT became a self-administering entity under the British Foreign Office. During roughly 170 years of plantation culture, coconut harvests remained fairly constant with about 4 million gathered annually. The plantation economy ended with the beginning of the construction of the USA military base in 1997.


After the overthrow of the Shah of Iran in 1979, “Diego Garcia saw the most dramatic build-up of any location since the Vietnam War era” and became fully operational with the completion of a $500 million construction program. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the island “became the only US navy base that launched offensive air operations during Operation Desert Storm and Diego Garcia remains a vital link in our defense structure” [Navy Support Facility, Diego Garcia, Navy Support Facility]


Not every one agrees with this estimate. For the indigenous people it is a history of stolen goods. When Mauritius became a Republic in 1991, the constitution defined the country as an archipelago comprised of the islands of Mauritius, Rodrigues, Agalega, Tromelin, Cargados Carajos and the Chagos Archipelago (including Diego Garcia).

The colonial British severed the island from all the other islands of Mauritius, put it together with some Seychelles Islands, and made the newly invented colony into the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT). This arrangement took place prior to granting Mauritian independence in 1968 and as a condition of that very independence. For victims thus made, the struggle for the independence and reunification of Mauritius is far from being complete.


The Navy reported that, in 1990, “the base population almost doubled overnight …workload base-wide increased from 200-2000 % over peacetime levels with no personnel augmentation.” Meanwhile, the people of the island were being forcibly removed. According to an e-mail from a local received by AFSC last January: “They were tricked off the Islands first; then those who were not tricked were frightened off (their 1,600 dogs gassed in front of them) and the rest of them were starved off Diego Garcia and the other Islands. Quite literally. Two thousand Chagossians, who had lived there for generations, were forcibly removed over the period 1965-1973 and dumped on the dockside in Port Louis, Mauritius. Just like that. Homeless. Workless. Disoriented.


The same e-mail from conveys a powerful sense of nostalgia: “Now in 2004, in these times of so-called 'globalization”, Diego Garcia, still illegally occupied, houses an enormous US military base, which disfigures the beautiful Islands completely. Tarmac and bombs, where coconut palms were. Nuclear warheads and submarines, where coral and fish were. The different clubhouses for different grades and ranks of military men, where people's tiny houses used to nestle in the trees. Civilian companies raking in money from defense contracts, where people used to de-husk coconuts, dry fish, cook turtle eggs.


So, intersecting with the struggle for peace, there is the Chagossians' long, brave struggle, consistent over 30 years or more, for the right to return.


Marcel Kitissou is Executive Director 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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