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

What is water worth?
Religion, Conflict & Peacebuilding in Africa
"Unhappy Birthday" for WB/IMF
Northern Uganda~Civilians Hit Hard
Comboni Priests Work for Peace in Northern Uganda
Save the Dates!



It is shocking to see Washington, DC experiencing difficulties accessing potable water. However, in many parts of the world it's the rule rather than the exception.

1.4 billion people have difficulty accessing drinkable water; 450 million of them are in Africa. The continent houses one-third of the world's great river basins. 70 African rivers are internationally shared. For example, the Nile is shared by 10 countries, the Volta by 6, the Niger by 11, Lake Chad by 8, the Congo and the Zambezi by 9 each. Since 1950, Africa lost three-fourths of its available water. It is projected that another one-eighth will be lost by 2025. While water resources are diminishing, the population is growing, and areas of economic development will increase demands on the continent's water supply even more.

Lake Chad used to cover 350,000 sq. kms. In the 1960s, it was reduced to 25,000 sq. kms; today its size is around 2,000 sq. kms. The Nile decreased from 84 cu. kms in 1954 to 52 cu. kms today. Its basin encompasses 10 percent of the continent's land mass and 40 percent of Africa's population spread over 10 states (Burundi, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and the DRC). If the current rate of population growth remains the same, the basin will house 859 million by 2025, up from only 245 million in 1990, a factor in political instability.

300 zones of potential water-based conflict exist around the world. Among danger spots in Africa are the Okavango, the Zambezi, the Niger and, as noted, the Nile basin.

Once intra-state conflicts dissipate in the Nile basin, inter-state conflicts may emerge over water resources. Since in that basin and others many of the conflicts are inter-connected, it may be time to rethink conflict resolution and redesign regional cooperation around river basin systems.

Marcel Kitissou, Ph.D
AFJN Executive Director
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By Larry J. Goodwin

“We never know the worth of water till the well is dry” ~Thomas Fuller, 1732.

The Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus have awarded a generous grant to AFJN for its “Seeds and Water” initiative, specifically to support advocacy on the fundamental human right to safe water. The SHCJ commitment to AFJN's initiative recognizes the profound link between basic human rights and the corresponding need to provide legal and social mechanisms that guarantee access to safe water.

The World Bank and IMF pressure developing countries in debt negotiations and loan agreements to privatize public services like water. The World Trade Organization considers water a for-profit commodity and would impose that view on all its member countries. AFJN has a great concern that USA bi-lateral and regional trade pacts with Africa, like the Free Trade Agreement with SACU countries currently under negotiation [see Around Africa, Dec 2003, pg 7], will be used to push water privatization.

One of the ways in which AFJN and its colleagues are working to raise awareness in Congress about the human right to water is through a resolution we are crafting with Rep. Janice Schakowsky (IL-09), a champion on this issue. Slated for introduction this spring, the resolution describes the growing global water crisis affecting millions of people and urges Congress to affirm certain fundamental principles about water. It declares that water is a public trust and a public good, not a private commodity. It recognizes that governments have the duty to ensure equitable access to water for everyone. It holds that all members of society should directly and meaningfully participate in decisions about water conservation and distribution. It affirms the UN's Millennium Development Goals, rejects the tactic of using international loans to force water privatization on countries, and asserts that polluters be held responsible for damage they cause.

It is a thoroughly sound measure that makes utmost sense to our and the planet's survival, but like any resolution, it lacks the force of law. Its strength derives from its power to raise awareness and generate debate, which will eventually lead, we hope, to legislation with teeth that will protect everyone's right to safe water.

What is water worth? In this case, it's worth getting on the phone or writing a letter to your members of Congress upon the resolution's introduction urging them to cosponsor it. Look for an AFJN action alert soon asking you to do just that.

Larry J. Goodwin is Associate Director for Organizing at AFJN
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In Africa, as elsewhere, religion has a checkered history. Religion has brought people together and it has divided them. At certain times and in certain places, religious leaders have courageously fought injustices and called for reconciliation. In other places and at other times, religious leaders have remained silent or have even given tacit approval to acts of unspeakable violence and crimes against humanity. Some religious leaders have become friends of dictators, while others have denounced authoritarian regimes and have championed greater respect for human rights.

The Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame recently convened a conference in Jinja, Uganda that brought together religious leaders, politicians, peace practitioners, human rights workers and academics to discuss the role of organized religion in conflict and peace building in Africa. The conference took place March 29 through April 5. For the Kroc Institute and the University of Notre Dame, the conference represents a step toward greater involvement in sub-Saharan Africa, and cooperation with Africans who are working for peace. Muslims, Christians and those who follow African traditional religions, laypeople and clerics, men and women, came together to think about how religious people might more effectively prevent religious differences from becoming a source of violent conflict, and to promote religious efforts to prevent or end deadly disputes.

A great deal of discussion at the conference focused on Muslim-Christian relations in sub-Saharan Africa. It was noted that, in most parts of Africa south of the Sahara, relations between Christians and Muslims have been good. However, it was also noted that this seems to be changing in some regions due to a shift in the international climate following the war in Iraq and the growth of aggressive and militant brands of Christianity and Islam. It was agreed that Muslim and Christian leaders must come together more often to prevent the rise of extremism among the members of the religious bodies they lead.

Attention was also focused on the crisis in northern Uganda that has claimed thousands of lives over the last several years. Archbishop John Baptist Odama, Catholic Bishop of Gulu, appealed to those who wish to stand up for peace and the dignity of the human person to bring the tragedy taking place in northern Uganda to the attention of world leaders. The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has been terrorizing the local population in the North of Uganda for several years now. Many speculate that the Ugandan government is not serious about putting an end to the crisis. The international community, including the United States, has largely ignored the crisis, reminiscent of its reaction to the situation that quickly eroded into genocide in Rwanda during 1994.

In the end, the conference inspired those present to continue to do their best to work together to make religious institutions more effective instruments of peace. As members of AFJN, we also wish to contribute to these efforts. Among other things, members of AFJN would do well to ensure that U.S. congressional leaders are aware of the tragedy in northern Uganda and call on them to do all they can to apply pressure on the Ugandan government to put an end to the deadly crisis. Further, members of AFJN would do well to speak out and oppose prejudice against Muslims and people of other faiths. We must do our best to prevent Muslim-Christian relations from deteriorating any further in Africa and elsewhere..

Robert Dowd is on faculty at Notre Dame and an AFJN board member
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By Neil Watkins and Jakeya Caruthers

In 2004 the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, two of the most powerful financial institutions on the planet, will celebrate their 60th year of existence. And as they do every year, the leaders of the world's eight wealthiest and most powerful countries will meet in the United States to make world decisions.

Acknowledging this, Jubilee USA Network has taken this year to be a prophetic one of action and education, engaging in activities that speak to the urgent need for these institutions and governments to unconditionally cancel 100% of the debt for the world's impoverished nations, freeing monies to repair the damage to economy, humanity, and sovereignty caused by the overwhelming debt crisis, a crisis which has yet to be effectively and fairly redressed by the institutions that have sustained it for the last two decades.

In a world where AIDS is claiming more than 8,000 lives a day, and literacy rates are falling, the most impoverished nations are still siphoning desperately needed resources from healthcare and education to pay service on debts to the wealthiest nations and the IMF/World Bank that they have already paid many times over.

African nations are at the epicenter of both the debt and the AIDS crises, facing drought and famine and recovering from regional conflict. Despite this reality, African nations are paying more in debt service to the IMF, World Bank, and other creditors than they receive in aid, new loans, or investment. The US President's AIDS initiative provides a perfect example of this reality. The fourteen countries eligible for funding from the US to fight AIDS, mostly African, will receive $2.4 billion dollars in 2004; the same fourteen nations will pay an estimated $9.1 billion in debt service this year.

The legacy of the IMF, World Bank, and debt in Africa is startling, and the statistics are not pleasant reading:

  • Africa pays $15 billion in debt service each year to the IMF, World Bank, and rich country governments. This is more than the continent receives each year in aid, new loans, or investment.
  • Africa's external debt stands at $333 billion. African nations pay $1.51 in debt service for every $1 received in aid.
  • African nations have paid their debt three times over in the past ten years alone, yet African nations are three times as indebted as they were ten years ago.
  • All African countries are paying more on debt service than on health care for their people, regardless of initial and insufficient debt relief. The average spending on debt service is $14 per person while the average spending on health is less than $5 per person.
  • If governments invested in human development rather than debt payments, an estimated three million children would live beyond their fifth birthday and a million cases of malnutrition would be avoided.

DOES IT MEAN THAT THE DEBTS WERE NOT CANCELLED IN 2000? The global Jubilee movement was successful in bringing the debt issue to the attention of the world's leaders in the late 1990s. At the G7 summit in Cologne in 1999, G7 leaders committed themselves to canceling $100 billion of the debts of the 42 poor countries included within HIPC. Of this total, $50 billion was to be provided through the HIPC initiative itself; $30 billion from 'traditional' debt relief such as that provided through the Paris Club; and $20 billion from cancellation of aid debts by bilateral creditor countries.

According to the initial schedule, 19 out of the 38 countries deemed to need debt relief under the HIPC initiative should have received initial debt relief by the end of 2002. Total debt relief for these countries, and traditional relief for other countries, should by now have amounted to $68 billion.

To date, the average debt service for 27 HIPC countries as a whole has fallen by almost $1 billion a year since 2000, reducing payments by about 1/3. Eight countries, which have reached “Completion Point,” have received partial cancellation in their stock of debts under the enhanced HIPC initiative, receiving total relief of over $17 billion. A further $17 billion has been cancelled through so-called 'traditional' mechanisms for debt cancellation, while approximately $1.5 billion has been cancelled under the original HIPC initiative (HIPC I 1996-1999). But the debt crisis is far from over. For countries of Africa and the global South, this limited relief has not brought an end to the crisis as funds continue to be diverted from basic needs towards debt service payments.

When a nation has more access to its own resources as a result of the initial debt relief won by the international Jubilee movement, there are dramatic results. Health and education spending in eligible countries has increased by 40-90 percent.

In Mozambique, savings from reduced debt service payments have been used to increase education spending from 12 percent to 20 percent of the recurrent budget, which has resulted in an improvement in educational indicators, such as literacy rates. In Uganda, debt relief played a key role in the government's success in reducing HIV infection rates by 40 percent.

But only 34 countries in Africa will see some of their debts reduced. Countries like Namibia, Botswana, Nigeria, Morocco and Kenya will not see any debt relief at all. No African nation has been offered full debt cancellation. The debt relief promised to date is partial and the HIPC initiative has failed to bring countries out of debt slavery. All of these efforts fall far short of the definitive debt cancellation that is so urgently needed.

As yet, many countries have not seen the debt relief promised as they struggle to implement World Bank and IMF economic austerity measures like privatization of water and further budget cuts. The relief under the World Bank and IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative has been partial, heavily conditioned, and for only a select number of countries. Full debt cancellation without conditions is urgently needed.

On this, the WB/IMF's 60th “Unhappy Birthday,” campaigners are leaving nothing to chance, collectively calling for these powerful institutions to drop the debt! Under the rubric of “It's No Time to Party,” Jubilee USA Network exhorts the IMF and World Bank to cancel 100 percent of the debts of impoverished countries, without harmful conditions, using the institutions' existing resources. Jubilee USA has petitioned the U.S. Treasury department to use its power within the IMF/World Bank to enact this demand.

In addition to calling on the World Bank/IMF and U.S. Treasury department, Jubilee USA challenges the G7's global economic policies, highlighting for the media and the public the failure of the group to follow through with its promises for even limited debt relief for Africa. When the G7 meets this June in Sea Island, Georgia, Jubilee USA will take the opportunity to engage local activists and community members in the fight against the crushing debt crisis through media and educational activities, making effective links and pointing out parallels between the global and local ills and implications of international debt, and the institutions that perpetuate it.

In this prophetic year of opportunity and action, it is time for justice seekers to seize our opportunity to call on the World Bank, IMF, and the countries that control it to, “Cancel the debt, now!”

For more information on Jubilee USA Network see Jubilee Network USA, and for information on the global Jubilee movement see Jubilee South.

Neil Watkins and Jakeya Caruthers work at Jubilee USA Network in Washington, DC
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The Ugandan government is conducting a war of words against the research organization International Crisis Group for its April 14 report criticizing President Yoweri Museveni, and the Ugandan government for their failure to end the 18-year-old civil war in the north. The report says a recent attack by the Lord's Resistance Army on a displaced person's camp in the north that killed over 200 people revealed “serious deficiencies in the government's capacity to defend the population and defeat the insurgency.”

The report goes further to say that President Museveni is using the so-called “war against terrorism” in the north as an excuse to avoid reforming the army, to take away the power base of the northern opposition, and curtail freedom of expression and association. It slams the government for not acting in good faith to negotiate with the LRA, and says failure to end the war further isolates the Acholi people from Ugandan society.

The International Crisis Group is the latest organization to speak out against the periodic violence that is rocking northern Uganda. World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Executive Director Sheila Sisulu issued a statement March 18 condemning the killings, mutilations, sexual slavery, kidnappings of mostly children, and other atrocities committed by the LRA.

The conflict has hit children particularly hard. The United Nations estimates that, ever since the conflict began in 1986, LRA rebels have kidnapped 30,000 children to act as their porters, child soldiers, and concubines. Children are often forced to kill their own families and neighbors to ensure that they cannot return to their own communities.

To protect Northern Ugandans against the LRA's attacks, the Ugandan government has set up a system of “protected villages” -- displaced person's camps that are supposed to be guarded by Local Defense Unit militias trained by the Ugandan army. However, aid agencies and human rights groups have reported rampant malnutrition and social problems in these settlements. Worst of all, they often fail to protect people against rebel attacks.

For three hours on the night of 21 February, anywhere from 100 to 300 rebels bombed and torched the Barlonyo displaced persons' camp near Lira. A Roman Catholic Missionary, Fr. Sebat Ayala, visited the scene the next morning. “I counted 121 bodies. In one hut, I found seven dead bodies still burning … all the bodies were just scattered around the camp,” he told AFJN.

Ugandans and the international community alike reacted to the carnage with horror, and asked tough questions about how the rebels were able to attack a supposedly guarded camp. Ugandan army spokesman Shaban Bantariza told AFJN that the LRA chose to attack Barlonyo camp because the Local Defense Unit there is so new. Some go as far as to accuse the army of being in cahoots with the rebels, but the army counters that it is local politicians who give the rebels food, equipment, and other supplies.

Four days after the attack, local residents staged a peace march to pray for the victims and urge the Ugandan government and international community to intervene in the conflict. Things turned ugly when several protestors were beaten to death in ethnic violence and police fired into the crowd, injuring several people.

In a bid to alert the international community to the seriousness of the Northern Uganda conflict, Parliament passed a motion shortly after the Barlonyo attack to declare northern Uganda a disaster area, the second time Parliament has done that in two years. But the government - which claims to have the situation in Northern Uganda under control - rejected Parliament's motion.

While politicians exchange their war of words, children and others on the ground continue to experience the real war.

Cathy Majtenyi is a correspondent for AFJN in East Africa
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“I'm John. I was fourteen when the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) kidnapped me together with ten younger kids and forced me to become a soldier. They brainwashed us, forced us to forget our relatives and be born again into the community of chosen people. They used very harsh discipline on us, and the password was 'kill'!” One day John fled and made his way to Gulu hospital.

“I'm Mary. I was seized, like John, and forced to become the third wife of Palaro (a rebel chief). Daily I had to fetch him water, feed him from a kneeling position and sleep with him anytime he wished.” After three and a half years of such a life, Mary, infected with HIV/AIDS, found a way to escape. “I don't want to remember the violence inflicted on me,” she says, “only I ask how come no one cares about boys and girls kidnapped and forced to become murderers or sexual slave girls?”

Civil war dates back to 1986 in Northern Uganda. A group of rebels, declaring themselves the “Lord's Resistance Army,” challenged the government and began burning villages, killing men and women, and abducting boys and girls. The number kidnapped since 1986 is estimated now at around 30,000. Today 80 percent of the LRA is made up of children, trained to commit the most vicious deeds, like killing their own parents or relatives, to prevent them from being able to escape back to their families.

Gross estimates put the number of war victims at 100,000. Another 600,000, nearly half the population of the region, are displaced and survive in dire conditions. Half of the parents in Northern Uganda have lost sons and daughters and everything they possess, often in just one night. The others live in fear of being the next in line. The civil population, most of all women and youngsters, are not “accidental victims” or “collateral damage” anymore. LRA practices amount to a shrewd war strategy directed at controlling, humiliating and ultimately eliminating the Acholi population of Northern Uganda.

To travel is to put one's life at risk. Ambushes are common. One of the victims was Fr. Raffaele Di Bari, a Comboni Missionary, killed on 01 October 2000 while going to a chapel just outside of town. As recently as this past March Fr. Luciano Fulvi was murdered at night in his mission house, presumably by the rebels. Joseph Kony, the LRA founder, has publicly commanded his followers to kill without mercy the elderly and children, priests and missionaries, and to “beat the sisters black and blue!”

It is common for people to find shelter at night in church buildings or in the wider Mission compound. I have been told that about 700 displaced children now live permanently on the premises of Kitgum Mission, while tens of thousands of others take refuge at the hospitals in Kitgum and Gulu, even if it doesn't guarantee them security. The “olum,” as rebels are called, often loot churches and dispensaries without any interference from government forces in the area.

In Gulu Diocese, the “Commission for Justice and Peace” and the “Acholi Initiative for Peace” -- an ecumenical and inter-religious organization that includes Catholics, Anglicans and Muslims -- have entrusted Comboni Missionaries Fr. Tarcisio Pazzaglia and Fr. Jose' Carlos Rodriguez with the complicated task of working for reconciliation and peace. Their main aim is to try to convince rebels and Ugandan government officials to meet, initiating some form of negotiations that can lead to a process for ending this 18-year-old underreported conflict that has become just another of the world's many forgotten wars.

Fr. Pasquino Panato is a Comboni priest and an AFJN board member
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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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