The World Social Forum (WSF) was held last March in Tunis (Tunisia). The Comboni family (Missionary Sisters and Comboni Missionaries) participated, while holding the Comboni Forum. At the end of the Forum, they published their final statement.
The Comboni family gathered at the World Social Forum was a guest of a nation being born anew. There it breathed the Arab spring and the strength of a people’s dreams.
In Tunis, the dignity and the critical spirit of women, the potentials of youths, their desire to open up to the world are all awakening. This thirst for liberation and for a religion with a human touch is typical of Easter – the feast we celebrated during the days of the Forum.
Holy Week gave a special flavour to the desire for justice and peace shared by many peoples and social movements. Conversely, global challenges shed new light, for us, on the mystery of Easter that we celebrated with the small local church.
For days, we listened respectfully and attentively to the Islamic world, within the intercultural dimension characteristic of these international civil meetings.
For the first time, we were not present just as listeners, but as Missionary Sisters and Comboni Missionaries, with our specific activities, experiences, and communication.
We felt we were in the right place: in dialogue with people searching, with religious sisters and brothers journeying in the same direction, and with missionary animators surrounded and challenged by the pluralism of ideas and organisations.
We live next to our peoples, and are thus their voice. This made us among the few direct witnesses, at the Forum, of the dramas of the various countries in conflict in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arab world.
We felt the Church’s wealth of commitments in many areas of JPIC that we too support. We felt strengthened in the joy of discovering that other religious follow the Comboni method of “Saving Africa through the Africans.”
We, the Sisters and Missionaries, held a Comboni Forum alongside the events of the World Social Forum. This enriched us; it was a unique opportunity of ongoing formation and made us believe that a better world is possible.
Areopagus of evangelization
We are men and women of the road and the Gospel. We have a great wealth and experience of missionary life to share.
What we need is a systematic way to advance, to recompose fragments, to highlight and to think more deeply about evangelization.
We ask ourselves what the mission should be today. We should propose a theology and a spirituality embodied in today’s context. The Bible nourishes us; we walk with Christ the true liberator of history. We recover the mystique of the peoples to whom we belong and which we serve. We dialogue with the spiritual heritage of the native peoples and the great religious traditions of the world.
The strength of our faith and identity lies in including and in listening, rather than in defining boundaries and differences. We welcome the challenge to open up to the world and to fight all types of prejudice.
Committing ourselves together as the Comboni family is not the goal, but the first and necessary condition to be missionaries today.
We feel there should be more space for lay missionaries and for those with whom we live and work, through increasingly rich networks, who are responsible for today’s complex challenges. The leading role is theirs. Together, we are the salt and yeast that knead a new history – the hidden stones, as Comboni says.
Continuing the journey
Rereading our missionary and pastoral experience, we are in great harmony in some areas that associate our local and provincial activities. We renew our commitment to serve three priorities:
- Human trafficking and mobility;
- Care of creation, especially as regards land grabbing and plundering common goods;
- Interreligious and intercultural dialogue.
In these areas, that summarise our options for JPIC, many of us are already building ties among provinces and increasing collaboration between our two Institutes. We can’t expect to be able to do everything and to know everything: we must qualify and specialise ourselves on issues that we feel more urgent and in tune with our missionary charisma.
Let us then renew the thematic division among communities and provinces challenged by similar situations. This is already the case with the working group among the pastoralists in East Africa, or with the common commitment in Brazil, Mozambique, and Peru on the impact of mining on society.
After Tunis, let’s begin again with the Easter message in our heart. Let’s enjoy sharing with our communities and provinces what we have seen and heard here.
Let it be clear that the Comboni meeting during the World Social Forum was an occasion for missionaries to be evangelized and to evangelize.
As the Comboni family, we feel the need for a permanent reference group, ensuring and promoting the continuity of this process.
Praying on the tombs of the first Christian martyrs of this land, we renewed with them the courage to witness our faith until the end. By offering our lives without reservation, all may have life in abundance.
Two church leaders from Southern Kordofan state, in the Sudan, accused Omar Al Bashir’s regime of nurturing a cleansing plan for the region. From our correspondent.
In March, two pastors in Juba reported on the humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan caused by the war between the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-North (SPLM/A-N) and the Government of Khartoum, which started in June 2011 after contested local elections. They accused the IGAD, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, the UN, and the international community of ignoring the suffering of the people in the state.
The two churchmen presented a very grim picture with the signs of a humanitarian catastrophe in the making. They said that white unmarked Government Antonovs – small Russian cargo planes – are engaged in extensive and indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets (markets, villages, farms). They spread terror, famine, and insecurity among the population that seeks refuge in caves or on mountaintops and, according to the UN, survives on roots and leaves.
The Government of Khartoum does not allow humanitarian agencies to operate in the area controlled by the rebels despite the two agreements signed between the warring parties on humanitarian assistance to the Nuba Mountains. ‘Enough’, a project of the Centre for American Progress, conducted a survey among 2,467 children living in SPLM/A-N controlled areas in the Nuba Mountains and found that 14.9 percent suffered from severe malnutrition and 81.5 percent had only one meal a day.
In a letter written to the international community in November 2012, nine leaders of the Nuba people wrote: “We do not have access to food, medicine, healthcare, and other basic necessities. We look around at what is left of our homes, and see our family and friends weak from hunger and disease. Everywhere we look, we see children, the elderly, and other vulnerable people lying on the ground helpless. It is very hard for us to explain to our children what is happening when they ask us, ‘Does anyone in the world know what we are going through? Why is it that no one cares about us?’”.
The dramatic SOS was heeded by 98 lawmakers from the U.S., England, and Australia. They wrote a joint letter to their foreign ministers and to the UN Security Council members at the end of February, demanding an end to the aerial bombing against civilians in Southern Kordofan and in the Blue Nile region. They also called for an urgent address of the humanitarian situation and an end to Sudan’s conflicts, including the Darfur.
The war in Southern Kordofan has affected more than 700 thousand people in the area and displaced 436 thousand. Another 71 thousand took refuge in three camps of Unity State in South Sudan, where they were exposed to measles and Hepatitis E. Every week 430 people enter Yida Refugee Camp, home to almost 69 thousand people and too dangerously close to the border in a remote and difficult environment. The UNHCR is trying to convince the refugees to move further South to a new settlement in Ajuong, but they want to remain as close as they can to the borders. Although there is no data, it is possible that thousands of civilians died during the last eighteen months from shrapnel, famine, and diseases – all related to the ongoing conflict.
The war in the Nuba Mountains is also affecting the relationship between the Governments of Juba and Khartoum. At the end of last September, Sudan and South Sudan signed nine cooperation agreements but Khartoum put their implementation on hold until South Sudan stops supporting the rebels in the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile region and disarms them.
The agreements meant to resume crude oil production in South Sudan, legalize the situation of Southerners living in the Sudan, reopen the borders to business, strengthen security, and demarcate the borders.
Khartoum accuses Juba of supporting their former allies in Southern Kordofan, the Blue Nile area, and some factions in Darfur with weapons and advice. South Sudan denies the charges.
The International Crisis Group wrote in its report “Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan”, issued in February 2013, that the war had reached a deadlock and that no side was strong enough to win. It reported that the SPLM/A-N has some 30 thousand well-trained and armed fighters with a large stockpile of weapons, while the Government stationed in Southern Kordofan has between 40 and 70 thousand soldiers with some sophisticated hardware. Political negotiation is the only way out for the standoff in Southern Kordofan, although in December the rebels scored an important victory in Daldoko, a few kilometres from Kadugli, the state capital. They captured four tanks, one armoured personnel carrier, anti-aircraft guns, anti-tank guided missiles, and a great number of assorted ammunitions according to a report from Small Arms Survey.
SPLM/A-N secretary general Yasir Arman announced a new round of talks with the Government in March in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, under the mediation of the African Union High Implementation Panel (AUHIP). Some sources say controversial Governor Ahmed Haroun of Southern Kordofan will lead the Government’s delegation. Mr Haroun, together with President Al-Bashir and another five Sudanese top officials and rebel leaders, were charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes in Darfur and the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants against them.
On the other hand, observers say Khartoum learned a lesson with the peace process in South Sudan and does not want to engage in a negotiation of which it may lose control.
I asked the SPLM/A-N spokesperson, Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, what conditions the rebels had set for resuming negotiations to settle the conflict both in Southern Kordofan and in the Blue Nile states. He said the movement was committed to UN Security Council Resolution 2046 but that first it wanted to address the humanitarian situation followed by “a holist approach to political issues.” He did not elaborate.
The Resolution, passed in May 2012, urged the warring parties to cooperate fully with the AUHIP and the Chair of IGAD, and to reach a negotiated settlement. It strongly urged them to accept the tripartite proposal submitted by the African Union, the United Nations, and the League of Arab States, which would permit humanitarian access to the affected population in the two areas.
Churches are some of the few institutions offering some relief to the victims of the eighteen-month old conflict. Bishop Macram Max of El Obeid is one of the voices advocating on behalf of the Nuba people in many decision-making centres in Europe and the USA. He also collects funds to help people with food, medicines, and other life saving aid.
A Catholic official working in the Nuba Mountains told me the Church is the only hope of the people. Pastoral workers decided to stay put – sharing the fate of local communities and thus giving them hope.
Although the war brought education almost to a standstill, the Catholic Church runs a hospital with 250 beds and surgery services, and a radio station that broadcasts twelve hours per day. When the Antonovs end their threatening raids people gather around radios to overcome fear and get the latest news or to socialize.
The Catholic official is convinced that what Khartoum wants is to expel the Nuba people from the area and take possession of the land and its resources. She says what is going on is ethnic cleansing. Otherwise, why would Government warplanes keep on bombing farms, villages, markets, schools and other civilian targets?
Paride Taban won the 2013 Sergio Vieira de Mello Prize for his work at the Holy Trinity Peace Village in Kuron, in the east of South Sudan, which he founded. A powerful example of peace and reconciliation.
On a hilltop between Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv there is a peculiar community called Neve Shalom/Wahat as-Salaam (The Oasis of Peace). This community – with its cooperative, school, farms, and other services – comprises roughly 50 families of Jewish and Palestinian origin who have been living peacefully despite the fierce conflict between Jews and Arabs. This is an open place for anybody from any religious or social background; here, barriers of misunderstanding, prejudices, and hatred are overcome by means of tolerance, cooperative work, education, respect, and mutual appreciation.
Bishop Paride Taban – then Bishop of Torit in Southen Sudan – visited this community in 1993 and in 1999. The vision of this one family made of different people, some outright foes whose governments were involved in a bloody confrontation, reminded the Sudanese Bishop of the power of love, respect, and mutual acceptance in healing the wounds of war and hatred. He said, “I went to the Holy Land looking for a well-deserved rest after having toiled for years in another ferocious conflict in my home country. Meeting this Oasis of Peace and discovering its way of life was a milestone. The testimony of peaceful coexistence and respect got me thinking and I resolved to set up an analogous community in Sudan upon retirement.”
After long years of pastoral work, various responsibilities (founder and chairman of the New Sudan Council of Churches) and involvement in peacemaking, Bishop Paride Taban applied early for his retirement. Pope John Paul II accepted his resignation in 2004. However, the project inspired by the Jewish-Arab community already began taking shape in 2003. He smiled and said, “Yes, my 20th anniversary as Bishop of Torit.”
After having considered different venues, Monsignor Taban decided to start a farm near the Kuron River. This stream flows very close to the Ethiopian border and around it are different tribes (Toposa, Jie, Murle, Kachipo, Buya, Nyanga tom, etc.) fighting for the possession of cattle. Bishop Taban, looking at history, commented, “Cattle rustling goes back to the ancient traditions of the pastoralist tribes living along the Rift Valley. According to their old tales, when God created the world, he entrusted each tribe with a different ‘field of work’. He gave rivers to some, fields to others, and cattle to pastoralists. Therefore, all the cattle they find belongs to them. Cattle belonging to other tribes (even if related) must return to their original owners ‘by Divine decree.’ Cattle-raiding was also a ‘rite of passage’ proving a youth’s bravery and strength and making them adults in the sight of the tribe.”
“Due to the nature of the weapons used (spears, arrows, etc.) – the bishop continued – cattle-rustling in the past was a harmless practice compared to today. Each year hundreds of young men succumb to the destructive power of the ubiquitous AK-47, the most effective and affordable weapon in the region.”
According to Bishop Taban, this ruthless custom that takes the lives of so many people will only be overcome by close and peaceful coexistence. New members of each tribe traditionally live without interacting with other groups; prejudices and even hatred builds up along the years. Only if the young can live, learn, play, and grow together, a new and more peaceful society with new values might arise.
“The vision of The Holy Trinity Peace Village in Kuron is to set up an oasis of peace where people of diverse tribes, religious beliefs, cultures, and communities live together in harmony and dignity. The goal of the Peace Village is to achieve peace and reconciliation between warring communities for them to engage in sustainable development, for development is peace. The main objective of setting up the Peace Village is peace building through education, health services, food security, pastoral and spiritual care, and community participation in keeping law and order.”
In this context, Monsignor Taban decided to set up a centre offering different services: firstly the primary school, where all children can benefit from proper education – in particular girls. No girl from the local tribes has ever reached university studies. The school provides the ideal atmosphere for mutual trust and knowledge beyond ethnic barriers or prejudices. It also addresses the root-causes of violence associated with cattle.
The dispensary provides essential health care to communities that have never seen a medical doctor or a nurse and whose health is badly affected by lack of proper care, many waterborne diseases, and general ignorance about basic sanitation and hygiene practices.
The meeting centre is a place for peace building activities. It brings together chiefs and representatives of different tribal groups to hold meetings or discuss issues related to their lifestyle. Youths engage in sporting competitions to replace violent confrontation.
Finally, the agricultural project aims at empowering local tribes to produce their own food. This makes their livelihood less dependent on cattle, a source of rivalry and armed confrontation. So far, this initiative has been very successful. People who come to the Peace Village have the opportunity of learning basic agricultural techniques, getting to know new crop varieties, buying seeds, or gaining extra knowledge on how to start their own agricultural venture.
Monsignor Paride said, “Eight years ago, the Toposa, Nyangatom, Kachipo, Jie, Koroma, and Murle tribes called one another nyemoit in the local dialect – enemy. Now they coexist and call one another lepai – friend. This experience is influencing the area of about 200 square kilometres where there is no police or government agency to enforce law and order.”
Finally, he said, “I have seen many changes since we started. There are so many people now, so many children – in the beginning there was nobody. Another big change is that people have started practising agriculture. Before they would wander up and down, but now they have learned new ideas and are implementing best agricultural practices. We must be self-reliant so the community can cater to itself without external support. Kuron Peace Village – dedicated to the Holy Trinity as the perfect icon of community – is a powerful seed of reconciliation and peace for Southern Sudan.”
Last march, Bishop Taban was awarded the Sergio Vieira de Mello Prize. The prize is named after the Brazilian special UN envoy in Iraq, killed in a bombing in Baghdad in 2003. The prize is awarded each year to an individual, community, or institution who has made an exceptional contribution to reconciliate communities or groups in conflict, and whose example can be duplicated elsewhere. “The fact that this village is an example of reconciliation and peace encourages other communities to follow a similar approach in other areas of conflict in South Sudan and beyond,” said Laurent Vieira de Mello, president of the prize foundation and eldest son of the late Sergio Vieira de Mello.
The overall objective of the AU is to expedite the process of economic and political integration in the continent. Its vision can be summarized in the following points:
- the AU is Africa’s premier institution and principal organization for the promotion of the accelerated socio-economic integration of the continent which will lead to greater unity and solidarity between African countries and peoples.
- The AU is based on the common vision of a united and strong Africa and on the need to build a partnership between governments and all segments of civil society, in particular, women, youths, and the private sector, to strengthen solidarity and cohesion among the peoples of Africa.
- The AU focuses on promoting peace, security, and stability on the continent as a prerequisite to implement the development and integration agenda of the Union.
What has the AU achieved so far?
Since the Lusaka Summit some decisions on the transition from the OAU to the AU have made progress, for instance:
- the transfer of assets and liabilities from the OAU to the AU.
- The finalization of the protocol on the pan-African Parliament.
- The preparation of the Court of Justice statutes.
- The preparation and adoption of legal instruments to launch the four main AU organs – Assembly, Executive Committee, Commission, and Permanent Representative Committee.
- The AU has also played a pivotal role in resolving conflicts. Although giving more power to regional blocs such as the South African Development Community (SADC), CEMAC, and ECOWAS on issues of conflict resolution, the organization should be commended for taking the lead by monitoring situations where these regional blocs are resolving conflicts. In the Zimbabwe crisis after the bloody 2008 presidential run-off elections, the AU played a crucial role in a bid to restore calm in that southern African country. SADC did not give itself a role of mediator – when the matter of Zimbabwe was referred to the AU at its Sharm el-Sheik (Egypt) Summit in June 2008, the AU directed that SADC be put in charge of mediating a solution to the crisis. SADC’s mandate thus came directly from the AU, and in turn, at its 2008 Dar-es-Salaam conference, SADC appointed the then South African president, Thabo Mbeki, as chief mediator.
- The AU sends observers to oversee elections in member countries – a giant step towards ensuring democracy.
- AU’s efforts towards economic cooperation should also be commended. It is the organisation’s vision towards the cooperation of the third world that brought about the Preferential Trade Area for East and Southern Africa, established in 1981. It was however replaced by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in December 1994. This same vision led to establishing African financial institutions such as the African Development Bank (ADB), the PTA Bank, and the African Export-Import Bank. These are responsible for spearheading development projects and bailing out African financial institutions.
However, while copying the EU, AU leaders are divided, and have fallen into the same trap as the OAU by adopting non-interference in the internal affairs of member States. When they take action, the AU drags its feet to reach a compromise. For instance, Sudan is continuously terrorising the newly independent south. Darfur has of late declared war against the South, yet the AU watches like a toothless bulldog. In Libya, the AU was not able to resolve the crisis until Western nations invaded the oil rich nation, in a war that led to the brutal and shameful killing of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and thousands of civilians. To date, the AU has not made any formal statement on the killing.
In addition, most African leaders have been criticised for lacking the will to support structures and organizations they had put in place pursuing shared and agreed African objectives. For example, the Pan African News Agency (PANA) is barely limping. This is partly due to poverty, resulting in a lack of structures, both concrete and ideological, that function to ensure social continuity. African States hardly pay their dues to run the AU. This also translates to inadequate mechanisms to share the costs and benefits of regional arrangements.
The lack of good governance and rule of law coupled with corruption and debilitating civil wars and armed conflicts is another hindrance to the AU’s rapid success of integration. Yet another weakness is the non-inclusion of the civil society in the planning process and in key policy papers. Little has been done in terms of mass mobilization. The AU evolves as a product of political engineering, championed by Libya. There is no organizational harmony among sub-regional groupings in Africa, posing a great threat to the success of the AU integration project. Political affiliations, language barriers, and suspicion among AU member States delay integration.
Finally, notwithstanding all the difficulties, it is important that all Africans wake up and support the pan-African movement. One major challenge is to address the leadership question. With legitimate, charismatic, and visionary AU leaders the integration process will cost Africans less. This is our collective challenge.
Mukete Tahle Itoe
The strongest argument for the AU is that it would reinvigorate Africa and speed up its integration providing a single voice for Africa to bargain with. It remains to be seen whether unity develops in line with perceived interests or as dictated by external factors. This desire for unity and eventually integration can be appreciated for different reasons.
The first is the belief that integration will enable the continent to effectively meet the challenges of globalisation. Within this framework, integration allows Africa to bargain more effectively on the global scene. The result is a better position for Africa in the distribution of global economic benefits even if it controls only 2% of the global economy.
The second is Africa’s concern not to be left behind in the global trend of regional integration, like the expansion of the EU, NAFTA, ASEAN, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum, to name a few. These are examples of the growing global trend towards economic regionalism.
The third reason to desire African integration hinges on the belief that Africa needs to come together to resist Western influence and measures that are not in Africa’s interests.
These reasons highlight African integration as a response to global needs. It would be like replicating European integration in Africa. The main problem with this integration is that responses to present needs imply a non-anticipative attitude towards development efforts in Africa. By extension, such responses also mean that policies do not concretely address the issues at stake. Most importantly, the advantage of the initial policy of integration gives credence to sub-regional groupings in line with the pan-African ‘gradualist’ theory.
The AU and the proposed United States of Africa are regional integration projects. However, integration will not take place without powerful leadership. As a fundamental flaw, pan-Africanism does not consider power in its call to unite. It only explores similarities of origin and experience. Unfortunately, the three main powerhouses in Africa – South Africa, Nigeria, and Egypt – are ‘gradualists’ in the African integration project. If regional integration is to be understood in terms of the interest and strategies of regional powers, the African integration project is still in the planning stage. (M.T.I.)
Thirty-six years after the OAU was founded, Africans have yielded to the evidence: without political integration, the continent will not be saved.
For a long time a taboo subject, the project for a United States of Africa was first mooted in a pan-African meeting in Cairo in 1960, by Kwame Nkrumah. He is the father of the ‘radicals’. Julius Nyerere, who argued to first build regional blocs and then improve on these to create the United States of Africa, represents the doyen of the ‘gradualists’.
The debate returned to the forefront of the African stage in recent years. Credit for this goes to the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, who, at the 4th extraordinary Summit of the OAU, called on his initiative on 9 September 1999 in Sirte, proposed to create the African Union. The Sirte Declaration adopted on this occasion highlights the need for Africa to ‘adapt to social, political, and economic change taking place both inside and outside our continent.’ It made particular reference to the ideals which have guided ‘generations of pan-Africanists in their determination to forge unity, solidarity, and cohesion between the peoples of Africa and between the African Nations’. The pan-African doctrine had just regained the place it deserves in forming a viable destiny for Africa.
The founding Charter of the African Union, adopted at the 36th OAU Summit on 11 July 2000, thus confirms the historic and qualitative change in the approach of African regionalism. The Union represents a desire for political integration following the recognition of the failure of cooperation, which revealed its limits. Creating the African Union is therefore an initial step towards the United States of Africa.
To hasten the process, the Abuja Summit of January 2005 formed a Committee of seven heads of State to study the Libyan proposals. President Yoweri Museveni chaired the leaders from Botswana, Niger, Uganda, Chad, Tunisia, Senegal, the then Prime Minister of Ethiopia, and the President of the AU Commission. They mentioned in particular:
- abolishing customs tariffs between African countries;
- setting up an embryonic continental government creating Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Defence, Trade, and Transport and Infrastructures.
Unfortunately, little progress was made.
At the Sirte Summit of July 2005, the Committee, with a different membership (Algeria, Gabon, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Uganda and Senegal), resumed its work under President Olusegun Obansanjo of Nigeria, another fervent pan-African supporter. After a series of consultations, including with civil society and intellectuals, the Committee submitted a report to the Union’s 7th Summit in July entitled ‘Study on an African Union Government towards the United States of Africa.’ It included a roadmap to help to reach this final objective by 2009. At Banjul, the Summit took note of the report and postponed examining its contents to an extraordinary session of the Executive Council so the ordinary Summit of January 2007 could make a decision on how to pursue the issue. Following the death of Muammar Gaddafi, the plans for the United States of Africa are now at the centre of discussions, both among supporters and opponents. (M.T.I.)
The present African Union (AU) succeeded the Organization of African Unity (OAU), formed in May 1963. The OAU was a compromise between African Statesmen who wanted the political Union of all independent African States and those who preferred functional cooperation.
The main objectives of the OAU were: to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonisation and apartheid; to promote unity and solidarity among African States; to coordinate and intensify cooperation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member States; and to promote international cooperation within the UN framework. It is an example of contemporary regional integration.
Apart from the lack of a common culture and language, a crucial problem was the need for an effective leadership in the search for unity in diversity within the OAU. Despite these drawbacks, what did the OAU achieve?
African countries, in their search for unity and economic and social development under the OAU, took various initiatives and made great progress in many areas preparing for the present AU. These include:
- The Lagos Plan of Action and the Final Act of Lagos (1980), incorporating programmes and strategies for self reliant development and cooperation among African countries.
- The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Nairobi 1981), and the Grand Bay Declaration and Plan of Action on Human Rights: two instruments adopted by the OAU to promote human and people’s rights in the continent. The Human Rights Charter led to the establishment of the African Human Rights Commission located in Banjul, Gambia.
- Africa’s Priority Programme for Economic Recovery (APPER) of 1985, an emergency programme addressing the development crisis of the 1980s, following the protracted drought and famine that had engulfed the continent and the crippling effects of Africa’s external debt.
- The OAU Declaration on the Political and Socio-Economic Situation in Africa (1990), underscored Africa’s resolve to seize the initiative, to decide its destiny, and to address the challenges to peace, democracy, and security.
- The Charter on Popular Participation adopted in 1990, a testimony to the OAU’s renewed determination to place the African citizen at the centre of development and decision making.
- The treaty establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) in 1991, commonly known as the Abuja Treaty. It seeks to create the AEC through six stages culminating in an African Common Market using the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as building blocks. The Treaty was first implemented in 1994.
- The Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, and Resolution (1993), a practical expression of the determination of the African leadership to find solutions to conflicts, promote peace, security, and stability in Africa.
- The Cairo Agenda for Action (1995), a programme to relaunch Africa’s political, economic, and social development.
- African Common Position on Africa’s External Debt Crisis (1997), a strategy to address the continent’s external debt crisis.
- The Algiers Decision on Unconstitutional Changes of Government (1999) and the Lome Declaration on the Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes (2000).
- The 2000 Solemn Declaration of the Conference on Security, Stability, Development, and Cooperation, establishing the fundamental principles to promote democracy and good governance in the continent.
- The Constitutive Act of the AU adopted in 2000 at the Lome Summit (Togo), which entered into force in 2001. Above all,
- The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), adopted as an AU programme at the Lusaka Summit in 2001.
This list is not exhaustive. It only represents some very positive strides taken by the OAU, which later became the AU. The OAU has achieved a lot as a bloc in uniting the continent. While the OAU’s major strength was its ability to decolonise the continent with the rise of the pan-African movement, the AU has a mandate to preserve that independence and sue for peace as the continent braises with many conflicts. (M.T.I.)
In 2008, Zimbabwe lived through one of the darkest pages of its recent history. Following the first round of general elections – which the ruling ZANU-PF party and the incumbent president Robert Mugabe allegedly lost – a wave of violence spread in the country. Most international human rights advocates described it as “government-sponsored.” According the NGOs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, during a vote recount, security forces, youth militias, and so-called ‘war veterans’ intimidated, assaulted, and tortured people who they believed had supported the opposition’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai. Because of the violence (including minor attacks perpetrated by MDC supporters) at least 180 people died, thousands were injured, and an estimated 28.000 were displaced. Five years later, many are afraid this might happen again.
Despite a five-year Global Political Agreement and a national union government (including a breakaway MDC faction – the MDC-M), with Mugabe still head of State and Tsvangirai prime minister, few of the much-needed political reforms were actually put in place. Ninety-five percent of the 3 million voters who attended a referendum last March approved a new constitution. The new charter limits the presidency to two five-year terms. This only applies from now on. Therefore Mugabe, who is in his late 80s and has been in power for the last 33 years, can hold the post until 2023, if re-elected. Some presidential powers, however, have been devolved to local authorities. The head of State has also lost his veto on laws and needs two-thirds of lawmakers’ votes to dissolve the parliament or declare a public emergency.
Progress has also been made on human rights. The charter provides for an independent constitutional court, a human rights commission, and an anti-corruption commission, improving women’s rights along the way. Nevertheless, the constitution is seen as a compromise between the political parties. ZANU-PF managed to make major changes to the draft during its preparation with Tsvangirai initially accusing its representatives of having “rewritten” the document. Simba Makoni, a former minister who won 10% of the votes in the 2008 elections stated, on his part, that there are few differences – if any – between this constitution and the previous. Despite this, Mugabe has already promised voters to amend fundamental laws if he will be the new president-elect.
In view of the vote, some parts of civil society have taken steps to prevent – as far as possible – violations and abuses. The Zimbabwe Council of Churches, which includes Catholic bishops, launched the Ecumenical Peace Observation Initiative to monitor the elections. It is still unclear if these attempts will succeed. The main source of concern, according to many experts, comes from ZANU-PF’s attitude.
According to the UK-based political analyst Simukai Tinhu “there is still widespread state-sponsored political violence directed at civil society, human rights defenders, journalists, and political activists.” “Indeed, there has been an upsurge in political violence and repression lately,” Tinhu also states in an article on Think Africa Press. Even after the constitutional referendum, homes and offices belonging to MDC members in Harare were raided and some key figures – including PM aides – were arrested. This was possible because, after the 2008 global political agreement, Mugabe’s party kept control of the army and the police, in addition to some key ministries.
Timothy Scarnecchia, professor of African History at Kent University, USA, wrote in African Argument, that in the last four years the unity government has been “always more about ZANU-PF giving the MDCs ‘a share’ of government than any true sharing of government.” Simukai Tinhu says, “public information remains under the firm grip of ZANU-PF, which continues to use state-owned media to manipulate public opinion”. He is not optimistic even looking at the main opposition party and its leader, which has become, in his opinion, increasingly “hostile”, during recent years “to those who criticise them”.
Another key issue for the future of Zimbabwe is the economy. At the end of January the country’s Finance minister, Tendai Biti of MDC, said the state coffers had only $217 after having paid civil servants. He later said that he had spoken “metaphorically,” given that the following day the same account had $30 million. Biti went on to confirm that the government did not have enough money “to finance the election and the referendum.”
This might seem strange for a country that, after the 2008 economic disaster, enjoyed substantial growth and doesn’t lack natural resources such as diamonds. Eddie Cross, an economist and MP for Movement for Democratic Change, estimates that in 2012 more than $4 billion of diamonds was extracted from the Marange fields, in the eastern part of the country. Other MDC members say these figures are “exaggerated,” but a report published in November 2012 by Partnership Africa Canada claims that Zimbabwe has lost up to $2 billion in diamond mining revenues. In 2012, even the South African former president, Thabo Mbeki – sometimes criticised in office for not having been vocal in condemning Mugabe’s rule – spoke of a “predatory élite” diverting resources from their proper destination. A clear reference to ZANU-PF officials, not new to similar accusations.
The US, the EU, and other countries froze assets of leading figures and firms in the country as part of the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe since 2002. After the constitutional referendum, the EU eased the measures, but not the US. Mugabe himself remains on both Washington’s and Brussels’ blacklists, though he does not lack friends elsewhere. Bilateral relations with China, for instance, have been on the increase since 2003 when Harare launched an economic policy favouring investments from the Far East. Beijing became a key partner for the embargoed country, who managed to elude sanctions, even on the arms trade. According to a 2012 International Crisis Group report, China was among the “alternative sources” Zimbabwe found in this field. Not a good sign, with elections in sight.
On the last 22 March, the Congolese tutsi rebel general, Bosco Ntaganda was transferred to the Hague-based International criminal Court (ICC). Yet, everything remains yet to be solved on the ground in the Kivus, where the M23 rebels are creating all sorts of obstacles to the deployment of the African intervention brigade.
Human rights NGOs applauded Bosco Ntaganda’s transfer to the ICC on the last 22 March., which marked the end of a long saga. The general was indeed wanted by the ICC which issued in 2005 a warrant of arrest against him for his alleged crimes against humanity including the recruitment of child soldiers which were committed in 2002-2003 in the Ituri district of the Province Orientale in his capacity of commander of the Union of Congolese Patriots militia. Yet, for the last eight years, the UN troops in the Kivu didn’t make any attempt to arrest him. Moreover, he benefitted from the protection of the Kinshasa government after he overthrew in 2009 the leader of the Tutsi-led rebel National Council for the Defence of the People NCDP, Laurent Nkunda and eventually became the commander in second of the Congolese army in North Kivu.
But after the condemnation of his accomplice Thomas Lubanga in March 2012, the Congolese President Joseph Kabila was submitted to an increasing international pressure to arrest him and hand him over to the ICC. But Bosco who felt the danger, organised a mutiny in April 2012 but was not followed by all ex-NCDP Congolese soldiers. Indeed, colonel Sultani Makenga, a supporter of Nkunda prohibited his troops to join Bosco whom he considers as a traitor to the cause of the North Kivu Congolese tutsis.
But Kabila’s reaction which consisted in stopping the Amani Leo operation against the Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, to punish Bosco, triggered a harsh reaction from Kigali which according local observers gave its support to the Movement of the 23 March (M23) which was created in May 2012 by Makenga. Basically, the M23 was asking for the implementation of these agreements concluded between the NCDP and the government which included the insertion of its troops within the Congolese army and the repatriation of Congolese Tutsi refugees from Rwanda to North Kivu.
In fact, the split of the M23 in February 2013 and the defeat of its supporters incited Bosco to escape from Congo and eventually he surrendered himself to the US embassy in Kigali. There were many speculations about his decision, including his possible wish to escape from death, since high ranking leaders both in Kigali and in Kinshasa may not be happy about him revealing all their plans to the ICC.
At the same time, since Kigali did not really raise an obstacle to his surrender and to his extradition suggests that Rwanda which has been threatened by foreign partners of a suspension of aid, owing to its support to the M23, is willing, is trying to improve its relationship with them.
It is against this background that on the 28 March, the UN security council voted its resolution 2098 for the creation of an African brigade of intervention against the armed groups in Kivu. In principle, the brigade which should include South African blue helmets who are already part of the UN Mission for the Stabilisation of Congo (MONUSCO) but with a stronger mandate allowing them to impose peace, and also Malawian and Tanzanian troops, will be incorporated within MONUSCO. It should include over 3,000 troops including three infantry battalions and artillery company, reconnaissance and special forces companies whose task will be to neutralise and disarm the armed groups.
Some NGOs are worried however that the UN’s choice in order to solve the insecurity problems in North Kivu has been only a military one, which does not leave much room for negotiations over the political and social grassroots of the problems. The paradox is that the perspective of the deployment of the brigade has rather helped to increase tensions in Kivu.
Since early April, both sides have adopted much tougher positions at the Kampala peace talks which have been fruitless since their beginning in December. The Kinshasa government says the rebels must accept to surrender their weapons as a preamble for negotiation. Meanwhile, Sultani Makenga’s M23, in a communiqué released on the 1st April said that instead of encouraging a positive outcome at the Kampala talks, the UN have decided to wage war against one of the sides. And on the 2 April, the political chairman of the M23, Bertrand Bisimwa warned the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid against the humanitarian consequences that the war accordingly waged and planned by the UN Security Council will inflict to innocent people. Once of the causes of the rebels’ irritation is that the Congolese Foreign Minister, Raymond Tshibanda has declared that it is no longer envisaged by Kinshasa to integrate M23 fighters inside the Congolese army and that the M23 has no choice but to cease to exist as a political military movement.
The problem however is that Kinshasa is not really in a position to hold such hardline rethorics, as long as the brigade is not deployed. And the M23 has been precisely doing everything it could to prevent its deployment. During the first half of April, it has organised meetings in the areas under its control to call the local population to raise against the brigade and on the 8 April, it has blocked a convoy of 11 trucks loaded with construction material for Monusco at Kibumba.
Meanwhile, UN Security council members are aware that the brigade will not solve all problems, as long as the Congolese army remains a weak force, which is owed namely to Kinshasa’s inability or unwillingness to carry out the reform of the security sector. There is also a feeling that the North Kivu question will not be solved as long as Kinshasa does not accept the repatriation of Congolese tutsi refugees from Rwanda. Meanwhile, the World Food Program (WFP) has to cope with the need to feed over 220,000 displaced persons in the province. Yet, Bosco’s arrest and transfer is nevertheless a strong signal sent to all warlords in the Great Lakes since it has put an end to impunity.
But Congo has many challenges to address simultaneously, including the deterioration of security in the strategic mining rich province of Katanga, which is also President Kabila’s electoral stronghold. Indeed, on the last March, a new tragic episode occurred with the death of 35 people during a clash between a Mai Mai group and the Congolese army, in the provincial capital, Lubumbashi. Some 250 rebels armed with machetes, bows and arrows and some rifles marched through the town, calling for a better treatment for the rural poor and calling for the independence of Katanga
Human trafficking is the world’s biggest money earner after drugs and small arms.
The US Government’s yearly report Trafficking in Persons (TIP) estimates that in 2012, 32 billion US Dollars were made out of the innocent blood of 800,000 humans who were trafficked within or across international boundaries – half of whom were children. An estimated 12.3 million adults and children are currently held in forms of modern day slavery, including forced labour and prostitution. Many more are trafficked within their own national boundaries for forced labour, bonded labour, sexual servitude, and involuntary servitude. It seems almost impossible to control this epidemic. The appalling living conditions are unimaginable. Driven by poverty human trafficking touches all levels of society manifesting the insatiable greed of unscrupulous people. It might never be stopped completely – this is not a reason not to do anything about it.
Two factors are crucial in defining human trafficking: movement and exploitation. There must be recruitment and therefore transportation. People are transferred, harboured, and money changes hands.
The Palermo Protocol (at article 3) provides a global definition: “Trafficking in persons shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of servitude or the removal of organs.” More than 185 countries have signed up to The Palermo Protocol, yet trafficking continues.
How people are trafficked
It happens without difficulty and sometimes we are too gullible and are sucked in without realizing and without questioning the offers received. We can all be blind. Once hooked, victims may be threatened and force may be used. All forms of coercion – including fraud, deception, abduction, abuse of power, abuse of authority, financial incentives – are easy methods of manipulation. At the initial stages, victims often co-operate.
Human trafficking has many faces. The exploitation of the prostitution of others is common, together with forced labour and services. Slavery or other practices akin to slavery are also rife. At the UN, it was also stated that often a woman is “not treated as a human person on an equal basis with others but as an object to be exploited.” Housemaids and houseboys are also very vulnerable to sexual abuse.
Children are more naturally trusting and therefore more vulnerable than adults, they provide cheap labour. This is why child labour and child trafficking are closely linked. Adults often move voluntarily but children do not migrate on their own. A child can never consent to be trafficked.
The supply and demand of women, men, and children is constant and costs are very low. A legal framework against human trafficking in general is lacking, and what little there is is weak. Many countries like South Africa and Mozambique have no legislation. In October 2010, Kenya adopted the “Trafficking in Persons Act” which brought together a number of important Acts including the Sexual Offences Act of 2006. In June 2012, it was evident that the Act had not been properly enacted so the process is starting over once again. Lobbying is requested, but there is little direction. We are working on how we can otherwise prevent and prosecute offenders. There is also a great deal of debate concerning whether prostitution should be legalized. The organizers and agencies of human trafficking are rarely targeted. They are hidden and powerful, with many international connections.
Many factors in human trafficking are common throughout the world but some factors are unique to Africa. Prostitution, sexual exploitation, and organ trafficking are common worldwide. Generally, when people are trafficked in Africa brute force is not used to exploit the trafficked person. Abuse occurs through threats, intimidation, separation from families and the local environment. In Africa, the removal of body parts is a common practice especially for witchcraft. Young girls are also raped as a cure against HIV/Aids or are forced to bear a child, which is then sold to the highest bidder. Some children are driven to the armed forces to become child soldiers; they are traumatised and marked for life. This list is in no way exhaustive.