From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
All Africa News Agency - BULLETIN No. 30/02 August 5, 2002 (c)
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Wed, 07 Aug 2002 15:29:36 -0700
All Africa News Agency
P. O. BOX 66878 NAIROBI, KENYA.
TEL: (254 2) 442215 FAX: (254 2)445847/443241
Editor - Mitch Odero
Acting Editor - Silvie Alemba
Churches Supporting Angolans To Make Peace A Reality
It is a massive task. After more than two decades of war, the struggle to
pick the pieces and begin a new life of peace and development is exacting
for Angolans. The church, which was deeply involved in conflict resolution
has taken the frontline again to make peace a reality. Our special
correspondent Paul Jeffrey examines the peace-time challenges in his series
After decades of war, Angola is struggling to make peace with itself. Yet
in the wake of a war where brutality often took precedence over rights,
constructing a culture of peace and mutual respect will take time.
Reconciliation won't be easy. But most Angolans, tired of so much suffering
and convinced the war is finally over, are eager to turn themselves towards
learning the ways of peace.
Action by Churches Together (ACT), the international alliance of churches
and church agencies responding to emergencies, is providing critical
material aid to the victims of Angola's conflict. At the same time, it is
helping construct a new culture of reconciliation.
Working closely with the Human Rights Division of the United Nations Office
in Angola (UNOA), ACT has made it possible for pastors and church leaders
from several war-torn provinces to receive training as "human rights" or
"peace and reconciliation" counselors. Working with local government
officials and traditional village authorities, they are creating local and
provincial human rights committees, reinventing ways to peacefully resolve
conflicts within families, among neighbors, and between former enemies.
In many areas of the country, this peacemaking takes place in a vacuum.
After the studied neglect of Portuguese colonial rule and 27 years of
post-independence warfare, most provinces have no viable judicial or penal
According to a U.N. survey in 2001, only 13 of 164 municipalities had
functioning municipal courts. "They don't take many prisoners in the
provinces," said Patrick Hughes, deputy chief of UNOA's Human Rights Division.
In order to construct a working legal system, Hughes' office is training
judges and prosecutors and providing computers to track cases, which are
often simply lost in the dysfunctional bureaucracy of the existing court
system. "A poor guy could steal a bag of cement and spend years in jail
simply because they lost his case," says Hughes.
Training lawyers to do their job is another element of remaking the
judicial system. "It's a massive task," comments Hughes. "Lawyers here have
been trained to obey the police and judges. We're teaching them how to be
lawyers, that working for their client is their main job."
In a July 3 report, Human Rights Watch claimed that the Angolan legal
system - or lack thereof - is particularly harsh on the four million
Angolans who have been displaced by the war.
"Many of the displaced lack identity documentation" it states,
"facilitating harassment by the authorities, especially the national
police. Arbitrary beatings and arrests occur when the displaced are unable
to present personal identification documents to the police and are unable
to bribe their way out."
The report goes on to observe that women and girls are particularly
vulnerable to assaults, including sexual violence, by policemen and
soldiers located in road control posts when on their way to and from
isolated agricultural areas or when collecting water. Additionally, without
documentation, the displaced, and especially children, are unable to access
The sobas (traditional authorities) routinely demand bribes to include
people on lists to receive assistance. Local landowners regularly exploit
the internally displaced as a source of cheap labor for cultivation; those
that manage to find work as agricultural laborers are regularly subject to
extortion at military and police checkpoints when they return from the
fields. Soldiers that guard access to the camps also 'tax' the residents
and steal food and non- food relief items.
Such massive human rights violations could not be redressed quickly enough
by changing only the formal structures. What was needed was change from
below, the cultivation of a culture of complaint among affected populations.
Aid workers, having witnessed two periods of quasi-peace during the 1990s
inevitably dissolve into bloodshed, believed that empowering civilian
leaders could help break the cycle. "It's much easier to distribute food
and blankets, but this work of building peace and reconciliation is
extremely important. One of the reasons that past cease-fires didn't
succeed was that no one was speaking up about human rights violations,"
said Carl von Seth, the Angola representative for the Lutheran World
Federation (LWF), a member of ACT.
During much of the nineties, the U.N. mission in Angola was sharply
criticized by rights activists for its failure to include human rights
education in its work. This time around, people like Hughes are determined
to do things differently.
In cooperation with UNOA, ACT/LWF began workshops last year in the war-torn
eastern province of Moxico. The Angolan constitution and several
international legal documents, like the U.N.'s Declaration of the Rights of
the Child, served as texts. According to Moises Gourgel, the ACT/LWF
director in the provincial capital of Luena, the workshops focused on
"encouraging people, especially the displaced, to know their rights and
obligations, and then speak up. If people don't demand their rights, it
makes it easier for the government not to assume its responsibility."
At the same time that church leaders are being trained as human rights
activists, the U.N. is conducting seminars on conflict resolution for the
sobas, the traditional village leaders.
According to Emilio Cesar, the Moxico coordinator for the ACT/LWF program
on rights, reconciliation and peace, the work of the church-based
counselors became even more urgent with the April cease-fire that followed
the death of UNITA leader Jonas Savimbi. "With these people emerging from
the bush, there cannot be room for revenge or rancor," Cesar argues. "And
the church is in a unique position to help create this culture of peace.
The church is a bridge. It is present in every village, and it's willing to
get involved without fear."
The workshops, and a variety of related skits broadcast in six languages on
provincial radio stations, often focus more on peacefully resolving
conflicts within the family than on larger political tensions but they are
nonetheless effective. "You don't have to talk specifically about conflicts
with UNITA to get your point across," said von Seth. "Angolans need to
learn new ways to resolve conflicts at every level, and it may be easier to
start at the family level."
But the lingering political gaps aren't ignored. ACT/LWF helped organize a
June 29 ecumenical worship service in the UNITA demobilization camp at
Chicala. Gourgel says it was an important moment for local leaders of
churches and other civil society groups to dialogue face to face with the
former UNITA combatants. "There is so much to do, we have no time for
further divisions" he observes. "It's time for all of us Angolans to stand
united so we can reconstruct our country. It's time for children to study,
for the old to be cared for, and for new opportunities of employment to be
Sudan: When Enemies Of Yesterday Drop Their Daggers
Only few months ago, it was inconceivable to imagine that Uganda's
President Museveni and Sudan's President Bashir would hold each other
warmly. Times seem to be changing and with that, sour relations may be
giving way to some warming up. Our Correspondent Joyce Mulama attempts to
read the signals being sent in her series of reports on Sudan.
Political hostility between Uganda and Sudan may soon stop after presidents
of the two countries met recently and agreed to end their cold relationship.
Uganda's President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Sudan's Omar Hassan Ahmed El-
Bashir met in Kampala, Uganda and settled to conclude the hostility that
kept them at daggers drawn.
They resolved to work together towards total peace and security along their
common border and its environs, in accordance with a Nairobi peace
agreement signed in December 1999. They also consented to support all
measures aimed at promoting steady development in their countries.
President El-Bashir had paid a two-day official visit to Uganda between
July 26 and 27 to seek ways of mending cross-border conflict between his
country and Uganda.
Bashir also met the Chairman of Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army
(SPLM/A) Dr John Garang de Mabior for the first time in 19 years. After the
meetings, President Museveni traveled to Nairobi to brief Kenya's President
Daniel arap Moi in his (Moi) capacity as chairman of the Inter-Governmental
Authority on Development (IGAD), which has been involved in Sudan peace
A stand-off has been building between Uganda and Sudan over the years in
connection with Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) rebel group,
determined to topple President Museveni's government.
LRA's hideouts are in Sudan, a situation which Museveni's government feels
uncomfortable with and has been pointing a finger at Sudan, accusing it of
arming the rebel group.
A major hurdle between them remains the extent to which they can trust each
While they were meeting in Kampala, Khartoum's helicopter gun-ships were
pounding homes in the Upper Nile region of Southern Sudan killing 1,500
villagers - barely a week after the so-called "breakthrough" in the Sudan
peace talks was celebrated with a signing of a peace pact in Machakos, near
The death toll was expected to increase, since the incident happened in an
area where there are no hospitals or ambulances to ferry victims to health
Observers believe that the bombardment was a tactic employed by Khartoum
government to forcefully remove thousands of Southern Sudanese from the
Upper Nile oil fields before the August 12 peace talks, expected to endorse
a final peace plan.
The discovery of oil in the Upper Nile region with reserves currently
estimated at two billion barrels, has accelerated the Sudan civil war. It
has given Khartoum much needed oil revenues to invest in arms industry and
purchase weapons including helicopter gun ships and Antonov fighter-bombers
from abroad, analysts say.
After months of military operation in Sudan by Uganda's army, the goal of
capturing LRA's leadership has failed. Impeccable sources have since told
AANA that Museveni was duped by Bashir who claimed cooperation with Uganda
to root out LRA rebels.
Bashir is reported to have tipped LRA's leader Joseph Kony to relocate his
troops to difficult terrain way before the Ugandan operation began. This
seems to explain why Uganda's People's Defence Forces (UPDF) has suffered
heavily through loss of soldiers killed without any substantial gains.
In addition, Uganda's military concentration inside Sudan enabled LRA to
have a field day in Gulu and Kitgum in Northern Uganda where LRA's attacks
have escalated to levels never experienced in the last four years.
During the Kampala meeting, Bashir requested Museveni to ensure UPDF do not
allow SPLA to move into areas of current UPDF operation in Sudan. SPLM/A
however maintains that the areas referred to have been their areas, and
even though they were not consulted, they allowed the operation to go on.
At the Kampala meeting, President El-Bashir reiterated his government's
commitment to continue cooperating with Uganda regarding the current
military measures in place across the joint border.
President Museveni stated his government's continued support to the
Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) peace initiative aimed
at resolving the conflict between the Sudan Government and Sudan People's
Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A).
The momentous meeting between President Bashir, and SPLM/A Chairman Dr
Garang was seen to signal the seriousness with which the top leaders
regarded the recently signed Sudan peace pact.
A press release issued after the meeting on July 27 said the meeting
signified the commitment of the Sudan government and SPLM/A to the peace
protocol achieved recently in Kenya.
The leaders undertook to ensure that all efforts were deployed to resolve
outstanding issues, particularly 'ceasefire', planned for discussion in the
next phase of peace talks scheduled for August 12 .
President Omar El-Bashir and Dr John Garang emphasised the necessity to
broaden the peace process by including other Sudanese political forces in
order to reach a national consensus on a comprehensive political decision.
The closed door two-hour meeting that was also attended by President
Museveni applauded the peace protocol signed in Machakos, Kenya (July 20th)
by the Sudan government and SPLM/A. It seeks to end the 19-year-old civil
war in the Sudan, which is said to have claimed over two million lives.
The protocol was reached under the auspices of IGAD, which has been
spearheading Sudanese peace process for the last ten years.
The two Sudanese leaders recognised the protocol as a step forward and
framework for negotiations on which a peace agreement could be built. They
complemented Kenya's President Moi, as the chairman of IGAD sub-committee
on Sudan, for the ten years of tireless efforts in pursuing peace for the
For a while, it was feared the Sudanese civil war may become a forgotten
war, as such, recent developments have provided a window of hope.
AANA Bulletin is an ecumenical initiative to highlight all endeavours and
experiences of Christians and the people of Africa. AANA Bulletin is
published weekly and, together with the French Edition - Bulletin APTA - is
also available through e-mail. For editorial and subscription details,
Editor - Mitch Odero
Acting Editor - Silvie Alemba
Material contained in the AANA Bulletin may be reproduced by paid
subscribers with acknowledgement
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