From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
All Africa News Agency BULLETIN No. 06/03, February 17, 2003
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Sun, 16 Feb 2003 11:36:15 -0800
All Africa News Agency BULLETIN No. 06/03, February 17, 2003 (C)
All Africa News Agency
P. O Box, 66878, 00800 Westlands
Tel: 254-2-4442215, 4440224
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Acting Editor -Elly Wamari
Acting Editor - Silvie Alemba
Our bulletin dated January 27 (AANA Bulletin No.03/03) carried a story on
genetically modified foods titled "Are Africans Guinea Pigs In Genetic
Research?", which has generated some responses. We have accordingly opened
a debate on the subject, and we wish to encourage views of various interest
groups. Following are excerpts of concerns raised by Drew L. Kershen, a
professor in Agricultural Law at the University of Oklahoma, USA. - Editor
As a Catholic and Professor of Agricultural Law with a special emphasis on
agricultural biotechnology law and policy, I write to say that the
statements in the article by Dr. Kunijwok Kwawang and Senior Pastor Josiah
Syanda do not reflect the articulated position of the Catholic Church.
While the social teachings of the Catholic Church do not bind the
consciences of its members, the following statements by Catholic leaders
sets forth the social teaching of the Catholic Church on agricultural
The New Zealand Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a response to a request
from the New Zealand Royal Commission on Genetic Modification for an
ethical analysis of biotechnology, ended their response by stating: "In
itself, the technology of genetic modification is not in conflict with
"It has great potential for good, but also the potential for harm. Ethical
and moral principles need to be at the heart of our decision-making about
uses of genetic modification. How we use genetic modification will be a
statement of what we value as a society, and who we are as a people."
At a conference in Rome in Oct. 2002, Bishop Elio Sgreccia, vice president
of the Pontifical Academy for Life, said: "There are no impediments to
animal and vegetable biotechnologies. [These latter]can be justified with
the motive that they are for the good of man. God has conceived animals and
vegetables as good creatures for man's needs. However, God has also given
man the task and responsibility to govern creation, which implies a grave
"Therefore the use of plants and animals is legitimate, but it does not
represent an absolute right. The Church has an open but conditioned
position. For this reason, we ask for sales to be accompanied by a label
[mentioning GMOs] and their total availability for developing countries, in
keeping with criteria of solidarity and justice."
At the same conference in Rome in October 2002, Bishop Jesus Y. Varela, of
the Diocese of Sorsogon, Phillipines emphasized the importance of the role
of biotechnologies in developing countries. He stated: "There is no human
activity that does not present risks, and the GMOs are certainly not more
risky than the foods we already consume. From the ethical-moral point of
view, everything that can be done to surmount hunger, to avoid children
becoming blind for lack of vitamin A, and to protect the environment, is
- Drew L. Kershen
Church Moves To Reconcile feuding Statesmen
Tension has been brewing between Ghana's President, John Agyekum Kufuor,
and former Head of State, Jerry Rawlings, after public remarks made last
year by Rawlings stung Kufuor's government. The Church is now making
attempts to defuse the tension, reports Felix Amanfu.
he Methodist Church of Ghana is making relentless efforts to mediate
between Ghana's feuding top statesmen, President John Kufuor and former
President Jerry Rawlings.
Relations between the two gentlemen of high office over a period have been
at a low ebb. The sour situation came to a head last October, when
ex-President Rawlings was on a few occasions invited by state security for
He had made certain public pronouncements, which the government, headed by
President Kufuor, considered treasonable.
In the midst of a hail of suspicions and misunderstandings that developed
over the issue, all official vehicles, except one allocated to the
house-hold of the former President, were withdrawn.
Apparently embittered by this action, former President Rawlings reacted
swiftly by placing orders for four luxurious land-cruisers. They were
delivered at Tema Harbour in less than three weeks.
The government was not pleased. When he was quizzed as to how he got the
vehicles, Rawlings blatantly refused to disclose the source.
Obviously, the leadership of the Methodist Church of Ghana could not be
happy with such tension-related developments, which do not augur well for
good governance and promotion of peace if Ghana is to advance in any way.
The first attempt made by the Church at reconciliation in November last
year did not yield the desired result, when the two (President Kufuor and
Rawlings) were invited to participate in a national crusade organised by
the Church in Accra.
President Kufuor honoured the invitation, but former President Rawlings
excused himself with an explanation that he had a commitment in Angola at
the material time.
He instead sent one of his trusted aides, former Education Minister, Mr
Spio Garbrah to represent him.
In an exclusive interview with AANA, the Most Reverend Dr. Samuel Asante
Antwi, Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Ghana, expressed deep
concern over the instability and war situation that is gradually spreading
across the West African sub-region.
He noted that it was the duty of the civil society and the Church in
particular to take actions that will promote peace and reconciliation and
not war and acrimony.
He sees the process of reconciliation - "one sincerely saying just, I am
sorry" - as a necessary condition to avert unfortunate development that
could drastically affect the lives of individuals, families and the
disposition of an entire nation.
The Presiding Bishop was quite certain that despite the fact that the first
attempt did not succeed, the Church has not given up the task of
reconciling the two men.
"Now that ex-President Rawlings' party, the National Democratic Congress
(NDC), has elected its flag-bearer in the person of Professor John Atta
Mills, we shall raise the level of the reconciliation process through the
help of the NDC flag bearer before the next general elections get
underway," he emphasised.
Former President Rawlings, had at a political rally in Kumasi last year,
called on Ghanaians to engage in what he termed as positive defiance
against wrong signals from people in authority, and the ruling government
for that matter, before new elections are held in 2004.
"We don't want to wait for the next elections to prevent the rot in the
system. We must not accept wrong things," he urged.
This situation obviously did not go down well with the government, hence
his problem with the security agencies.
Events relating to the two during last Christmas festivities have in no way
helped the peace course either, but rather seem to have widened the gulf.
As protocol demands, President Kufuor sent New Year drinks and greeting
cards to former President Rawlings and the flag-bearer of Rawlings NDC,
Professor Ata Mills. Both rejected the gifts for their own reasons.
Many well meaning Ghanaians, including Reverend Godwin Debtsuh of the New
Horizon Ministry, welcome the reconciliation measure that the Methodist
Church is undertaking.
They assert that it will tremendously help national focus and psyche,
especially when one considers the fact that some countries nearby are
really struggling to contend with political upheavals.
"It will be wonderful to see the two gentlemen shake hands warmly again as
they did after the last general elections during a power transfer
ceremony," a concerned citizen commented.
An observer remarked that it would be beneficial for the course of Ghana's
newly established Reconciliation Commission to get the two to reconcile.
At any rate, the camp of President Kufuor feels that the former president
has not really reciprocated the grade of respect Kufuor accorded him.
Rawlings is of the opinion that an orchestrated plan is being followed to
In an address at a thanksgiving service to climax the six-day crusade
organised by the Methodist Church, President Kufuor urged all Ghanaians to
pray for lasting peace and unity in the country, to help create a conducive
atmosphere of socio-economic development and progress.
He contended that the greatest enemy of the country was poverty, and said
the only way to eliminate it was to reconcile with one another and unite to
find a lasting solution to it.
"Hatred, pain and anger divert energies, plans and good intentions that are
needed to propel the nation forward," the President emphasised.
He further stated that even though it was very difficult for one to forget
about the past, he was frank that time had come to forgive one another to
ensure the advancement of the country.
He noted it was in this direction that the government established the
National Reconciliation Commission to serve as an avenue for aggrieved
persons to express their grievances to assuage their pains and suffering.
(see picture, separately attached)
Botswana's Opposition Takes The Cue From Kenya
Spurred by sweeping victory of Kenya's National Rainbow Coalition (NARC) in
presidential, parliamentary and civic elections in December last year,
Botswana's leading opposition parties have announced that they are
seeking to forge an alliance ahead of the country's 2004 elections,
reports AANA Correspondent Kholwani Nyathi.
n the past, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has been literally
handed victory on a silver platter by a fragmented opposition. This
scenario is similar to that enjoyed by KANU (Kenya African National Union)
in Kenya in previous multi-party elections before its eventual defeat in
last December polls.
But a recent announcement by key opposition parties here that they are
seeking to forge an alliance to fight the ruling party in presidential,
parliamentary and local government elections set for next year, may change
The initiative is led by the country's oldest opposition party, the
Botswana National Front (BNF), which is negotiating with the Botswana
Alliance Movement (BAM) and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) on the
prospects of such a union.
In separate interviews, the leaders of the country's three leading
opposition parties were unanimous about the need for their parties to close
In the 1999 elections, when President Festus Mogae succeeded Sir Ketumile
Masire, the BNF managed only three parliamentary seats, the BCP got one,
while the rest went to the ruling party, BDP.
Analysts blamed the poor performance by the opposition on vote-splitting.
This time around, the key opposition parties (BNF, BCP and BAM) appear more
than committed to forging a united front.
"BAM has always called for unity among opposition parties. We took an
initiative to engage the BCP in unity talks which lasted for more than a
year," said the party's president Lepetu Setshwaelo. "If there is anyone in
the opposition who thinks he can go it alone, he is misdirected," he went on.
Setshwaelo said precedents have already been set in Senegal, Kenya, Zambia
and to an extent in Zimbabwe, where opposition parties, contesting under a
united front made indelible marks in national elections.
Otlaadisa Koosaletse, the BCP president, said his party, borne out of a
split in BNF four years ago, favoured a coalition that will also take on
board civil society and all opposition political parties.
"Such an initiative will require us to be honest with ourselves and avoid
playing to the gallery," Koosaletse said, adding: "Some party leaders just
talk about unity to grab headlines in the newspapers and for mere political
BNF's Otsweletse Moupo, whose party has already commissioned an internal
discussion paper on the prospects of uniting with other parties, said such
unity will give the opposition numerous advantages in 2004. "One obvious
advantage is the number of supporters that we will pull together," he said.
However, the BCP president warned his counterparts in the opposition to
guard against giving themselves false hope as a result of the NARC victory,
since the Kenyan scenario was markedly different. "We have to understand
that there were government ministers who defected to the opposition just
before the elections, and that had a big influence on the outcome," he said.
The director of the Botswana National Youth Council (BNYC), Makgalemele,
said the opposition must have learnt from its past mistakes, that included
failed alliances. "I feel that as long as the opposition is weak,
democracy will be weakened in Botswana," he said. BNYC is a government
sponsored body involved in youth empowerment projects.
The Secretary General of the Botswana Manual Workers Union, Johnson
Motshwarakgole, however dismissed the opposition leaders as hopeless and
Motshwarakgole, who in the past has been linked to plans by the local
labour movement to form a political party, said the opposition was too
preoccupied with internal bickering.
His sentiments were echoed by Botsalo Ntuane, the BDP Executive Secretary
who said the Kenyan situation was not comparable to Botswana's political
climate. "It must be understood that NARC's victory was a product of
certain socio-economic and political circumstances that had made continued
rule by KANU untenable," he said.
"The opposition has every right to enter into a coalition, but to conclude
that such a formation can produce a result similar to [that in] Kenya,
emanates from a simplistic analysis of the Kenyan situation," he added.
Diamond-rich Botswana, with a population of 1.6 million has been under BDP
rule since independence in 1966. The country has become one of the most
stable democracies in Africa, and has had three presidents so far. They
are Sir Seretse Khama, Sir Ketumile Masire, now facilitator of the Inter
Congolese Dialogue, and the incumbent, Festus Mogae.
Mogae will be contesting for a second and final term of office next year.
The possibility of a united opposition may dent his chances.
The president has in the past come under severe domestic and international
pressure over his handling of issues such as the re-location of Basarwa
people from the dry Kgalakgadi Game Reserve. However, he still remains
popular in the back of highly successful economic policies, and his
approach to the HIV/AIDS scourge.
World Bank statistics show that Botswana has been the fastest-growing
economy in the world since 1965, averaging yearly gross domestic product
growth of 9.2 percent, edging out South Korea's 7.3 percent and China's 6.7
percent growth rates.
Still, the opposition feels the need to 'change' politics in an effort to
dislodge the ruling party. "Although the results may not be immediate, we
will eventually dislodge the BDP if we unite as the opposition," said Moupo
of BNF. "BDP can't remain in power forever," he complained.
The task will however, not be smooth sailing for the opposition parties, as
they have to face a populace wary of its credentials. "The problem with
local opposition leaders is that they are power hungry. Their
pre-occupation is not to remove the incumbent government from power but to
jostle for positions of influence," said Motshwarakgole.
As the BNF pushed for a united front in the opposition ranks, dissidents
led by its founding President, Dr Kenneth Koma, who was expelled from the
party last year for allegedly supporting factionalism, announced the
formation of a splinter party now known as the New Democratic Front (NDF).
It is not yet clear whether the NDF will be part of the proposed coalition,
but Dr Koma, who is also the leader of the opposition in parliament, is a
luminary in opposition politics. His new party may emerge with others to
form a strong force. Botswana has six registered opposition parties.
Concerns For A Critical Look At Abortion Policies
As abortion-related mortality continues to rise, attitudes and lack of
supportive policies on reproductive health are conspiring to send more
young women of reproductive age to the graveyard. There is apparent need to
increase the awareness on risks of unsafe abortions, but for those who
abort, the intervention would be to improve post-abortion care, reports
few months ago, the body of a female university student was found
floating on a river in Western Kenya. As the story unfolded, it emerged
that she had died following a failed abortion attempt.
The person who had illegally induced the abortion had tried to cover his
traces by disfiguring her face with acid, so that she would not be
Reproductive health providers say this case brings to the fore, some core
issues in an emotive and sensitive subject.
Despite anti-abortion campaigns, women of all ages, from every
socio-cultural and economic background, continue to seek abortion services.
It is estimated that each year, 10,000 women in East Africa die from
According to Centre for the Study of Adolescence (CSA), an NGO based in
Nairobi, 700 abortions are performed in Kenya every day. Statistics
further show that one in 10 maternal deaths results from abortion-related
The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines unsafe abortion as the
termination of pregnancy performed or treated by untrained or unskilled
persons. Regardless of whether an abortion is spontaneous or induced,
subsequent care determines whether the abortion is safe or unsafe.
Speaking at an annual conference of reproductive health providers in Kenya
last August, Nairobi-based gynaecologist, Dr Solomon Orero said: "Since
time immemorial, women have always died from complications of pregnancy and
childbirth, but this fact never attracts attention."
"If a woman makes up her mind about terminating a pregnancy, come rain or
shine, nothing can stop her," he added.
In Kenya, abortions are permitted legally only when the mothers' life is in
danger or when there is strong need to preserve her mental and physical
health. Thus women procuring abortions under different circumstances are
seen to be engaging in an illegal activity. There are, however, no
monitoring mechanisms for the conditions under which illegal abortions take
Medics say these abortions are conducted in unsafe and ill-equipped places,
resulting in serious complications such as infections, loss of blood,
chronic pelvic pain, infertility and in most cases, death.
"Abortion issues are very sensitive in Kenya. Although people do not
openly talk about it, they secretly support abortions," says Dr. Ambrose
Misore, a senior medical officer in the country.
While abortions carry the risk of death and illness, social condemnation of
pregnancies out of wedlock forces many women to terminate pregnancy. A 1998
Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) indicates that 11 percent of births
were unwanted, while 37 percent of them were mistimed. Most of these cases
are likely to end up in abortions.
The countrywide DHS study revealed that in most hospitals, one third of all
maternal deaths and half of all gynaecological ward admissions were related
Although a draft adolescent health policy exists, it is awaiting
translation into law. In 1996, the CSA and the Pacific Institute for
Women's Health initiated a project in Suba district in western Kenya, to
address the community-level dynamics of unwanted pregnancy and abortion
that contributes to maternal mortality rates.
The project recognises that community involvement would accelerate change
and make a difference in reducing abortion related mortality rates by
addressing safe motherhood concerns.
In a recent study by Reproductive Health Advocacy Project (RHAP), 99
percent of gynaecologists interviewed felt that abortion-related deaths and
illnesses required urgent attention.
While 77 percent of the gynaecologists felt that the current law on
abortion was too restrictive, 83 percent were of the opinion that such
restriction could be the reason behind so many unsafe abortions and deaths.
70 percent felt this could be avoided if the laws were changed to make
safer services available.
It is emerging that many health practitioners support legalisation of
abortion to limit deaths and infections. However, provision of post
abortion care (PAC) services, and not abortion, is a government policy and
is increasingly seen as a successful alternative to reduce morbidity and
mortality rates among women with abortion complications.
PAC training of physicians using manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) was
introduced in Kenya in the late 1980's. An MVA is a technique used to
clean up the womb after an abortion. It is considered a simple and
effective method, as it does not require long hospital admissions.
Organisations such as the Kenya Medical Education Trust (KMET) have
provided PAC training to clinical officers and nurses, and are currently
training midwives in Kisumu (about 390 kilometres from Nairobi) and its
environs in western Kenya to better assist those with complications arising
"Since the PAC training and services commenced, complications related to
abortions have declined in Kisumu," Monica Ogutu, KMET director, notes.
Medics say many health practitioners are involved in harmful abortions
because they perform them away from the hospitals, where there are no
sufficient tools. "Quacks and traditional birth attendants (TBA's) could
possibly be handling more of the cases as compared to private and
government hospitals because they can easily be exposed," says a Dr. Chris
According to medical experts, although expectant girls begin consultations
with qualified doctors at a private or public hospital, they never utilise
them in the end. They usually turn to quacks because they cannot afford the
high fees charged by professionals.
They only return to doctors when complications arise. By then, the girl is
either infected or has had her uterus damaged.
In the United States of America, congressmen, particularly Republicans and
a few Democrats, say it is wrong to abort. They would rather women let the
pregnancy run its full course, then give the baby for adoption.
"In Kenya, such a move is undesirable as there are already too many orphans
and street children and this would only add to the problem," notes US
Republican Congressman, James Greenwood, who supports abortion care.
Greenwood was in the country last December to tour KMET's projects in
Nyanza, Western and Eastern provinces. He was having a first-hand
experience on why health care matters needed more funds to assist the rural
and urban poor.
During the meeting, it was emphasised that to reduce the number of
abortions, access to contraceptives for the population, particularly the
youths needs to be pursued aggressively.
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