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All Africa News Agency April 21, 2003 (c)
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AANA BULLETIN No. 15/03 April 21, 2003 (c)
Correlation Between War And Ecology: An In-depth Analysis
Title - Scarcity And Surfeit: The Ecology of Africa's Conflicts
Publisher: Institute for Security Studies, South Africa
Contact: Block C, 301 Brooklyn Court, Bronkhorst Street, New Muckleneuk,
Copyright: Institute for Security Studies (ISS) and the African Centre for
Technology Studies (ACTS)
Year of publication: 2002
Volume: 388 pages
Editors: Jeremy Lind& Kathryn Sturman
Price: Ksh 1,000 (about US$30).
The book under review, written by a group of researchers, contains case
studies on war-torn African countries. The studies, which attempt to
justify link between conflict and ecology or natural resources, are on the
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Somalia.
The DRC case presents a suitable example of how the publisher has
demonstrated correlation between the on-going conflict and the enormous
mineral resource base in the country.
The illegal exploitation of Coltan, a combination of columbium and
tantalite, in DRC has been dealt with deeply.
In an article titled Coltan Exploration in Eastern Democratic Republic of
Congo (DRC), the book says Coltan is today among the most important
strategic minerals found in DRC due to its use in the increasing demand for
80 percent of the global coltan reserves are located in Africa and most of
it in DRC. Coltan has come to be identified as one of the major resources
plundered from the country by Congolese rebels and their allies, Rwanda and
DRC is equally endowed with enormous presence of other minerals, notably
copper, diamond, uranium and gold, whose presence, again, has contributed
greatly to the conflict, says the book.
Most conflicts in the DRC are termed civil wars, but according to the book,
they can be easily described as externally instigated resource-based
In this sense, the book has further observed, Congolese conflicts are less
motivated by internal competition over scarce resources. They are
inspired by abundant critical resources that, time after time, become
strategic international commodities, access to which is sought through
The plundering of Congolese resources remains one of the constant
parameters in the analysis of the various violent episodes that have
moulded DRC state throughout its history, from King Leopold 11's
exploitation of rubber for the Belgian colonial system, to copper shortly
after independence, and coltan in recent years, the authors say.
On Sudan, a topic in the book titled, Oil and Water in Sudan, has stated
that the last two decades of oil exploration, and the battle for political
control in Sudan are closely related.
The waters of River Nile play central role in conflicts involving
Ethiopia. The book has predicted: "The main conflicts in Africa during the
next 25 years could be over the most precious of commodity - water".
The Nile River, with part of its source in Ethiopia, is considered to be a
likely flash-point for such conflicts, says the publication in an article
titled Spilling Blood Over Water? The Case of Ethiopia.
In recent years, there have been consultations, referred to as the Nile
Basin Initiative, which have sought to harmonise use of the Nile river,
clearly indicating that there have been some controversies.
On Somalia, the publication says control of land has been a major issue.
The exact extent is impossible to qualify, but according to the book, land
and resources play an important role in the onset of conflict in Somalia.
The lessons emerging from this case study for conflict managers and
peacemakers, are many, says the book, pointing out, "One is that land and
resources are clearly important to understand the dynamics of conflict in
Somalia". The case of Rwanda also revolves around land.
On Burundi, the book observes that at the centre of the conflict are unjust
structures, among which are the ecological management policies instituted
by the country's various administrations. Suffocating state omnipresence
has had a negative effect on Burundi's coffee's sub-sector.
A meaningful broadcasting of the range of actors and players to include
producers in policy and decision making in the operations and management of
the sub-sector is needed, say the authors of the book.
In general the publication fits a broad readership, but would attract more
of scholars interested in the area of conflicts and its causes and effects
among the affected people. It has simplified a would-be complicated subject.
Reviewed by Osman Njuguna
What The Church Says About Much-Married Men
The subject of polygamy is still controversial within church fraternity.
Some mainstream churches, which once strongly opposed polygamous marriages,
are beginning to soften. Others are hanging on in absolute disapproval of
this kind of marriage. African instituted churches do not seem to have a
problem with polygamists. It appears there is no general direction among
Christians over the issue, reports AANA Correspondent, Osman Njuguna.
n 1988, delegates to the Anglican Lambeth Conference, while deliberating on
Church and Polygamy, reiterated the Church's stand on monogamy, stressing,
"This conference upholds monogamy as God's plan, and as the ideal
relationship of love between husband and wife."
But the delegates did not stop there. They recommended that polygamists who
responded to the gospel and wished to join the Anglican Church, could be
baptised and confirmed together with their believing wives and children.
However, some conditions were set. The delegates agreed that a polygamous
husband would have to promise not to marry again, as long as any of his
wives were still alive.
They noted that acceptance of a polygamist had the consent of the Anglican
community, and that he would not be compelled to put away any of his wives,
on account of social deprivation they would suffer.
Earlier, participants of the 5th General Assembly of the All Africa
Conference of Churches (AACC), held in 1987 in Togo, had been critical of
the hard-line stance taken by mainline churches' on polygamy.
A report of the assembly thus said: "This is one area where church's
attitude to African customs has been very controversial. Some theologians,
Christian missionaries, church leaders.... have adopted the policy that
polygamy is a sin and that polygamous families should not be accepted into
baptism and full communion."
Under a sub-title Church and Polygamy, the report went on: "This rather
harsh attitude of the Church has been a painful but real cause of
disintegration of some otherwise stable marriages and families. Husbands
are ardently urged to put away or divorce all, but the preferred wife,
before they can be accepted into baptism and full communion of the Church."
These discussions clearly reflect the fact that there is controversy
surrounding church opinion on the subject of polygamy.
Findings of a commission established by the Anglican Church in Africa to
investigate polygamy and its effects on the Christian Church, were even
more critical. Presenting their summary at a pre-Lambeth consultation in
1987, the commissioners said there was no "compelling" evidence in the
Bible, either for, or against polygamy.
In their view, the disapproval of polygamous way of life in Africa was part
of a "deliberate" attempt by missionaries to "destroy the culture of the
The commissioners stated they had established that polygamy had been a
"necessary element in the economy in Africa, a matter of prestige for men,
a guarantee of security for women, and a foundation of the family, clan and
"As we move to the 21st Century, we find that the foundation of the
institution of monogamy is shaking. We would not be honest if we said we
were not alarmed at the rate of divorce, within as well as outside the
Church," the commissioners stressed in their report titled The Debate on
"Is there any bishop who is not aware, in his own diocese, of the enormity
of this problem? Posed the commissioners, adding, "there are so many people
who claim to be monogamous, who are downright hypocrites and we close our
eyes to this."
They suggested that the Church should re-examine its whole approach to the
institution of marriage and perhaps consider afresh the virtue of the
"We have found out that there is a great deal of misunderstanding,
confusion and mis-information concerning this subject in the Church, and we
are considering recommending that the Church comes up with a comprehensive
educational programme concerning it," they concluded.
In his 1988 book, Our Kind of Polygamy, Kenyan author, David Mailu,
observed then that the most persistent and burning question regarding
polygamy was whether it was a civilised practice, or uncivilised, if not
primitive and irrelevant in modern Africa.
"If polygamy is surely on its way out and monogamy is on its way in for
permanent solution, what is obvious is that prostitution, 'concubinage',
homosexuality, frequent divorce and abortion, just to mention a few of the
evils, are going to be the legacy," Mailu had predicted.
Recent AANA interviews with various personalities and clergymen on the
issue, established divergent opinions on the subject.
General Secretary of the Organisation for African Instituted Churches
(OAIC), Archbishop Njeru Wambugu, whose pan-African church organisation
groups together African indigenous churches, calls on the mainline churches
to "harmonise" than "fight" polygamy.
"It's hard to win war over cultural values of people. I would recommend
that mainline churches find effective ways of accommodating it (polygamy)
in their pastoral programmes," he says.
He complains that some mainline churches have spent a lot of their time
fighting polygamy than studying it in line with its relationship with
Rev. Dr. Kasonga wa Kasonga, head of Christian and Family Life Education
Desk of the AACC, finds it difficult to rule out the entry of the subject
(polygamy) in the forthcoming AACC 8th General Assembly, to be held in
Yaounde, Cameroon in November this year.
"Like it happened in the past, it could do the same this year round.
Already established sub-themes of the assembly, such as human sexuality,
gender issues or human rights and human dignity, could easily make an
effective entry point for the issue," he said.
A bishop who opted to remain anonymous reckons that polygamy was on
increase among men of 40 years. "This is rather sad because it is
happening as we continue to battle out the same issue among the older
generation, which is 'gradually' dying out," he says.
Theology scholar, Dr. Douglas Waruta, who currently lectures at the
University of Nairobi, has a completely different view. He says mainline
churches should concentrate more on the issue of "mistress syndrome".
"This is more serious than polygamy, for it tends to "break" than build the
family," he points out.
Quitting Nomadic Life Leaves The San Traumatised
For the San people who live in the forests of Makhulela, about 120
kilometres west of Plumtree town in Bulilima Distict in south-eastern
Zimbabwe, the transition from their traditional life of hunting and
gathering to that of cultivation and rearing livestock, has left them
trapped in a time-warp. AANA Correspondent, Tim Chigodo, visited the area
to determine feelings of the San over requirements that they embrace modern
hedding off their traditional life of hunting, and embracing that of
organised agriculture and rearing cattle, goats and donkeys has left the
San people, known as Bushmen, a traumatised and confused lot.
In Zimbabwe, small numbers can be found in Makhulela, Matabeleland South
and in the Phumula area of Tsholotsho in Matabeleland North. Around
southern Africa, their cousins are in Namibia and Botswana.
They are also known as Basarwa in Botswana, where their welfare touched off
heated debate, after the government embarked on a programme to relocate
them from their traditional homes in central Kalahari desert.
Authorities in Botswana say the Basarwa are being relocated to areas
"closer to civilisation", where they can easily benefit from government
social services such as health, housing and education.
But a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Survival International, and the
Basarwa, have stirred a hornet's nest by alleging that it is not the
welfare or the community that is behind the relocation.
The NGO and the Basarwa claim the discovery of diamonds in the desert is
the reason behind the forced relocation to resettlement camps. Botswana
government has strenuously denied the allegations, saying it has the
minority tribe's welfare at heart.
According to reports, the Basarwa who were moved to the relocation camps
have started heavy drinking, and have suddenly become irritable and
violent. A few of them, who could not adjust to the new life, have escaped
back to the desert.
After leading a life of hunting and gathering for centuries, the Basarwa
cannot fathom why they are suddenly being told that it is illegal to hunt
without a licence. Their predicament could be likened to that of forcing a
fish to survive outside water.
The plight of the Bushmen in Zimbabwe is not too different from that of
their cousins in Botswana.
Arriving in the forests of Mahulela on a very hot day, we were guided to
the San's dwelling by a middle-aged woman, who said although she was
originally San, she had married into a Kalanga family, a Bantu group.
We were taken to the homestead of Deketeke Mpofu, the matriarch of the more
than 130 San families. Mpofu does not know when she was born.
"All I know is that when the train came to this part of the world, I was
already a young girl and I remember there was a lot of fear and excitement
because we did not understand what kind of monster had visited us."
The train steamed into Zimbabwe more than 105 years ago.
When we gathered at the matriarchs homestead, in no time, members of the
community started emerging from behind the forest, believing that the
visitors had brought food relief.
The San still yearned for a return to the past when they used to roam the
African plains in search of their favourite delicacy, game meat.
"We are meat people, we were brought up on meat and we knew no other
lifestyle except that of eating meat," explained Mpofu.
"The laws forbidding us to hunt have destroyed us as a tribe," she
complained, adding: "To appreciate its implications, try and imagine what
it would be like if certain powers were to stop the rest of the nation from
eating something that they were brought up on, like Isitshwala/sadza (maize
Conservation laws, which were introduced immediately after independence and
sought to outlaw hunting without a licence, must have overlooked the fact
that the San were an integrated part of any wildlife management.
For centuries, they had survived on hunting. Any laws concerning hunting
should have therefore included them in the equation.
Bomani Tshuma, an elder in the community, said laws against hunting were
tightened after independence, especially with the emergence of the Communal
Areas Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) conservation
"I think the people who came up with the conservation laws had been
misinformed into believing that we were people who killed wild animals
indiscriminately and that in no time, we would have killed all of them,"
He said as people who had depended on wildlife for centuries, there was no
way they would have depleted all the animals.
"If there is any group of people that is good at managing its resources,
then it would be our community because our people have been hunters for a
long time, and if we had been reckless, then southern Africa would not have
so many animals, as you must know," he pointed out.
Tshuma said if the San had been actively involved in wildlife conservation,
the unusually large number of snares, which killed a number of wild animals
would have been avoided. He felt that the San had been neglected by
government and that their welfare had ceased to be important.
According to him, they were, as a result, always appealing for food aid
because they had never been properly integrated into the agricultural life
of Zimbabweans, which they were now being abruptly expected to
appreciate. At the moment, the San are being assisted with food relief by
a German organisation.
Tshumba said: "The impression this creates is that we are lazy, but if we
could get livestock and farming implements from the government, then in no
time, we would be able to look after ourselves and not be perennial beggars."
So far, they have started sending their children to clinics and schools as
they tentatively accept the modern lifestyle, which has brought them
nothing but pain and stress.
Threats To Burn Omieri Put Christian Views To Test
Kenya's news-making gigantic python, Omieri, which three months ago
appeared and received friendly treatment in a tiny village in Nyakach
district in western Kenya, was recently in danger following threats by a
section of Christians to burn it, saying it was "a symbol of the
devil". The threat on the serpent's life has invoked sharp differences in
opinion between old-time foes, Christians and traditionalists. Oscar Obonyo
mieri is a devil which should not be adored or worshipped but destroyed. It
is a pity that religious leaders are keeping quiet as the devil grows in
our midst," Shadrack Owuor, Archdeacon of Kisumu Central Anglican Church in
Nyanza Province in western Kenya, complained recently.
Incidentally, Owuor belongs to the Luo tribe - the very community that
treats the 14-meter long mythical snake like a humanly king.
It is said Omieri brings good luck to locals, including members of the
wider Luo community in the East African countries of Tanzania and Uganda.
The threat by the man of God from Luoland that he would lead members of his
church to burn the snake has caused angry reactions from a cross-section of
Enraged Luo elders from Nyando village in Nyakach district in Naynza
Province, the unofficial habitat of the snake, have dared their "own son"
Owuor, to set foot in Nyando and make good his threat "if he is man enough".
"Omieri has done nothing to deserve this abuse. Just as we are not
interfering with his faith, so do we expect him to respect and keep off
ours, that he himself is in fact supposed to observe," warns their
spokesman, Mzee William Osore Jaoko.
Raval Guru, a Nairobi businessman and member of the Hindu community, also
accuses Owuor of trying to destroy wild animals.
"Nobody has the right to destroy the life of any wildlife. The snake had
neither harmed anybody nor brought bad luck, and should be handed over to
the museum, or be released into the forest," suggests Guru.
However, the Nairobi Anglican Bishop, Peter Njoka, praises the Kisumu
archdeacon for advising Christians that it was wrong to venerate a snake,
saying it should be treated as an enemy of man.
He urges Christians to stop revering the snake as it was contrary to
biblical teachings: "They should not engage in this at all, it is clear
that the serpent misled man to rebel against God, and so Christians should
view it as an enemy of man."
And the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) also adds its voice to the raging
argument by warning the church against any move to kill the python.
KWS information officer, Caren Ndiema, says it would be against laws of
conservation to burn the snake, and that the wildlife conservation body
will take stern action against anybody who does that.
"KWS, as a custodian of wildlife, has nothing to do with the positions
being espoused by the Church and traditionalists but in the well-being of
the serpent," says Ndiema.
The giant serpent resurfaced in the tiny village of Nyando, near the shores
of Lake Victoria, late January. Its appearance threw residents into
excitement and confusion, as a makeshift home was hurriedly set-up.
Overwhelmed, the villagers made snappy efforts to feed it with whatever
they could afford, including soda, cooked beans, ugali (maize meal) and
The situation has since stabilised with more volunteers hunting for
suitable delicacies for the serpent, such as frogs, rats, bats and rabbits.
Lots of drinking water is also availed to Omieri.
While the Nairobi Diocese of the Anglican Church is in agreement with
Archdeacon Owuor that the python should not be worshipped, it differs with
him over the killing threat.
Bishop Njoka instead calls on KWS to transfer the snake to the National
Museum in the capital city, Nairobi. "Since this is a world renowned
snake, it should be preserved in the Snake Park for those who want to view
it and also generate money from tourists," he says.
However, locals have bitterly opposed similar proposals. The move, they
argue, is tantamount to robbing them of good luck.
The last time an Omieri was confined in Nairobi for treatment at the
National Museum of Kenya after suffering fire burns, it met death due to
what wildlife specialists said was added fright occasioned by public
display and camera flashlights. This was years ago.
Area Member of Parliament, Mr Peter Odoyo, is optimistic that his
constituents can now look forward to a "very bright near future".
Environment and Natural Resources Minister, Dr Newton Kulundu affirms that
his ministry will indeed help the locals to enjoy their God-given windfall.
Kulundu, has already expressed the Government's commitment to allow the
python to remain in its current habitat at the village, to avoid any
conflict of interest among the local community.
There are those who have simply been awed by the presence of such a
gigantic reptile in the village. Others have seen the snake as a blessing
of some sort.
The good luck, according to locals, may involve end of a dry season,
improved harvests and even progressive developments for the community's
political leaders at the national platform.
East Africa's Luo community is not the only tribal grouping in the world
that places special attachment to a wildlife creature. In many other
African communities, the snake is held as a powerful symbol of religion.
The Ancient Aztecs of Central America worshipped the serpent, recognising
it as the "master of life."
The Aborigines of Australia associate the giant rainbow serpent with
creation of life, while in India, the cobra is seen as a reincarnation of
"Snakes, like other earthly creations, are bona fide creatures of the
universe and a very important web of biodiversity, only that some people
choose to perpetuate evil through them," argues Dr Belinda Welime, an
Welime further says that not all snakes are poisonous. Just about 10
percent of all the world's species are venomous. The remaining 90 percent
Yet people jump up in fright and instinctively strike them on sight, even
before finding out whether they are dangerous or not.
Pleas Welime: "Since snakes are protected by law as important members of
our native wildlife and as valuable natural resources, I hope the
government will act quickly to protect Omieri before it faces extinction."
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