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AANA BULLETIN No. 32/03 August 18, 2003 (b)
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Tue, 19 Aug 2003 14:59:48 -0700
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AANA BULLETIN No. 32/03 August 18, 2003 (b)
AANA Bulletin Bulletin APTA
Editor -Elly Wamari Editor - Silvie Alemba
SPECIAL FOCUS ON AACC
The Church Needs Healing To Heal The Continent
JOHANNESBURG (AANA) August 18 - The newly appointed General Secretary of
the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) Rev Dr Mvumelwano Hamilton
Dandala, has called for the healing of the Church in Africa, noting that
"only a healed Church will contribute to the healing of the continent".
Making his acceptance speech during his induction as AACC General
Secretary, Rev Dandala observed: "The division of the Church, its divisive
effects on our communities, and the wastage of meagre community resources
to sustain a multiplicity of denominations is a scandal the Church in
Africa must address."
He added: "The teachings of the many denominations and sects do not add
much to the sense of a unified, positive destiny for our continent, but
often lead directly to, or contribute significantly to the conflicts and
poverty of Spirit that characterises most of our communities."
The induction ceremony was conducted here on August 10, attended by South
African luminaries such as the country's President, Thabo Mbeki, the
Director General in the Office of the President and Secretary to the
Cabinet, Rev Dr Frank Chikane, and retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Rev Dandala, who until his appointment served his country as the Presiding
Bishop of the Methodist Church in Southern Africa and President of South
African Council of Churches, blamed 20th Century missionaries for having
contributed to the processes that entrenched ethnicity and tribalism in
"At various times during the beginning of the 20th Century, missionary
movements recognised the need for unity in their work. Unfortunately, in
their unity strategies, they often settled for working along parallel
lines, with each denomination ethnically aligned, geographically," he said.
He went on: "In other words our denomination emphases can be seen to have
contributed to the processes which entrench ethnicity and tribalism in
Africa - a cancer that today leaves many African countries divided and
Receiving Rev Dandala into the AACC family on behalf of Churches in Africa
was AACC President, the Very Rev Prof Kwesi Dickson, and Vice President
Bishop Onema Fama from the Democratic Republic of Congo, among other AACC
Referring to the tasks before him, Rev Dandala noted that the Church had a
divine duty to help Africans, in the words of Martin Luther King Junior,
"to straighten up their backs and stand firm against those who would ride
them when their backs are bent."
He explained: "It is this sense of self worth that will stem the tide of
globalisation from swallowing Africa up. If only we could recognise it,
the Church, in these times, has a sacred duty to fulfil."
Rev Dandala said he was not unaware of the positive, new initiatives in
Africa, like the New Partnerships for Africa's Development and the African
Union. "I am aware that it could not be more timely for Africa to grasp
the new opportunities presented to it," he stated.
On the other hand, he went on, "I am also not unaware of the cries of
Liberia, Sudan, Burundi, Zimbabwe, and many other such areas of great need
on the continent. I am not unaware of the devastation of poverty and
disease on the continent especially HIV/AIDS. I am not unaware of the need
for the Church to help foster good governance in Africa, that cares for the
peoples of Africa."
Reported by Mitch Odero
Raiser, Tutu Extol AACC For Ecumenical Vision
JOHANNESBURG (AANA) August 18 - The General Secretary of the World Council
of Churches (WCC), Rev Dr Konrad Raiser, has hailed the All Africa
Conference of Churches (AACC) for the "serious effort it has undertaken to
articulate afresh its ecumenical vision and mission".
Rev Raiser noted that the effort "has found a widespread and affirmative
response among the churches".
The WCC General Secretary was delivering a sermon here during the induction
service for the new AACC General Secretary Rev Dr Mvumelwano Hamilton
Dandala, on August 10.
Separately at an exclusive interview with AANA, Archbishop Desmond Tutu
called on the ecumenical partners/donor agencies "not to forsake AACC,
particularly now when it is due to gather Church leaders from all over
Africa for the General Assembly (in November 2003 in Yaoundi, Cameroon) to
recharge the churches commitment to the service of Africa."
Archbishop Tutu, who was also present at Rev Dandala's induction service,
said the gains that AACC made between 1987 to 1997 can still be repeated.
"As we strive to uplift our people, we need AACC as our continental body to
walk with us," he observed.
In his sermon Rev Raiser went on to advise that a commitment to fellowship
at the continental or world level "that does not find expression in the
national or local context remains weak".
He expounded: "During these past 10 years... I have been saddened to
observe that the local churches live their separate lives alongside each
other, sometimes even in active competition.
"Their leaders gather on special occasions, like visits by ecumenical
delegations, but otherwise keep away from each other. But ultimately, it is
at the local level that our ecumenical commitment, and in particular, our
efforts to create a united church, must find expression."
The unity of the Christian churches, he went on, has always been at the
centre of the ecumenical vision.
The churches in Africa, he observed, have ample experience of the strength
of a united church and also of the weakness of the churches when they are
"We only need to recall the history of the churches here in South Africa,
in their struggle against Apartheid. They found far greater strength by
witnessing together to the powers and principalities than they would have
had if they had acted separately," he pointed out.
Rev Raiser noted that a more recent example "is the common stance of the
churches in the Sudan, both North and South, in promoting the search for a
peaceful resolution of the conflict, which has torn the country for more
than 20 years".
Unity, he went on, must find expression as a form and way of life. "Unity
is more than a matter of structures and doctrine, or of particular
programmes and projects," he said.
Rev Raiser explained: "Unity is the fruit of the praxis of bearing with
one another in love. It is more than intentional solidarity but means
valuing the other person and the other church as highly as oneself."
He further noted: "A church or a community of churches, which are thus
united at the centre of their being, can become an instrument of peace
(and) a source of reconciliation within the wider community."
Reported by Mitch Odero
Strange Cultural Norms That Belittle Zambian Women
You are a lady and not a native of Zambia, but you just met your "Mr Right"
from that country. Before you sign the contract, you better find out
whether you will be able to adjust to some strange cultures that have
refused to give way to modernity in this southern Africa country, writes
AANA Correspondent Joseph K'Amolo.
Jane Adhiambo (not her real name), a native of Kenya, is now a Zambian
citizen by marriage. What shocked her first was the rate at which people
died in Zambia, a factor that was to form the basis of some of her shocking
experiences in the country.
"As human beings, we all loathe funerals, because they mean we have lost a
dear one. But in Zambia, it is double tragedy for a woman who has lost a
husband," she says.
When a woman loses her husband, that is the point she gets to realise how
insignificant she is in the matrimonial relationship, in as far as property
ownership is concerned. "Action by the relatives of her deceased husband
will remind her that she is there to be seen and not to be heard," observes
The death of a husband is an opportunity for the immediate relatives to
claim goods of the house. The widow has no power to object.
"Oh no," laments Adhiambo, stating: "Everything belongs to the man and when
he dies, the property then belongs to [the relatives] plus their old
parents if they are still alive. Little regard is given even to the
children born of that marriage."
Relatives of the man will camp in the house of the deceased until all the
benefits are worked out from his former place of employment. Should there
be any emoluments in the offing, they will make sure they all get their
"share" before leaving. In their view, it is a taboo for a lady to inherit
her husband's property.
Surprisingly, even the women, particularly among the rural populations,
where the tradition is still rife, accept this as the right thing to do,
strongly believing that they would otherwise be cursed.
Only families with strong Christian backgrounds allow the widow to keep the
possessions of her late husband.
Another cultural practice that shocked Adhiambo, is the tradition that
compels women to go on their knees when addressing men or when serving them
food. To the Zambians, this is a sign of a woman's total submission to the
Kneeling is extended even in greeting respected people. The Bemba community
practises the extreme form of it. Their women lie flat on the ground,
first on one side, before rolling to the other, while clapping their
hands. It is a sign of respect, they say.
At funerals, family members of the deceased, particularly women, sit on the
ground, irrespective of whether it is wet or not. They take this to be
synonymous to mourning. The bereaved widow may be given a mattress to sit
on, and would not be expected to leave the position except when going to
Unfortunately, says Adhiambo, female discrimination based on tradition is
also evident in some churches. The sitting arrangement in affected churches
is that women have their own side, and are not allowed to mix with men.
A more worrying concern, however, is that some of the diverse range of
traditional practices among Zambia's 73 ethnic groups put girls at
heightened risk of HIV infection.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) blames a number of cultural norms for impeding
efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in the country. Deep-rooted beliefs inhibit
parents from discussing sexuality matters with their children, creating
obstacles to effective sex education.
Even the Government acknowledges that the key underlying cultural factor
that makes girls vulnerable to HIV is the subordinate status of women and
girls, which deepens their social and economic dependency on men.
Zambian girls are raised to be obedient and submissive to men and not to
assert themselves. These ingrained tendencies make it extremely difficult
for women to negotiate safe sex, and to control their sexual lives,
therefore, placing them at high risk of HIV infection.
Sexual cleansing, a traditional practice in which a widow has to have sex
with another man upon the death of her husband as a ritual, is a prevalent
Those who support the act say it is meant to purge the dead husband's
spirit from the widow. To be purged of the "evil forces" assumed to have
caused the death of a spouse, the widow is "cleansed" through the act of
sexual intercourse with a relative of the deceased.
The practice goes on irrespective of the HIV-status of the person appointed
to perform the ritual. Many still defend it, in spite of the havoc it can
cause. One such person is Mr. Mulenga Kapwepwe, a consultant on adolescent
health. He claims that sexual cleansing has been misunderstood.
Says he: "Sex is seen as a potent force, traditionally. It creates a bond
that cannot be broken easily. In our tradition, there are so many rules we
follow, especially about sex. When a partner dies, that bond has to be
broken by someone else, to free [the surviving spouse] from that
bond. [That someone else] has to be a relative."
It is not easy for a woman to refuse to participate in such practices,
especially in rural areas. Those women who attempt to refuse to comply risk
being rejected by the community.
In a society where women are mostly economically dependent on men, the
consequences of being rejected by the family are severe.
That women place themselves in a lower social position to please men is
seen in many fronts. There is the question of initiation of girls to
prepare them for marriage, during which they are taught about sex and child
Here a girl would be instructed to focus on the man's sexual pleasure, and
not object to her husband's demands for sex. With this, has come the
practice of dry sex, which Zambian women, like most of their counterparts
in many parts of southern Africa, frequently practice to provide
"pleasurable" sex to men.
To achieve dry sex, they use certain herbs that reduce vaginal fluids, so
that friction is increased during intercourse, the risk of lacerations on
sexual organs notwithstanding. This provides fertile ground for HIV
Men add to the propagation of this practice, with such mischievous acts
like referring to ladies who do not uphold dry sex as "Chambeshi River", in
reference to a river in the country.
Culture Of Sexual Violence Pervades Continent
Despite indicators of progress in promoting women's rights, the dismal
record in preventing abuse persists. Sexual violence still pervades
society, with Africa, particularly South Africa, recording some of the
highest rates of rape in the world, and an alarmingly high incidence of
domestic violence and child abuse. AANA Correspondent Vincent R Okungu
The problem of rape in Africa has taken new dimensions. Police,
politicians, ociologists and rape survivors, all agree that there is a
silent war going on, a war against women and children.
Widely acknowledged as world's "rape capital", a rape happens every 26
seconds in South Africa. It is alleged that a woman born in this country
has a greater chance of being raped than learning how to read.
One in four girls faces the prospect of being raped before the age of 16,
according to a child support group, Childline.
In 1994, the year South Africa became a democratic state, 18,801 cases of
rape were reported. By 2001, that figure had risen to 24,892.
The South African Police Service readily admits that even though there is
now a greater awareness of the problem, more stringent penalties, and
better policing, the vast majority of rapes and attempted rapes still go
unreported and, therefore, unpunished.
During a recent parliamentary debate on child abuse in South Africa, it was
reported that there has been a 400 percent increase in sexual violence
against children over the past decade.
The majority of the victims are 12-year olds or younger. Many of the
perpetrators are themselves children. Baby Tshepang was just nine months
old when she was brutally raped in the Northern Cape town of Louisvale.
Child rape is not a new phenomenon in South African society, but its
frequency is now alarming.
One possible reason, say AIDS activists, is the myth in much of southern
Africa that sex with a child or baby will rid a man of HIV or AIDS.
A culture of violence has also been a dominant feature of South African
society for decades, say sociologists. It has accordingly spawned
attitudes that are tolerant of sexual violence.
Many private hospitals in the country now offer specialised rape care and
counselling. Insurance companies have also introduced policies for rape
survivors, to enable them afford expensive anti-retroviral drugs to reduce
the risk of contracting HIV.
The media and government officials have been accused of seeing rape as a
serious problem only after it directly affects those most privileged in
In West Africa, Amnesty International's report on Sierra Leone indicates
that rape and other forms of sexual violence against girls and women have
been committed by forces involved in conflict, and by the wider community.
Rape cases are also reported in conflict zones in Africa, such as Liberia,
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Burundi, Somalia and Uganda.
Abduction, rape and sexual slavery of girls and women are among the most
abhorrent characteristics of the internal armed conflicts in these countries.
Amnesty International and Baobab for Women's Human Rights have made similar
observations in the ethnic conflicts that rock parts of Nigeria from time
Says a Sierra Leonian rape victim: "The combatants who abducted me told
me, 'you don't understand. This is the reason we go and capture you
people. If you don't sleep with me today, I will kill you.'"
But rape in war situations is viewed as the spoils of war rather than as an
illegitimate act that violates humanitarian law.
Both women combatants and civilians are targeted for rape, while their
attackers go without punishment. Investigations in Somalia, DRC, and
Liberia reveal that sexual assaults are an integral part of conflicts. Yet
rape remains the least condemned war crime.
"There is widespread rape. People are no longer bound by social
conventions," Damien Rwegera, UNAIDS adviser for conflict zones in West and
Central Africa once said.
In some places, rape by soldiers had become systematic. "We saw it during
the (1994) Rwandan genocide, and now we are seeing it in Congo," Mr Rwegera
In conflict situation, rape has been used as a tool to punish women
sympathetic to the opposition, and to subjugate and inflict shame upon
them, their families and communities.
Under such circumstances, female targets are determined by their
identities, for example, faith in Nigeria, ethnicity throughout Africa, and
clan in Somalia.
Some psychologists have suggested that perpetrators of rape are social
perverts who need rehabilitation. Some of the deviants desire to inflict
pain and shame on their victims and resort to rape to accomplish their
Ken Maucha, a sociologist at the University of Nairobi, testifies that
rapists sometimes suffer from economic and social pressures, and in such
stressful circumstances, commit the act as an outlet for their frustrations.
"A lot of these pressures are related to poverty, divorce, joblessness and
domestic conflicts, among others," Ken explains.
Church officials seem to have the same views on rape. A Catholic Father
says that "rape perpetrators are agents of Satan", and that they need to
seek spiritual intervention.
And Pastor Joseph Matolo, an Anglican, says that evil has conquered many
souls and the Church needs to come in strongly to avert such social ills as
The two clergymen agree that the breakdown in family values and bonds has
also led to an increase in rape cases.
Confronting sexual issues is in most African cultures a taboo, that rapists
are often let off the hook, because few families would have the courage to
endure the public shame of acknowledging the abuse, even when they suspect
HIV might have been transmitted.
In most parts of Africa, rape victims often face a huge battle to obtain
anti-retroviral drugs, which must be taken within 48 hours of the rape in
order to lessen the possibility of contracting HIV/AIDS, assuming the
rapist was HIV-positive.
Tanzania's Unfriendly Policies Mar Internet Growth
It is fashionable in Tanzania to speak of global village, yet, a look into
Dar es Salaam, the commercial city, indicates that not many people
subscribe to this village. With a ratio of about one computer per 5,000
people, and only one person in every 7,500 getting access to the internet,
the "high-tech" era is yet to reshape the contours of life in Tanzania,
reports Henry Omondi.
Home to approximately 1.5 million people, Dar es Salaam, or Dar, as it is
popularly known, is the economic hub of Tanzania.
Illala is Dar's 3-by-4 km central business district, where major decisions
in economics are made, and also, where technology in Tanzania is at its best.
It costs about Tshs 1,000 (US$ 1) for an hour of surfing the internet in
majority of Illala's more than 25 internet cafis. But the statistics are
worrying. One out of every 7,500 Tanzanians make use of the centres.
This small number of internet users, and the few well to do persons using
credit cards, is all there is to electronic commerce in Tanzania.
According to Prof Beda Mutagahywa of the University of Dar es Salaam,
"existing telecommunication policies and state monopoly [in the sector] are
undermining the development of internet in Tanzania".
Speaking at a recent seminar on information communications and technology
(ICT) in Dar, Prof Mutagahywa pointed out that Tanzania lacks policy, as
well as legal and regulatory environment to stimulate investment in ICT
He also observed that "high licensing fees, high tax rates and exorbitant
royalties work towards muzzling the internet."
Still, Prof Mutagahywa believes the Tanzanian situation looks good. "Dar is
buzzing with technology compared with other countries on the extremes of
information technology, such as Ethiopia and Libya, where independent
internet connectivity is illegal," he states.
Nonetheless, the monopolistic powers of Tanzania Telecommunications Company
Limited (TTCL) have made licensing fees high.
In addition, besides the royalties to TTCL, obliged by law, Internet
Service Providers (ISPs) have to pay Tanzania Revenue Authority and
Tanzania Communications Commission, a total of Tshs 10-20 million (US
$10,000-20,000) per year.
TTCL is the only company with access to international telephone systems,
which local users have to pay for.
Roselyne Nderingo, the managing director of NewAfrica.com, Tanzania's only
listed website among UNESCO's top 50 sites, complains about the repressive
"You have to pay a five percent levy on all computer equipment and software
in addition to the 20 percent value added tax (VAT) on all goods and
services," she remarks.
Whereas neighbouring Nairobi in Kenya has about 70 ISPs, Dar has less than
30. The government requires ISPs to buy internet bandwidth from one of its
licensed providers. These are Datel Tanzania, Sita, and Wilken Afsat.
For a Datel connection, it costs US$ 20,000 per month for a
512-kilo-bytes-per-second (kbps) connection. "We have squeezed our margins
to bare bones," says Said Abdala, Datel's general manager.
Datel insists Telenor, the Norwegian company providing the satellite feed,
charges them high.
However, if ISPs were to buy bandwidth from any US carrier instead of
Datel, it would cost 30 percent less.
After buying the expensive bandwidth, getting incoming lines for dial-up
access is another story altogether.
TTCL, the former government corporation in transition to private ownership,
gets very low marks for its service and technology.
Its telephone network frequently goes dead. Worse still, power surges on
its congested switches and lines frequently burn out the modems on computers.
Besides, it takes days to rectify technical problems on lines, and months
for new phone lines to be installed.
And once installed, the lines are very noisy with electrical interference,
able to only occasionally sustain at best, a 33.6 kbps connection.
Bizarrely, ISPs in Tanzania do not exchange traffic locally. To access a
website hosted on another service, the traffic has to travel thousands of
miles, looping though Norway or the US, before boomeranging back to a
computer 50 metres away. It is the users who pay for this.
There are other things to worry about. Of Africa's roughly one million
internet users, 90 percent are in South Africa.
The remaining 10 percent exist in capital cities of the other countries,
where the greater the distance to the capital, the fewer the telephone lines.
Inevitably for Tanzania, this means that reaching the internet from outside
Dar es Salaam translates into paying for a long distance call.
Again, all but eight of the existing ISPs are in Dar es Salaam's Illala
business district, which ideally, implies that in a city with a population
of about 1.5 million, each ISP is ferociously vying for the business of
10,000 subscribers. Demand is scant.
Competition has driven monthly-unlimited internet access fees down from US
$180 three years ago to about US $35.
Still, the few users demand and receive extraordinary technical support, a
task further complicated by much of the pirated software finding its way
into the country, and cannot be fixed or upgraded easily.
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