Weekly anb08221.txt #5

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WEEKLY NEWS ISSUE of: 22-08-2002      PART #1/5

* Africa. AMECEA General Assembly - The main theme of the 14th Plenary Assembly of the Association of member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) held in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, from 14-27 July 2002, was "Deeper Evangelization in the New Millennium". The choice of the theme was motivated by the pastoral call of Pope John Paul II to the universal Church in his Apostolic Letter, "At the Beginning of the Third Millennium", in which he invites all the local Churches to renew their pastoral programs and to adapt them to the circumstances of each community. This invitation came also at the time in which AMECEA is celebrating its 40th year of existence. In their final message, delegates emphasised the need for active and full participation of the Lay Faithful in evangelisation and development. They called for a peaceful settlement in Sudan and Somalia. They also called upon all Christians to fully recognise that working for and witnessing to justice is constitutive to what it means to be a true follower of Christ. (AMECEA, 26 July 2002)

* Africa. Earth summit urged to focus on Africa - 18 August: The World Bank says the World Summit on Sustainable Development, which opens in Johannesburg next weekend, should give special focus to food production in famine-blighted sub-Saharan Africa. "Present trends show the world as a whole having comfortable food supplies, but with a continued problem in sub-Saharan Africa. More focused efforts are required to expand food production in the lowest income countries, with a particular focus on sub-Saharan Africa," the World Bank said in its summit agenda: "Johannesburg and Beyond: an Agenda for Action". An acute food crisis, deepened by the region's HIV/Aids crisis, is on the doorstep of the inter-governmental forum. Severe food shortages are expected to peak in September and October. The UN's World Food Programme estimates that 14m people are threatened with starvation in the region as a result of a drought and poor economic management. Almost half of the hungry are in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe's controversial land reform programme and economic collapse have deepened the food crisis. James Morris, the WFP's executive director, said the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho was the most severe anywhere in the world. The high prevalence of HIV/Aids in the region has weakened rural communities' ability to survive drought conditions and farm their land. "The combination of widespread hunger, chronic poverty and HIV/Aids pandemic is devastating and may soon lead to catastrophe. This is WFP's largest emergency operation," he said. In its agenda, the World Bank hopes to focus delegates' minds on the lack of food security in the states surrounding the host country, South Africa. In spite of development projects --funded by multilateral organisations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund -- development indicators in southern Africa have slipped over the past 10 years. (Financial Times, UK, 18 August 2002)

* Africa. Vatican and Muslim Leaders unite against racism - Muslim and Vatican representatives have jointly rejected racism and called for the building of a world of justice and peace. Their joint statement was published by the Vatican Press Office, as the result of a meeting of the Catholic Liaison Committee, held in Markfield, England, last month on "Religion and Racism: Towards a Culture of Dialogue." The objective of the committee, created in May 1998, is to promote dialogue between Christians and Muslims. It comprises representatives of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Al-Azhar Permanent Committee for Dialogue with Monotheist Religions. Cairo's millennium-old Al-Azhar University is the most prestigious research and study centre of the Muslim world. On this occasion, the Muslim delegation was headed by professor Kamel Al-Sharif, secretary-general of the International Islamic Council for Da'wah and Relief. Following the debates, the Catholic and Muslim leaders agreed on a number of conclusions, which they expressed in a five-point statement. "We affirm that our religions both teach that Almighty God has created all people equal in dignity and, therefore, we reject every form of racism," the statement begins. In the second point, the leaders condemn "the racist practices that exist today in many societies, and we accept our responsibility to endeavour to eliminate misconceptions and prejudices that in turn generate racial discrimination." In the third place, the Catholic and Muslim representatives "call upon individuals, educational and social institutions, and the media to join this effort against racism." In the fourth place, the leaders consider "that adherence to religious values and engaging in dialogue to achieve mutual understanding and mutual respect are conducive to a world of justice and peace." Lastly, the leaders commit themselves "to continue to promote a culture of dialogue and to work together in order to introduce this culture of dialogue into our respective communities and, more specifically, in educational and cultural programs." (Zenit, Italy, 20 August 2002)

* Afrique. Commerce de diamants - L'Union européenne a adopté une proposition de règlement destiné à mettre en oeuvre le système de certification universelle des diamants bruts décidé par les pays participant au processus de Kimberley, indique un communiqué officiel publié le 20 août à Bruxelles. Le processus dit de Kimberley vise à mettre fin au trafic illicite des diamants qui alimente les guerres en Afrique. En vertu du règlement adopté par l'UE, le commerce de diamants bruts ne sera autorisé qu'entre pays participant au processus de Kimberley avec certification du pays d'origine du diamant brut. Le règlement précise que les diamants doivent être "logés dans des conteneurs inviolables et convenablement scellés" par les autorités compétentes du pays d'origine, le certificat "attaché de manière inséparable" au conteneur. Le non-respect de ce règlement entraînera la confiscation immédiate des diamants et leur renvoi dans le pays d'origine. La date de son entrée en vigueur sera décidée lors de la conférence ministérielle du processus de Kimberley prévu le 5 novembre. (PANA, Sénégal, 20 août 2002)

* Africa. Four sets of peace negotiations - Four sets of peace negotiations are going on or about to start in Africa, raising cautious hopes that there could be breakthroughs in some of the continent's longest and most intractable conflicts. Talks are going on in Machakos, Kenya, aiming to end Sudan's civil war, modern Africa's longest. Negotiations in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, are trying to resolve Burundi's civil strife. There also have been positive signs for the Congo RDC conflict at the negotiating table. And next month, factional leaders in Somalia will talk to, instead of shoot at, their rivals. "We seem to be in the midst of one of the ebbs of conflicts and one of the flows of peacemaking," said John Prendergast, director of the Africa program at the International Crisis Group, a research organization based in Brussels. (Int. Herald Tribune, USA, 21 August 2002)

* Afrique australe. Crise alimentaire - Le 19 août, la directrice de l'Unicef a accusé la communauté internationale de ne rien faire face à la famine qui menace l'Afrique australe, et réclamé le déblocage de 30 millions de dollars d'aide d'urgence pour les femmes et les enfants. "Sans aide de la communauté internationale, la situation va devenir ingérable", a déploré Carol Bellamy, en visite au Malawi. Ce pays s'est déclaré en février en état de catastrophe, la pénurie alimentaire menaçant de plonger dans la famine près de 3 millions de personnes. Dans six pays (Zimbabwe, Zambie, Malawi, Lesotho, Swaziland et Mozambique) plus de 12 millions de personnes sont menacées par la famine à cause de la sécheresse, des inondations, de la destruction des réserves alimentaires, d'une mauvaise gestion gouvernementale et de l'instabilité économique. ONG et agences internationales ne cessent de tirer la sonnette d'alarme depuis quelques mois, sans guère de résultats. (AP, 19 août 2002)

* Algérie. Nouveau massacre - 16 août. 26 personnes, dont des femmes et des enfants dont le nombre exact n'a pas été précisé, ont été assassinées par un groupe armé islamiste dans la nuit du 15 au 16 août à Harchoune, dans la région de Chlef, à 200 km d'Alger, a-t-on appris de source sécuritaire. Les assaillants ont attaqué et égorgé trois familles dans le hameau isolé de Bokâat Lâakakcha. C'est le plus important attentat perpétré par des islamistes armés depuis le 5 juillet dernier, lorsqu'une bombe avait explosé à Larbâa, à 20 km d'Alger, faisant 38 morts. Les deux dernières semaines, les forces de sécurité avaient procédé à des opérations antiterroristes, faisant 70 morts dans les rangs des islamistes armés. -- 21 août. Une centaine d'islamistes armés sont encerclés par les forces de sécurité depuis le début de la semaine en Kabylie. L'armée a détruit plusieurs casemates contenant des armes, des munitions et des denrées alimentaires. Selon les journaux, ces hommes sont du "Groupe salafiste pour la prédication et le combat" d'Hassan Hattab. (ANB-BIA, de sources diverses, 22 août 2002)

* Angola. Refugee returns decrease - 14 August: Spontaneous returns of Angolan refugees from Congo RDC had slowed down, amid reports of the lack of food, schools and medical facilities in Angola, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Kris Janowski said in a statement. "In August, only 660 returns have been recorded so far, with numbers falling last week. Between February and July, an average of 1,500 returns were recorded per month. Angolan refugees living in settlements in Congo RDC told the UNHCR they preferred to wait for the UNHCR-sponsored repatriation next year, rather than rush back to Angola now. They said refugees who had already gone back claimed that famine and the lack of schools and medical facilities in the return zones in Angola made reintegration extremely difficult." Since February 2002 a total of 9,500 refugees had been recorded as having spontaneously returned to Angola from Congo RDC. However, there was also an unknown number of refugees who had left for Angola without reporting their departure to the UNHCR. (IRIN, Kenya, 14 August 2001)

* Angola. Security Council approves UN mission - A decision by the UN Security Council to establish a UN Mission in Angola is expected to bolster humanitarian efforts in the country. With just a fraction of the funds needed to assist close to 3 million people in need, aid agencies have moved rapidly to expand emergency operations to cover the critical needs of the most vulnerable populations, following the 4 April ceasefire. By April only 13 percent of the US $233 million requested in the 2002 Consolidated Inter-Agency Appeal had been received, increasing to about 34 percent by July said the UN. The UN Security Council on 15 August approved the establishment of the United Nations Mission in Angola (UNMA), a follow-on to the United Nations Office in Angola (UNOA) for a period of six months until 15 February 2003. One of its key tasks will be to chair the Joint Commission charged with implementing the November 1994 Lusaka peace agreement between the government and UNITA. (ANB-BIA, Brussels, 16 August 2001)

* Botswana. AIDS pandemic stunts southern African growth - On 19 August, the Central Bank of Botswana said the HIV/Aids pandemic ravaging the southern African country could halve its economic growth rate over the next 15 years if left untreated. Forecasts predict the disease may shave as much as 3 percentage points off growth. The economic impact of HIV/Aids on southern Africa is expected to be high on the agenda of the United Nations' World Summit on Sustainable Development, starting in Johannesburg this weekend. Rising infection rates have emerged as one of the main obstacles to development across the region and are blamed for worsening the effects of food shortages affecting 14m people. "GDP growth [in Botswana] is projected to fall from around 5.5 per cent a year without the pandemic to between 1.5 and 2.5 per cent a year with Aids," said an International Monetary Fund report on the disease's effect on the country's mining-dependent economy. Independent research by the Gaborone-based Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis predicts a fall of 1-2 percentage points in growth each year. Estimates of the economic impact of the disease on the region vary. South Africa believes its 25 per cent infection rate among the economically active population will only cut growth by 0.4 per cent a year over the next 15 years. The government is confident the economy can maintain growth rates above 3 per cent. South Africa believes the economic effects of the disease can be limited without providing anti-retroviral drugs -- which prolong the lives of sufferers -- through the public health system. But rising costs surrounding HIV/Aids persuaded large South African companies such as Anglo American and De Beers earlier this month to make the drugs available to employees. Botswana is already feeling a drag on its performance. Diamond production has helped it become one of Africa's fastest-growing countries over the past 10 years but the growth rate is tumbling. The central bank expects growth to fall from 9.2 per cent last year to nearer 5 per cent this year as a result of flat diamond production, the effects of HIV/Aids and the political crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe. Botswana's population of 1.7m has the highest HIV/Aids infection rate in the world. An estimated 38 per cent of those between the ages of 14 and 49 years are HIV positive, according to ministry of health figures. Local doctors say the infection rate is still growing,with tuberculosis infections tripling over the past decade and now accounting for 30 per cent of Aids-related deaths. (Financial Times, UK, 20 August 2002)

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