[Dear Friend of ACOA, Off the record, some leading Republican Congressmen are saying this may be their year to remove Africa from the U.S. foreign policy agenda …]
by Jennifer Davis, American Committee on Africa
New York, New York, United States
December 13, 1996
American Committee on Africa
The mailing says it took us two years to beat back the drive to end development aid to Africa that started when the Republicans took control of the 104th Congress. The mailing says we only succeeded by mobilizing religious and community leaders, local elected officials and human rights activists to contact their own Senators and Member of Congress; in the process we discovered that even some very conservative lawmakers could be turned around when they heard from people back home. The mailing says I was reminded of how vital this work is on my recent visit to southern Africa; everyone from cabinet ministers to people working to re-build local communities was intensely interested in what was happening here in the U.S. The mailing says my days were rich in encounters with men and women beginning to use their old anti-apartheid organizing skills to build new lives. The mailing says early one morning I visited with Frank Chikane, former General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches who now serves as Chief of Staff to Deputy President Thabo Mbeki, while also heading up the Housing Trust; he outlined the problems confronting the government's program to build houses for the majority of Black families who now live in terrible substandard conditions. The mailing says millions of people are too poor to repay any mortgage or loan however modest, and the government lacks resources to pay for them; Frank also described communities now developing innovative self-help housing projects, rather than just waiting for the government to deliver, and he urged me to find ways to engage with these efforts. The mailing says I talked to a young Afrikaans physics professor who is teaching first-time African university students in isolated villages via correspondence; she is designing affordable kits so her students can do the necessary experiments, even when they lack basic facilities like refrigeration or running water; some economists explained to me their efforts to secure credit facilities for rural communities. The mailing says I met a journalist who is organizing unemployed neighbors to start a micro-construction company and spent several hours with rural women testing ideas about how to provide simple tourist facilities as an income generating project. The mailing says e are one of a tiny handful of organizations mobilizing ordinary Americans on African issues -- not just aid but economic policy and human rights as well. The mailing says Nigeria's human rights emergency, with over 7,000 political prisoners including the elected president, has become a major focus of our work; last October, over sixty congregations from our Religious Action Network held special Nigeria Freedom Sunday services for the restoration of democracy and freedom; next February we will organize a delegation of religious leaders to go the White House to urge strong U.S. action for democracy in Nigeria. The mailing says ACOA receives no government, foundation or corporate support; this frees us to intervene decisively in legislative battles like aid or sanctions for democracy in Nigeria.
Used by permission Africa Action (successor to the American Committee on Africa).
Collection: William Minter Southern Africa Papers