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March 2004 #2

Calls for talks between the opposition and the President Robert Mugabe have been dismissed after the declaration ‘no talks with the devil’ by the president. The BBC reports that the president said he would not hold talks with the main opposition party while they are “dictated to from abroad”. The party has been accused of aligning with the former colonial power Britain.

The Church, the Commonwealth and the European Union see talks between the two as the only way to end Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis.

The European Union has formally renewed sanctions against senior government officials for the third year in an announcement made on Monday this week. The sanctions include a travel ban on senior government officials; freeze on assets overseas and arms embargo. In a statement announcing the renewal of sanctions, the foreign minister said, “the European Union remains concerned at the worsening situation in Zimbabwe in all sectors”. They lamented the degradation of human rights situation in Zimbabwe and the failure on the part of the government to engage in meaningful dialogue with the opposition and the civil society. The European Union renewed the sanctions after an assessment on the Zimbabwean situation. They want an end to politically motivated violence, commitment to free and fair elections, protection of the freedom of the press, independence of the judiciary and an end to illegal occupations of property. In response to EU the government has said that the sanctions were designed to hurt the people of Zimbabwe so that they could rise against leaders.

Pray that a solution to the Zimbabwean crises ensues early.

At least twenty-five church leaders in Uganda will on Saturday visit Northern Uganda where the LRA rebels massacred more than 190 civilians in Lira. In a telephone interview the Secretary, Relief and development Commission of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa(AEA); Stephen Mugabi said they are deeply moved by the sight adding that Northern Uganda has been a very critical area which has been marked by trafficking of small arms and is home to between 4 000 and 6 000 people dismissed from their homes. “ Many children have been caught up in the scenario and most of them have been driven away from home by fear. Some of these children stay in camps or in the street.” Said Mugabi.

In a related incidence a camp nearby went up in flames leaving thousands without shelter. The Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation (RRR) programme of AEA is working hard to provide immediate help in the form of blankets and iron sheets for shelter. They are appealing to the government and nongovernmental organizations to come to the aid of the civilians.

The rebels burned civilians alive after torching their grass huts. The incident occurred after the people realized that they were surrounded by rebels and ran to their huts for hiding.

About 10 000 people took to the streets in Lira on Wednesday to express their anger at the killings and the government’s inability to end the rebellion.

The protest culminated to an ethnic fight after the protesters attacked the homes of the ethnic group they blame for the massacre one man believed to be an ethnic Acholi was stoned to death by the mob in Lira while there are reports that a protester was shot dead by the security forces.

The UN relief team is will on Thursday visit Northern Lira to determine whether the aid workers can travel safely and assess the needs. The World Food Programme are on standby with food supplies while the Ugandan Red Cross Society and other aid groups are preparing to provide shelter, a UN official has said.

Join forces with the Bishop and church leaders of Uganda and pray that the 15-year war comes to an end. The RRR initiative needs prayer support as it moves to address the plight of the children.

The youth and sport ministries have developed various games and programmes that have seen young people developing positive Christian attitudes and changed lives. The games developed by the Youth and Sport Commission includes kids games, teen games, edge games and family games. The Secretary, Solomon Gacece says that through the programmes young people have developed positive Christian attitudes and changed lives through their personal commitment to Christ as their personal savior. “We also have experienced great achievements and changes in physical fitness, enjoyment, healthy relationships and interaction, discipline and individual conduct, hard working, tam spirit and community awareness.” said Gacece. Various leadership-training sections complement the initiative and these include sports coaching and umpiring clinics. These games are not just going to end with interchurch tournaments and interclub tournaments but chaplainry in major global events. The programme also occupies the youths by keeping them engaged with constructive work and we hope such an initiative will happen all over Africa.

Pray for the continuity of this noble cause.

Campaign violence flared in Blantyre last week following a clash between the police and the opposition supporters. It is reported that the police clashed with opposition supporters in an attempt to break up a rally organized by a presidential candidate Gwanda Chakuamba. Two people were wounded when the police fired bullets at the crowds. The BBC reports that police claim the opposition held the meeting although the Blantyre Mayor had banned it. The presidential elections will take place in 18 May this year.

Pray that this be the last case of violence and that the campaigns take on a peaceful note. Pray also for the Evangelical Fellowship of Malawi and the church leaders in that country. Let God be with them as they work for peace and also monitor the elections.

The South Africa Council of Churches (SACC) this week urged the President Thabo Mbeki to revive talks between the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). In a letter addressed to Mbeki the churches acknowledges that there is no substitute for dialogue and urge Mbeki to restart talks between Mugabe and the opposition. This comes shortly after Mugabe ruled out the possibility of talks this week. However, Mbeki has assured the SACC that SA will do everything possible to find a solution to Zimbabwe’s problems. Mbeki’s spokesperson Bheki Khumalo, says the president agrees with the churches that there is no substitute for dialogue.

SACC needs your prayer support more so in their endeavor to solve the problems of Zimbabwe.

Swaziland is undergoing a humatarian crisis following a ravaging drought that has attacked the country. The Prime Minister Themba Dlamini last week announced that the country is facing a humatarian crisis and appealed for international aid. It is reported that the World Food Programme (WFP), says at least 200 000 people about a quarter of Swaziland’s population is in need of food aid.

Pray for the situation in Swaziland

A wave of horrific attacks has engulfed Southern DRC leading to the killing of at least a hundred civilians. The BBC reports that the militia led by General Ripper is to blame. The horror killing involved draining blood from the victims and mutilating their body parts. The BBC correspondent said that many fighters believe that using victim’s body parts to make charms will make them powerful. However, the Congolese military official is reported to have said that the General is last remaining militia leader in the north Katanga province who is unwilling to integrate into the new Congolese army.

Pray that there be understanding and a speedy process towards peace in DRC. Remember also the work of churches in DRC. Pray that they may be empowered to mediate effectively in the crisis and that their endeavor for peace is realized. Also pray that the churches have a successful programme in healing the wounds.

The United States has come to the aid of thousands of Liberian who fled their country during the war by offering them settlement. The UN HCR refugee agency, Sanda Kimbimbi said the refugees would be resettled in US. It is reported that all the refugees are expected to be in the US by the middle of May. The move has been greatly appreciated by the refugees saying that the US had a moral duty to help them. This comes shortly after the UN lobbied governments to contribute towards rebuilding Liberia.

Thank God for this noble cause and that efforts to rebuild Liberia continue unhindered. Pray for the church in Liberia.

The US has lifted the US travel restrictions on Libya as a reward for scrapping its nuclear arms programme, Reuters reports. The spokesman for the White House National Security Council Sean McCormack said the decision was reached in recognition of Libya’s steps to repudiate weapons of mass destruction and to build the foundation of Libya’s economic growth and reintegration with the international community. Restrictions on the use of American passports for travel to Libya will be lifted. The move opens doors for negotiations with the US oil company. It is also reported that Libya is eager to bring US companies back especially in the oil industry which is its main source of currency.

At least 17 African leaders out of 53 members of the African Union have signed for the peer review mechanism implemented under the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) marking the first positive step in the ‘right direction’. The mechanism, which is meant to improve governance and accountability in the African nations, has failed to attract more signatories from African leaders although the initiative remains undeterred. The peer review mechanism enables leaders to monitor each other’s progress towards political and economic reform and the first two countries to be assessed include Rwanda and Ghana. General comments quoted by the BBC on the initiative, support the initiative saying that it is a step in the right direction while some people say it marks the dawn of a changed Africa.

The peer review mechanism is a necessary measure for Africa, as it will help realize economic and political reform. Pray that the peer review mechanism becomes a success and that many leaders partake of this initiative. We hope in the future it will help us as Africa and African leaders to monitor one another.