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Message-ID: <35FFC998.7E820883@yorku.ca>
Date: Wed, 16 Sep 1998 10:22:16 -0400
Reply-To: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
From: Sam Lanfranco <lanfran@YORKU.CA>
Organization: DKProj
Subject: Appeal for African Tribunal

(To Judge Those Responsible for the Deadly Evolution that Threatens the Very Existence of the Workers and Peoples of Africa)

P.O. Box 13974
Lome, Togo (West Africa)
Fax: (228) 21-65-65

To: All Endorsers of the International Tribunal on Africa
To: All Supporters of the Western Hemisphere Conference
To: All Supporters of Trade Union and Democratic Rights

Appeal for Africa Tribunal

4 September 1998

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

During the Western Hemisphere Workers’ Conference Against NAFTA and Privatizations, which was held in San Francisco last November, I was given the opportunity to inform you of a proposal by African trade union and political leaders to hold an International Tribunal on Africa. The aim of the Tribunal is to judge those responsible for the deadly evolution that threatens the very existence of the workers and peoples of Africa.

At the San Francisco conference, the great majority of you endorsed the initiative to hold such a Tribunal, for which we are extremely grateful.

Today, I am very proud to send you the formal Appeal for the Tribunal that was issued by trade union and political leaders from 17 African countries who met in Bingerville (Abidjan) in Ivory Coast for this purpose. This Appeal, I believe, establishes clearly, based on indisputable facts, the very real dangers that threaten the existence of the peoples of our continent.

Since the Appeal was launched, unfortunately, the course of events has confirmed our worst fears. Famine has spread throughout the south of Sudan, where 2.5 million men, women and children are starving to death, not because of the drought but because of the war that is devastating this region.

War broke out in Guinea-Bissau a few weeks ago, a country which up until now has been at peace. And now we have the conflict which is tearing apart the Democratic Republic of Congo and which is embracing all the countries of the region (roughly one-third of the continent).

How many more thousands of people will lose their lives in this new war? Is it an exaggeration to say that the situation in Africa today—in terms of human suffering and all the destructive consequences —parallels the massive slave raids that ravaged Africa during the colonial era?

This is why I call upon you today to join us in supporting this effort. We have common ties, rooted in the past in the tragedy of slavery. And we have a common struggle today for the emancipation of the oppressed Black peoples, and more generally, for democracy and social justice =8B the basis for fraternal cooperation among peoples.

It is our intention to hold the first session of this Tribunal at the end of February-beginning of March 1999 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Your support for this effort —better still, your participation in this event —would be greatly appreciated. Please get back to me with your response to this appeal. I would like to hear your questions, comments or suggestions.

You can send all correspondence to our address and/or fax number listed above. Please send copies of all letters to the Continuations Committee of the Western Hemisphere Workers Conference, c/o S.F. Labor Council, 1188 Franklin St., Room 203, San Francisco, CA 94109, Fax: (415) 440-9297.

In Solidarity,
Norbert Gbikpi-Bennisan
General Secretary,
(National Federation of Independent
Trade Unions of Togo)

Appeal to Hold an International Tribunal to Judge Those Responsible for the Deadly Evolution that Threatens the Very Existence of the Workers and Peoples of Africa (adopted by the Abidjan Workers Conference)

1. We—the undersigned political and trade union leaders from 17 countries—met in Bingerville (outside the capital city of Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire/Ivory Coast) on February 27 - March 1, 1998, in a conference organized jointly by the SYNASEG trade union federation of Cote d’Ivoire and the International Liaison Committee for a Workers’ International (ILC). The Continuations Committee of the Western Hemisphere Workers’ Conference Against NAFTA and Privatizations sent a message of support. A delegation of French trade unionists was also present.

2. We established on the basis of facts and testimonies that the present course of events threatens the very existence of African peoples. This is an unprecedented situation, even on a continent which has known in the past the scourge of the slave trade, colonialism and forced labor. Murderous conflicts are ceaselessly multiplying. Millions of men, women and children are forced to wander from one side of the continent to the other with death at the end of the trip. One hundred thousand people disappear one day, 200,000 another—and these figures have become as common as the horrible sights of armed and slaughtered children.

States are exploding one after the other. In towns, each district has become an entrenched camp. Public services are on the verge of disappearing. School years where schools are closed tend to become the norm, and the last pay check is often a remote memory.

3. According to the prognosis of the United Nations Development Program’s last report, if nothing changes in the ten years to come, the average life expectancy in an important number of African countries will fall by 20 years to reach an average of 33 years of age. Thus life would be but a short transition between birth and death. Whole peoples are threatened with disappearance; poverty-infested cities, wars and lack of health care is all that will prevail.

4. We consider that it is our responsibility to undertake everything we can to put an end to this murderous course.

Because we believe it is urgent to act for peace, without which there can be no development, we are convinced it is necessary to establish clearly the reasons for the present evolution:

5. We have established first that there is an undeniable relation between the turn operated at the end of the 1970s, which led to the destruction of the political and social gains won in the course of the struggle to get rid of the colonial domination, and the fact that during this same period, our economies began to be determined by the Structural Adjustment Plans (SAP) set up by the IMF and the World Bank. These SAPs have provided the general framework for all government policies over the past 20 years.

Whatever their specific names in each of the African countries (Sector Adjustment Plan, Plan to Support Development, Growth Employment and Redistribution...), the SAPs are seen by the peoples and workers of Africa as synonymous with dictates whose only result has been the growing impoverishment of the population.

One of the central demands of the SAPs has been the devaluation of the currencies, which reduces the already limited buying power in our countries and fuels the break-up of public services.

6. At that time, and even today, these demands have been presented as the unavoidable condition, even if a painful one, for a new African turn slated to pave the way for success—such as was supposedly witnessed with the Asian model. We have known for several months now what we should think about this model. The peoples in those countries of Asia are in their turn being led to social disaster and political chaos.

7. There are no longer models. But even more murderous demands are still there.

8. We have established that the SAPs are commanded by the foreign debt. It amounts today in Africa to over US$300 billion. Nearly half this amount corresponds to accumulated interests. In other words, the debt is first of all a machine in the service of international finance and profit. As for the other US$150 billion, which are supposed to have come into our countries, the large bulk of this amount is sleeping in foreign banks.

The IMF and the World Bank, which defend loudly the necessity of austerity when people are concerned, are far less strict when -- yesterday as today --they are dealing with notoriously corrupt regimes.

9. And today, although it has already refunded twice the principal of the foreign debt between 1980 and 1996, sub-Saharan Africa is three times more indebted than 16 years ago because of the interest rates. At the end of 1996, it owed US$235.4 billion to its creditors, compared with US$4.3 billion in 1980. Meanwhile, the sub-continent will have paid US$170 billion for the debt service (interests and capital). The servicing of the debt represents each year a sum equivalent to four times the total expenditure for health and education on the continent.

10. In the last years, murderous wars and conflicts combined with poverty. Through different forms they killed millions of men, women, and children in Algeria, Sudan, Eritrea, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Senegal, Democratic Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo Brazzaville, Chad, Somalia, and the list goes on.

We raised the question: Aren’t these wars, with the millions of people killed and the disintegration of the States, the direct result of the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Plans?

We noted the following consequences of the SAPs:

11. Our capacity as trade union and political leaders confers upon us this duty: to do everything we can to help our peoples whose survival is at stake. We think it is necessary to clearly establish the responsibilities of the present state of affairs, in order to help our peoples reverse this situation.

As shown by the appendix to this appeal, we have provided in this African conference the elements for an Act of Accusation.

We call for the setting up of an International Tribunal to judge those responsible for the threats against the survival of the peoples of Africa.

The Conference of Bingerville was decided at a Workers’ Conference in Geneva in June 1997, initiated by the ILC. The question of the international tribunal on Africa has been broadly discussed and support committees were set up at the San Francisco Western Hemisphere Workers’ Conference Against NAFTA and Privatizations and at the Berlin European Workers’ Conference Against Maastricht.

The SAPs have become today in the words of IMF Director Michel Camdessus a universal demand. This is the reason we are convinced that to point out and try those responsible for the situation in Africa today will at the same time point out and try those responsible for the destitution and drama which workers and peoples of all continents are victims of.

We are political and trade union leaders. We launch this appeal to all those—and we know they are many—who are repulsed by the devastating suffering imposed upon the peoples and workers in Africa.

To all those who are conscious that in Africa, the SAPs which have become a universal, reality (according to the officials of the World bank and IMF themselves), we must point out that what’s at stake in Africa is the very future of humanity.

We propose:

To hold an international tribunal called to try those responsible for the murderous course threatening the very existence of workers and peoples in Africa.


—Lybon MABASA, president of the Black National Convention
—Mtimkulu OUMI, Executive member of the Black National Convention (South Africa) ;
—Amar TADJOUT, leader of the Federation of Leather and Textile, UGTA (Algeria) ;
—Gaston AZOUA, General Secretary of the confederation CSTB (Benin);
—Richard TIENDREBEOGO, general Secretary of the confederation CSTB (Burkina);
—Paul NKUNZIMANA, general Secretary of the FORTRA (Burundi);
—Essama TSOUNGUI, secretary economic affairs, confederation CSTC
—Martin MBILLE member of the CSTC (Cameroon);
—Patrice ZAKARIA general secretary of the confederation SNE CASU (Central Africa);
—Simon TSHIMPANGILA N’DOMBA of the confederation CDT (Congo);
—Marcel ETTE, general secretary of the confederation FESACI,
—Fran=E7ois K. Yao, general secretary of the SYNASEG (Cote d’Ivoire);
—Jean-Pierre OMANDA, member of the Executive committee, confederation CGSL (Gabon);
—Jr PRATT KWESI, Department General Secretary of the Peoples Party Convention;
—Sherif ABOUBACAR, Secretary to foreign relations of the Trade Union Confederation of Electricity and Water (Guinea);
—Z=E9phyrin RAZAFIMANDJARY, general secretary of the confederation SYMPIMA (Madagascar);
—Sidib=E9 ASSANE, leader of the confederation USTN, responsible for economic affairs (Niger);
—Alphonse KARANGO NIYONZIMA, teacher and Human rights activist (Rwanda);
—Jean-Marie Vianney NZABAKURANA, ex deputy general secretary of the Rwanda Confederation
—exile (Swaziland);
—Gami N’GARMADJAL, general secretary of the SET (Chad);
—Claude AMEGANVI (Editor of NYAWO, political leader;
—Norbert GBIKPI BENISSAN, National Union of the independent trade unions of Togo (Togo).