Christian Aid's programme in Eastern Africa and the Great Lakes area

from Christian Aid
Published on 22 Feb 2001
Christian Aid's programme in Eastern Africa and the Great Lakes area stretches across nine countries: Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
Christian Aid in Eritrea

Eritrea has a small and poor economy based on subsistence agriculture. More than 70 per cent of the population are involved in farming and herding.

In May 1998 a border war broke out between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The two countries eventually signed an interim peace plan and cease-fire following renewed fighting in May 2000. In September 2000 the UN peacekeeping mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) deployed the first 15 UN military observers. These have now been followed by 4,200 military personnel, to ensure that hostilities between the two countries come to an end. As a consequence of the fighting thousands of Eritreans moved away from their farms and homes into camps. A worsening drought has also affected crops and pastures in the coastal regions.

Christian Aid's programme in Eritrea has been scaled back in the past five years, mainly due to the Government of Eritrea's wish to be more autonomous. At present, there is little role for organisations other than the state, either Eritrean or international. However, during May 2000 the government did allow international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to distribute aid to those affected by the war.

  • In response to the needs for shelter and food following renewed fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia Christian Aid made a grant of £50,000 to Action by Churches Together (ACT) for food, milk powder, shelter items and other relief goods.

  • An emergency grant of £500,000 was also made to the Agency for Co-operation and Research in Development (ACCORD) for the rehabilitation and repatriation of people displaced by conflict in Eritrea and Sudan.

  • Christian Aid also made a small contribution of £1,060 to the Eritrean Relief and Rehabilitation Association (ERRA) for the packing and delivery of second-hand clothing to Eritrea for internally displaced people. This was organised by the Eritrean community in the UK.a
Christian Aid in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world; a third of the population earn less than 75p a day. Many people rely on farming and cattle-herding for an income. In 2000, many poor people living in rural areas were affected by a food crisis - thought to be the worst since the famine of 1984/5. To make matters worse Ethiopia has a national debt of over US$10 billion, yet creditor countries have still not begun to offer debt relief.

Another of Ethiopia's most disturbing challenges to development is HIV/AIDS. Three million Ethiopians are estimated to be HIV positive. The churches are among local organisations working to limit the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as working with those already affected.

Christian Aid works with 16 partner organisations in Ethiopia. Programme priorities include ensuring that short and long-term food needs are met, helping partners to develop their organisations and enabling them to fully participate in civil society.

  • Christian Aid's work in Ethiopia has recently been dominated by the food crisis. This has affected 16 million people in the Horn of Africa, 10 million of them in Ethiopia. Christian Aid was one of the first international aid agencies to highlight the worsening food supply situation in Ethiopia by providing film reports for television news in the UK.

  • In April 2000 Christian Aid launched an appeal in response to the food crisis caused by the lack of rain and poor harvests in the region since 1997. To date nearly £1.6 million has been raised.

  • Christian Aid has responded practically to the crisis by contributing nearly £2 million to various partners' relief and development work. The Gudina Tumsa Foundation (GTF) works with Karayu people, a marginalised group of herders whose grazing land and livelihoods are threatened by drought, and by the loss of their traditional land. Christian Aid made a grant of £217,647 in 2000 to support GTF with the distribution of water and emergency food during the drought, and to meet longer-term needs in education, training, agriculture and animal husbandry.
Christian Aid in Kenya

Since the early 1980s Kenya has been following an economic reform programme under the direction of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, intended to stabilise its economy. Reductions in state spending, removal of price and import controls and subsidies have affected the poorest sectors of society most severely as the gap between the rich and the poor widens. Meanwhile, the Kenyan government has failed to tackle corruption and Kenya's economy is deteriorating.

In 2000 the drought in the Horn of Africa had a major impact on Kenya's rural poor, especially in northern pastoral areas. The majority of Kenyans live in rural areas, as agriculture is the mainstay of the economy. The scarcity of arable land contributes to rural poverty, and farming is therefore concentrated in a few fertile areas. With three-quarters of the rural population living on 10 per cent of the land area, there is heavy competition for resources. This can lead to conflict and environmental degradation.

To escape poverty and drought many of Kenya's rural poor have fled to the cities, which now host nearly a quarter of the population. Recently, life in the cities has been affected by large-scale cutbacks in public services, redundancies of civil servants, and a rise in ethnic violence and 'mob justice'.

Christian Aid works with eight major partners in Kenya. Our main priorities for our programme in Kenya include the promotion of peace and reconciliation; encouraging good political governance; empowering poor communities in rural and urban areas; disaster mitigation and preparedness; strengthening our partners' organisational capacities and promoting gender equality.

In Kenya Christian Aid responded to the food crisis by contributing £100,000 to Action by Churches Together (ACT) for work in two of the worst affected areas of Kenya - West Pokot and South Turkana. Christian Aid's partners, the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) and the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) played an important role in carrying out this programme.

Christian Aid supported partner organisations ACK Western and Ukambani with the creation of a photographic exhibition about their work. The exhibition allows them to carry out publicity and fundraising within Kenya for their work supporting rural people to develop alternative ways of making a living.

Christian Aid in Somalia

For the past nine years Somalia has been a nation without any form of central government, fragmented into several clan-based factions, including the Somaliland Republic, and, the autonomous north-eastern province of Puntland.

There has been continued violence and political instability with hundreds of thousands of Somalis being displaced within Somalia or living in refugee camps outside the country. More than a dozen peace agreements have been brokered since 1991, but none has been successful up to now. The most recent peace conference took place in May 2000 in Djibouti.

An interim three-year government has been elected. However, the leaders of the Somaliland Republic, Puntland and Mogadishu-based clan factions have so far refused to recognise this government and prospects for peace remain poor. Since 1997 Somalia has also suffered a succession of natural calamities, including floods and drought.

At present, Christian Aid has two partners working in Somalia.

  • ACORD is working on a three-year programme to improve people's access to food by rehabilitating irrigation systems and wells, and issuing seeds, tools, goats and fishing materials. The programme also includes providing basic sanitation, education on basic health care, income-generation schemes targeted at women and the strengthening of the capacities of local structures and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).

  • Christian Aid is also supporting the training of 30 midwives for the new Edna Adan maternity hospital in Somaliland. The infant mortality rate in Somaliland is one of the highest in the world - as many as one child in five will die before his or her fifth birthday.
Christian Aid in Sudan

Sudan is governed as an Arab-Islamic state from Khartoum in the north, while the largely rebel-controlled south is populated mainly by black Christians and Animists. Since independence in 1956, Sudan has had only one period free from civil war - following a peace agreement in 1972. Conflict broke out again in 1983. The principle causes of recurrent war in Sudan include the failure of successive central governments to acknowledge the country's ethnic diversity, to share out resources proportionately or to enable equal access to decision-making. Locally, various ethnic groups compete for limited land and water supplies.

Although most of the fighting is in the south, there is also conflict in north Sudan, between the National Democratic Alliance and the Government of Sudan. Fighting forces families to abandon their homes and farms, crops and animals are destroyed and people have difficulty getting access to food. The economy is in chaos as people cannot earn a living and there is little to buy. Since 1983 four and a half million, mainly southern Sudanese, have been forced to move from their homes either to north Sudan or abroad, and one and a half million people have been killed.

Christian Aid works in both north and south Sudan. In north Sudan Christian Aid works with 12 partners, including cluster groups of small Sudanese Non-Governmental Organisations. In south Sudan we work with 14 partners. Christian Aid's priorities for both programmes include the promotion of peace at all levels; strengthening our partners' capacities to manage their own affairs; supporting formal and civic education programmes so as to improve local participation in governance and civil society; and providing emergency relief.

  • Christian Aid has been supporting the New Sudan Council of Churches' (NSCC) involvement in bringing about peace in southern Sudan at a grass-roots level. In 1999 NSCC facilitated a Peace and Reconciliation Conference between the southern Dinka and Nuer tribes at Wunlit, Bahr El Ghazal. The outcome of the peace conference has led to a renewal of hope for peace after years of intertribal conflict and tension. Christian Aid has produced an exhibition on this peace initiative, called the People to People Process, which has been shown at various UK supporter events.

  • Christian Aid is beginning a new programme in south Sudan, where it will be assisting a group of partners with the rehabilitation and development of the legal structures in south Sudan. The aim is to strengthen the administration of justice and improve the environment for law and order. This programme has a strong emphasis on improving human rights and the empowerment of local people.
Christian Aid in Uganda

Since President Yoweri Museveni came to power in 1986, Uganda's economy and infrastructure have been rebuilt after the damage caused by a series of authoritarian regimes and violent conflict over the control of the country. However, the cost of reconstruction means that Uganda has a massive external debt, diverting essential resources away from education and health services. Economic reforms have also not been as successful as hoped, and poverty remains widespread.

However, Uganda was the first country to benefit from an enhanced debt relief package (the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, or HIPC) in May 2000. Over the next five years Uganda will receive US$40 million a year which will be channelled by the government through a Poverty Action Fund (PAF), set up to ensure that money is spent exclusively on health, education, water and sanitation, agricultural extension and rural roads.

Other major challenges facing Uganda include corruption; insecurity due to Uganda's military involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo and rebel activities in the north and west of Uganda; and the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS.

Christian Aid works with eight main partners in Uganda. Priorities include helping people to meet their short and long-term food needs and access sustainable livelihoods; community health care with a particular focus on HIV/AIDS; promoting rights, good governance and public accountability at local and national levels; and promoting peace and reconciliation.

  • In 2001 Uganda will be one of the focus countries for Christian Aid Week, the organisation's major annual fundraising event. The benefits of debt cancellation in Uganda will illustrate the impact of campaigning on this issue. Christian Aid's partner, the Uganda Debt Network (UDN) has worked with grassroots organisations to call for an end to debt servicing. It is now involved in measuring the level and impact of debt relief, and is the lead agency for the Anti-Corruption coalition of Uganda, made up of over sixty organisations.

  • In 2000 much of Uganda has been affected by droughts and a virulent disease affecting cassava, a staple crop in Uganda. Christian Aid has supported a training project run by the Matilong Youth Mixed Farming Organisation. Farmers have been trained as 'motivators', to work in villages, using new technologies and providing information and advice.
Great Lakes

The Great Lakes region is made up of the Central African countries of Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the landscape is dominated by many lakes and rivers. Conflict dominates the lives of the people of the Great Lakes Region of Africa (GLR). Christian Aid is aware that these conflicts have a regional dimension and are strongly interrelated. The organisation is therefore involved in a region-wide advocacy strategy for peace and rehabilitation in the GLR.

The strategy, involving other European ecumenical agencies as well as Dutch and British MPs (Members of Parliament), is a major effort in the field of advocacy. Christian Aid also views its programmes in Burundi, Rwanda and Eastern DRC from a regional perspective.

Advocacy work for the promotion of peace in the Great Lakes Region (GLR) over the past year has involved facilitating a British MPs' trip to the GLR at the end of July 2000. The visit aimed to encourage MPs to develop their understanding of the crisis in the region, to hear the views of different sectors of society, particularly Christian Aid partner organisations, and to raise the profile of the region in the UK parliament and in the media.

Christian Aid in Burundi

Burundi has suffered varying levels of political turmoil and violent conflict since 1993, when Burundi's first democratically-elected president from the Hutu ethnic group was assassinated.

In 1998 peace talks began between the Burundian government - predominantly made up of people from the Tutsi ethnic group - and the Hutu rebel movements. Julius Nyerere, former President of Tanzania, was the first facilitator of the peace talks, and Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, took over in mid-1999. In August 2000 a partial accord was signed between the government and some of the rebel groups. However, the accord is only the first stage in the peace process, which now needs to gain momentum at a grassroots level.

Christian Aid works with 10 partners in Burundi and also with partner consortiums. Our priorities for our programme include the promotion of peace and reconciliation; providing relief aid to those affected by the civil unrest; and reconstruction and rehabilitation of homes and livelihoods which have been destroyed in the fighting.

  • Christian Aid's main partner in Burundi is the National Council of Churches of Burundi (CNEB). The Council has five departments which run aid and development programmes; Women, Peace and Reconciliation, Emergency Assistance, Development and Youth, and the General Secretariat.

  • In January 2000 a Peace March was held in Bujumbura, Burundi's capital. Christian Aid supported the march by providing a grant to cover organisational costs. Food production in Burundi has been severely affected by the war. Towards the end of 2000 this situation was made worse by late rains and drought in large parts of the country. In response to the crisis Christian Aid and the Emergency Department of CNEB distributed pulse seeds and tools to 120,000 families.
Christian Aid in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo

Due to on-going conflict the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is one of the poorest countries in the world, despite its vast natural resources. The present conflict broke out in mid-1998, when the Rassemblement Conglais pour la Democratie (RCD), supported by Ugandan and Rwandan forces, launched a rebellion against the government. At present, the DRC is effectively split into two parts - eastern DRC, governed by the rebel movement, and western DRC under the control of the government.

Civilians, regardless of their ethnic origins, are the main victims of the Congolese war, and rural areas have been worst affected by armed raids and displacement.

Christian Aid has a Field Office in Bukavu, Eastern DRC, managed by the EAGL team, and one in Kinshasa, western DRC, managed by the West and Central Africa team. In Eastern DRC Christian Aid mainly works through a consortium of Congolese organisations.

Christian Aid also has a programme in Maneima, west of South Kivu, which involves nine partner organisations. Our priorities for our programme in eastern DRC include providing relief aid to communities affected by the fighting; the promotion of peace and reconciliation; and providing longer term support to rural communities.

  • Christian Aid's partners in eastern DRC have been involved in promoting peace in a variety of ways over the past year. Our partners' activities have involved a seminar on the abolition of torture; human rights education for judiciary and prison police; community reconciliation workshops coupled with a joint agricultural programme; and a workshop on traditional methods of conflict resolution organised by the Christian Aid Field Office.

  • In August 2000 Cath Greenless - a Christian Aid volunteer and keen walker - organised a sponsored walk in the Cumbrian Lake District of the UK, forging links with the Great Lakes region and raising £1,635.80 for Christian Aid's work there.
Christian Aid in Rwanda

In the 1990s Rwanda experienced a civil war, culminating in the genocide of 1994. An estimated 500,000 to 800,000 Rwandans - both Tutsis and moderate Hutus - were killed in a campaign orchestrated by extremists from the Hutu ethnic group. Others subsequently fled, mostly to neighbouring Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania, and many homes and livelihoods were destroyed. Due to the devastating civil war there are now some 220,000 orphans in Rwanda, and about one-third of households are headed by women.

Since the present government came to power in July 1994, putting an end to the genocide, nearly two million refugees have returned from Uganda and Burundi, including people who had fled the country in earlier conflicts.

Since the genocide, our work has focused on helping people to rebuild their lives and their country. As Rwanda becomes more stable our programme is moving more towards supporting our partners in long-term development and building up civil society to foster reconciliation.

In 2000, Christian Aid Week - the organisation's major annual fundraising event - focused on children in Nicaragua, India and Rwanda. In Rwanda, it highlighted the work of the Anglican Diocese of Kigeme's Social Transformation Programme. Activities included inviting four staff from partner organisations and one team member from Rwanda to give presentations on their work in schools and churches around the UK and Ireland. Christian Aid Week was celebrated in Rwanda for the first time ever too, with a special church service and a party where a raffle raised funds to support the schooling of 17 orphans for one year.

In 2000 Christian Aid and Irish sister-agency Trocaire held two workshops on the issue of civil society, attended by organisations including churches, church-related agencies, development organisations, human rights groups and trade unions. The workshops explored the meaning of 'civil society', and its role in advocating for poverty eradication. Rwandan civil society has an important role to play in maintaining peace in the country.