Ethics & Public Policy Center

The Travail of Africa


George Weigel

Distinguished Senior Fellow and William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies


War is tearing apart many of the peoples of Africa. In Liberia, for example, the path to reconciliation is proving hard to find. Despite the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States, this country is continuing to be a theater of unheard-of violence which spares neither the Church nor her personnel. It is becoming vital to put an end to these battles, to the ceaseless influx of armed men roaming the territory, as also to put an end to personal ambitions and rivalries. In 1992, the Yamoussoukro Accord had been considered a good basis for rapid peace-making: is it impossible to manage to put it into practice?

The sinking of Rwanda into a disguised form of war has not made it possible for the transition to democracy yet to achieve its objectives, while military expenditure is weighing heavily on an already precarious economy. It is now clear that in a multi racial nation a strategy of confrontation can never achieve peace.

The Sudan is still divided by a war which sets the peoples of the North and South against one another. I hope that the Sudanese, with the freedom to choose, will succeed in finding a constitutional formula which will make it possible to overcome contradictions and struggles, with proper respect paid to the specific characteristics of each community. I cannot fail to make my own the words of the local Bishops: “Peace without justice and respect for human rights cannot be achieved.” I entrust to God my plan to make a brief stop in Khartoum next month: it will give me the opportunity to take to all those who are suffering a message of reconciliation and hope, and above all it will be an opportunity for me to encourage the sons and daughters of the Church who, despite trials of every kind, are bravely continuing their journey of faith, hope and charity.

The humanitarian aid brought to Somalia by the international community has revealed to the eyes of the world the unbearable distress of a country long plunged into anarchy, to the point of compromising the very survival of its inhabitants. It must be stated that the claims of clans or individuals will not lead to peace. Let us then hope that international solidarity will intensify: it is the whole balance of the African continent which will thereby be consolidated.

In fact, Africa cannot be left to itself. On the one hand, urgent aid is essential in several areas of conflict or of natural disasters, and on the other hand the vast movement towards democracy which has spread there calls out for support. There too, the link between democracy, human rights and development is more clearly seen to be of prime importance. I express the hope that the countries of Africa which have happily taken the path towards political renewal will be able to continue their journey.

That path is of course strewn with hazards and slowed down by those who prefer to look backwards, but it is the only road leading to progress, since the aim of democratization is respectful service of the peoples and the choice which they have freely expressed, I am thinking in particular of Togo and Zaire, which are continuing to experience moments of grave political uncertainty. In the latter country especially, it would be desirable for the parties involved to make a courageous choice of the path of dialogue and of unselfish efforts to ensure that the transition period leads to a social plan that will respect the legitimate aspirations of the people. Quite clearly, this will only happen if there is an avoidance of intolerance and violence in the different regions of Zaire, which could drag this great country into an adventure with fatal consequences.

George Weigel is Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and holds EPPC’s William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.

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