Report from the African Green Congress of 2002
Dakar, Senegal – March 2002
By Annie Goeke
Among all continents, Africa presents some of the greatest challenges to Green organizing vast distances, non-existent infrastructure, colonial histories, great poverty and a deficit of democracy. For these reasons, Africa also presents some of the greatest opportunities for Greens, to be among those who help to address those same problems.
With this in mind, Greens from seventeen African countries met in Dakar,Senegal March 2002, for the first-ever Congress of the African Federation of Green Parties.
Hopes for the Dakar Congress grew out of the positive energy of the 1998 Euro/African Green Party Conference in Nairobi, Kenya. There African political parties and NGO’s representing 23 different countries with over 200 delegates from all over the world met together to lay the foundation for the formation of an African Federation of Green Parties took place. At that time, debates took place around desertification,climate change, globalization, democracy, debt, food security, fishing agreements and the Lome Convention (a forum for North-South cooperation). Expectations were raised about the potential for further intra-African coordination, as well as between African, European andother international Greens.
The political objectives for the Dakar Congress were: 1) to enlarge the Federation with new national parties as members, 2) to define a better way to finance the Federation, especially moving away from relying so heavily on outside funds, 3) to elect a new Executive Committee reflecting a more geographical balance of Africa and 4) to prepare an African Green strategy for the World Summit in Johannesburg in August 2002.
Results of Dakar were mixed. On the positive side,
1) The Federation integrated ten new parties representing South Africa, Kenya, two parties from the Congo, Central Africa Republic, Cameroon and Morocco.
2) New statutes were created and a provisional budget with a system to finance was set up.
3) Discussions took place towards a common position for the WSSD in Johannesburg on climate change, desertification, and deforestation. A follow-up meeting of African Greens is scheduled in Johannesburg in conjunction with meetings hosted by the Green Group in the European Parliament.
However, the Congress also faced some major setbacks.
4) On the matter of choosing the new Executive Committee, the delegates were unable to about the process and thus failed to achieve a mutually agreed-upon result. The proceedings were divisive, including between the French and English-speaking areas of Africa. Consequently, a number of important Federation members resigned or filed a formal complaint about the process. Subsequent to Dakar, the Greens of Mail (Parti Ecologiste pour l’Integration) put out a call for a special meeting, saying “we must do everything in our power to safeguard the unity of the Federation and to avoid a situation where Greens Parties may re-align themselves by language, region, tendency, political affinity and parallel interests, out of more or less justified frustration. Moreover we can put the time which will elapse between today and the holding of the proposed Extraordinary Congress to good use, persuading our brothers and sisters in East Africa and South Africa to nominate as candidates at all levels.”
There certainly is an understanding that it will take time for the African Federation to reinforce itself to face its unique challenges. But there was disappointment that the Federation hadn’t further developed in the past four years, especially by the international Green counterparts who have been supporters financially for most of their events. These have included the French Greens, the Greens in the European Parliament, the European Federation of Green Parties, the Mexican Greens, and non-profit organizations such as the Heinrich Böll Foundation (Germany) and the Green Forum (Sweden).
There is now discussion among these groups and others about where is the best place to place international Green resources in Africa to help still struggling national parties, or to promote pan-African and Global Green coordination. Scattered across the large continent, African Greens began to first form Green political parties in the early 1990s. In 1994, African Greens began to meet as a loose African Green Coordination, beginning in Niamey, Niger (May 1994) and then Ouagadougou, Burkino Faso (October 1996). U.S. Greens have been represented throughout this process, led by Annie Goeke, who has taken the lead on African-U.S. Green relations. She was joined in Dakar by former Pennsylvania Green Congressional candidate Alanna Hartzok, who along with Goeke were involved in the pre-Congress planning and organized a fruitful educational seminar entitled Democracy, Earth Rights and Ecotaxation.
Also in Dakar representing the Federation of Green Parties of the Americas were Federation Secretary General Jorge González Torres and Second Secretary General Natalia Escudero, both from the Partido Verde Ecologísta de México. The presence of Greens from the U.S. and México was highly valued by African Green delegates, with desires expressed on all sides for continuing the strengthening of ties.
Outside of the business meeting portion of the Dakar Congress, one of the was hearing from the three Federal Green Ministers: Bubacar Rachid Djalo, Minister of State (La Ligua Guineese de Proteccao Ecolologica, Guinee Bissau), Louis Sylvio Michel, Minister for Fisheries (Les Verts-Fraternels , Republic of Mauritius) and Ram Ouedraogo x Minister of State, responsible for National Reconciliation and Political Reforms (Les Verts du Burkina, Burkina Faso). The Ministers spoke about what they saw as the hopeful beginnings of an African political movement based upon good governance, respect for human rights, ensuring popular, broad-based and equitable civic participation and creating the mechanisms for the protection of the environment.
Soon after the Congress, Ouedraogo became the first green elected member of the Burkina Faso Parliament. The Green party in Burkina Faso was created in 1991 and Ram Ouedraogo is the partyxs founding president. In 1998, While all opposition political parties boycotted the 1998 presidential election, the Greens opted to participate. Ouedraogo became the first Green to run for an African presidential election and participated in the nationally televised debate with the outgoing president Mr. Compaoré. This gained the Green Party a high profile for its policies.
Ouedraogo called for a change of leadership from Compaoré and stressed such basic needs as drinking water supplies. He spoke of ways to fight ‘abusive’ logging and desertification. He admonished the government for having destroyed entire spans of forest and constructed ranches for livestock, “trends”, he said, that have “stripped farmers of their land and transformed the area into an African Wild West”. He stated that if he were elected, he would plant four trees for every one that’s cut down because of the depletion of forests continues. Ouedraogo received 6.6% in 1999, Compaoré offered him the post of Minister of State, responsible for National Reconciliation and political Reforms. Ram accepted the challenge and from 1999 to 2002 successfully fulfilled his mission of advancing political reform, lead to an agreement by all political parties on the preconditions for the opposition parties to participate in the legislative elections in May 2002.
Consequently, all political parties took part and made significant gains. Out of 111 parliamentary seats, 57 were gained by Compaoré’s party (CDP) while 54 went to opposition parties, with Ram Ouedraogo gaining one seat for the Green Party.