AFRICA - THE CHALLENGE
Volume 4 1994
Africa presents the greatest challenges and opportunities for missionary service in the world today. The most intensive human suffering, the largest number of wars, the worst famines, the most severe persecutions, the sharpest confrontations between Christianity and Islam, communism and witchcraft, the greatest openness and hunger for the Gospel and the most promising potential for Biblical Reformation and revival - all of these aspects are concentrated in this vast and fascinating continent.
“Open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” John 4:35
In 1980 there were 20 countries in Africa which were “closed” for the proclamation of the Gospel and where Christians were persecuted. Now only 9 remain. There are many new - previously undreamed of - opportunities for evangelism in Mozambique, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Togo. One previously socialist country - Zambia - is currently undergoing a Christian Reformation.
No other continent has suffered such a series of natural, political and economic disasters over the past 34 years. Food production has sharply declined while the population has more than doubled. Famines, droughts, locusts, civil wars, pestilences, communism, corruption and mal-administration have plagued Africa since independence. The continent that could, potentially, feed the whole world has become dependent on international handouts, loans, transfers, relief aid and charity.
With 10% of the world’s population and 20% of the world’s land surface, Africa produces less than 1 .2% of the World’s Gross Domestic Product.
Over and above the billions in grants, gifts and assorted aid, Africa owes Western creditors over $300 Billion. The Continent’s debt burden amounts to 90% of its total Gross National Product. Excluding the Arab nations of North Africa, the debt of Sub-Saharan Africa is over 110% of its collective GNP.
Barely being able to pay off the interest on the debts, Africa spends four times more on debt servicing than on the provision of health care to its population of 650 million people. 32 of the world’s poorest 42 countries (that is those states with a per capita national income of less than US $500 per year) are in Africa. With the exception of South Africa the gross national product of Sub-Saharan Africa’s 480 million inhabitants is equal to the GNP of Belgium with its 10 million people. Hong Kong with its 5 million people exports more than all of Sub Saharan Africa.
The first country to be granted independence in West Africa was Ghana. Also known as the Gold Coast, Ghana had the continent’s best educated African bureaucracy. Ghana was the world’s largest cocoa producer. And its gold fields were among the most productive in the world. At independence, Britain left Ghana with over $1 Billion in the bank - the largest such reserve in Africa.
Yet Kwame Nkrumah (who equated himself to Christ and called himself “The Redeemer", “The Messiah” and “The Modern Moses”) succeeded in destroying this most promising country. Apeing the Roman emperors claim to divinity and infallibility, Nkrumah led his people - not into the promised freedom and prosperity - but into dictatorship, oppression and enforced worship of the president. Nkrumah’s interpretation of socialism was typical - that Ghana’s wealth be redistributed among his own family. Nkrumah’s Swiss bank balances and palaces grew as fast as Ghana was plundered into poverty. Economists calculate that Ghana needs 30 years of steady uninterrupted growth just to recover its pre-independence standard of living.
Corruption and Chaos
One of the largest countries in Africa - Zaire - is blessed with some of the richest mineral reserves in the world. Yet Zaire has managed to become the eighth poorest nation in the world. Real wages have plummeted to less than 10% of their pre-independence level. From being a food exporter, Zaire now has to import a high percentage of its food. 1/3rd of Zairian children die before reaching age five. The Dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, is one of the richest men in the world. Were he to use his personal wealth he could comfortably settle Zaire’s foreign debt of over $7 Billion.
Decades of socialist mismanagement and corruption have made their impact. Inflation is currently 13000%. The largest Zaire banknote is now 5 million! The copper mining industry - once the most productive in the world - has collapsed. Widespread starvation, malnutrition and disease is aggravated by chronic shortages of food and medicine.
In an explosive atmosphere of lawlessness and anarchy, widespread looting of shops by soldiers and civilians has devastated the economy. Hundreds died in the looting sprees and many newspapers, churches and politicians in opposition to the government have been attacked by the Presidential Guard. Arbitrary arrests, extra-judicial executions, torture, rape, looting and corruption have become the hallmarks of Mobutu’s troops.
In a government-inspired campaign of ethnic cleansing, 400 000 Kasaians were forcibly removed from Shaba province. A UN report (23/12/93) concluded that there had been no prosecution of any of those responsible for the looting and violence. “The virtual impunity apparently enjoyed by the security forces would seem to indicate that they commit human rights violations with the consent of the highest authorities.”
Observers are predicting that Zaire could become a Somalia and Liberia rolled into one, with vast potential for immense refugee flows, regional destabilisation and human suffering.
A US State Department report noted: “A pernicious pattern of government provoked violence against minority ethnic groups and a sharp escalation of human rights abuse.”
In their reaction to the planned elections one US official declared: “We would not want to lend assistance to elections that are a hoax or a sham, or rigged. “ That, of course, is understandable. Many Africans, however, are asking how it is that the Western governments gave such vast assistance to the blatantly fraudulent elections in Namibia, Angola and South Africa.
The Curse of Socialism
One incisive analysis of what’s behind Africa’s economic woes was written by a Black American economist, Walter Williams:
“In Ethiopia, Uganda, Mauritania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and the Sudan, there have been genocide programmes where millions have lost their lives or have been forced to flee their homeland. Plus, in Mauritania and the Sudan, there is slavery. If these countries had slaughtered as many elephants or zebras, America’s elite would have been up at the United Nations demanding that something be done. Our response to this barbarism differs little from one that says it’s okay if blacks brutalise other blacks, but we won’t tolerate violence from whites in South Africa; whites we hold to civilised standards of conduct.
“Africa’s problems are a result of the importations of half-baked ideas and policies that haven’t worked anywhere in the world. African elites, schooled at prestigious universities like the London School of Economics, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale, carried back the bankrupt idea that centralised economic planning would create economic growth. The other half of their idea was that if human rights stood in the way of planning, human rights would be brutally suppressed.
“Western handouts have not helped. Between 1955 and 1985, Third World countries have received $2.5 trillion in foreign aid. Most of it has gone for worthless projects and gave tyrants, who would have otherwise been over-thrown, the resources to stay in power. Virtually every south-of-the-Sahara country, except South Africa, is worse off now than it was before receiving independence and handouts. The ordinary citizen can boast of greater liberty under colonialism.”
By 1990 most of independent Africa was poorer than under the colonial system. In Zaire, within 30 years of independence, 85% of the 85 000 mile road network that was inherited from the Belgians had turned into bush.
Apocalypse in Algeria
In Algeria independence in 1962 was followed by the murder of up to 150 000 citizens accused of “collaborating” with the French. Many were used as human mine detectors to clear the mine fields, others were castrated, dragged behind trucks, fed to the dogs or burnt alive. Others still were made to dig their own graves then forced to swallow their military medals before being killed.
All these horrors were being inflicted while Algeria’s first president Ben Bella and the French president Gen de Gaulle were proclaiming “reconciliation” and “justice “. On 18 March 1962 de Gaulle declared “France and Algeria march together like brothers on the road to civilization!”
Yet the veil was somewhat lifted on this shameful and hypocritical chapter of history when Ben Bella himself summed up Algeria’s first two decades of independence. The net result, he declared, had been “totally negative”. Algeria was a “ruin”. Its agriculture had been “assassinated.” “We have nothing. No industry - only scrap iron.” Everything in Algeria was “corrupt from top to bottom “.
Unfortunately, Algeria had not kept its destruction to itself. Algeria became one of the main hosts and sponsors for international terrorist training camps. Its main exports for many years were assassinations, bombings and mass murder.
Jihad and Genocide
One of the greatest tragedies in Africa is in Sudan. Sudan is the largest country in Africa and it is engaged in the longest war in African history. One of the oldest Christian nations in the world, the south Sudanese or Nubians have been severely persecuted by the Muslims from the North for centuries.
From 1899 to 1955 Sudan experienced, for the first time in its history, peace and efficient, honest administration led by a few hundred dedicated British and Egyptian expatriates. At insignificant cost, successful economic schemes were launched transforming desert scrub into productive cotton fields.
However, since independence more than half the land once under cultivation reverted to scrub and there are now 5 million peasants herded into refugee camps. Millions more have been slaughtered in the Islamic Jihad or have succumbed to starvation and disease.
Since 1956 the successive Muslim governments of Sudan have waged a series of vicious wars against the non-Muslim black population in the South. The UN estimates that in 1993 alone excess (“abnormal”) deaths due to the war in south Sudan was 220 000.
For the last 12 years the government’s army and militia have subjected the Nuba Mountains area to a scorched earth campaign. The Muslim military units have looted or destroyed civilian grain supplies and cattle, bombed their villages, enslaved large numbers of people and engaged in arbitrary detention, torture and summary executions of Christians and Animist Blacks. Approximately 70% of Sudan’s 27 million population are Muslims, 10% are Animist and 20% are Christians.
A vicious war between the Muslim Arab North and the Christian and Animist Black South raged from 1955 to 1972. The 1972 Peace Agreement provided for a degree of autonomy for the South and recognition of their religious convictions. However, when Sudan was declared an Islamic Republic in 1983 and Islamic law was enforced upon the Christians in the South, the war erupted again. The entrenchment of even more extreme Islamists in Khartoum in 1991, led to an intensification of the already severe conflict. Sudan has become a base for Iranian revolutionaries to spread their brand of Islam by terrorism. In 1993 Sudan was placed on the US State Department’s list of terrorist states.
Sudan’s leaders proudly boast that they are the leaders of the Islamic Revolution in Africa.
The tragic cost of this Islamic Revolution for Sudan has so far been a devastated economy, a divided country and the deaths of over a million people.
A recent CSI (Christian Solidarity International) fact-finding mission to Sudan reported: “Christian believers are denied freedom of worship and are Islamised by force. Government of Sudan troops are burning churches and killing Christian leaders.“ They witnessed the aerial bombardment of villages by Sudanese government forces and saw the mass starvation caused by the Muslim scorched earth campaign.
They received sworn testimonies from eyewitnesses who had survived massacres, crucifixions, the burning of churches and harvests and enslavement. They documented cases of Muslims crucifying Christians and enslaving their children.
The CSI report concludes: “Our inescapable conclusion is that the government of Sudan is systematically destroying the fabric of society in the South and the Nuba Mountains by means of terror and hunger. In short, the government of Sudan is committing genocide.”
As one Sudanese Christian summed up their plight: “We are committed to Christianity and that is why we are suffering.”
Bishop Gassis of Sudan issued this message: “The silence of the leaders in Europe, USA and Canada and their procrastination - tomorrow and tomorrow - is helping the government of Sudan to eliminate its people through genocide and ethnic cleansing. The indifference and silence of Christian leaders is condoning the inhuman acts being perpetrated by the regime. Their silence is killing our people.”
The Hutu Holocaust
Unlike the genocide in Sudan, the holocaust in Rwanda has been widely reported. However, the anti-Christian aspect of the Hutu mobs seems to have been generally ignored. So too has the influence of witchcraft, Marxism and Islam in fermenting the Hutu hatred.
In Kibungo, 2 800 Tutsi believers gathered in a church were slaughtered by Hutu lnterahamwe mobs using grenades, machine guns, machetes and rockets. Only 40 members of the congregation escaped. At Cyahinda only 200 survived a massacre of 6 000 Tutsi who had taken refuge in a church. At Kibeho another 4 000 were massacred in a church. In a church in Mibirizi another 2 000 were killed. In a church in Shangi - 4 000 were murdered. At Rukara - 500 were killed in a church.
What has also now been discovered is that the massacres had been planned for months in advance. The Presidential Guard and other elements of the majority Hutu army had since 1992 been training members of the political party militias, the lnterahamwe (those who attack as one), how to kill large numbers of the minority Tutsi most efficiently. The lnterahamwe were part of the MRND party of the late president Juvenal Habyarimana. These militia were then armed by the Army.
Last year a private radio station, des Milles Collines, owned by members of Habyarimana’s inner circle, began a campaign of hate-filled propaganda against the minority Tutsi people. By the end of 1993 these broadcasts became more virulent and targeted specific individuals who were named as“traitors” and “enemies” who “deserved to die.” Throughout the weeks of mass murder the radio incited the Hutu listeners to genocide, encouraging them to “fill the half-empty graves” with Tutsi men, women and children. By the time the Tutsi dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front had chased the Hutu military and militia out of Rwanda, about 500 000 people had been killed. By then 2 million Hutu had fled the country, many in response to the radio urging all Hutu to escape.
Another shocking aspect of this time of madness was that smaller scale trial run genocidal campaigns were practised in Rwanda in October 1990, January-February 1991, March 1992 and December 1992 - February 1993. In those localised mass-murder sprees the Habyarimana MRND government and militia killed thousands of Tutsi and learned valuable lessons in how to organise an im nation-wide holocaust. The reactions (or the lack of them) of the international community to these atrocities were also carefully monitored.
When the Presidential Guard and the lnterahamwe launched their “final solution” on 6 April 1994 they concentrated on the capital, Kigali. Within a week 20 000 people had been murdered. The international community responded by evacuating foreign nationals. Encouraged by this retreat the Hutu leaders then expanded their genocide campaign throughout the country.
For the first two weeks of the slaughter the province of Butare remained calm and free from violence. The Hutu and Tutsi had lived peacefully together in Butare for centuries. Then on 19 April the Tutsi governor Jean-Baptiste Habyolimana, was removed and units of the Presidential Guard flew into the Butare airport. The massacres then began immediately. Huge pits were dug and filled with burning tyres. Thousands of people were then systematically thrown (generally alive) into the burning pits. The killings continued day and night for the next three days. A dense network of road blocks were set up to catch any fleeing survivors.
During this incredible campaign of cold blooded mass murder the international community failed to act decisively. Had the 2500 UN troops in Rwanda taken prompt and firm action to suppress the initial violence, the entire holocaust might have been prevented. Instead, on April 21, the UN Security Council refused to admit that genocide against the Tutsi was taking place. They voted instead to withdraw the majority of the UNAMIR force.
By mid-May the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights undertook a fact-finding tour of Rwanda and Burundi. In his report he condemned the violence but failed to identify either the culprits or the primary victims. Neither did he describe the killings as genocide. At a June 22 Security Council meeting the UN was still unwilling to recognise what the Hutu MRND government was guilty of. Instead they supported the unilateral intervention by France into Rwanda.
For many years, France supported the Habyarimana regime. French troops even assisted the Rwandan army in their campaigns against the RPF in October 1990 and again in February 1993. France continued to strongly support the Rwandan army through the genocide of April/May 1994. Many Rwandans see the French intervention as a rescue mission for the Rwandan army and MRND militia. In effect, the French army has actually been protecting the killers from receiving justice at the hands of the RPF.
As one relief aid worker in Zaire has said:
“All the criminals are now in these refugee camps. Casting these refugees purely as victims reflects a lack of moral memory. These are the people responsible for most of the murders.” Even in the refugee camps the hatred continues with Hutu mobs attacking Tutsis and beating them to death.
“Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no
fear of God before their eyes.” Romans 3:14-18
The civil war in Angola which followed the fraudulent and chaotic elections of 1992 continues unabated. In fact more people - over 500 000 have died since the UN monitored election than in the 16 years of war that it was meant to end. And civilians continue to be the main casualties in the conflict.
Human Rights Watch reports that both sides have engaged in indiscriminate shelling - by mortars, rockets and artillery - of towns. In particular the report records many incidents of MPLA government aircraft bombing or rocketing civilian neighbourhoods, churches and hospitals - especially in Huambo. The international sanctions against Free Angola is also causing immense suffering and many unnecessary deaths. The suspension of relief flights into the 80% of the country controlled by the anti-communist UNITA is depriving millions of people of the medicines and assistance they need.
The Angolan government has now become the largest purchaser of weapons in Africa spending $3 Billion on weapons just in the last 18 months. Russia, Bulgaria, Brazil, Spain, Portugal and Israel have become Angola’s main source of weapons. Meanwhile the majority of the people of Angola are being blockaded and boycotted - even for medicines - by the entire world community!
Please pray for the Frontline Mission teams who are seeking to serve the suffering and the survivors in this tragic conflict. They are delivering Bibles, medicines, and Boxes With Love relief packages and conducting leadership training seminars in desperately needy areas of Angola.
“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into His harvest fields.'" Matthew 9:36-38
A Continent in Conflict
Africa has experienced over 100 violent changes of national leadership since 1952. This has included over 80 coups, revolutions and civil wars and 25 assassinations of national leaders. Every year since 1963 (except for 1988) has seen one or more violent overthrow of governments in Africa. Uganda has experienced 6 revolutions, while Sudan, Nigeria, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Benin have each had 5 military coup d’etats.
Aside from wars and revolutions there is one thing Africa has never lacked: paper constitutions. It is ironic that Britain - which has never had a written constitution - produced more than 500 for its colonial territories between 1920 and 1975. Most of these constitutions lasted only a few years, some a few months. Some never were applied at all. None of these constitutions survived to 1980.
When African nations received independence most thought that they were going to receive justice. And wealth. All they got, however, was the right to vote for politicians - and normally only once at that.
Africa has only 6 free-enterprise leaning multi-party democracies. There are however 48 one-party states or dictatorships. Why has democracy so catastrophically failed in Africa?
In the absence of the necessary economic freedom, cultural conditions and Christian foundations, one man - one vote inevitably leads to corruption, socialist confiscation, oppression, bloodshed and tyranny.
Freedom requires a Christian consensus, a culture of free debate, independent civic activity, universal literacy, a free press, a free market economy, an independent judiciary and a tradition of tolerating dissent.
The root cause of the social, economic and political crisis in Africa is the spiritual crisis. As Patrick Henry declared:
“Bad men cannot make good citizens. It is impossible that a nation of infidels or idolaters should be a nation of free men. It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. A vitiated state of morals, a corrupted public conscience are incompatible with freedom.” Peace and prosperity do not grow out of paganism.
The great Russian novelist, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, sounded the warning most eloquently when he stated: “The strength or weakness of a society depends more on the level of its spiritual life than on its level of industrialisation. Neither a market economy nor even general abundance constitutes the crowning achievement of human life. If a nation’s spiritual energies have been exhausted, it will not be saved from collapse by the most perfect government structure or by any industrial development. A tree with a rotten core cannot stand.”
The foundations for a free society are laid in characters, minds and lives changed by the Grace of God. In order to be successful, a society needs to be made up of honest citizens who will not steal, diligent people who are hard working and productive, compassionate families who are concerned for their neighbours, and responsible workers who will fulfil their obligations and be faithful stewards of public resources. For nations to be strong their families need to be strong. For governments to be good the churches need to be faithful.
Along with the wars, famines and epidemic diseases, Africa is now also facing other threats. Drugs and previously illegal pornography are flooding into many parts of Africa and there are renewed pressures to legalise abortion. If one only focused on the seemingly endless tide of tragic and traumatic reports one would be tempted to despair. Yet there is another side to the situation.
Africa is a continent in conflict. The forces of Islam, communism and witchcraft are engaged in a life and death struggle against the church of Christ. At stake is the soul of a continent. And the Church of Christ is growing in numbers and influence. At the beginning of the century there were 10 million Christians in Africa (including the 3 million Orthodox believers in Ethiopia) out of a total population of 108 million people. By 1994 this had grown to 290 million out of a total population of 650 million. Every year the church in Africa increases with a net gain of over 6 million new members.
Admittedly these statistics can be misleading because much of the impressive church growth in Africa represents numbers only. Nominalism and syncretism is prevalent. In many churches, most of the members are still bound by witchcraft. The peer pressure, family intimidation and social compulsion have persuaded most church members to quietly give in and mix pagan fetishes, ancestor worship, and occultic practises with Christianity. This presents a clear challenge for Bible teaching and the preaching of an uncompromising message of repentance.
It is for this reason that Frontline Fellowship is dedicated to working for Biblical reformation and praying for spiritual revival in Africa. Each year Frontline Fellowship missionaries conduct 70 - 80 leadership training courses such as the Discipleship Training Course, Reformation and Revival Seminar and the Bibilcal Worldview Seminar.
Through literature and leadership training courses, Frontline Fellowship is reaching and teaching literally thousands of pastors, elders and evangelists every year. We believe that Africa is ripe for revival and reformation. No other continent offers so many challenges and opportunities as Africa.
“Make disciples of all nations.., teaching them to obey everjthing I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20
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