Journey in Southern Africa, June 2015

Sister Gisela Happ,
Secretary General of the AIM


ElephantsIn June 2015 Sister Gisela Happ and Brother Ansgar Stüfe of the International Team visited a number of communities in Uganda and Namibia. Sister Gisela here describes the context in which these communities live.

1. Uganda – formally the Republic of Uganda - is a landlocked country of East Africa, bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by Southern Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on the south-west by Ruanda and on the south by Tanzania. After Ethiopia, Uganda is the second most populous landlocked country in the world. The northern part of the country includes an important part of Lake Victoria, shared with Kenya and Tanzania; the country is situated in the region of the African Great Lakes. Uganda is also in the Nile basin. It has a varied climate, but mostly equatorial.

Since 1894 the country has been a British protectorate. It won its independence from Great Britain on 9th October 1962. Since then it has had a period of intermittent conflict, and recently a long civil war against the Resistance Army of the Lord, which has cost tens of thousands of lives and resulted in the displacement of more than a million people.

The official languages are Swahili and English. Luganda, a central language, is also much spoken in the country, and several other languages are in use, such as Runyoro, Runyankole Rukiga, Langi and others.

The current President of Uganda is Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who came to power in January 1986 after a long period of guerrilla warfare, lasting six years. The economy of Uganda generates export: coffee ($466.6 million per annum), tea ($136.2 million) and other products. The country has undertaken economic reform and robust growth, 7% of growth in 2008 despite the world slump and regional instability. Uganda has important natural resources: fertile soil, regular and important rainfall, deposits of copper and cobalt, and undeveloped reserves of crude oil and natural gas. Although agriculture represented 56% of the economy in 1986, with coffee as the principal export, this has now been surpassed by the service industry, which in 2007 represented 52% of the GNP. In the 1950s the British colonial government encouraged some 500,000 farmers to join co-operatives. Since 1986 the government (with the support of foreign nations and international organisations) has worked to revive the economy which had been devastated during the regime of Idi Amin and the civil war.

Conspectus of the economic situation

Uganda has been among the first sub-Saharan countries to  embrace liberalisation of market economy (since the end of the 1980s). The growth of raw natural production has averaged 7% in the 1990s and 2000s, but since 2006 the country has suffered from the world economic instability; the growth of its GNP has slowed and has averaged 5%.

Recent statistics of national accounts for 2009-2010 and the 2014 census of population give grounds for thinking that the Ugandan economy exceeds by 20% what had been previously calculated. To remedy this a major programme of public investment should stimulate growth, but at present private investment remains moderate. The economy grew 5.6% in 2014/5 and continues to grow, for investment in crude oil and programmes for the construction of major infrastructures should assist this. The agricultural sector, which employs the major part of the active population, is, on the contrary, hardly capable of high levels of growth, because of restricted in-put, lack of irrigation systems and low level of mechanisation.

Challenges for development

Uganda has made important progress towards reaching the Millenary Aims of Development (MAD), especially in the war on poverty, equality of sexes and feminine autonomy, reduction of infant mortality, in order to guarantee a durable environment and develop a world partnership for development. The two decades of strong growth and the reduction of poverty (56% in 1992/3, 19.7% in 2012/3) exceed the 2015 aims of the MAD to reduce poverty by half. Nevertheless Uganda remains a very poor country.

Although the level of poverty has been reduced, the absolute number of poor people has diminished relatively little because of a strong demographic development and the doubling of the population
since 1990. In addition, the poverty threshold is low and many remain poor or exposed to poverty. Inequality, equally high according to international norms, could compromise levels already achieved in growth and in the reduction of poverty.

This is a challenge to accelerate progress towards a reasonable revenue and the promotion of shared prosperity: to increase productivity in sectors which employ the majority of workers or which lead to the displacement of persons who desert unproductive activities.

According to the census of 2002 Christians comprise about 84% of the population. The Catholic Church has the largest number of faithful (41.9%), followed by the Anglican Church of Uganda (35.9%). Adventists and evangelical Protestant Churches, etc, form the rest of the Christian population. There is also a small Orthodox community. Presbyterians are becoming more and more numerous: the Presbyterian Church of Uganda, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Uganda, the Free Evangelical Church of Uganda, with certain affiliated congregations. After this comes Islam, with 12% of Muslims among the population of Uganda, principally Sunni. There is also a Shiite minority (7%), Ahmadiyya (4%) and other Muslim groups. The rest of the population keep to traditional religion (1%), Bahai (0.1%) and other non-Christian religions (0.7%); 0.9% have no religion. The regions in the north and west of the Nile have Catholic majorities, while the district of Iganga, in the north-west of Uganda, has the largest number of Muslims. In the rest of the country religions are mixed.


In Uganda there exist:

TororoHoOne male Benedictine monastery, the monastery of Christ the King at Tororo, of the Congregation of St Ottilien, founded in 1984, a priory in 1993 - 14 professed monks, 5 temporary professed, 4  novices.


Four female Benedictine monasteries:

TororoFeBenedictines of the Blessed Sacrament at Tororo, founded in 1960 by the Netherland Federation of Benedictine Religious of the Blessed Sacrament at  Breda in the Netherlands. Autonomous in 1966 – diocesan jurisdiction – 16 professed, 10 temporary professed, 3 novices.

The community makes hosts and liturgical vestments, raises cows, rabbits, pigs, goats. It has a guesthouse and a small shop of religious objects. The sisters also cultivate a fertile terrain a few  kilometres away from the priory.


JinjaMissionary Benedictines at Jinja (Tutzing Sisters), founded in 1993 as a mission house – 8 professed, 7 temporary professed, 3 novices.

Jinja is located on the northern shore of Lake Victoria. The sisters have built a dispensary, a maternity unit, a primary school. The fertile soil and the moderate climate allow the sisters to grow fruit and vegetables. They also have some cattle. ‘The dispensary run by the Sisters has received an official recognition award from the government authorities. 5 members of the community including the administrator, together with 30 lay staff, deal with some 200 outpatients each day. Maternity is one of the main areas in which the clinic works. The grade school and kindergarten, where 4 Sisters work, of whom one is the head teacher, have a total of 700 children up to the age of 13. The school also provides boarding facilities for 100 students, particularly orphans and victims of abuse and social deprivation.’ (Mark Butlin in Bulletin 105, 2013).


Sisters of the Congregation Grace and Compassion (of the Congregation of Irundu) at Jinja, founded in 2003 – 7  professed, 7 temporary professed, 2 novices.


AruaSisters of Perpetual Adoration of the Holy Trinity, at Arua.

These are cloistered contemplatives, a congregation founded in 1960 by the first bishop of the diocese of Arua and Mother Anastasia Fumagalli. After a time the sisters felt the need to be
integrated into a monastic spirituality, and adopted the Rule of St Benedict as a guide. So they joined the Benedictines of the Blessed Sacrament. At present there are 19 professed sisters in the monastery. The monastery possesses 200 hectares of cultivable land and some cattle. They have several income-generating activities, vestment-making, especially clerical robes, a pastry-shop, making hosts and candles. This gives them a very large client-base, including Congo-Kinshasa (cf. art. cit.).


Two Cistercian monasteries (OCSO):

VictoriaVictoria (male), founded in 1956 by Tilburg (Netherlands); the community moved from Kenya in 2008 after the troubles in Kenya. The community comprises 19 monks, more Kenyans than Ugandans. It still has no proper building for the monastery, but lodges in the building intended as a guesthouse. It breeds pigs and has a poultry-farm. The Bishop of Masaka has generously offered them 200 hectares of land, but it is marshy and would need much work to bring it under cultivation (cf. art.cit.).


ButendeButende (female), founded in 1964 by Berkel-Enschot (Netherlands). In 2014 the community celebrated its golden jubilee. 28 sisters, of whom one is from the Netherlands. The guesthouse has 35 rooms and is a good source of revenue. The sisters have milking-cows, pigs and a poultry-farm, and grow a wide variety of vegetables. They produce a face cream based on aloe vera and sew soutanes for three seminaries. The community also has a shop (cf. art.cit.).


2. Namibia  - officially the Republic of Namibia, formerly German South-West Africa, a country of southern Africa bordered on the west by the Atlantic ocean. It has frontiers with Zambia and Angola in the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. Although it has no frontier with Zimbabwe, less than 200 metres separate the two countries at their closest point on the Zambesi. It became independent from South Africa in 1990 after the war of independence. The capital and the largest city is Windhoek. Namibia is a member of the UN and of the Community of Development of Southern Africa, of the African Union and of the Commonwealth.

The arid territory of Namibia has been inhabited from ancient times by the San, the Damara and the Nama tribes, and since the fourteenth century by Bantus who emigrated at the time of Bantu expansion. The majority of the territory became a German Imperial Protectorate in 1884, and so remained till the end of the First World War. In 1924 the League of Nations placed the country under the mandate of South Africa, which imposed its own laws on the country, and from 1948 also apartheid. The port of Walvis Bay and the coastal Penguin Islands were annexed by the Cape Colony under the British Crown in 1878, and became part of the new South Africa created in 1910. Uprisings and the insistence of the African leaders led the United Nations to take over direct responsibility. The Organisation of the People of South-West Africa (SWAPO) became the official representative of the Namibian people in 1985. In 1990 it obtained its independence from South Africa, apart from Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands, which remained under South African control till 1994.

NamibietrioNamibia has a population of 2.1 million; it is a stable, multipartite parliamentary democracy. Agriculture, tourism and the mining industry (including diamonds, uranium, gold, silver and base metals) form the basis of its economy. Including the arid desert of Namib, it is one of the least densely populated countries of the world, but it has inherited an infrastructure which functions well, and market economy, rich natural resources, and a relatively strong public administration. The country inherited also extreme social and economic inequalities, but they are disappearing from Namibia, though it does still have a highly dualist society.

In addition Namibia is subject to environmental shocks in both short and long terms, and its main source of growth depend on a fragile ecosystem. These factors make job-creation difficult and poverty and inequality are much too pronounced.

Namibia has made great strides and faced many challenges of development. Access to basic education, elementary health-care and drinking water are high and increasing. A steady political leadership contributes to putting equality of the sexes on a firm basis. In its independence Namibia has been a leader in the domain of conservancy of natural resources, passing from 15% in 1990 to 43% in 2012. Its 1,570km of coast are under a statute of protection. Namibia maintains programmes for the protection of the aged, the handicapped, orphans, vulnerable children and veterans, as well as national programmes which pay for maternity leave, sick leave and medical insurance of workers.

Nevertheless considerable challenges remain. Although the revenue per inhabitant of $5,840 (Atlas method in 2013) places Namibia about the World Bank average, this picture is deceptive, since the sharing of revenues is among the most unequal in the world, with a Gini coefficient estimated at 0,5971 in 2009/10. Poverty is a serious problem, even though the situation has improved in the last decade. In 2009 21% of individuals fed on less than $1.25 per day, though in 1993 the figure was 49%. Unemployment has been very high for decades, and is estimated as 29.6% in 2013 (figure from the Agency for Statistics in Namibia). Namibia is classed 127th among 187 countries studied in the Report of Human Development of 2014. Although Namibia is well placed to meet the Millenary Aims of Development on education, environment and sexual equality, the gravity of the epidemic of sida has cancelled out the efforts to meet its targets relating to infant mortality, maternal health and the struggle against HIV and marsh-fever.

Challenges for development

Although Namibia has experienced economic growth and despite a prudent macro-economic policy, there has not been sufficient job-creation to overcome the inequality of revenues, especially in the countryside, nor to raise the standard of living of the poor population in rural or urban zones. Growing industries are creating few new jobs. At the same time there is a dearth of skilled labour earning decent salaries and wages; this results generally in bad quality of education and a restrictive immigration policy. All the same, despite a drop in the level of infection of HIV (which for the age-group 15-49 was 14.3% in 2013, compared with 16.1% in 2000), new infections of NIV remain a major pre-occupation. Equally, Namibia has one of the highest incidents of tuberculosis in the world: 655 for 100,000 inhabitants. Malnutrition of children is widespread in Namibia. Stunted growth is rampant: 24% among under-fives, the worst being among poor families.

The country will soon experience a grave crisis. The demand for electricity is growing rapidly, provoked by urbanisation and the development of the mining sector. Long-term agreements to buy cheap electricity are due to run out, but the country has built no important modern power-station since independence. The price of electricity has doubled in these last years. All the major sources of revenue (mining, tourism, cattle and fishing) are prone to economic instability and ecological changes. Foreign demand in each of these branches is cyclic, seasonal or unpredictable, with serious consequences for employment, revenue and public receipts. All these sectors are at risk from climate change and political decisions of other countries about fighting climate change. The country has undergone serious flooding in the last three rainy seasons which follow the annual dry season.

At last the government has expressed unease that its financial situation is faced by long term risk in the near future. Apart from the factors already mentioned, the sums received by Namibia from the Customs Union of Southern Africa – sums which represent nearly 35% of public income and more the 13% of the GNP of Namibia in 2014/5 - are due to diminish in the course of time. Personal expenditure ought to reach 16% of the GNP in the coming year. The Ministry of Finance is taking measures to limit the increase of personal spending and increase revenues, notably by increasing the tax on the mining industry and several financial niches.

In July 2012 the 4th National Development Plan was launched; it will determine policies until 2017. Economic growth, job-creation and the equalisation of salaries are three of its major objectives. It proposes to achieve these objectives by an industrial policy aimed at increasing tourism, the balance of regional commerce, agriculture and manufacture (principally in the use of raw materials). The reduction of extreme poverty, the improvement of education and health, infrastructure and the environment of enterprises are considered in the Economic Plan as ‘basic facilitators’ supporting economic priorities. It offers ten ‘results to achieve’, together with a measure to show whether they have been achieved and general strategies to achieve them – all under the control of the ministry. This selective choice contrasts sharply with previous National Development Plans, whose programme touched the whole of public policy.

Monasteries of Namibia

NubuamisecolePriory of St Benedict at Windhoek (Tutzing Sisters)
In 1920 Benedictine missionary sisters (previously Missionaries of East Africa) arrived at Windhoek – erected as a priory in 1923.
In 1999 58 Namibian Benedictine sisters of Oshikuku were integrated into the priory.
In 2000 Transfer of the priory of Nubuamis to Windhoek. In December 2015 the priory celebrated its 80 years in Namibia. There are 77 solemnly professed, 26 temporary professed, 13 novices, a total of 116 sisters, spread over 10 communities.
The sisters installed at Nubuamis have created a maternity school.

OshikukuchurchBenedictine Sisters at Oshikuku, a congregation founded in 1932 in the Vicariate Apostolic of Windheok for native women – priory in 1937 – constitutions approved the same year and renewed in 1957 and 1981 – diocesan sisters – 100 solemnly professed, 20 temporary professed, 17 novices – 137 sisters, spread over 17 communities.
The sisters are engaged in various apostolates: various teaching enterprises, health, catechism, care of orphans and vulnerable children. They have founded a school which offers different activities, sewing, cooking, IT, gardening.

Benedictine monks of Waldfrieden /Omaruru – founded in 1998 by Inkamana (South Africa).