Zanzibar politics: You win, we rule

What ZANU-PF has been doing in Zimbabwe, CCM is doing in Zanzibar. And if anything, Zanzibar is deliberately turning into an ugly face of Tanzania, characterized by the politics of terror, outright vote rigging, and police and military intervention in elections since 1995.

Proud of systematic vote rigging and shamelessly vowing to ‘never let’ the opposition Civic United Front (CUF) rule Zanzibar – by all means – some ruling party stalwarts claim they operate by a silent formula: ‘you win, we rule.

This formula is working to the detriment of Zanzibar. In 1995 the Spice Islands almost became ungovernable after election results gave CCM incumbent Salim Amour 50.24 % of votes against Seif Sharrif Hamad’s 49.76 %.

Five years later, in January 2001, the government deployed and ordered armed police to shoot and kill protesters following another obviously rigged election, whereby the government, on the brink of defeat, ordered police to confiscate ballot boxes from returning officers. They hid them for two weeks, after which the Zanzibar Electoral Commission released results giving the ruling party contender, Amani Karume, a 67.04 % victory. Dozens of rioting civilians died for opposing this government’s winning strategy.

And in 2005, the government resorted to the deployment of the army, which complemented the presence and operation of police forces on every polling station to exert government brutality and abuse of power, in a situation that looked like everything belonged to the government and ruling party: the media, electoral commission, police, army and, of course, the election itself.

Nevertheless, so strong was the opposition that, even with such tactics and resources, the incumbent, Amani Karume, was declared winner by a slim margin of 53.18% against Seif Shariff Hamad’s 46.07%. What if there had been a fair process and share of resources, plus access to voters? What if police and army were not involved in voting illegally and terrorizing voters? What if there were no ineligible, sponsored, mercenary voters from other parts of the country? What if there was no media muzzling by the government? What if there was no ‘you win, we rule’ scheme?

No wonder, then, seeking to temporarily quell local frustrations and appease the international community, the ruling party resorted to engaging the opposition in mwafaka (accord) to address the ‘problems’ of Zanzibar, the cause of which is known to both parties. But, after three consecutive years of negotiation, they have not been able to reach a sound, workable agreement.

Word is out, however, that given the ever rising unpopularity of the ruling party, and based on political episodes in Kenya and Zimbabwe, a power-sharing agreement for a coalition government in Zanzibar is a next possibility after 2010 elections, because the ruling party is pretty sure that the ‘you win, we rule’ tricks cannot go on forever.

With no incumbent contender in 2010, the level of opposition and vote rigging might be on a different scale, but all indications show the ruling party is already involved in a similar scheme, 14 months before next elections.

Interestingly, the government is not waiting for surprises. It is currently tampering with the voters register in Pemba – the opposition stronghold – causing fresh protests from angry civilians, offices being set alight and police opening fire at protestors. Once again, a police state; another Zimbabwe!

The reaction from Tanzania’s main funders (34 percent of the budget), the European Union and the US government, calling for correction of the flaws in the voter registration process, has received unfriendly counter-reactions from the ruling party’s youth wing and the Zanzibar government, but the message is clear. Once again, Zanzibar is involved in the politics of confusion, whereby, when it is in the interested of the ruling party, laws do override the constitution.

The road towards 2010 general elections is full of bumps to frustrate a smooth ride to Zanzibar’s free and fair elections.  And if anyone must do something to save Zanzibar, this is the time to act. It is not enough for EU and US to show concerns in written statements, and yet fund the same process with the hope of sending election observers in October 2010 to find out if the elections will be ‘free and fair.’

Rigging has already started, and it should be put to a halt by concerted efforts of good citizens, morally responsible leaders in Tanzania, as well as its regional and international friends – including donors.

Even with the Zanzibar government and the ruling party lambasting the EU and US for meddling into a sovereign country’s internal affairs – the same excuses used by President Robert Mugabe to defend his political miscalculations in Zimbabwe – something needs to be done now, to save Zanzibar from becoming another Zimbabwe.

As it stands, Zanzibar is deliberately deteriorating into a country where voters have no rights because, after all, it is not their vote that counts, but a decision by those who manage the electoral process – those who wait for others to win, for them to rule.


Power-sharing regimes: Who wants them?

FIRST it was Kenya, then Zimbabwe. Now, it is Madagascar’s turn on the road to the demise of, and conspiracy against, democracy in Africa. Surprisingly, African politicians – more of rulers than leaders – are the conspirators plunging the continent in utter chaos by denying winners and losers their due.

In ordinary democracy, especially when it comes to elections, we expect to have winners and losers; the ruling party and the opposition. And no politician or political party, however popular, can enjoy support of all citizens. Above all, a healthy democracy gives room to opposition and challenge.

But a trend is emerging in African politics with incumbent presidents losing elections, yet clinging to power by all means and calling for power-sharing schemes with the opposition; and in so doing denying voters their only chance of making changes through a ballot box; and once more frustrating any reforms that would have come with a peaceful change of regime.

Kenyans and Zimbabweans did not get what they voted for in their last general elections. And they are still enduring the same misery they wanted to get rid of when they were chanting ‘change, change’ during campaign.

Of course, ultimately, the only change made possible was the opposition being part of the government in a coalition meant to immediately avert further bloodshed, deaths and displacements; and, in the long-run, to push a reform agenda within the government of national unity in Kenya.

But what has become of it after a year or so, is what critics refer to as a government of national impunity! And it took US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during her recent visit to Kenya, to bring to the attention of President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga the frustration of the Obama administration at  their failure to show Kenyans and the world that reforms were taking shape.

Among other things, she particularly wanted them to save their country from impunity by acting on an extra judicial killings report by Prof Phillip Alston, calling for the sacking of Police Commissioner Hussein Ali and Attorney General Amos Wako.

In Zimbabwe, the displacement of people started even before the elections, and has gone on even now with the coalition government in place, and President Robert Mugabe (leader of ZANU-PF) enjoying ‘more executive powers’ than his ‘equal’ partner, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Much as I admire Odinga and Tsvangirai’s unwavering commitment to democratic activism in their respective countries and the inspiration they have given to the majority of citizens in the quest for change and reform, I am not amazed at the fact that they have failed to change their presidents from executive strong men to equal partners in their coalition governments. And this has led to another setback. No change of system to replace their strong men with strong systems, as put by US President Barack Obama.

And without equal executive powers between the president and the prime minister, no change is going to happen in these countries because the former stand for the status quo – and unfortunately, they have a final say in big matters, regardless of what the power-sharing accord says in print. To the disadvantage of Odinga and Tsvangirai, a section of population that used to follow them instinctively is beginning to see them differently. Not offering solutions, they are becoming part of the problem.

With the Kibaki-Odinga administration failing to deal squarely with impunity and do reforms, while Mugabe’s ZANU-PF thugs still terrorise opposition supporters and refuse settlement to displaced villagers who had fled the post-election violence that preceded the power-sharing government, it would not be unfair to say these coalition governments have served short-term purposes of quelling down violence, averting killings and further displacement to a certain extent; but they have failed to implement a bigger agenda as spelt out in election manifestoes and in the power-sharing accords.

Surprisingly, though, other African countries are on the queue for coalitions. In Madagascar, political leaders of opposing parties are considering a political accord for a transitional government – probably towards a power-sharing regime in the style of Kenya and Zimbabwe.  

Although, the Malagasy scenario is different – emanating from a military-backed civilian coup – the likelihood is, it will all go the Kenya or Zimbabwe way, which is, so far, not worth emulating for two reasons. It kills the opposition and makes an inefficient government in the style of a self-divided kingdom; hence stalling any efforts for meaningful reforms. And just recently, the transparency corruption index for East African issues recently said it was getting difficult to fix corruption with the divided government in power.

But as long as incumbents lose and cling to power, the only means they have to appease angry voters and the international community is calling for power-sharing agreements to legitimize their rigging, to weaken opposition, to perpetuate corruption and further stifle democracy.

Marriage and Divorce, Men, Relationships, Sex, Women

Polygamy: A fact of life?

We may have different,  and sometimes contradictory, views on polygamy, but some of us do believe that it is real. We may have been led to believe polygamy is intrinsically evil and forbidden by God or cultures, or that it is irrelevant in modern times, but it is practised in many societies and there are valid justifications for it.  We may wish to propound and promote the value of  a man’s fidelity to one woman, but then comes the question: is it  a practically viable idea? We could even go further and provoke Jewish, Christian and Muslim believers if the Bible and Qoran really forbid polygamy. Well, the debate has been on and on for centuries and it is poised to last for as long as man lives on earth. In this article, one of  our colleagues from Tanzania, Juma Mzuri, attempts to answer some of these and other questions with an argument backed by history and well-researched facts and figures. Read on.

Let us now tackle the important question of polygamy. Polygamy is a very ancient practice found in many human societies. The Bible did not condemn polygamy. To the contrary, the Old Testament and Rabbinic writings frequently attest to the legality of polygamy. King Solomon is said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3) Also, king David is said to have had many wives and concubines (2 Samuel 5:13).

The Old Testament does have some injunctions on how to distribute the property of a man among his sons from different wives (Deut. 22:7). The only restriction on polygamy is a ban on taking a wife’s sister as a rival wife (Lev. 18:18). The Talmud advises a maximum of four wives. 51 European Jews continued to practice polygamy until the sixteenth century. Oriental Jews regularly practiced polygamy until they arrived in Israel where it is forbidden under civil law. However, under religious law which overrides civil law in such cases, it is permissible.

52 What about the New Testament? According to Father Eugene Hillman in his insightful book, Polygamy reconsidered, “Nowhere in the New Testament is there any explicit commandment that marriage should be monogamous or any explicit commandment forbidding polygamy.” 53 Moreover, Jesus has not spoken against polygamy though it was practiced by the Jews of his society. Father Hillman stresses the fact that the Church in Rome banned polygamy in order to conform to the Greco-Roman culture (which prescribed only one legal wife while tolerating concubinage and prostitution).

He cited St. Augustine, “Now indeed in our time, and in keeping with Roman custom, it is no longer allowed to take another wife.” 54 African churches and African Christians often remind their European brothers that the Church’s ban on polygamy is a cultural tradition and not an authentic Christian injunction.

The Quran, too, allowed polygamy, but not without restrictions:

“If you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you shall not be able to deal justly with them, then only one” (4:3).

The Quran, contrary to the Bible, limited the maximum number of wives to four under the strict condition of treating the wives equally and justly. It should not be understood that the Quran is exhorting the believers to practice polygamy, or that polygamy is considered as an ideal. In other words, the Quran has “tolerated” or “allowed” polygamy, and no more, but why? Why is polygamy permissible?

The answer is simple: there are places and times in which there are compelling social and moral reasons for polygamy. As the above Quranic verse indicates, the issue of polygamy in Islam cannot be understood apart from community obligations towards orphans and widows. Islam as a universal religion suitable for all places and all times could not ignore these compelling obligations.

In most human societies, females outnumber males. In the U.S. there are, at least, eight million more women than men. In a country like Guinea there are 122 females for every 100 males. In Tanzania, there are 95.1 males per 100 females. 55 What should a society do towards such unbalanced sex ratios? There are various solutions, some might suggest celibacy, others would prefer female infanticide (which does happen in some societies in the world today !).

Others may think the only outlet is that the society should tolerate all manners of sexual permissiveness: prostitution, sex out of wedlock, homosexuality, etc. For other societies , like most African societies today, the most honorable outlet is to allow polygamous marriage as a culturally accepted and socially respected institution. The point that is often misunderstood in the West is that women in other cultures do not necessarily look at polygamy as a sign of women’s degradation. For example, many young African brides , whether Christians or Muslims or otherwise, would prefer to marry a married man who has already proved himself to be a responsible husband. Many African wives urge their husbands to get a second wife so that they do not feel lonely.

56 A survey of over six thousand women, ranging in age from 15 to 59, conducted in the second largest city in Nigeria showed that 60 percent of these women would be pleased if their husbands took another wife. Only 23 percent expressed anger at the idea of sharing with another wife. Seventy-six percent of the women in a survey conducted in Kenya viewed polygamy positively. In a survey undertaken in rural Kenya, 25 out of 27 women considered polygamy to be better than monogamy. These women felt polygamy can be a happy and beneficial experience if the co-wives cooperate with each other. 57 Polygamy in most African societies is such a respectable institution that some Protestant churches are becoming more tolerant of it.

A bishop of the Anglican Church in Kenya declared that, “Although monogamy may be ideal for the expression of love between husband and wife, the church should consider that in certain cultures polygyny is socially acceptable and that the belief that polygyny is contrary to Christianity is no longer tenable.” 58 After a careful study of African polygamy, Reverend David Gitari of the Anglican Church has concluded that polygamy, as ideally practiced, is more Christian than divorce and remarriage as far as the abandoned wives and children are concerned. 59 I personally know of some highly educated African wives who, despite having lived in the West for many years, do not have any objections against polygamy. One of them, who lives in the U.S., solemnly exhorts her husband to get a second wife to help her in raising the kids.

The problem of the unbalanced sex ratios becomes truly problematic at times of war. Native American Indian tribes used to suffer highly unbalanced sex ratios after wartime losses. Women in these tribes, who in fact enjoyed a fairly high status, accepted polygamy as the best protection against indulgence in indecent activities.

European settlers, without offering any other alternative, condemned this Indian polygamy as ‘uncivilised’. 60 After the second world war, there were 7,300,000 more women than men in Germany (3.3 million of them were widows). There were 100 men aged 20 to 30 for every 167 women in that age group. 61 Many of these women needed a man not only as a companion but also as a provider for the household in a time of unprecedented misery and hardship. The soldiers of the victorious Allied Armies exploited these women’s vulnerability. Many young girls and widows had liaisons with members of the occupying forces. Many American and British soldiers paid for their pleasures in cigarettes, chocolate, and bread. Children were overjoyed at the gifts these strangers brought.

A 10 year old boy on hearing of such gifts from other children wished from all his heart for an ‘Englishman’ for his mother so that she need not go hungry any longer. 62 We have to ask our own conscience at this point: What is more dignifying to a woman? An accepted and respected second wife as in the native Indians’ approach, or a virtual prostitute as in the ‘civilised’ Allies approach? In other words, what is more dignifying to a woman, the Quranic prescription or the theology based on the culture of the Roman Empire?

It is interesting to note that in an international youth conference held in Munich in 1948 the problem of the highly unbalanced sex ratio in Germany was discussed. When it became clear that no solution could be agreed upon, some participants suggested polygamy. The initial reaction of the gathering was a mixture of shock and disgust. However, after a careful study of the proposal, the participants agreed that it was the only possible solution. Consequently, polygamy was included among the conference final recommendations.

63 The world today possesses more weapons of mass destruction than ever before and the European churches might, sooner or later, be obliged to accept polygamy as the only way out. Father Hillman has thoughtfully recognized this fact, “It is quite conceivable that these genocidal techniques (nuclear, biological, chemical..) could produce so drastic an imbalance among the sexes that plural marriage would become a necessary means of survival….Then contrary to previous custom and law, an overriding natural and moral inclination might arise in favour of polygamy. In such a situation, theologians and church leaders would quickly produce weighty reasons and biblical texts to justify a new conception of marriage.”

64 To the present day, polygamy continues to be a viable solution to some of the social ills of modern societies. The communal obligations that the Quran mentions in association with the permission of polygamy are more visible at present in some Western societies than in Africa. For example, In the United States today, there is a severe gender crisis in the black community. One out of every twenty young black males may die before reaching the age of 21. For those between 20 and 35 years of age, homicide is the leading cause of death. 65 Besides, many young black males are unemployed, in jail, or on dope. 66 As a result, one in four black women, at age 40, has never married, as compared with one in ten white women.

67 Moreover, many young black females become single mothers before the age of 20 and find themselves in need of providers. The end result of these tragic circumstances is that an increasing number of black women are engaged in what is called ‘man-sharing’. 68 That is, many of these hapless single black women are involved in affairs with married men. The wives are often unaware of the fact that other women are ‘sharing’ their husbands with them. Some observers of the crisis of man-sharing in the African American community strongly recommend consensual polygamy as a temporary answer to the shortage of black males until more comprehensive reforms in the American society at large are undertaken.

69 By consensual polygamy they mean a polygamy that is sanctioned by the community and to which all the parties involved have agreed, as opposed to the usually secret man-sharing which is detrimental both to the wife and to the community in general. The problem of man-sharing in the African American community was the topic of a panel discussion held at Temple University in Philadelphia on January 27, 1993. 70 Some of the speakers recommended polygamy as one potential remedy for the crisis. They also suggested that polygamy should not be banned by law, particularly in a society that tolerates prostitution and mistresses. The comment of one woman from the audience that African Americans needed to learn from Africa where polygamy was responsibly practiced elicited enthusiastic applause.

Philip Kilbride, an American anthropologist of Roman Catholic heritage, in his provocative book, Plural marriage for our time, proposes polygamy as a solution to some of the ills of the American society at large. He argues that plural marriage may serve as a potential alternative for divorce in many cases in order to obviate the damaging impact of divorce on many children. He maintains that many divorces are caused by the rampant extramarital affairs in the American society. According to Kilbride, ending an extramarital affair in a polygamous marriage, rather than in a divorce, is better for the children, “Children would be better served if family augmentation rather than only separation and dissolution were seen as options.” Moreover, he suggests that other groups will also benefit from plural marriage such as: elderly women who face a chronic shortage of men and the African Americans who are involved in man-sharing.

71 In 1987, a poll conducted by the student newspaper at the university of California at Berkeley asked the students whether they agreed that men should be allowed by law to have more than one wife in response to a perceived shortage of male marriage candidates in California. Almost all of the students polled approved of the idea. One female student even stated that a polyganous marriage would fulfil her emotional and physical needs while giving her greater freedom than a monogamous union. 72 In fact, this same argument is also used by the few remaining fundamentalist Mormon women who still practice polygamy in the U.S. They believe that polygamy is an ideal way for a woman to have both a career and children since the wives help each other care for the children.

73 It has to be added that polygamy in Islam is a matter of mutual consent. No one can force a woman to marry a married man. Besides, the wife has the right to stipulate that her husband must not marry any other woman as a second wife. 74 The Bible, on the other hand, sometimes resorts to forcible polygamy. A childless widow must marry her husband’s brother, even if he is already married (see the “Plight of Widows” section),regardless of her consent (Genesis 38:8-10).

It should be noted that in many Muslim societies today the practice of polygamy is rare since the gap between the numbers of both sexes is not huge. One can, safely, say that the rate of polygamous marriages in the Muslim world is much less than the rate of extramarital affairs in the West. In other words, men in the Muslim world today are far more strictly monogamous than men in the Western world.

Billy Graham, the eminent Christian evangelist has recognized this fact: “Christianity cannot compromise on the question of polygamy. If present-day Christianity cannot do so, it is to its own detriment. Islam has permitted polygamy as a solution to social ills and has allowed a certain degree of latitude to human nature but only within the strictly defined framework of the law. Christian countries make a great show of monogamy, but actually they practice polygamy. No one is unaware of the part mistresses play in Western society. In this respect Islam is a fundamentally honest religion, and permits a Muslim to marry a second wife if he must, but strictly forbids all clandestine amatory associations in order to safeguard the moral probity of the community.” 

75 It is of interest to note that many, non-Muslim as well as Muslim, countries in the world today have outlawed polygamy. Taking a second wife, even with the free consent of the first wife, is a violation of the law. On the other hand, cheating on the wife, without her knowledge or consent, is perfectly legitimate as far as the law is concerned! What is the legal wisdom behind such a contradiction? Is the law designed to reward deception and punish honesty? It is one of the unfathomable paradoxes of our modern ‘civilised’ world.

Men, Relationships, Sex, Women

Give it another name, not sex-bullying

WHEN lovers exchange romantic jokes in word, text or photos, they mean nothing more or less than love. They normally do not mean to hurt each other but to lighten up the mood. When it comes to communication, love has no limits. And that’s how obscenity becomes part and parcel of a romantic relationship because, after all, love is said to be at its best when dirty!

With this in mind, I am still struggling to understanding what this report wants to convey to lovers, especially youngsters, by highlighting the notion of sex-bullying. As much of this ‘bullying’ has been identified among young lovers (teenagers), by virtue of phone messages and photos mostly sent by boyfriends to their girlfriends, I am tempted to think and suggest such communication deserved another name, not bullying.  Something romantic.

Marriage and Divorce, Relationships, Religion, Sex

Condom debate: No winners, no losers

When Pope Benedict XVI made his first pastoral tour of Africa this year, he said so many important things, but only one stood out:  his emphatic statement that  condoms are no solution to the AIDS endemic. Then followed harsh criticism from a host of  HIV activists the world over. His message, however, was not about his infallibility but the ethics and the Christian faith he professes;  it was, and still is, about his office. And with scientific findings saying condom use does not give 100 percent protection against HIV infection, no one expects the Pope to change his stance. So, who – between actvicts and the Church – won the condom debate? Follow this author.

THERE are few things that the world expected and never achieved in Pope Benedict XVI’s first tour of Africa a few months ago.

Some people thought he would come up with a rebellious statement against the Catholic Church’s traditional stance on the use of condoms in fighting HIV. Even after he said ‘you cannot resolve AIDS with condoms… on the contrary, it increases the problem,’ others expected him to give scientific back up of his statement. Yet he gave a spiritual and moral principle.

AIDS activists have since attacked him for his ‘irresponsible, unscientific and ignorant’ remarks regarding condoms. The Lancet, one of the most prestigious medical journals in the world, even went further and called for a recant from the Pope for ‘distorting science.’

A similar reaction came from the Belgian parliament, which condemned the pope’s comments as ‘unacceptable;’ it also demanded a Vatican apology – which the Church also rejected.  One thing appears certain.  While Christians, particularly Catholics, may claim to be united behind the Pope, AIDS activists of all denominations appear united behind a condom.

Perhaps now than ever before, Pope Benedict XVI has proved himself to be more of a spiritual than a scientific figure – a disappointment to those seeking scientific evidence from the Pontiff.

HIV in Africa, condom effectiveness

UNAIDS statistics show that Africa is the most hit continent, with about 22 million people currently living with HIV. Over 25 million people have died in three decades. And three quarters of the HIV deaths worldwide have been reported in Sub-Saharan Africa.

But AIDS activists claim the death toll would have been higher without strong condom campaigns. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), condoms are highly effective when used correctly and consistently.

With scientific indication that despite their effectiveness condoms are not 100 percent safe, the emphasis has always been on correctness (coupled with consistence) in condom use. The campaign, of course, has not been confined to condom use but it includes advice on sexual abstinence and fidelity to one partner.

Interestingly, at the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections held in Boston, Massachusetts four years ago, researchers from Uganda presented findings, ‘Decline in HIV Prevalence in Uganda: Not as simple as ABC,’ claiming condoms have been more effective than abstinence in curbing the spread of HIV.

Uganda is one of Africa’s earliest HIV victims and one that had been among the most hit countries in the last decade, but which has improved significantly to become a model of the continent due to increased campaign on abstinence, being faithful to one partner, and condom use (ABC).

The Church’s message

The message that normally goes with the ABC campaign contains what the Church cannot stand or defend. Advice on sexual activities that do not involve intercourse and on fidelity to one uninfected partner would augur well with the Church’s position if that other partner was a legal husband or wife.

The consistence or correctness in the use of condom has no place in the Church’s teachings because condoms are a contraceptive, the use of which, from the church’s point of view, undermines a person’s spiritual and human dignity.

With all the activists’ attacks on the Pope for making ‘irresponsible’ remarks about condoms, the Pontiff’s message would be reflected by the Church’s emphasis, as issued by the Vatican recently, on responsible moral attitude towards sex.

According to the Vatican spokesman, Federico Lombardi, ‘the focus on condoms does not strengthen personal responsibility.’  And what the Pope was conveying to Africa was about defending the rights of the poor, protecting essential values of African families; and defending the nature, dignity and role of marriage.

The Church and Africa

A few years before his death, Pope John Paul II said the future of the Church would be in Africa, which had historically become a refuge for infant Jesus Christ when Herod sought to kill him. Optimistic about the strong Christian roots on the continent and its impact to the future, he said, “The Church in Africa is a missionary Church and a mission Church”.

It is evident that his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, was partaking this missionary endeavour. Christianity is on the rise in Africa as it declines in some parts of the world, particularly Europe. Leading over one billion Catholics worldwide, the Pope knows the impact of his message and its particular weight to Africa with about 150 million believers. Apart from Catholics, other Christian denominations in the world share his views on condoms use in HIV campaign. Even some Muslim groups challenge condom use on grounds that it encourages immorality and sin.

Scientific or moral battle

Scientific researches irrefutably vindicate HIV activist’s position on the positive impact of correct and constant condom use. The challenge, however, remains on accessibility, affordability and usability of condoms in poor societies. In certain climates, storage of condoms in proper places and at convenient temperature poses a much greater problem and higher risk among condom users.

And while Christians preach abstinence and fidelity as the best weapons against HIV infection, activists argue that Christians make a chunk of condom users, posing a much higher challenge to the Church.

Scientific or moral, Christian or otherwise, clergy or lay, some people cannot abstain. Others are more prone to infidelity. And they are not likely to risk twice if they are convinced about the effectiveness of condoms.

Activists are right, the Pope is right

Backed up by science, HIV activists are right in insisting on the proper use of condoms, but they are wrong is suggesting the Pope should abandon his doctrinal emphasis to adopt their approach. Christians would not expect the Pope to betray the values he is supposed to profess, preach and defend; especially during times when Christianity is becoming less and less popular, spirituality is a thing of the past, moral standards are becoming an obsolete phenomenon, sex is becoming more and more popular among youth and the dignity of marriage is being eroded.

This is a community of people united behind condoms, and the moment he bows out to them, he ceases being Pope. As the newly appointed Westminster Archbishop Vincent Nichols puts it, faith and public life are inseparable. And if the Church wants to be what it should be, this is the message it has to convey in meeting public challenges.

In the world of non-believers, liberal thinkers and scientific enthusiasts, science is set to challenge faith even among the Pope’s loyal audiences. Some of them want him to offer scientific evidence to back up his public statement. In Yaounde, Cameroon, he stood for spiritual and moral defense of the traditional Christian view of human dignity. No winners, no losers.