Big Agriculture has targeted Africa with GMOs. Monsanto and friends, with USAID, are targeting several African countries as insertion points, and Ghana is one of these. Their plan for Ghana is described here: G8 Cooperation Framework to Support The “New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition” In Ghana PDF, also known as the G8NA. If you read it there is lots of flowery language about helping smallholder farmers and women. The program it spells out does exactly the opposite and will destroy lives and livelihoods.

The G8NA works with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program CAADP. CAADP has a highly questionable approach to food security and nutrition. The problems with CAADP and with G8NA are spelled out in Do African Farmers Need CAADP? a brief and clearly written pamphlet explaining the issues involved, a PDF version can be downloaded at the link.

In order to protect the patents and monopolies of Big Ag, the corporations need countries to pass 3 laws: a biosafety law letting GMOS into the country, a seed law that regulates and defines seeds so that only the seeds produced by the big agro-chemical companies meet the legal requirements for use and sale, and a UPOV-91 compliant Plant Breeders Bill, which is a trade agreement. Like many contemporary trade agreements it is less about trade and more about putting the “rights” of corporations above the laws of nations.

USAID shepherded a seed law and a Biosafety Act through the Ghana Parliament and got them ratified into law before the citizens of Ghana realized what was going on. However, when the information started getting out people caught on fast. A number of farmers groups and civil society organizations have petitioned Parliament, marched, and declared their opposition to the Plant Breeders Bill and to GMOs in Ghana. Interviews with MPs indicate they really don’t know what is in the bill and have been told a number of lies. I have been doing some research and work behind the scenes for Food Sovereignty Ghana, which is a leader in the fight against the Plant Breeders Bill, against GMOs in Ghana, and for an agroecological approach to farming in Ghana. That is why I haven’t been blogging through this last year.

The Plant Breeders Bill, PBB, declares “A plant breeder right shall be independent of any measure taken by the Republic to regulate within Ghana the production, certification and marketing of material of a variety or the importation or exportation of the material.” This puts the plant breeders above the laws of Ghana, and beyond the ability of Ghana to protect her citizens in the future from any adverse effects of the plant breeders products. The PBB specifies GMOs as one of the varieties protected by the bill. It also allows the plant breeders to operate from outside the country and allows them to steal and patent for themselves the DNA of the seeds and plants that Ghanaian plant breeders have been developing over centuries. They can steal Ghana’s DNA and then sell it back.

Accra Ghana demonstration against the Plant Breeders Bill, Tuesday January 28, 2014

Accra Ghana demonstration against the Plant Breeders Bill, Tuesday January 28, 2014

The following is an article released by Food Sovereignty Ghana and published in a variety of sources throughout Ghana, Africa, and globally.

BAN ALL GM FOODS IN GHANA!

Food Sovereignty Ghana calls for an indefinite Moratorium or ban on the propagation, cultivation, raising, and growing of Genetically Modified Organisms in Ghana.

We call for a total ban on everything GMO, including but not limited to, the introduction into the environment, contained and confined use or field trials, import, export, GMO in transit, or placement on the market.

We demand that this ban be put in place until the science of GM foods and human health, as well as environmental impact, has been thoroughly studied and cleared as safe by independent science rather than corporate-driven, profit-oriented scientists and regulators, ridden with conflicts-of-interest.

There is a gigantic global attempt to impose GMOs into our food chain through deals made by transnational agribusiness corporations with our political elites, designed to limit public awareness and exclude public participation. The collusion between the biotech industry and politicians and regulators makes nonsense of their assurances that GM foods are safe.

Even if the highly questionable claims of increases in food or crop yields, or drought-resistant flood-resistant GM crops were true, the ever increasing amounts of pesticide toxins they contain should prohibit their production or use. Toxic food, regardless of abundance, does not replace safe and edible food.

GMOs contain massive quantities of pesticides, a huge health threat. Close to 100% of all commercial GMO crops are genetically engineered to contain pesticides, or to absorb huge amounts of pesticides without being killed. When we consume the plants, or eat animals that consume the plants, we consume those pesticides that can injure heart, lungs, nerves, digestion, blood, skin, immunity, and sexual function and development.

Genetically engineered Bt Crops are engineered to express (produce) the Bt toxin in its active form,. The active toxin is produced in every individual cell of the crops, thus making the entire crop a pesticide. When you eat a genetically modified Bt food crop you are eating pesticides. Bt crops are regulated by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as pesticides (EPA document 735-F-02-013 May 2002). Promoters of GM foods downplay but it does not change the fact that Bt is a pesticide. This is common sense but unfortunately some people are trying so hard to prevent us from thinking for ourselves.

Vast quantities of GMO crops are herbicide resistant crops. These are grown both for human and for animal consumption. These crops are genetically engineered to absorb massive doses of pesticides that kill weeds, chemicals that are sprayed on the crops repeatedly, sometimes as many as 300 days out of the year. These chemicals are in fact chemical cocktails and include adjuvant chemicals designed to penetrate the plants and cause them to absorb even more of the pesticidal toxins. The adjuvant chemicals, close to 400 of them, are never tested. Testing is not required by law. How safe they are, or what they do when they enter our bodies is anybody’s guess.

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine, the Doctors who understand, study and follow the effects of environmental factors on our health, issued a statement in 2009, on the dangers of GM food and advised all their members to prescribe non GM foods to their patients. Just last week, we saw in the news, a call by Lieutenant General Mi Zhen-yu, former vice president of the Chinese Academy of Military Science, on the Chinese government to“face up to reality” about the harm from genetically modified food.

The General provides specific numbers on the increases in birth defects, severe depression, precocious puberty in girls, autism, childhood cancers, male sperm quality and infertility, Parkinson’s disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and chronic kidney disease. “The situation is shocking.” Why are those who claim GMOs are safe are opposed to any long-term independent studies in toxicity? Why are they against labelling?

GMOs, and the legal framework that permits and sustains them, are not business as usual but an orchestrated attempt to control our food, our land, our water. GMOs and their legal framework offer foreign corporations permanent control over our destiny as individuals and as a nation. These laws, the Biosafety Act, Seed Laws, and UPOV laws such as the Plant Breeders Bill are sometimes referred to as weapons of legal destruction. They place corporate interests and greed above the laws of nations. They leave the entire budgets of nations vulnerable to corporate whims.

Considering recent revelations that Parliamentarians take bribes, the glaring absence of even a minimum code of conduct for Parliamentarians regarding lobbying, and the mischievous and untenable attempts by the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice to impose UPOV on Ghanaians under the guise of meeting WTO requirements although UPOV law such as the current PBB is clearly not required by the WTO, we have every right to lose faith in them.

We humbly call on the Mahama administration to cease all advocacy for GMOs and their legal framework, until the science of GM technology has been cleared by independent science. That will take awhile, as currently the agribusiness companies that own the GMO patents do not permit independent scientific testing, they ask us to trust what they tell us about the testing they conduct.

Technology currently exists that is developing drought-resistant, pest resistant and high yielding crops through traditional breeding and selection. Marker Assisted Agro-ecological farming is not only inexpensive, and sustainable, it is far more successful than GM technology. Agroecological techniques are already safely and inexpensively producing crops with increasing yields plus tolerance and resistance to environmental stressors.

We should forget GMOs and concentrate on agroecological agriculture. The only reason why our “development partners” are opposed to this is because their multinational corporations shall lose the attempts to monopolize our food through GMO patents. They see our agricultural wealth as raw material to be extracted from Ghana in order to power their economic engine. We need to control and develop our agricultural wealth to power Ghana’s economic engine.

For Life, The Environment, and Social Justice!

Website: http://foodsovereigntyghana.org/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/FoodSovereignGH
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoodSovereigntyGhana

I wrote this for the African Loft in January 2008. It is no longer available there so I am republishing it here. It contains links to documents key to the creation of AFRICOM. Since 2008 AFRICOM has morphed and expanded both size and mission. There has been a mission surge rather than a mission creep. I’ve included links to some crucial documents. For more information on the origins of AFRICOM please read the superb essay: Understanding AFRICOM: A Contextual Reading of Empire’s New Combatant Command part I , part II and part III, or the full version in PDF.

AFRICOM website April 2014   Ghana and US Maritime Forces Complete Combined Maritime Law Enforcement Operation:  For the past 3 weeks, Ghanaian and US maritime forces have carried out AMLEP operations in support of maritime security in Sekondi, Ghana

AFRICOM website April 2014
Ghana and US Maritime Forces Complete Combined Maritime Law Enforcement Operation:
For the past 3 weeks, Ghanaian and US maritime forces have carried out AMLEP operations in support of maritime security in Sekondi, Ghana

 

The Origins of AFRICOM

Early in 2007 Nigeria surpassed Saudi Arabia as the largest supplier of oil to the United States. By 2015 the US expects to import more oil from Africa, than from the entire Persian Gulf. In February 2007 President Bush announced the creation of the US Africa Command, AFRICOM. This combination of events is hardly a coincidence, but the thinking behind AFRICOM began back in the early 1990s.

In 1992 Paul Wolfowitz, on instructions of his boss, Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, prepared the Defense Planning Guidance, DPG ( excerpts ) that set forth a plan for US world dominance and military superiority. It was widely criticized and condemned. But the people who wrote it kept it in reserve.

In 2000, the Project for a New American Century, PNAC , called for total global domination by the US military in order to prevent rivals from emerging, and to deter potential rivals from even thinking about competition with the US. Members of PNAC include Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and other leading neo-conservatives who occupy key positions in the Bush administration. When Bush was running in 2000 he gave a speech calling for military buildup to “project our power” into distant combat zones, reflecting the thinking of the earlier DPG, and PNAC. Subsequently, many of PNAC’s conclusions and recommendations were written into the White House’s National Security Strategy.

In 2001, Cheney produced the National Energy Policy, the Cheney report.
Complete PDF version: PDF Report of the National Energy Policy Development Group .

The Cheney report predicts increasing demand for oil, in the US and around the world, for the next several decades. To meet this demand, the US needs to increase oil production capacity, and secure oil flow, all around the world. The report is not interested in conservation, or reducing consumption, only in meeting its projections of increased consumption, and increasing production.

[The Cheney] report makes thirty-five foreign-policy recommendations — one-third of its total proposals — on how to facilitate America’s acquisition of imported oil. . . . the overall thrust of the report is on removing the economic and political obstacles to overseas procurement. Indeed, the Cheney report can be read as a sort of grand blueprint for American foreign policy, calling as it does for a vigorous effort, led by the president himself, to bolster our ties with oil-rich countries and expand our presence in key producing areas.
(Klare, Blood and Oil, p. 62, ISBN 978-0805073133)

The overall plan is to control oil producing areas for maximum extraction of oil.

Then came the 9/11 attacks in 2001. These became a catalyst for the combination of three Bush/Cheney policies, 1 – military force projection to secure US hegemony and resources, 2 – increasing the production and supply of oil by controlling oil producing regions, and 3 – the fight against terrorism. “Terrorists” are now those who interfere with the production and flow of oil. These three policy priorities are increasingly one and the same policy.

This set the stage for AFRICOM. The Heritage Foundation published a document in 2003 calling for the creation of an Africa Command: U.S. Military Assistance for Africa: A Better Solution. Donald Rumsfeld took particular interest in the Heritage Foundation arguments. It was Rumsfeld who created of the Africa Command, though he resigned before it was announced.

Vijay Prashad has done the best job of summarizing the Heritage Foundation document:

. . . the Heritage Foundation argued, “Creating an African Command would go a long way toward turning the Bush Administration’s well-aimed strategic priorities for Africa into a reality.” Rather than engage Africa diplomatically, it is better to be diplomatic through the barrel of a gun. “America must not be afraid to employ its forces decisively when vital national interests are threatened.” Nevertheless, the U.S. will not need to always send its own soldiers. “A sub-unified command for Africa would give the U.S. military an instrument with which to engage effectively in the continent and reduce the potential that America might have to intervene directly.” The AFRICOM would analyze intelligence, work “closely with civil-military leaders” and coordinate training and conduct joint-exercises. In other words, the U.S. would make the friendly African military forces “inter-operatable” not only with U.S. hardware but also with U.S. interests.

In 2007 the Heritage Foundation published Africa’s Oil and Gas Sector: Implications for U.S. Policy . This describes Africa as an ideal source of oil for the US market, and suggests that the continent can also be used as a biofuel plantation for US fuel consumption.

Projecting American force across the globe, stepping up production and acquisition of oil, and fighting “terrorism” have all become one policy. This is why diplomatic and development assistance are being subsumed under AFRICOM. Military interaction and assistance creates the friendly atmosphere designed to make African militaries interoperable with US interests. African national armies act as a praetorian guards for large corporations, particularly oil corporations. It is already fairly easy to observe this in Nigeria. Also, rather than use American forces, the US government plans expanded use of mercenaries in Africa, which I have written about here.

I have tried to provide some of the initial documentation and planning behind AFRICOM. For more depth and background I recommend: Understanding AFRICOM: A Contextual Reading of Empire’s New Combatant Command part I , part II and part III.
________

Since this was written a great deal more has been published. I strongly recommend reading:

US Military and Africom: Between the rocks and the crusaders
by Horace Campbell

Libya: behind the politics of humanitarian intervention
by Mahmood Mamdani

Address to The All-Africa Students Union (AASU) by Selorm Kofi Dake, who asks:

Whose war are we fighting, what price are we to pay and for how long?

 

“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,” acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”
WP

This has been the essence of US foreign policy as it is actually practiced for the past several decades. It has escalated over time, particularly in the 1980s under Reagan, and with the proliferation of pointless wars this century begun by Bush and expanded under Obama. I say pointless, because although there may have been objectives, they were not related to the means used to achieve them, or to the eventual outcomes, in any coherent way. The US has tried to solve political problems with the brute force of military power. US foreign policy appears divorced from the realities of who what when where and why the US is conducting its policy. The result has been destruction without achievement. US policy in Africa continues this pattern. The destruction of Libya is the most aggressive recent example.

AFRICOM – a map of US military presence in Africa, countries where the U.S. has recently, as of spring 2013, conducted exercises, operations, or has bases in Africa.

Map of known US military locations in Africa.

Map of known US military locations in Africa.

The interactive version of the above map courtesy of John Reed in Foreign Policy.

You can see another map with more information about the drone base locations here. The map of what we know is shown below, but US drone activities are so shrouded in secrecy, this map only provides a small part of the story.

Known U.S. drone and surveillance flight bases in Africa February 2013

Known U.S. drone and surveillance flight bases in Africa February 2013

Go to the link to see more details of the specific bases from satellite maps.

U.S. military presence in Africa. Here are more details about US military bases and activities pinpointed in the maps above.

Morocco
Last month, about 1,200 U.S. Marines, sailors and airmen participated in African Lion ’13 where they drove 250 tons worth of vehicles and equipment on a 300 mile convoy and practiced low-level flying and aerial refueling.

Mali
U.S. troops are aiding the French fight against Islamist rebels here.

Niger
The northwest ramp of the airport at Niamey, Niger is the possible site of a U.S. drone base. About 100 U.S. troops have been deployed to Niger to set up a drone base to support a French-led military operation against al-Qaeda in neighboring Mali.

Burkina Faso
A special ramp at Ouagadougou’s airport is reportedly a hub for U.S. military surveillance planes operating in the region. The United States flies PC-12 surveillance aircraft from here north to Mali, Mauritania and the Sahara.

Cape Verde
U.S. coast guardsmen and sailors from the Navy and the Royal Navy helped sailors from Cape Verde’s navy conduct maritime law enforcement operations. The Royal Navy frigate HMS Argyll and a Cape Verdean patrol boat conducted joint operations

Mauritania
In February and March, more than 1,000 troops from African countries and the U.S. participated in Flintlock 13. Flintlock is an annual special operations exercise held in the region. In April, U.S. Army medical troops trained Mauritanian medical personnel the latest in suture-less cataract surgery techniques during exercise MEDRETE 13-2.

Senegal
In March, the U.S., five European countries and eight African nations participated in exercise Saharan Express 2013 aimed at developing anti-piracy skills here.

South Sudan
The South Sudanese village of Nizara is the possible site of a new U.S. drone base. The U.S. military has been in talks with South Sudan about basing surveillance planes here. U.S. special operations troops are also here helping to hunt Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.

Kenya
An airstrip under construction near Lamu in coastal Kenya is reportedly home to a new U.S. drone base. More than 100 U.S. commandos and other personnel are based at a Kenyan military installation

Tanzania
In February, U.S. special operations troops co-hosted a conference for special ops forces from east Africa.

Djibouti
Camp Lemmonier, Djibouti is home to roughly 2,000 U.S. troops and serves as the major U.S. base in Africa. The U.S. military targets al-Shabab in Somalia and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from this key base.

Uganda
Entebbe airport is apparently home to U.S. drone operations. U.S. special operations troops are also here helping to hunt Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army. The United States flies PC-12 surveillance aircraft from here over territory used by the Lord’s Resistance Army.

Ethiopia
Arba Minch, Ethiopia is reportedly home to a U.S. drone base. The United States flies Reaper drones from here over Somalia.

Seychelles
The U.S. has a drone base at the airport on the island of Mahe in the Seychelles. The U.S. military flies Reaper drones over East Africa from this island base.

Cameroon
U.S. Navy and Air Force troops provided medical treatment to more than 1,300 people here over five days in early April under the aegis of the U.S. Navy’s Africa Partnership Station. Around the same time, U.S. special operations forces were teaching Cameroonian troops ground combat techniques.

Central African Republic
U.S. special operations troops are here helping to hunt down Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.

Democratic Republic of the Congo
A two-man “travelling contact team” from the U.S. Army “recently” ran a three week course training 29 local troops in basic intelligence techniques. U.S. special operations troops are also here helping to hunt Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army.

Nigeria
Last week, U.S. milirary medical personnel and staff at the Nigerian navy hospital in Lagos exchanged “best practices” for treating trauma casualties.

Liberia
A two-man “Travelling Contact Team” from U.S. Army Africa’s Inspector General’s office went to Monrovia to help the Liberian military stand up its own inspector general cadre.

Drones are now the preferred instrument of policy in the mammoth portion of US foreign policy that is run by the Pentagon and the CIA. They are also designed for domestic surveillance and control within the US. And many new varieties of drone are being introduced or are under development. This includes drones that can land and take off from carriers, sea going drones on the surface and under water, and tiny drones the size of an insect. Some are pictured below.

X-47B drone taking off from carrier deck

X-47B drone taking off from carrier deck

The Navy plans to use unmanned surface vessels to patrol harbors and, when armed with missiles or a .50-caliber machine gun, to protect ships

The Navy plans to use unmanned surface vessels to patrol harbors and, when armed with missiles or a .50-caliber machine gun, to protect ships

In one of the more unbeliable developments of the technology, the United States Air Force recently released a video showing their progress on development of tiny insect sized drones or what they are calling Micro Air Vehicles. These Micro Air Vehicles can hover, crawl, and even kill. And these drones can be out on missions for days at a time laying in wait, gathering energy from power lines or the sun. In the video seen above, the Air Force shows how these drones would be able to follow a target inside a building.

See the full article and video: U.S. Air Force Developing Swarms of Tiny Insect Sized Drones

US Air Force Micro Air Vehicles can hover, crawl, and even kill.

US Air Force Micro Air Vehicles can hover, crawl, and even kill.

US Air Force Micro Air Vehicles can hover, crawl, and even kill.

US Air Force Micro Air Vehicles can hover, crawl, and even kill.

From the beginning drones have been a tool of political assassination.

The first CIA targeted killing by a US killer drone was a political assassination:

Mr. Muhammad and his followers had been killed by the C.I.A., the first time it had deployed a Predator drone in Pakistan to carry out a “targeted killing.” The target was not a top operative of Al Qaeda, but a Pakistani ally of the Taliban who led a tribal rebellion and was marked by Pakistan as an enemy of the state. In a secret deal, the C.I.A. had agreed to kill him in exchange for access to airspace it had long sought so it could use drones to hunt down its own enemies.

You can see the drone attacks and who they have been killing in Pakistan in this infographic:
Out of sight out of mind
And we really don’t know who is being killed and why. Obama and Co. keep telling us it is al Qaeda, but that is not who we see is dying when information does get out. Terrorist is even more convenient than the cold war communist as a name to demonize opposition as enemy. Anyone in the world can be called a terrorist. It is particularly useful to use it on political opponents, justifying almost any action against them.

As Senator Feinstein said:

… it’s a perfect assassination weapon. It can see from 17,000 to 20,000 feet up in the air, it is very precise, it can knock out a room in a building if it’s armed, it’s a very dangerous weapon.

And see my earlier post: Political Assassin Robots Flying In African Skies.

US policy continues to blunder along in military recolonizing mode. AFRICOM looks for partners in African countries to act on its behalf, using proxies and drones to do its dirty work. This mostly results in US support for anti-democratic leadership, people who are willing to sell their countries out from under the feet of their fellow citizens. And when a leader pops up in any country who may actually want to work with fellow citizens to determine what they want, regardless of what the US wants, there will be plenty of drones to monitor and dispose of the problem. Its a perfect assassination weapon.

US Africa policy:

“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass. Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”

Kenya held its presidential election on March 4th. Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in as president on April 8. A number of candidates were competing. The winner, with 50.07% of the vote, Uhuru Kenyatta, is son of the first president, Jomo Kenyatta.  Uhuru is the richest man in Kenya according to Forbes .  His victory was challenged in court by the nearest runner up, Raila Odinga, but the Kenya Supreme Court upheld Kenyatta’s victory. Odinga probably won the previous election in 2007, but the counting was shut down and the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, encouraged by the US ambassador, made an electoral coup.

Uhuru Kenyatta is under indictment by the Internation Criminal Court for crimes against humanity following Kenya’s 2007 election. Since the election the witnesses against him and his Deputy President William Ruto, a long time associate of former President Moi, have been recanting their testimony and otherwise withdrawing. There are strong rumors of threats and intimidation of the witnesses.

Regarding the 2007 election, b real writes this comment on March 11 2013:

my read of events in 2007 was that kibaki lost fairly but the u.s., alone at first among external handlers, refused to let odinga win — [US ambassador] rannenberger even spoke openly of this –and managed to get odinga to allow himself to concede w/ the shared post and idea that he would be groomed to win in the next eletion, once he had proven his competence at running this anchor nation approvingly. he believed the u.s. But now rannenberger is gone and things are a little different.

There are those that say the US now needs Kenya more than Kenya needs the US.

In addition to a variety of businesses, Uhuru is:

. . . heir to some of the largest land holdings in Kenya. He owns at least 500,000 acres of prime land spread across the country. The land was acquired by his father in the 1960s and 1970s when the British colonial government and the World Bank funded a settlement transfer fund scheme that enabled government officials and wealthy Kenyans to acquire land from the British at very low prices.

Forbes called Uhuru the richest man in Kenya, but that position is probably held by Daniel arap Moi, president of Kenya 1978-2002. However, most of Moi’s holdings and business dealings are not publicly available information.  Moi is widely perceived as Uhuru’s mentor.

All Kenya's presidents in one room more that 30 yrs Ago. Thanks to Digital Records Tech.

All Kenya’s presidents in one room more that 30 yrs Ago, left to right: Jomo Kenyatta, Uhuru Kenyatta, Mwai Kibaki, Daniel arap Moi. Thanks to Digital Records Tech. Looks more like oligarchy than democracy.

The immediate concern of ordinary Kenyans will be how the incoming government implements a new Constitution designed to devolve power and money to the counties. The document is seen as the key safeguard against a return to the “winner-takes-all” system of old. But historians warn that when Kenya tried devolved governance before, at independence in 1963, the experiment was swiftly sabotaged by Uhuru’s father, Jomo Kenyatta.

Kenya's fourth president, Uhuru Kenyatta, receiving the IEBC certificate

Kenya’s fourth president, Uhuru Kenyatta, receiving the IEBC certificate

Celebrations in Nairobi following the 2013 election

Celebrations in Nairobi following the 2013 election

Looking back over recent electoral history:

December 29th, 2002

Moi. Is. Going. There was a time you didn’t dare speak the words.

My father’s voice exults over static from Nairobi to San Francisco.

Kenya’s election results are rolling in. Mwai Kibaki, the presidential candidate fielded by the rainbow coalition of opposition parties, has won 65% of the vote. Titans of single party rule have lost their seats. An unprecedented eleven women have been elected to parliament. The era of Daniel Arap Moi, and the ruling party KANU, who have plundered Kenya at will for 24 years, is over.

For Kenyans, this is the Berlin Wall coming down. This is a Florida recount where the truth prevails. Kenyans were killed for this. People were tortured, exiled, imprisoned, for resisting single-party rule. I never believed I would see it end in my lifetime.

I’m glued to my monitor, shooting jubilant emails to other Kenyans in Boston, London, New York. We are sitting up all night watching results come in. Tears of hope and renewed pride rolling down our faces.

December 27th, 2007

A record eight million Kenyans rise as early as four a.m. to vote. We queue for up to ten hours, in the sun, without food, drink, toilets. I know a woman who gets out of her hospital bed, pulls the drip out of her neck, crosses the city on matatu and foot with bloodstained bandages visible – to vote. The country speaks through the ballot. Against greed. Against corruption. Against neo-colonialism. Against feudalism. It is the largest, best organized non-violent mass protest in our history.

Opposition observer. Says the tally just announced is different from the one he confirmed in the constituency.…..

The anchor is reporting from outside the conference center. There has been a power blackout at Kenyatta International Conference Center. The media have been ejected by paramilitary police who are arriving in trucks…..

Then, all the channels go dead, except for the government mouthpiece KBC.

There are only three tribes in Kenya. The haves. The wanna-haves. The have-them-removed.

Father Jomo Kenyatta and son Uhuru Kenyatta

Father Jomo Kenyatta and son Uhuru Kenyatta

Patrick Gathara is a talented artist, cartoonist, and fan of biting political cartoons, see KenyaToons or Scarycature. He also writes a blog that is particularly useful for understanding the recent election in Kenya, Gathara’s World, which also features some of his artwork. He is a keen and profound observer. Here are some of his observations, please visit the links for more information and more context.

We had already normalized the abnormal, making it seem perfectly acceptable to have two ICC-indicted politicians on the ballot. At the first presidential debate, moderator Linus Kaikai had been more concerned with how Uhuru Kenyatta would “govern if elected president and at the same time attend trial as a crimes against humanity subject” and not whether he should be running at all. Any suggestion of consequences for Uhuru’s and William Ruto’s candidature had been rebuffed with allegations of neo-colonialism, interference and an implied racism. People who had spent their adult lives fighting for Kenyans’ justice and human rights were vilified as stooges for the imperialistic West for suggesting that the duo should first clear their names before running for the highest office in the land.
March 10,2013

 

Those who oppose impunity, who take a stand against corruption and electoral malpractice, who demand the freedom to speak their thoughts or dress as they wish – these are today’s enemies.

I can’t help wondering whether we have just struck a grand bargain with our murderous elite. Whether we have not traded in justice for peace and values for prosperity. A laptop for our kids and superhighways, virtual and real –these are today’s struggles. Notions of equality and accountability are so yesterday. The imperialist West with its flaky notions of freedom and human rights and its flailing economies no longer holds any attraction for us. We prefer the hard pragmatists in the East. Our new political model is China. What does it matter if you break a few eggs to bake the national cake? Liberal democracy may sound nice but it won’t put food on the table.
April 5, 2013

 

National security has always been the excuse of choice for repressive governments seeking to clamp down on dissent. It is such an attractive ploy because the definition of what constitutes national security, let alone a threat to it, is not only extremely vague but very much dependent on what shadowy figures with “intelligence” declare it to be.

In 2007, so we are told, historical grievances, sparked by the refusal to accept a stolen election, led to a spontaneous orgy of killing and destruction. This, I think, is largely a work of fiction. Or at best, it is a selective retelling. It seems pretty much everyone who has looked into it has concluded that most of the violence was premeditated and prearranged. Meetings had been held and targets pre-selected; pre-outraged thugs had been paid, prepped, armed and ferried about. Politicians and radio stations incited, homes and churches were burnt and people died.

Today, it is not the fact of pre-ordained violence that we are constantly reminded of. Rather, it is the refusal to accept the official version of events, what many saw as a plainly fraudulent outcome, that is portrayed as the casus belli. The narrative of our sojourn into hell has been spun as a consequence of defying our betters, of demanding to see the intelligence and make up our own minds.

To extricate ourselves from this pernicious ideology, we need to go back to the beginning. To recognise that we have been gullible and begin to reconstruct narratives that more accurately reflect the truth.
April 3, 2013

 

The idea of Kenya that had blossomed in 2002 thus proved to be nothing more than a transient phenomenon, a moon flower. Perhaps it was the irrational exuberance of youth that led us to believe that a different Kenya was possible; perhaps it was our sheltered upbringing as privileged members of an aspirational middle class nurtured on a diet of false patriotism, fantastical promises of development, western sitcoms and CNN. Perhaps we wanted to see in ourselves something that wasn’t really there.

For Kenya had not been founded as a community of Kenyans but as a playground for the privileged. The uplifting of the living standards of the majority of the people has never seemed to be the goal of our politics and our politicians. As I have written before, it has always been about the wenyenchi, not the wananchi. Democracy, human rights and all other fashionable slogans have been for them little more than a pathway to power and riches.

Any who thought otherwise were quickly shunted aside. Today we glorify their courage as we trample underfoot everything they stood for.
March 19,2013
[Note: Wananchi literally means "people of the nation." However, it is not to be confused with wenyenchi, for which the closest English translation is "citizens" or "owners of the nation." Within the political discourse, these two terms are opposites; they suggest class distinction, between the majorities who live and work at local levels, and the elites who control the upper echelons of the nation.]

 

The richest man in Kenya is now its leader and in his first address has indicated that he is viewing our problems from a distinctly economic and technological angle. Throughout the inauguration ceremony, we heard promises of double digit economic growth, free laptops, free maternity health, a fund for women and youth.

But the events of the last month have exposed have exposed deep rifts in the national psyche that cannot be papered over with money alone.

In a very real sense, if President Uhuru Kenyatta is to live up to his promise of working towards “a rich and abiding peace,” he will have to confront the very system that has put him where he is. He, perhaps even more than the rest of the country, would need to confront and expose painful realities about the conduct of his family and its old friends. He would have to live up to his name and free himself, and thus his countrymen, from the shackles of the past. If he found the courage to do so, he might just be the best thing that ever happened to Kenya. So, Godspeed to him.

But we all know that this is unlikely to happen.
April 9, 2013

The French left as well as the the right have dreams of imperial expansion.  A number of NATO participants share a vision of the Mediterranean as a NATO lake, an internal sea, surrounded by Europe.  The dream is to extend Europe around the entire coast of the Mediterranean and over North Africa.  The French decision to send troops to Mali must be considered in this context. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, one of the leaders of the French Socialist party expressed this vision:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn … expressed his desire for a Europe stretching “from the cold ice of the Arctic in the North to the hot sands of the Sahara in the South …  and that Europe, I believe, if it continues to exist, will have reconstituted the Mediterranean as an internal sea, and will have reconquered the space that the Romans, or Napoleon more recently, attempted to consolidate.”
from: Libya: NATO Provides the Bombs; The French “Left” Provides the Ideology

Sarkozy spoke of this in 2007.

On that occasion, he glorified “the shattered dream of Charlemagne and of the Holy Roman Empire, the Crusades, . . .” Thereupon continued Nicolas Sarkozy: “Europe is today the only force capable of carrying forward a project of civilization.” He went on to conclude: “I want to be the president of a France which will bring the Mediterranean into the process of its reunification (sic!) after twelve centuries of division and painful conflicts (. . .). America and China have already begun the conquest of Africa. How long will Europe wait to build the Africa of tomorrow? While Europe hesitates, others advance.”

And as Boubacar Boris Diop points out about the current conflict in Mali:

Whether we like it or not, the Arab Spring is completely detaching north Africa from the rest of the continent, and in some respects, the “new border” is northern Mali. This is a clear and coherent strategy that the west is in the process of implementing.

Between 1960 and 2005, France launched 46 military operations in its former colonies in Africa“. Since then the total number of military interventions has grown. The pattern continues, most notably with the assault and seizure of Gbagbo in Ivory Coast and the installation of Ouattara as President there, and the current operation in Mali.  The current French intervention is called operation Serval, after the species of cat, but has been nicknamed operation hissyfit by some. The US has engaged in military training in Mali since 2003, but it does not seem to have helped Mali’s army much. So far the only accomplishment of US training has been to train Captain Sonogo, who then made a coup in Bamako which weakened the country and helped enable the Islamists to take over in northern Mali.

Map of conflict in Mali, Jan 14, 2013

Map of conflict in Mali, Jan 14, 2013

MOPTI, MALI -- A Malian airmen set up a cordon around a helicopter box as part of the air drop recovery training with the 2/19th Special Forces as part of operation Atlas Accord 2012, near Mopti, Mali on Feb. 13, 2012. This is one of a lengthy series of US training programs for Mali's military. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mark Henderson)

MOPTI, MALI — A Malian airmen set up a cordon around a helicopter box as part of the air drop recovery training with the 2/19th Special Forces as part of operation Atlas Accord 2012, near Mopti, Mali on Feb. 13, 2012. The US has announced plans to renew military aid and training in Mali. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Mark Henderson)

Areva Mining operations in  Niger, source of most of the uranium for France's nuclear power industry

Areva uranium mining operations in Niger

Bruce Whitehouse provides valuable background to the present political situation in Mali. He describes how Mali’s democracy had been hollowed out over time, and that the majority of the people in Bamako supported the coup when it occurred in March 2012.  Most people saw the government as corrupt.

Touré’s ‘rule by consensus’ became a euphemism for the suppression of political debate and a trend towards absolutism. Checks and balances existed only on paper. Journalists were afraid to challenge the president’s agenda, especially after five of their colleagues were arrested in 2007.

He also informs us that the conflict in Mali is not strictly speaking a civil war.  Mali is being invaded from the north as well as from the south.  Much of the funding for the salafist jihadi militias comes from the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC (nicknamed the Gulf Counter-revolutionary Club by Pepe Escobar.)  The GCC works closely with NATO.  As @IfyOtuya said on Twitter “It is this same GCC-West petro tyranny hegemony that runs colonialism in North, East and West Africa.”

Whitehouse continues:

Moreover, I’m not sure how accurate it is to call the forces fighting against the French “Malian rebels” or to describe the conflict as a “civil war“–the command structures of AQIM and MOJWA in particular are dominated by Algerians and Mauritanians. Malians widely perceive these groups as foreign invaders, motivated by racism and greed as well as a perverted, even ignorant view of their faith.

We cannot say that the war in Mali is primarily about natural resources, Western meddling, or religion. We can say, however, that it is a direct consequence of state failure, which as I have argued elsewhere came about largely due to factors internal to Mali. My experience as an anthropologist has made me suspicious of reductionist theories and grand narratives of history, from Marxism to dependency theory to modernization theory. The notion that what’s today playing out in Mali is the product of a “great game” between major powers ignores the realities on the ground there.

It is not a product of a great game, but the near collapse of Mali’s governance provides an enticing playing field for the gamers.  France, the UK, and US, and other NATO countries are happy to engage with the conflict in Mali one way or another. Their motives are all about resources and geopolitical fantasies, taking advantage of state failure, the chaos, and Mali’s weakness, to advance their national and corporate interests. They are unlikely to be able to control the results.  The people of Mali are not simple pawns to be moved around at the direction of outsiders.  Imperialists may think they are playing the great game.  In the long run things are most unlikely to turn out as they desire or expect, especially when so many of their expectations are based on ignorance of country, people, and history.  Unfortunately,  far too many lives will be wasted and destroyed in the process.   Captain Sonogo’s coup is an excellent example of unexpected consequences.  It was an unexpected result of the realities on the ground in Mali, partially enabled by Captain Sonogo’s IMET training and ties with AFRICOM.

Bruce Whitehouse writes about Understanding Mali’s “Tuareg problem”. It is far more complex than you will hear in most accounts. He makes several points, please see the article for more explanation of each of these points:

Even in northern Mali, the people we call “the Tuareg” are a minority.
Most of the people we call “the Tuareg” are black.
The people we call “the Tuareg” are not united on anything, least of all separatism.
The people we call “the Tuareg” have not been excluded from Mali’s government.
Innocent civilians identified as “Tuareg” have been abused and murdered.
The label of historically oppressed minority does not easily fit the people we call “the Tuareg.”

He concludes with:

I’m no expert on the Tuareg or northern Mali in general, and I don’t claim to offer any solutions. But I know three things. One, whatever the “Tuareg problem” is, an independent or autonomous state for “the Tuareg” is unlikely to solve it. Two, simplistic categories used to describe these people and their relations with neighboring groups actually keep us from understanding, let alone preventing, the race-based injustices that have occurred in Mali and throughout the region. And three, until Malians of all backgrounds can meet for open dialogue about the crimes they have endured — and carried out — they will continue talking past each other, and their divergent views of their common history will only grow further apart.

This does not look like a problem that war is likely to solve. It is, as with so many governance problems in Africa and globally, a political problem that is being treated to a military solution that cannot solve, or even address, the real issues.

Gregory Mann writes that the invasion was necessary against a formidable enemy. He writes that the intervention was popular and at the request of Mali:

This is not a neo-colonial offensive. The argument that it is might be comfortable and familiar, but it is bogus and ill-informed. France intervened following a direct request for help from Mali’s interim President, Dioncounda Traore. Most Malians celebrated the arrival of French troops, as Bruce Whitehouse and Fabien Offner have demonstrated. Every Malian I’ve talked to agrees with that sentiment.

In contrast, the French client state Central African Republic asked for French intervention this year as rebels neared its capitol, but the French declined to intervene despite the precarious position of the CAR government and the proximity of rebels to the capitol.  The French jumped into Mali, but avoided involvement in the CAR.

It is very difficult to get accurate information on what is going on now in Mali. Bamako is rife with rumors. And the French are carefully controlling any coverage of their military movements and actions.  Reporters are kept far away from any action.  Bruce Whitehouse is an excellent source of information and commentary on Mali, particularly the capitol, Bamako.  He writes “These days You can believe whatever you want and find reporting to back you up.

A young child runs through a deserted side street in Gao, northern Mali, on Jan. 28, 2013, the day after French and Malian troops secured a strategic bridge and the airport.

A young child runs through a deserted side street in Gao, northern Mali, on Jan. 28, 2013, the day after French and Malian troops secured a strategic bridge and the airport.

Pepe Escobar describes some of the geopolitical features of the conflict in Mali.

It’s now official – coming from the mouth of the lion, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, and duly posted at the AFRICOM site, the Pentagon’s weaponized African branch. Exit “historical” al-Qaeda, holed up somewhere in the Waziristans, in the Pakistani tribal areas; enter al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In Dempsey’s words, AQIM “is a threat not only to the country of Mali, but the region, and if… left unaddressed, could in fact become a global threat.”

With Mali now elevated to the status of a “threat” to the whole world, GWOT [Global War On Terror] is proven to be really open-ended. The Pentagon doesn’t do irony; when, in the early 2000s, armchair warriors coined the expression “The Long War”, they really meant it.

Follow the gold. A host of nations have gold bullion deposited at the New York Federal Reserve. They include, crucially, Germany. Recently, Berlin started asking to get back its physical gold back – 374 ton from the Bank of France and 300 tons out of 1,500 tons from the New York Federal Reserve.

So guess what the French and the Americans essentially said: We ain’t got no gold! Well, at least right now. It will take five years for the German gold in France to be returned, and no less than seven years for the stash at the New York Federal Reserve. Bottom line: both Paris and Washington/New York have to come up with real physical gold any way they can.

That’s where Mali fits in – beautifully. Mali – along with Ghana – accounts for up to 8% of global gold production. So if you’re desperate for the genuine article – physical gold – you’ve got to control Mali. Imagine all that gold falling into the hands of… China.
Now follow the uranium. As everyone who was glued to the Niger yellowcake saga prior to the invasion of Iraq knows, Niger is the world’s fourth-largest producer of uranium. Its biggest customer is – surprise! – France; half of France’s electricity comes from nuclear energy. The uranium mines in Niger happen to be concentrated in the northwest of the country, on the western range of the Air mountains, very close to the Mali border and one of the regions being bombed by the French.

The uranium issue is intimately connected with successive Tuareg rebellions; one must remember that, for the Tuaregs, there are no borders in the Sahel. All recent Tuareg rebellions in Niger happened in uranium country – in Agadez province, near the Mali border. So, from the point of view of French interests, imagine the possibility of the Tuaregs gaining control of those uranium mines – and starting to do deals with… China. Beijing, after all, is already present in the region.

All this crucial geostrategic power play – the “West” fighting China in Africa, with AFRICOM giving a hand to warlord Hollande while taking the Long War perspective – actually supersedes the blowback syndrome. It’s unthinkable that British, French and American intelligence did not foresee the blowback ramifications from NATO’s “humanitarian war” in Libya. NATO was intimately allied with Salafis and Salafi-jihadis – temporarily reconverted into “freedom fighters”. They knew Mali – and the whole Sahel – would subsequently be awash in weapons.

No, the expansion of GWOT to the Sahara/Sahel happened by design. GWOT is the gift that keeps on giving; what could possibly top a new war theatre to the French-Anglo-American industrial-military-security-contractor-media complex?

Well-wishers gather to greet French President Francois Hollande during his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Feb. 2, 2013.

Well-wishers gather to greet French President Francois Hollande during his two-hour-long visit to Timbuktu, Feb. 2, 2013.

Boubacar Boris Diop, Senegalese writer and intellectual, has reservations and grave doubts about the French intervention in Mali. He was interviewed by Souleymane Ndiaye for the Senegalese paper Le Pays au Quotidien. From the translation in The Guardian:

it is, in fact, a stroke of genius on the part of Paris that France can be depicted as an enemy of the “villains”. I use this word deliberately because international politics often reminds me of a Hollywood movie in which the whole plot depends on us being conditioned to be on the side of the good guys. When you learn that narco-terrorists occupy two-thirds of Mali, and that they destroy mosques and the tombs of saints, set fire to the Ahmed Baba Library and cut off people’s hands, your first impulse is to approve of those trying to help innocents out of harm’s way.

After Qaddafi was killed, under appalling circumstances, the French government believed the time had come to entrust the outsourcing of war against AQIM [al-Qaida in the Maghreb] and MUJAO [Movement for Unity and Jihad in west Africa] to the Tuareg rebellion. As Ibrahima Sene recently pointed out in his response to Samir Amin, Paris and Washington then decided to help the Tuareg in Libya return, heavily armed, to Mali – but, more interestingly, not to Niger, where they did not want to take any risk because of Areva [uranium mines]. The Tuareg were delighted to finally realise their dream of independence through the new state of Azawad, an ally of the west.

Some French media were then asked to “sell” the project of the “blue men of the desert” who were willing and ready to go to war against Mali. Just take a look in the archives of France 24 and RFI … France clearly occupies the role of a pyromaniac firefighter. Everything suggests that the French will defeat the jihadists, but this victory will cost the Malians their government and their honour.

BBD: I just want to say that this is the end of independence for Mali for a long time, and for its relative territorial homogeneity. It would be naive to imagine that, after having worked so hard to liberate the north, France will hand over the keys of the country to Dioncounda Traore and to the Malians and be satisfied with effusive farewells. No, the world does not work that way. France has put itself in a good position in the race for the prodigious natural resources of the Sahara, and it would be hard to imagine that the French will just drop the Tuareg rebellion, which has always been their trump card. There is an episode in this war that has gone unnoticed, yet deserves some consideration: the capture of Kidal. We initially conceded that Kidal was “captured” by the MNLA, which no longer has any military presence, and a few days later, on January 29th, French troops entered the town alone, not allowing Malian forces to accompany them. Iyad Ag Ghali, head of Ansar Dine, discredited by his affiliation with AQIM and MUJAO, is already almost out of the game and his “moderate” rival, Alghabasse Ag Intalla, head of MIA (Islamic Movement of Azawd) is in the best position to find common ground with Paris. As a matter of fact, after this military debacle, the Tuareg separatists are going to have political control over the north, something they have never had before. It’s a great paradox, but it is in the interest of the west that Mali has no hold over the northern part of it’s country. Traoré is already being pressured to negotiate with the moderate Tuareg backed by Paris, and it is unlikely that we are going to see a president as weakened as Dioncounda trying to resist Hollande. Whether we like it or not, the Arab Spring is completely detaching north Africa from the rest of the continent, and in some respects, the “new border” is northern Mali. This is a clear and coherent strategy that the west is in the process of implementing.

SN: What did you think when you saw young Malians waving French flags?

BBD: Some say it has been fabricated. I don’t agree. I think these pictures reveal the immense relief that the Malians feel. They are particularly disturbing images, and this is why should have the guts to confront them. The real question is not so much what we, as African intellectuals and politicians, should think of the French. More importantly, the question is how is it that our people are left in such a state of abandonment? The question that these images really raise for us is how is it that the French troops who occupied Mali for centuries as barbaric colonisers have come back 50 years later to be greeted as liberators? Does this not leave us seriously perplexed? What is Malian independence really worth?

The outpouring of affection towards French soldiers is from the heart, but it is temporary. The real aims of the war will become clearer for Malians, and time will not be on the French’s side. Benign foreign forces don’t exist anywhere.

it must be extremely hard these days to be in the Malian military. Here is a national army fighting in its own country, and its soldiers’ deaths do not even count, unlike that of the French helicopter pilot, Damien Boiteux, who was shot on the first day of fighting. All these humiliations will show Mali that a certain democratic comedy, aimed at pleasing foreign backers, is meaningless. Mali is a case study, cited everywhere as an example. Very little is needed for the country to collapse. We already see the mechanisms of exclusion in the works, and these create more and more murderers: All Tuaregs and Arabs will come to be seen as accomplices of jihadists or of the Tuareg separatist movement. Already aware of this danger, intellectuals like Aminata Dramane Traoré of Mali have repeatedly sounded the alarm in recent months, but nobody wants to listen. Relations between the different communities in Mali have always been fragile, and the threat of racial hostilities has never been as grave.

the procrastination of the African states has been rightly criticised, but you have to understand that it is ultimately suicidal for them to engage in a complex war with their bare hands. Yet this is precisely the criticism we can dole out to our countries: A failure to have the means to defends ourselves, collectively or individually.

Dan Glazebrook writes in The West’s War Against African Development Continues

… it is the West that is reliant on African handouts. …

Gold and uranium are the handouts of particular interest in Mali, Algeria’s oil and independence are also of interest.

As long as Gaddafi was in power [in Libya]  and heading up a powerful and effective regional security system, Salafist militias in North Africa could not be used as a ‘threatening menace’ justifying Western invasion and occupation to save the helpless natives. By actually achieving what the West claim to want (but everywhere fail to achieve) – the neutralization of ‘Islamist terrorism’ – Libya had stripped the imperialists of a key pretext for their war against Africa. At the same time, they had prevented the militias from fulfilling their other historical function for the West – as a proxy force to destabilize independent secular states (fully documented in Mark Curtis’ excellent Secret Affairs). The West had supported Salafi death squads in campaigns to destabilize the USSR and Yugoslavia highly successfully, and would do so again against Libya and Syria

With NATO’s redrawing of Libya as a failed state, this security system has fallen apart. Not only have the Salafi militias been provided with the latest hi-tech military equipment by NATO, they have been given free reign to loot the Libyan government’s armouries, and provided with a safe haven from which to organize attacks across the region. Border security has collapsed, with the apparent connivance of the new Libyan government and its NATO sponsors, as this damning report from global intelligence firm Jamestown Foundation notes …

The most obvious victim of this destabilization has been Mali.

As Escobar points out above, the flood of arms and militias out of Libya were foreseen by Western intelligence.    Algeria is rich in oil and borders the Mediterranean, another target in the Long War as well as a target of those who envision the Mediterranean as a European internal sea with Europe extending over North Africa.  The “French-Anglo-American industrial-military-security-contractor-media complex” do very nicely by continuing the GWOT.   Glazebrook continues:

…  disaster zones can be tolerated; strong, independent states cannot.

It is, therefore, perceived to be in the strategic interests of Western energy security to see Algeria turned into a failed state, just as Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have been. With this in mind, it is clear to see how the apparently contradictory policy of arming the Salafist militias one minute (in Libya) and bombing them the next (in Mali) does in fact make sense. The French bombing mission aims, in its own words, at the “total reconquest” of Mali, which in practice means driving the rebels gradually Northwards through the country – in other words, straight into Algeria.

…   Like a classic mafia protection racket, the West makes its protection ‘necessary’ by unleashing the very forces from which people require protection. Now France is occupying Mali, the US are establishing a new drone base in Niger and David Cameron is talking about his commitment to a new ‘war on terror’ spanning six countries, and likely to last decades.

Bill Van Auken writes:

Both Paris and Washington have justified their military incursions into the African continent in the name of defeating Al Qaeda and associated organizations in Africa. British Prime Minister David Cameron chimed in last month, warning that the prosecution of this war in Africa could span “decades.”

The glaring contradiction between this pretext for war in Africa’s Sahel region and the line-up of these imperialist powers behind Al Qaeda-linked militias in the sectarian-based war to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria is passed over in silence by the media and the political establishments in all three countries.

Behind the incoherence of the pretexts for imperialist intervention, the real forces driving it are clear. Washington finds itself being economically eclipsed in Africa by China, which has emerged as the continent’s leading trade partner. Increasingly in competition over strategic resources—West Africa is soon expected to account for 25 percent of US petroleum imports—US imperialism is relying on its residual military superiority to combat this economic challenge.

In the prosecution of this predatory strategy, Al Qaeda serves a dual purpose—providing shock troops for the toppling of regimes seen as obstacles to US hegemony, and serving as a pretext for other interventions carried out in the name of combating “terrorism” and “extremism.”

A Malian man dressed in green walks between green doors of closed shops in Gao, Feb. 5, 2013.

A Malian man dressed in green walks between green doors of closed shops in Gao, Feb. 5, 2013.

In Foreign Policy Gordon Adams describes a Continental Shift in US policy towards Africa.

U.S. engagement in Africa is shifting from a focus on governance, health, and development to a deepening military engagement. And while the Pentagon portrays this expanding military engagement as a way to empower Africans, it is actually building security relationships that could backfire, harming our long-term foreign policy interests.

A focus on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations has driven this engagement forward …

[T]he U.S. plans its security assistance programs in a strategy and policy void and, with a focus on “security” but not “governance,” they are largely implemented to meet the bureaucratic, regional, and program priorities of the Defense Department, in this case, Africom. The choice of countries, programs, and individuals to receive support in Africa is driven largely by the military — the regional combatant commander, the military services, and DOD policy officials.
U.S. security assistance, especially after Iraq and Afghanistan, does put “security” first and “governance” second, which is characteristic of these Africa programs.  …  The downside is that by putting security first …  too many [African countries] will end up insecure in another way: hostage to a strongly developed military-paramilitary-gendarme-police force which is the only effective form of political power. As the Perry report said in its subdued way: “In many countries, whether intended or not, the U.S. is choosing sides in the partner nation’s political process when it provides assistance to security forces.”

Gordon Adams is describing what I and others have been writing about since 2007 and before.  The US choice to invest the  money and attention it devotes to Africa on military development is to choose sides in the political process of the nations it engages.  Africans want to move away from military governments.   US national interests are not being served when the Department of Defense, DoD, bureaucratic, regional, and program priorities drive national foreign policy.  The US military remains on the wrong side of history in Africa.   There is a long US history of military assistance and covert intervention in Africa throughout the cold war and particularly in the lengthy US support for apartheid.  In the course of those conflicts the US was party to the introduction of state sponsored terrorism into African conflicts.  The US has been party to coups and assassinations against the most progressive and visionary of Africa’s leaders, including Nkrumah, Lumumba, and Sankara.  US support for Savimbi and manipulation of the electoral process precipitated an extra decade of war in Angola. The US installed and maintained Mobutu in Congo, DRC, for decades of theft and misrule.  The US arms and supports Rwanda and Uganda as they loot the Eastern Congo.   It would behoove US long term interests in Africa to avoid looking like the leader among those who would recolonize the African continent. Mali’s current fractures make it vulnerable to military opportunism. France, the UK, and US (fukus) along with NATO and the GCC, are engaged in a short sighted Long War of neocolonialism.

The US has concluded a SOFA, status of forces agreement, with Niger, and is setting up a drone base there. Craig Whitlock writes:

The base in Niger marks the opening of another far-flung U.S. military front against al-Qaeda and its affiliates, adding to drone combat missions in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. The CIA is also conducting drone airstrikes against al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan and Yemen.

Location of US drone and aerial surveillance bases in Africa

Location of US drone and aerial surveillance bases in Africa, click to enlarge enough to read.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to provide details about military operations, said that the 40 troops who arrived in Niger on Wednesday were almost all Air Force personnel and that their mission was to support drone flights.

The drones will be based at first in the capital, Niamey. But military officials would like to eventually move them north to the city of Agadez, which is closer to parts of Mali where al-Qaeda cells have taken root.

“That’s a better location for the mission, but it’s not feasible at this point,” the official said, describing Agadez as a frontier city “with logistical challenges.”

The introduction of Predators to Niger fills a gap in U.S. military capabilities over the Sahara, most of which remains beyond the reach of its drone bases in East Africa and southern Europe.

The Pentagon also operates drones from a permanent base in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, and from a civilian airport in Ethi o pia.

The U.S. military has been flying small turboprop surveillance planes over northern Mali and West Africa for years, but the PC-12 spy aircraft have limited range and lack the sophisticated sensors that Predators carry.

The United States is now carrying out surveillance all along the coasts of Africa and continually increasing surveillance from the air. The map above is just the beginning. There will be more political assassin robots flying in African skies.

EPA negotiations are going on in Accra right now.  Remember, the EU and the West depend upon African resources.  Africans need to drive some hard bargains in order to participate in the benefits of African wealth.

ECOWAS EPA Meeting

Ahead of an ECOWAS experts meeting on the Economic Partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU), to be held in Accra from 20-22nd of February 2013, there are gloomy clouds on the horizon, firstly about the possible direction that ECOWAS officials’ might lead the region and ‘betray’ their peoples and the sub-region by reversing current negotiating positions and offering even more liberal terms to an intransigent and aggressive European Union; and secondly, about the role that Ghana might play in such an unfortunate turn of events. ECOWAS CSO’s have issued a public admonition to the officials about the prospect of such a ‘betrayal’

ecowas-countries

Given Ghana’s delicate and potentially game-changing position in the West African EPA framework, it is imperative to call on the Government to show consistency of purpose and offer some leadership at this critical juncture in the EPA process.

The Ghanaian President spoke against the EU’s imposition of arbitrary and aggressive deadlines on countries like Ghana to sign the EPAs as well as the EU’s insistence on far-going, outright liberalization and how these will damage national revenue (through sharp reductions in customs revenue collection); adversely impact entire economies of what are still developing and least developed countries; and undermine regional economic integration such as that pursued by West African states through ECOWAS.

Despite such clear grasp of the fractious and anti-developmental nature of the current EU-driven EPAs, Ghana has continued to equivocate on its own EPA positions in ways that undermine and weaken ECOWAS as a whole. Even the pro-free trade World Bank states that opening of more than 65% of West African markets on equal terms to EU companies and goods will destroy domestic industry. Yet, in the face of an already struggling Ghanaian industry, barely gasping under the choking weight of unfair competition by imports, and despite the ECOWAS position of 70% market opening in the EPAs, Ghana’s go-it-alone interim EPA offers an 80%+ opening to the EU. As long as such as this exists the EU will use it as a benchmark pushing the entire region towards this lower, disastrous threshold.

Such inconsistency is all the more dangerous in the face of the contrasting single-minded aggressiveness of the EU to exploit its political position to gain pole position in certain global markets both to export its way out of its current crisis and to secure its competitiveness for the future. …

For the EU, this strategy is continuously being developed, evolved and renewed. For instance in 2008 the EU launched its raw material initiatives that seeks to enable Europe gain unimpeded access to raw materials to guarantee proper and sustainable functioning of the EU economy. … It is therefore not strange that the issues expressed in the raw materials initiative find expression in the EPA negotiations.

The European Union had based its assessment and projections for the coming decades on the firm conclusion that its survival depends on access to and control of strategic raw materials, assets and markets across the world hence the growing importance to it of projects such as the EPAs.  With the rise of new competitors on the global scene like China, the need to leverage spheres of interest and markets controlled since colonial times increases even more, and with it, the (as yet) non-violent political warfare for the Continent’s (Africa) resources. The warfare will be intensified in the wake of the never-ending financial and economic crises that engulfed the euro-zone since 2008.

The stakes are very high. For us, it is our economy, our development and our livelihoods. But it is also about our governments and their integrity at the national but also the sub-regional level as well.

Sylvester Bagooro, Programme officer, Third World Network-Africa; email:politicaleconomy@twnafrica.org

West African Civil society strongly oppose further opening of West African market to the EU

We strongly opposed to any new concession for opening the West African market to the European Union and are warning West African negotiators against any violation of the mandate given them by the region.

The civil society reminds West African experts as well as policy-makers of three pieces of evidence:

(1) the EPA is a trade agreement with a partner and, as such, cannot be a substitute for the trade policy in Africa West, let alone determine or influence the economic choices of the region that needs some appropriate policy space to build its development;

(2) Being aware of the risks that the failure to conclude an EPA could have on regional integration, especially through the signing of interim agreements with countries in the region, the civil society has never rejected the EPA negotiations, but they have always remained constant about their willingness to only accept an agreement that promotes development;

(3) In accordance with the MMC’s recommendations of November 2011 in Accra, the civil society requested West African decision-makers to initiate immediately a high level policy dialogue with the European Union to find a fair solution that would protect current and future interests of Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and the entire West African region.

Source: West African Civil Society Platform on Cotonou Agreement (POSCAO)

It is in the economic interests of the EU and the West in general that African countries remain underdeveloped suppliers of raw materials.   Aid and EPAs provide a cover for agricultural dumping and other unfair trade practices that undermine African business,  farmers, and entrepreneurs.  It would be in all our interests if Ghana will provide some leadership with a bit of backbone in the current EPA negotiations.

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