February 2009


USNS Lewis and Clark

USNS Lewis and Clark

See a diagram of the USNS Lewis and Clark at Global Security

A friend sent me this link to Captives of Lewis and Clark. The writer, Bryan Finoki, looks at political and policy issues from an architectural perspective, how people use space. In this case the space is prisons the US is creating to incarcerate captives of the selective war against the Somali pirates in Somali waters, leaving the illegal unreported and unregulated, IUU, fishing fleets from around the world, and the illegal toxic dumping, to continue unimpeded.

I have long been disturbed by the way in which the US has replaced slavery with its prison system at home. During the Bush administration incarceration of poor and brown people became globalized, and far more brutal and abusive. So far Obama seems to be continuing the same pattern.

As part of a larger multinational effort, the U.S. 5th Fleet has sent additional ships into the gulf, that will be joined by the Coast Guard and other combat Marine search and seizure teams. While the UN uses UNOSAT to watch the seas from space, the Navy is using “an unmanned aerial spy plane known as the ScanEagle for target surveillance.” In what Navy Commander Stephen Murphy has described as “sort of racial profiling at sea,” the drone’s aerial footage is used “to help determine whether those on board the skiff are ethnic Somalis, and thus more likely to be pirates, or simply fishermen from elsewhere.”

The “simply fishermen from elsewhere” are simply pirates stealing the food and livelihood of the Somalis. But no one is even questioning that piracy, no one is protecting the interests of the Somalis. With the country weakened by close to two decades of war and civil strife, Somali seas are wide open to exploitation, including the illegal dumping of nuclear waste.

Yet, what interests me most in all of this is one vessel in particular that will be joining this crew – the USNS Lewis and Clark, an old 689-foot, 24,000-ton Navy cargo ship, or T-AKE supply ship, that has been converted into a naval detention facility. According to Strategy Page, this ship has had its crew reduced from 158 to 118 so accommodations for 26 prisoners could be improvised.
The T-AKE we learn “is the grandchild of the Servron” which developed out of necessity during World War II … these Servrons also acted as prison ships during WWII.

But for now, you can add the USNS Lewis and Clark to the list. In addition to concerns about mistakenly detaining innocent fisherman or innocents others, what could also be potentially very worrisome is whether this vessel will have any use or role in the roundup and rendition of ‘terrorist suspects’ in the good ol’ ‘War on Terror’ where too little transparency around unlawful detention and rendition exists.
If you read this article you will note, “Currently, six (T-AKE’s) are in service and eight are on order. The fourteen T-AKEs will replace 16 existing supply (separate ammo, cargo and fuel) ships that are reaching the end of their 35 year service life this year.” Not to read too much into things, but that could spell fourteen new prison ships soon circulating international waters. With the capacity for each to hold roughly 25 detainees, that would be 350 persons that could one day be swallowed up by the indefinite chambers of the nomadic fortress at sea.
Anyway, not to jump to any grim conclusions, all I’m sayin’ is it’s another ship to watch as the waves roll on.

Finoki ties this into a much larger picture of the use of space and the movement of peoples that are part of globalization.

…the nomadic fortress is a whole syntax of control spaces linked across multiple landscapes that constitute perhaps the world’s first universal border fence, loosely connected across continents through a kind of geopolitical geometry that super-imposes a border just as much as enforces one between the First World and the Global South. It is, you might say, the Great Wall of Globalization.

… It is in some way the final border, a border that is never at rest but is always modifying itself for greater tactical vantage; a kind of flexible mock-hydrological regime that deploys and aligns other sub-border levers and valves below it to secure the conduits of neoliberal capitalism and the flows of people who are captives of them in one way or another. A structure that utilizes an entire atlas of border fences with a range of satellite technologies, web-based border vigilantes and extra-territorial floating prisons, to feed the border as a kind of geopolitical gutter space that siphons the subjects of migration off into a swollen infrastructure of detention where billions of dollars and are spent on their bounty.

It is a fully transitional geography of unsettled coordinates, excessive legality and perpetual legal suspension. This border doesn’t take the defensive posture that borders traditionally have in the past, but instead is on the move and on the hunt for a new class of would-be border crossers who’ve been bound together in a dangerously wide-cast surveillance net that is incapable of distinguishing the refugee from the enemy combatant, the migrant from the smuggler, laborer from insurgent. It is the border as the worst kind of political blur space. It is as immovable as it is fluid, like a sea of transparent blast walls crashing on the shores of geopolitical exile.

Being incapable of distinguishing the refugee from the enemy combatant, the migrant from the smuggler, and laborer from insurgent has been a distinguishing feature of US policy, and policies of countries around the world during the Bush administration. This inability to distinguish is particularly true of the US and US proxies in Somalia and Kenya, and along the border between those two countries. I don’t feel any change in the air on this.

And to flesh out the picture, you may want to look at Finoki’s post on floating prisons coverted into housing, floating labor camps for migrant labor. Or the prisoner boxes used by the US in Iraq, where the space is the torture.

These are just a few of the blessings that AFRICOM and ongoing military liaison can bring to African “partners” that will “add value to the important endeavor of stability and security on the content of Africa and its island nations” and will “help build the capability for African partners, and organizations … to take the lead in establishing a secure environment“.

Oil spill fouls the water supply

Oil spill fouls the water supply

defenders of human rights

defenders of human rights

Violence has been an instrument of governance in the Niger Delta as a constant companion to the oil business. Sokari Ekine has written a moving and well documented account of “how women have spearheaded the defence of local livelihoods through organised protests which cut across regional ethnic divisions” in Women’s responses to state violence in the Niger Delta, Violence as an instrument of governance.

The Niger Delta is a region of Nigeria that has been subjected to excessive militarisation for the past 13 years, where violence is used as an instrument of governance to force the people into total submission (Okonta and Douglas, 2001; Na’Allah, 1998). It is where, by far, the majority of the people live in abject poverty and where women are the poorest of the poor (Human Rights Watch, 2002; 2004; 2007). This region has little or no development, no electricity, no water, no communications, no health facilities, little and poor education. In contrast, the region generated an estimated over US$30 billion in oil revenues over a 38-year period in the form of rents for the government and profit for the multinational oil companies

Now, in order to keep this population poor, without water, without communications, or health facilities, or education, or jobs, in order to keep oil and money coming out of the Delta, going to the politicians and the oil companies, according to Nigeria’s Next, The Mercenaries Take Over.
(h/t Foreign Policy Exchange)

The Niger Delta is crawling with British and American private paramilitary companies providing security services for clients in the oil and gas industry, in clear violation of Nigerian law

There are at least 10 mercenary companies operating in the Delta, including Triple Canopy, Control Risk, Erinys International, ArmorGroup, Aegis Defence System, and Northbridge Service Group, the successor company to the now defunct Executive Outcomes … “the notorious South African paramilitary force known for its role in helping the Angolan government during the war with the rebel UNITA forces of Jonas Savimbi,and for fighting directly in the Sierra Leonean civil war.

Our laws forbid foreigners from operating armed security companies or paramilitary organisations of any kind and, strictly speaking, these hired guns are forbidden from freelancing here. But almost all of them have sought to get around the law by forming vague partnerships with local companies and by claiming to provide mainly advisory services, which contradict their stated objectives and services on their parent websites and their known activities in other countries.

Government denial

Astonishingly, our military and security services also claim to know nothing of their presence.

“I am not aware,” said the spokesman for Defence Headquarters in Abuja, Col. Christopher Jemitola. “If there is any evidence, including photographs, bring them up and we will address the issue.”

Some of the security companies also claim not to bear any arms in the Delta, a chaotic frontier where foreigners are routinely kidnaped and gunfights are a fact of daily life in cities such as Port Harcourt and in the creeks of the mangrove swamp.

This denial beggars belief, said Ishola Williams, a former commandant of the Nigerian Army Training and Doctrine Command.“They must be magicians,” said the retired general. “Are they going to fight the militants with karate or judo? We have to be very realistic, because if someone gives you a contract to provide protection for oil workers in the Niger Delta, what would you do– you would go there with your bare arms?”

Apart from the Biafran war of 1967-70, paramilitary groups are relatively new to Nigeria. But the protracted and deteriorating insurgency in the Niger Delta has made them increasingly sought after. One of the security companies that claims local partnership in Nigeria is Erinys International, a British company with experience of guarding oil installations in Iraq.

In the wild frontier of the internet, private military companies are rife and active, peddling their services to prospective patrons. Many of them have announced that they are now operationally domiciled in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, and some claim they work in partnership with the military Joint Task Force, the Nigeria defence forces known by its acronym JTF and which has primary responsibility for security in the area.

A JTF spokesman, Musa Sagir, denied knowledge of the existence of the foreigners nor any collaboration with them. We don’t have any connection with any foreign military contractor,” Col. Sagir said, adding that “With my inside knowledge and experience in the Niger Delta, in particular River State, I don’t have formal or informal knowledge of the existence of foreign military contractors.”

What was more, he added, somewhat indignantly, “we are trained for the job and we know what to do at the right time.”

Willaims, the retired general and now head of the local Transparency International office in Nigeria, was buying none of that. “Remember that these are government officials. If they say they know them, you as the press will go and blow it up that foreign military companies have taken over the job of security in this country and what are they doing? The House of Representatives will take it up and want to investigate, and it shows the weaknesses of all the armed forces and all the security agencies in Nigeria.”

Official denials and a seeming lack of awareness of the activities of these companies also demonstrate the enfeebled state of the Nigerian state, said Kayode Soremekun, a professor of international relations at the University of Lagos.

My own problem here is that the ministry of internal affairs and ministry of defence are not aware of their existence,” Soremekun said. “It is either one or two things: the ministry of defence is genuinely ignorant of this particular development, or it is pretending. Either way it does not bode well for the Nigerian state. And it simply shows what a lot of people had thought all along, that those who really control the Nigerian state, those who really determine what happens in the Nigerian state, cannot even be located in this country. You can locate them offshore.”

Since our laws do not allow for foreign owned security company to operate locally, most of these private security contractors have resorted to calling themselves “risk management consultants” rather than hired guns.

This way, they are able to provide a cocktail of services and products that are not different from what regular private military companies provide– or what the same companies do elsewhere in countries like Sierra Leone

Most of the companies are not forthcoming about their activities, for example:

At Control Risk, yet another of these security companies active in the Niger Delta, company spokesman, Edward Murray, told Next on Sunday to “go to hell” when asked to help define the scope of their Nigerian operations.

The company states that it is in Nigeria to protect British oil workers and names “a large oil producer” as a client. However, its mission includes, according to its official web site, “the provision of technical security services (onshore and offshore) and sophisticated management of security strategy in places where security is linked to broader issues of social performance.” In plain English, the company guards oil company interests against restive locals.

The mercenary companies are there to protect the “rights” of the oil companies to kill and oppress the people of the Niger Delta, pollute their land and water, and steal the resources from under their feet.

The people who are suffering most are the women. They are also organizing and fighting back. So women and children will remain major targets of violent military governance.

Meredeth Turshen wrote in 2004:

Specific effects of oil development on women’s health seem not to have been investigated. Although I found an article on the effects of exposure of crocodiles to sub-lethal concentrations of petroleum waste drilling fluid in the Niger Delta basin, I could find nothing on the health of women who live near oil wells and oil production stations, and nothing on reproductive outcomes in areas adjacent to petrochemical plants. Yet it is known that cadmium, chromium, mercury, and lead are contained in the refinery effluents that are constantly discharged into nearby bodies of water. At high concentrations these metals cause metabolic malfunctions in human beings. They enter the food chain through the drinking water and the local fish that people consume. Fish store mercury without metabolizing it, and people who eat mercury-contaminated fish can contract Minamata disease.

The health of the people and of future generations is not even important enough to study. The people polluting the environment don’t want the effects known. Until there is a serious effort to create a political solution to the problems of the Niger Delta, the people will continue to suffer, and the health and lives of the entire population are in danger. The proliferation of armed mercenaries will only escalate and prolong the problem.

(h/t sdnnigeria’s photostream)

The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC)

The Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC)

According to the Congressional Research Service January 2009 report to Congress: PDF: Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa

AFRICOM headquarters are based in Stuttgart Germany. Any long term decisisons as to their location have been postponed until 2012.

At present, DOD’s Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) has a semipermanent troop presence at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti with more than 1,500 U.S. military and civilian personnel in residence. The U.S. military has signed a five year lease with the Djiboutian government for Lemonier, with the option to extend the lease for two more five-year terms. The command authority for CJTF-HOA, formerly under CENTCOM, has been transferred to AFRICOM, and it will continue to be used as a Forward Operating Site.  The U.S. military has access to a number of foreign air bases and ports in Africa and has established “bare-bones” facilities maintained by local troops in several locations. The U.S. military used facilities in Kenya in the 1990s to support its intervention in Somalia and continues to use them today to support counter-terrorism activities. DOD refers to these facilities as “lily pads,” or Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs), and currently has access to locations in Algeria, Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia.

… DOD officials have stressed that the location in question would be a staff headquarters rather than a troop headquarters, and have suggested that they may consider a dispersed regional headquarters model, with several small locations spread across the continent to lessen the U.S. presence and burden in any one country. DOD may eventually try to co-locate those facilities with the headquarters of the continent’s regional and sub-regional organizations to link AFRICOM with the AU’s nascent regional security architecture (see “Security Assistance” below). AFRICOM already has military liaison officers (LNOs) at the African Union headquarters in Ethiopia and with ECOWAS in Nigeria, as well as at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Ghana. Those presences are likely to expand, and additional liaison offices may be attached to other regional organizations. DOD’s FY2009 budget request sought funding for a “limited presence on the African continent with the establishment of two of five regional offices,” although plans for those two offices have been postponed and funding for the offices was cut for the upcoming fiscal year.

The reports cites:

According to one defense analyst, “during the Cold War, United States foreign policy toward Sub-Saharan Africa had little to do with Africa.”

And despite all the fancy management speak about partnering with African partners, I think current policy has little to do with Africa, other than the fact that the US is far more focused on, and aware of, Africa’s natural resources, particularly oil. If US policy had more to do with Africa, the US would not be running its policy through its military. The CRS report emphasizes the issues of oil and counter terrorism as predominant reasons for the creation of the Africa Command.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS, has published Pursuing U.S. Energy Security Interests in Africa
A chapter in the forthcoming CSIS Africa Program report: Africa Policy in the George W. Bush Years: Recommendations for the Obama Administration
, written by David L. Goldwyn. You can download the PDF prepublication draft of the report from the link. The synopsis reads:

Synopsis:
Africa plays a strategic role in U.S. and global energy security. It is a critical supplier of new source production to global and U.S. oil supply. It is a natural gas supplier, with enormous potential to meet increased future demand in a carbonconstrained world. Africa remains open to foreign investment and is one of the few continents that has not dramatically reduced access to investment in recent years. If the continent meets its potential, it may increase its production dramatically over the next two decades, serving as a pillar of global energy security by providing a major source of diverse oil and gas supply. The risk of instability in many of Africa’s key energy producers is high and rising, posing a threat to the stability of these nations and their neighbors, as well as U.S. investment and the global economy.

Once again it is clear that the interest of the US is not about Africa, it is about energy for the US.

From the body of the report:

While Nigeria and Angola, traditional large producers, have grown, new major players have emerged: Equatorial Guinea, which produced just 168,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2000, is now the third largest producer in sub-Saharan Africa. 13 Exploration has moved from West Africa to East Africa, with new discoveries in Uganda and Tanzania. Exploration is under way in Madagascar, and licensing or exploration is being conducted in Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Rwanda, and the Puntland region of Somalia. New infrastructure is emerging, from the West Africa Gas Pipeline (which will take Nigerian gas across Benin and Togo to Ghana) to development of major LNG facilities in Algeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria.

Investment levels are rising and moving offshore. According to PFC Energy, 95 percent of all regional production will be offshore, with 85 percent of total production coming from Nigeria and Angola. Over the next decade firms may invest as much as $485 billion in regional exploration and production between 2005 and 2030 14 . Forty-five percent of the gross amount of capital expenditures for deepwater oil development worldwide is likely to be spent in West Africa.

The report discusses the importance and production of African oil, and discusses the competition from Asian countries:

The real concern over the rise of Asian NOCs [national oil companies], therefore, primarily stems from anxiety over business practices that negatively affect competition and the long-term stability of producing countries. So far, Asian NOCs have tended to place commercial over humanitarian concerns and have failed to incorporate into the norms of their overseas operation the long-term risks of disregarding governance, environmental, and human rights concerns.

The blatant hypocrisy (or ignorance?) of this statement should have informed readers rolling on the floor laughing hysterically. Look at Equatorial Guinea, an international symbol for rapaciously exploitive government. The US is heavily engaged with Equatorial Guinea and friends with its dictator, Obiang. It is engaged in military to military partnerships whose effect will be to shore up his power and further crush and oppress his people.

Or look at the Niger Delta, where 60 years of oil production, and engagement with the US and US military have completely disregarded “governance, environmental, and human rights concerns.” This has created and environmental, human rights, and economic disaster for the people of the Delta. Currently AFRICOM’s activities partnering with the Nigerian military appear designed for further attacks and military actions against the people of the Niger Delta, calling them “terrorists” for opposing oil exploitation and the degradation of their environment. There are serious security issues in the Delta,but they require a political solution, with far more limited military action than seems to be under consideration.

The CSIS report does go on to describe some of the issues in more realistic detail. And it describes recent policy:

In the period from 2001 to 2008, many voluntary initiatives to improve transparency and governance emerged: the implementation of the U.S.-UK led Voluntary Principles on Human Rights and Security, the development of the Equator Principles, which require assessment of environmental impact of lending, and the internationalization of the UK-initiated Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. The U.S. took a surprisingly distant approach to all of these efforts. …

There are several reasons for this relative disengagement on energy issues.

First was a shift in focus. After 9/11, the White House emphasis was on counterterrorism, with little attention to political and economic development. The link between underdevelopment and creating ungoverned spaces where terror might emerge was not identified or acted upon as a priority.

A second reason was that the White House and State Department saw that the market provided for energy supply despite internal problems in Africa, and concluded therefore that no energy market-related policy was required.

A third rationale was the absence of responsibility. The State Department Africa Bureau saw its duties primarily as crisis management. Sudan and Darfur in particular, along with DRC, Somalia, and Kenya, took most of the time of senior diplomats. Nigeria’s crisis in the Delta, despite implications for financing crime, spreading violence to neighboring countries, and destabilizing Nigeria’s democracy, did not make the cut for top priority. The State Department’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs follows business interests generally, but has no funds or mandate to address internal energy developments in producing countries. The Energy and Commerce Departments are technical agencies with no funds or mandate to engage producing countries. No one at the White House had the mandate to pull together a strategy for preventive diplomacy in a place like Angola or conflict management in the Niger Delta, much less to consider the potential impact of conflict driven disruption—such a shut in of nearly one million barrels per day of production in Nigeria—on U.S. economic interests.

Finally, there was a lack of strategic vision. There is a growing consensus among companies, NGOs, and many African countries that among energy producing countries, good governance, sound revenue management, curbs on corruption, and provision of development needs, can ultimately contribute to global energy security, and avoid the human and economic depredations suffered by Nigeria, Sudan, and other “resource cursed” countries. A partner country can help advance energy security by engaging nations on simply improving their own economy and governance. This view, which would require a coordinated multiagency approach, did not appear to figure in Bush administration calculations. Indeed, several remarked that “transparency will never be a top priority.”

The report provides a practical list of the challenges ahead for the Obama administration:

Nigeria. … The United States needs a realistic strategy for addressing the issue of the Delta that acknowledges the complexity and severity of the instability—especially in the absence of a credible government counterpart with whom the U.S. and its allies can engage.

Declining U.S. Influence. If the United States is to influence the development path of current producers like Angola, Chad, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, and emerging producers such as Ghana and Madagascar, a special effort will be needed to restore a respected voice in those countries. …

Traditionally the U.S. and international institutions have effectively used their financial clout as leverage to compel developing countries to implement policies … the U.S. will need a more nuanced approach to engagement, since resource rich countries now have ample funding on their own or through unconditional loans from China.

Security of the Offshore. If 95 percent of all energy production in West Africa will be offshore by 2010 there will be a need both for the U.S. to monitor international waters, and for countries to have the wherewithal to see who is in their water, interdict pirates and criminals, and deter attacks on facilities to protect the lives of workers. Nigeria has surpassed Indonesia to become the “number one hot spot” for piracy in the world. …

The Competition for Values. … the great challenge that China poses to U.S. and European investment in Africa is not domination of acreage (their share remains minimal) but the refusal so far to participate in international standards, a stance that erodes the incorporation of these standards into host country practice. …

In the competition for values the US needs to demonstrate its own committment, not just preach about standards others should follow. As far as strategic visions go, it would be very nice if the US strategic vision was “a stable, prosperous Africa that contributes to global energy security and uses its wealth to develop its nations”. I have not seen much sign to date of that being the case.

The Need for a Strategic Vision. The United States cannot get where it wants to go—a stable, prosperous Africa that contributes to global energy security and uses its wealth to develop its nations—unless it has a vision of how to get there. …

Deploying Resources. The two components needed to implement an effective policy are people and money. The United States needs people at the White House charged with a focus on a strategic energy policy for Africa, and a greatly enhanced diplomatic capacity. …

Asymmetric Engagement. The United States should take a holistic approach to improving stability and development, with an indirect benefit being increased energy security. Efforts to promote economic development, democracy, human rights, public health, and security will create an environment favorable to achieving energy security goals. …

And the report concludes with:

Recommendations for the New Administration
Priority recommendations for addressing these challenges are:

1. Promulgate a Policy Decision Directive on African energy security

2. Provide White House leadership

3. Apply State Department diplomatic resources and leadership to energy security

4. Give governance and transparency policy a bureaucratic home

5. Engage Africa on its own energy and economic agenda, not just ours

6. Focus development and technical assistance on governance

7. Sustain efforts to promote maritime security

8. Engage Europe and Asia on Africa issues

9. Procure a National Intelligence Estimate on African Energy Security

10. Engage on the Niger Delta

This is a very good list of challenges and conclusions. I hope there is some will to take them seriously. So far US Africa policy seems to be on Bush administration auto pilot, and run by holdovers from the Bush administration. The two areas where AFRICOM has engaged in action on the continent have been disasters, Somalia, and Uganda/DRC.

Steve Coll writes:

Military liaison, even if it is conceived progressively, becomes its own self-fulfilling destination, especially when the rest of the U.S. government is starved, by comparison, for resources.

So far military liaison is where the money is.  That will drive the policy regardless of intentions, and drive it to disaster after disaster.  The US will need to invest its money differently to achieve its objectives, and to be a positive force in Africa.  Is that likely to happen?  Is it even possible?  I certainly hope so.

caterpillers1
caterpillars2

Spraying to control the caterpillars in Liberia

Spraying to control the caterpillars in Liberia

We are only into the second month of 2009, and already Liberia has been struck with two plagues of caterpillars. Now those caterpillars from that first wave have crossed over into Ivory Coast threatening the cocoa crop. They have also crossed over into Guinea. The first wave of caterpillars were identified as Achaea catocaloides. The caterpillars devour everything, cocoa, cash crops, food crops. Sikoun Wague, spokesman for Guinea’s Agriculture Ministry, told Reuters:

“The equipment we have means we can only spray up to a height of 6 metres (yards), whereas some trees are 30 metres high. We absolutely must have air support,”

“These insects suck the sap from trees and leave tonnes of waste in channels and water courses, which are then unusable for two weeks,” he said.

The threat to the water supply is particularly serious. The threat to food security, and the danger of hunger is large and rising.

GBOLUMUE, Liberia, Feb 11 – Martha Kermel holds out rail-thin arms covered with a latticework of scratches from her encounter with a plague of caterpillars that has devastated crops and spread fear through this corner of West Africa.

“They scratched my arms when they moved,” said Kermel, a mother of four, telling how the small creatures poured down onto her from the tree branches overhead as she set out from her village to a rice farm cultivated by her community in Liberia.

That was two weeks ago. Now the millions of caterpillars which covered the road and nearby bushes have retreated into cocoons, or hatched already into moths ready to spawn a new generation of grubs here or further afield.

She and her family, subsistence farmers like most people in the area, live 16 km south of the border with Guinea and 45 minutes by foot from the nearest passable road.

When the bugs attacked, Kermel had nowhere to go, and worried about feeding her children.

She said the ‘kotin’, as locals call the pests, fouled the creek near her home with their faeces, turning the water black.

Every day since then, she and her children have had to walk several miles to the main road to gather water at a borehole.

The Liberian government has said the caterpillars are threatening the food security of 350 000 people, and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf declared a national state of emergency.

The species can travel up to 100 km per day. Ivory Coast is already sounding alarms.

Ivory Coast is:

… the world’s top cocoa grower and an important producer of coffee, rubber, palm oil and other cash crops.

The creatures were first thought to be army worms, a moth caterpillar, but they were identified this week as the young of another kind of moth, the Achaea catocaloides, which are also known to damage cocoa and other tree crops.

For the time being, the moths are headed north, and experts in Ivory Coast said this week they should avoid Ivory Coast’s valuable cocoa belt, which produces about 40 per cent of world supply.

But they remain a risk to Ivory Coast’s central borderlands, which produce around 100 000 tonnes of cocoa and 70 000 tonnes of robusta coffee a year.

“I think this is a seasonal threat. From our experience in Benin, the moth will disappear by early or mid-March,” Georg Goergen, an entomologist at the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), told Reuters.

While the caterpillars feed on trees, adults belong to a group known as fruit-sucking moths for their penchant for piercing ripening fruit and sucking out the juice, often causing the fruit to rot and drop prematurely.

Spray teams, each member with a plastic tank of insecticide strapped to their back, have started work. But Jobson Momo, an agricultural programme officer in the town of Carey, said his team did not have enough pesticide, protective gear or vehicles.

The entire first wave of Liberia’s caterpillars has now turned into moths. Scientists at the Ministry of Agriculture fear they are are now reproducing and could cause secondary and tertiary waves of infestations that, if uncontained, may destabilise an already volatile region.

This plague has been described as the worst in at least 30 years. And now Liberia has been struck by a second wave of caterpillars. The new ones are a different species, but appear to have the same appetites.

Monrovia, Feb. 18: “On Friday… we got information that there was an invasion of caterpillars in the Margibi County area. We know that is not the same species that was found in Bong, Gbarpolu, Nimba and part of Lofa,” Agriculture minister Christopher Toe told a press conference late on Tuesday.

“Our task force, our crop protection people, are now on the ground addressing this particular issue,” Toe said

It will take some time to identify the new species.

Toe said the areas first affected in Liberia by the caterpillars are still suffering from the after-effects.

“The problem that we face has implication beyond agriculture,” Toe warned. “Damage for example to food crops now could lead to food insecurity in the future as well as to loss of revenue and income.”

He added that the community was also facing health issues as water sources were being polluted by the caterpillars’ droppings and by dead caterpillars.

The local population has been warned not to drink affected water.

The invasion is likely to spread:

to neighboring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast unless it is quickly contained, said entomologist Winfred Hammond, who is also the agency’s representative in Liberia.

Hammond blamed the outbreak on last year’s unusually long rain season in the country.

FAO also said that the caterpillars … are clogging wells and waterways with excrement. In some communities, villagers can’t reach their farms as they are surrounded by the pests.

Experts are trying to identify the exact species to choose the best pesticide to combat them, the agency said. However, aerial spraying risks further contaminating the water and hand spraying has proved ineffective, as the pests dwell on the leaves of giant forest trees that can rise more than 26 feet (8 meters).

The last African armyworm outbreak in the area occurred in Ghana in 2006, the agency said.

The countries in the region are responding:

MONROVIA (AFP) — Four West African nations have joined forces to do battle against a species of caterpillars laying waste to crops in the region, a statement said Saturday.

The agriculture ministers from Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast have created a team to look into the threats posed by what are believed to be Achaea Catocaloides caterpillars.

Crops in central Liberia and southern Guinea have already been ravaged by the caterpillars, and other countries in the region fear the damage will spread further.

“The five-man technical committee will begin work immediately,” the ministers from the four countries forming the Mano River Union said in a statement after meeting in Monrovia on Friday.

“They will design plans of action that will be implemented by all member countries.”

An expert from Brazil already working with Liberia will assist the new committee.

This story gets me worrying about our farms, and the safety and comfort of people around us. So far the threat is not near, but it can travel fast.
h/t African Agriculture for links

Kaliti prison, Ethiopia

Kaliti prison, Ethiopia

Kaliti prison, another view

Kaliti prison, another view

In January 2007, after the Ethiopian invasion, and US bombing of Somalia, at least 85 different people from at least 25 countries, including the US, were part of Africa’s first mass rendition of prisoners. At least 18 of these were children under the age of 15. They were people trying to flee the fighting in Somalia by crossing into Kenya, and were arrested by the Kenyans. They were then held without charge. They were flown by Kenya to Somalia, and were taken on from there to Ethiopia. In Ethiopia they were subjected to lengthy interrogations by Americans, who also took DNA samples from them. They were questioned repeatedly, for months.

“A week after we arrived we were interrogated by whites – Americans, British, I was interrogated for weeks,” Salim says.

“They had a file which was said to implicate me in the Kenyan bombings. So I was taken away and was placed in isolation for two months – both my hands and legs were shackled.

“The interrogations went on for five months. Always the same questions about the Nairobi bombings.”

Former detainees have also told the BBC they were questioned by US agents. One said he was beaten by Americans.

Two others said they were threatened and told that if they did not co-operate they could face ill treatment at the hands of Ethiopian guards.

All said they believed it was the Americans and not the Ethiopians controlling their detention and interrogation.

Human rights groups in the region say this was a new form of extraordinary rendition.

The US did not play an overt role in the transportation or detention of suspects as it has in the rendition of other suspected terrorists, but it nevertheless controlled their interrogation and treatment.

Nobody know for certain how many people have been renditioned to Ethiopia. The number 85 above is based on the manifests of three flights out of Kenya on one night. The wife of Salim, quoted above was also arrested.

They were all:

… part of the first mass “renditions” in Africa, where prisoners accused of supporting terrorists in Somalia were secretly transferred from country to country for interrogation outside the boundaries of domestic or international law.

Along with at least 85 others from 20 countries, she was flown back to Somalia – a war zone with no effective government or law – and on to Ethiopia. There, American intelligence agents joined the interrogations – photographing and taking DNA samples, even from the children.

On April 7, three months after her arrest, Ms Ahmed was released. Salim Awadh Salim, her husband and father of her unborn baby, is still in detention. So, too, are 78 of the other passengers aboard the three secret rendition flights. At least 18 are children under 15.

Ethiopia admits holding 36 other “suspected international terrorists” but has refused to give the Red Cross access to them. The rest of the “ghost plane” passengers are missing.

On April 7 Ms Ahmed was put on a flight to Kilimanjaro. Her escort promised that her husband and the others would be released with a week.

That was in April 2007. Her husband is still in prison in Ethiopia, he has not been charged, and has not appeared before a court. She was briefly able to talk to him when he got access to a cellphone:

“The conditions are really bad: we don’t have enough food, we don’t have enough access to medicine. The cell is wet,” he says.

“We sleep on the floor rather than the sodden mattresses. One of the other prisoners was beaten so badly he’s had his leg broken.”

Another person still languishing in an Ethiopian jail is Canadian citizen Bashir Makhtal. His cousin has been working tirelessly to get him back, and to pressure the Canadian government to do something. So far the Canadian government seems to be dragging its feet. His cousin even created a website to keep people informed, and to try to free him, http://www.makhtal.org

Bashir Makhtal and about 100 other foreigners were swept up in “Africa’s Guantanamo,” a little-known chapter of the U.S.-led war on terror in which a series of illegal “rendition” flights took terror suspects from Kenya to Ethiopia, one of the key allies of the U.S. in the Horn of Africa.

Once in Addis Ababa, the detainees were interrogated by security officials, including agents of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation. In April 2007, Ethiopia finally admitted having Bashir and the others, but refused to allow Canadian diplomats to see him. Bashir, however, said plenty through smuggled letters and messages. In his letter of May 2007, he says that he was beaten and forced to record a false confession to various crimes. Two months after that, according to Human Rights Watch, a fellow detainee saw Bashir briefly and reported that “he was limping. He had a deep cut in one of his legs. He looked weak. He looked so famished.”

There are no rights in Ethiopian jails.

Al Amin Kimathi believes Ethiopia was seen as the ideal destination.

It was the most natural place to take anyone looking for a site to go and torture and to extract confessions. Ethiopia allows torture of detainees. And that is the modus operandi in renditions.”

The US is not only not helping, it is actively hindering:

More than a year and a half after the renditions, the US government still refuses to respond to questions on the alleged US role.

“I have no knowledge of it nor as official policy can I comment on such matters,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer told the BBC.

In 2006 a French woman who was living in Addis left Ethiopia. She had been friends with the opposition politicians. The leadership of the opposition party was jailed in 2005. She visited some of them in prison and took the pictures above. She describes the conditions:

Kaliti is a huge waste ground full of big shacks of iron sheet that look built at random. During the rainy season it is muddy, damp and cold. You are not allowed to check the conditions in which the prisoners are living. Yet some views from outside – see below [above] – give a disastrous impression.

According to my experience of stable manager iron sheet shacks are not suitable for horses, they are cold in winter, hot in summer and likely to bring contagious diseases. … where there are iron sheet and food, there are rats… and big ones … flees and parasites prosper.

I was surprised to hear than Woizero Birtukan, for example, was sharing a cell with 70 other female detainees.

There is a network of prisons in Ethiopia.She interviews a friend in Maeklawi prison:

AF: So, how was Maeklawi? Tell me how it looks like… inside…
AA: Conditions are terrible. We were more than 200 prisoners there and only one of us was allowed to go to the hospital daily.
AF: What kind of diseases detainees are suffering of?
AA: You know, coughing, diarrhea… The food is… Well, I have been traveling all around Ethiopia but never saw THAT kind of injera. I could not identify the place it came from. I did not eat it. I had my own food.
AF: I guess they need medical care for being beaten too, no?
AA: Oh yes, of course… broken legs, broken hands…
AF: Did they dare touching you?
AA: No, I was protected because you were coming but others were not that lucky. One of the prisoners even told me they used electric shocks.

And on leaving Ethiopia she writes that it is:

… a police state in which [to] freely express an opinion endangers your life or drives you to prison, a country where young protestors are beaten and shot. I left a jail. … A few days before my departure, a young man told me: “Tell them, tell them how it is to live here, tell them what we endure.”

Salim Lone writes:

Human Rights Watch has documented how Kenya and Ethiopia had turned this region into Africa’s own version of Guantánamo Bay, replete with kidnappings, extraordinary renditions, secret prisons and large numbers of “disappeared”: a project that carries the Made in America label. Allowing free rein to such comprehensive lawlessness is a stain on all those who might have, at a minimum, curtailed it.

These people languishing in Ethiopian jails are caught in something large and evil. This week, on February 16, 2009:

In one of the most extensive studies of counter-terrorism and human rights yet undertaken, an independent panel of eminent judges and lawyers today presents alarming findings about the impact of counter-terrorism policies worldwide and calls for remedial action. The Eminent Jurists Panel on Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights, established by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), has based its report “Assessing Damage, Urging Action” on sixteen hearings covering more than forty countries in all regions of the world.

In the course of this inquiry, we have been shocked by the extent of the damage done over the past seven years by excessive or abusive counter-terrorism measures in a wide range of countries around the world. Many governments, ignoring the lessons of history, have allowed themselves to be rushed into hasty responses to terrorism that have undermined cherished values and violated human rights. The result is a serious threat to the integrity of the international human rights legal framework,” said Justice Arthur Chaskalson, the Chair of the Panel, former Chief Justice of South Africa and first President of the South African Constitutional Court.

The report illustrates the consequences of notorious counter-terrorism practices such as torture, disappearances, arbitrary and secret detention, unfair trials, and persistent impunity for gross human rights violations in many parts of the world. The Panel warns of the danger that exceptional “temporary” counter-terrorism measures are becoming permanent features of law and practice, including in democratic societies. The Panel urges that the present political climate may provide one of the last chances for a concerted international effort to take remedial measures and restore long-standing international norms. The change in US administration provides a unique opportunity for change.

“Seven years after 9/11 it is time to take stock and to repeal abusive laws and policies enacted in recent years. Human rights and international humanitarian law provide a strong and flexible framework to address terrorist threats,” said Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, former President of Ireland and current President of the ICJ. “It is now absolutely essential that all states restore their commitment to human rights and that the United Nations takes on a leadership role in this process. If we fail to act now, the damage to international law risks becoming permanent”, she added.

The report calls for the rejection of the “war on terror” paradigm and for a full repudiation of the policies grounded in it.

osuofia

Osuofia – I Go Chop Your Dollar

I go chop your dollar,
I go take your money disappear

This could be the theme song of the banksters whose scams have stolen our money around the globe. Whenever I read the financial news lately, these lines above go through my head. Clicking on the link above, or next, will take you to the song on YouTube.

This song always makes me smile. And I love the dancers in the background. It came out in 2005, and I wrote about it previously. But it has been going through my mind and I thought I might write it up again, considering our current national and international financial situation.

From my earlier post here is some more information, and the lyrics. The song refers to the 419 advance fee scams. The singer, Osuofia, Nkem Owoh, is a comic actor who has starred in a number of Nollywood movies, such as Osuofia in London, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Naija Jams provides us some more information:

Prior to seeing the video, I was confused and didn’t know exactly what to think. I asked myself, “Have the 419ers taken over Lagos? Are they so popular that their praises were being sung on the radio?” Thankfully the video is out and after viewing it, everything became immediately clear to me. I’d like to share a few points:

  1. The artist on the track is Nigeria’s most popular comedic actor, Nkem Owoh
  2. Nkem is known throughout West Africa for his comedic wit & flawless delivery in films such as, such as: My In Law, Atinga, Ukwa, Osuofia in London, etc.
  3. He is often interchangeably referred to as the characters in his films – most commonly Osuofia.
  4. The song, “Oyinbo, I Go Chop Your Dollar,” is the title track from the comedy, The Master, starring Nkem Owoh as a scheming 419er.
  5. The song is intended to be a comedic accompaniment and title track to the film, The Master.
  6. If there was any doubt, lyrics like, “National Airport na me get am / National Stadium na me build am” (I own the National Airport / I built the Nigerian National Stadium (Surulere – Lagos, Nigeria)) clearly communicate this.

Hopefully this clarifies things for some viwers.

You can find the lyrics to the song here:

I Go Chop Your Dollar

I don suffer no be small
Upon say I get sense
Poverty no good at all, no
Na im make I join this business
419 no be thief, its just a game
Everybody dey play am
if anybody fall mugu, ha! my brother I go chop am

Chorus
National Airport na me get am
National Stadium na me build am
President na my sister brother
You be the mugu, I be the master
Oyinbo I go chop your dollar, I go take your money dissapear
419 is just a game, you are the loser I am the winner
The refinery na me get am,
The contract, na you I go give am
But you go pay me small money make I bring am
you be the mugu, I be the master… na me be the master ooo!!!!

When Oyinbo play wayo, them go say na new style
When country man do im own, them go de shout bring am, kill am, die!
Oyinbo people greedy, I say them greedy
I don see them tire thats why when them fall enter my trap o!
I dey show them fire

Watch and listen: I go chop your dollar

blackwater31

Just a few noteworthy odds and ends today that have some relevance to Africa and the US Africa Command, the first is distinctly odd:

US Government Takeover of Human Terrain System,
HTS Program Managers Spared, Laugh On Way to Bank

On February 9, 2009, Human Terrain System (HTS) program manager Steve Fondacaro informed HTS employees that they were being converted to Term Government Employees. The catalyst for the drastic change was, according to Fondacaro, the new Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with the Iraqi Government. Yet, sources believe there is something fishy about the SOFA cover, particularly since their treatment by HTS program management (Steve Fondacaro, Steve Rotkoff-Deputy Program Manager, and Montgomery McFate-Sapone-Senior Social Scientist) over the past year has been anything but stellar. Further, BAE SYSTEMS was not notified by HTS program management but, according to sources, by HTS employees who had gotten word of the changes afoot through the HTS grapevine.

BAE SYSTEMS and the primes are scrambling right now to get to the bottom of what this is about since they were clueless until employees starting burning up the phone lines and email. Most of the employees are worried because if they are forced to covert (alternative is to quit) so really no choice, that they are not tied to their contractor but at the mercy of the TRADOC and they essentially become non-permanent government army employees.

________

KBR has been convicted of bribing officials in Nigeria:

Kellogg Brown & Root LLC Pleads Guilty to Foreign Bribery Charges and Agrees to Pay $402 Million Criminal Fine
Enforcement Actions by DOJ and SEC Result in Penalties of $579 Million for KBR’s Participation in a Scheme to Bribe Nigerian Government Officials to Obtain Contracts

WASHINGTON – Kellogg Brown & Root LLC (KBR), a global engineering, construction and services company based in Houston, pleaded guilty today to charges related to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for its participation in a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials to obtain engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts, Acting Assistant Attorney General Rita M. Glavin of the Criminal Division announced. The EPC contracts to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria, were valued at more than $6 billion.

KBR entered guilty pleas to a five-count criminal information in federal court in Houston before U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison. As part of the plea agreement, KBR agreed to pay a $402 million criminal fine.

According to court documents, KBR was part of a four-company joint venture that was awarded four EPC contracts by Nigeria LNG Ltd. (NLNG) between 1995 and 2004 to build LNG facilities on Bonny Island. The government-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) was the largest shareholder of NLNG, owning 49 percent of the company.

KBR pleaded guilty to conspiring with its joint-venture partners and others to violate the FCPA by authorizing, promising and paying bribes to a range of Nigerian government officials, including officials of the executive branch of the Nigerian government, NNPC officials, and NLNG officials, to obtain the EPC contracts. KBR also pleaded guilty to four counts of violating the FCPA related to the joint venture’s payment of tens of millions of dollars in “consulting fees” to two agents for use in bribing Nigerian government officials.

KBR admitted that, at crucial junctures before the award of the EPC contracts, KBR’s former CEO, Albert “Jack” Stanley, and others met with three successive former holders of a top-level office in the executive branch of the Nigerian government to ask the office holder to designate a representative with whom the joint venture should negotiate bribes to Nigerian government officials. Stanley and others negotiated bribe amounts with the office holders’ representatives and agreed to hire the two agents to pay the bribes. According to court documents, the joint venture paid approximately $132 million to the first agent, a consulting company incorporated in Gibraltar, and more than $50 million to the second agent, a global trading company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, during the course of the bribery scheme. KBR admitted that it had intended for these agents’ fees to be used, in part, for bribes to Nigerian government officials.

________

Possibly following advice from Wired’s Danger Room, Blackwater is rebranding, now calling itself Xe, pronounced zee.

They never picked up on our Hello Kitty-style logos. But finally, after a godawful year and a half, the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide is taking Danger Room’s advice, and changing its name to something opaque and hard-to-pronounce.

So, goodbye Blackwater. Hello, Xe. No, seriously. Xe — “pronounced like the letter ‘z,’” the Associated Press reports. …

For the last year or so, lackwater Xe has been moving away from its core business of diplomat protection, and into — well, just about everything else, it seems. Firm CEO Erik Prince has put together teams of spies-for-hire. The company is pushing ahead with plans to protect commercial ships, traveling through pirate-packed seas. And in case that doesn’t work out, the company is making custom rifles, marketing spy blimps, assembling a fleet of light attack aicraft, and billing itself as experts in everything from cargo handling to dog training to construction management. It’s even training pro athletes.

Firm president Gary Jackson says in a memo to employees that the new name (and the renaming of its firing range as “U.S. Training Center Inc.”) are just reflections of that diversification. (graphic h/t Danger Room)

________

And especially noteworthy, WikiLeaks has published an archive of CRS, Congressional Research Service documents (h/t Koranteng) including the January 2009 report:

PDF: Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa

Most of the issues covered in the report have been discussed in this blog. It is interesting to see a number of my assumptions confirmed in this way. I’ll copy just a couple of quotes.

… five factors that have shaped increased U.S. interest in Africa in the past decade: oil, global trade [China], armed conflicts, terror, and HIV/AIDS. …

A senior DOD official reportedly commented in 2003 that “a key mission for U.S. forces (in Africa) would be to ensure that Nigeria’s oil fields… are secure.” In spite of conflict in the Niger Delta and other oil producing areas, the potential for deep water drilling in the Gulf of Guinea is high, and analysts estimate that Africa may supply as much as 25% of all U.S. oil imports by 2015.

Somali coastal seas with coastal shelf visible

Satellite view of the Somali coastal seas with the undersea coastal shelf visible, the target of IUU fishing fleets

You can read my article There Are Two Piracies In Somalia over at the African Loft. Only one of the piracies gets media attention. Everyone has heard about the Somali pirates raids on shipping. Not so many know of the far larger piracy. Since 1991-2 IUU, Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing fleets from all over the world have been fishing out the waters off the Somali coast, destroying the livelihood of Somali fishermen and fishing communities. During that same period, primarily countries from the European Union, have been dumping toxic and nuclear waste off the Somali coast.

With its usual double standards when such matters concern Africa, the “international community” comes out in force to condemn and declare war against the Somali fishermen pirates while discreetly protecting the numerous Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing fleets there from Europe, Arabia and the Far East.

Biased UN resolutions, big power orders and news reports continue to condemn the hijackings of merchant ships by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. If response to both piracy menaces was balanced and fair, these condemnations would have been justified. European Union (EU), Russia, Japan, India, Egypt and Yemen are all on this piracy campaign, mainly to cover up and protect their illegal fishing fleets in the Somali waters. …

The IUUs, which are estimated take out more than $450 million in fish value out of Somalia annually, neither compensate the local fishermen, pay tax, royalties nor do they respect any conservation and environmental regulations – norms associated with regulated fishing. It is believed that IUUs from the EU alone take out of the country more than five times the value of its aid to Somalia every year.

During this same time, as Johann Hari describes:

In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness …

There is lots more to the story, read more at the African Loft.

Special thanks to b real for his extensive research on the unfolding situation in Somalia, posted in the comment threads at Moon of Alabama. You can read some of the more recent developments with links to more information in the comment threads on these posts:
Behind ‘Fighting Piracy’
A Carrier Group to Attack Somalia

b real continues these topics and more at his newer location
africa comments blog. 
If you want to follow events in Somalia and East Africa, I suggest you visit.

ug-drcmap1

Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars, a careful and thorough look at US involvement in Afghanistan through 2001, has written a column in the New Yorker about the botched raid across the Uganda DRC border sponsored by AFRICOM. The map above shows Garamba Park, where the raid took place.

Coll writes about how AFRICOM describes itself:

The explanatory “commander’s vision” on Africom’s Web site is a mush of “Dilbert”-inspired, PowerPoint mission creep. The Africa Command, it says, “develops and implements military programs that add value to the important endeavor of stability and security on the content of Africa and its island nations.” It also “directs, integrates and employs credible and relevant military capability in peace and in response to crisis.” It is a “trusted and reliable partner for nations and security institutions in Africa.” And, of course, it is a “listening and learning organization.”

If you could even sort out what those slogans mean in practice, would you believe them? Not anymore. On Saturday, the Times published an important piece about the training, planning, intelligence, and financial support Africa Command provided for a cross-border raid by Uganda’s military against the Lord’s Resistance Army, which had gone to ground in a national park in the Congo. The raid turned out to be the military equivalent of poking a bee’s nest with a stick—the L.R.A. escaped, and, in the ensuing rampage, its members killed hundreds of Congolese civilians.

Coll continues:

The L.R.A. is a cult-like militia with a long record of atrocities whose leader has been indicted by the International Criminal Court. One can imagine the White House review in the expiring Bush Administration that authorized support for an Ugandan mission, which included intelligence photos and mapping, operational plans, satellite phones, and a million dollars worth of fuel. As it has done for this season’s producers of “24,” mucking around in Africa would have offered the outgoing President and his advisers the fantasy that they could reframe, in a final act of heroism, the moral equation of their misbegotten Global War on Terror.

… Rather than the satisfying, vindicating capture of a child-conscripting war criminal, the George W. Bush Administration received a final lesson in the immutable laws of unintended consequences in war (which laws the Administration might have memorized after Iraq).

The larger issue here is the momentum that military liaison creates when it becomes the heavily funded nexus of U.S. policy. Africa Command’s mission is to “engage” with brother armies, its commanders have a professional bias to action, and they often do not take strategic direction from civilians until they are ready to present their war, engagement and training plans, whether in Colombia or Pakistan or Uganda. Military liaison, even if it is conceived progressively, becomes its own self-fulfilling destination, especially when the rest of the U.S. government is starved, by comparison, for resources.

AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, is the heavily funded nexus of US policy in Africa. US military investment dwarfs all other investment.

kony-lra

Photo of Joseph Kony and leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, from a photo essay by Erin Baines taken in 2006. Kony is seated, front row, the second face from the right; lower left inset of some young LRA “soldiers”.

The Lord’s Resistance Army has plagued Uganda for 20 years. It is most notable for kidnapping children and turning them into LRA soldiers and slaves, and for its brutality towards civilians. It created a phenomenon in Northern Uganda called night commuters, children walking long distances to shelter in town overnight so they would not be kidnapped by the LRA.

AFRICOM, demonstrating its goal to “enhance the ability of each one of our African partners to provide for their own security”, helped plan and pay for a thoroughly botched attempt by the Ugandan Army to crush the LRA, Operation Lightning Thunder. According to the New York Times the LRA:

… had been hiding out in a Congolese national park, rebuffing efforts to sign a peace treaty. But the rebel leaders escaped, breaking their fighters into small groups that continue to ransack town after town in northeastern Congo, hacking, burning, shooting and clubbing to death anyone in their way. [map here]

The United States has been training Ugandan troops in counterterrorism for several years, but its role in the operation has not been widely known. It is the first time the United States has helped plan such a specific military offensive with Uganda, according to senior American military officials. They described a team of 17 advisers and analysts from the Pentagon’s new Africa Command working closely with Ugandan officers on the mission, providing satellite phones, intelligence and $1 million in fuel.

The operation made no effort to warn or protect the civilan population although reprisals and civilian massacres are standard operating procedure for the LRA.

The LRA got word the attack was coming and fled, leaving empty campsites.

In an indescribably savage manner, the rebels then attacked several homesteads, axing, cutting, slitting throats and crushing skulls with wooden bats and axes. …

According to the president of the civil society of Dungu, Felicien Balani: “The LRA entered around midnight. They surprised the faithful of the church who were in a prayer vigil. They burned them in the church,” said Balani. …

“In Doruma, it was really awful. They had killed at least 300 people. We were in a village where there are only six survivors, all the others were killed,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, who coordinates the investigations on behalf of Human Rights Watch. …

After the massacre, the rebels “ate the Christmas feast the villagers had prepared, and then slept among the dead bodies before continuing on their trail of destruction and death” through another 12 villages.

In September 2007 Jendayi Frazer, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs said:

So we will not sit still and just let them live in Garamba Park and cultivate land and kill animals. … the US government is worried that a fresh regional war involving Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo could flare up …

According to Dr Frazer, the US government is ready to back co-ordinated military operations by the three countries to fend off rebel forces fighting any government while using a neighbouring country as a military base.

Dr Frazer also vowed that her government would not shy away from employing military means to end the activities of the “negative forces” if efforts to end conflicts through dialogue are not successful – yet another indicator of the new approach the US is taking on conflicts in the region.

Instead of providing stability or security the US and Uganda have succeeded in expanding the war against civilians in the DRC. That area of the DRC had been relatively peaceful before Operation Lightning Thunder. Now many thousands more are suffering. And the slaughter of civilians has not ended. The LRA continues its path of slaughter and devastation through villages in the Congo. Uganda appears to consider the operation a success:

“The operation has been a success in that it has left Joseph Kony naked,” State Minister for Defence Ruth Nankabirwa told IRIN.

“Because of the surprise nature of the attack, he fled from his camp empty-handed. He left behind everything, including food, equipment and other gadgets, so this has reduced his capacity,” she added.

AFRICOM along with its African military partner, Uganda, launched Operation Lightning Thunder. The result is their target, the rebel LRA, escaped untouched, around 900 civilians are dead, thousands raped, maimed, injured and their homes destroyed, hundreds of children conscripted, at least 100,000 displaced. Of those 100,000 people who have been displaced, it is estimated at least half of them are inaccessible to help. And any aid would be a magnet to the LRA as they continue to restock by murder and theft.

I wonder how the AFRICOM side of the military partnership sees this. Is the biggest problem the devastation they have helped create? or is it the bad publicity? In recent history African militaries rarely engage in military to military wars. Most wars are against the civilian population. America had many of these military partnerships with Africa during the Cold War, with horrifying results. As long as American foreign policy is military policy in Africa, as long as military to military partnerships are the goal, there will be many more equally horrifying attacks on civilians.

1999 demonstration in Port Harcourt welcoming home Owens Wiwa, the brother of Ken Saro-Wiwa (faces intentionally blurred by the photographer)

1999 demonstration in Port Harcourt welcoming home Owens Wiwa, the brother of Ken Saro-Wiwa (faces intentionally blurred by the photographer)

The people of the Niger Delta are a principal target of AFRICOM and the Human Terrain System, HTS. The people in the picture above are targets. We know this because in the same month AFRICOM was announced, contractors for the US Marines were looking for academics to “study” ethnic groups in the Niger Delta. The Delta is considered a prime candidate for “stability operations” because of the social unrest generated by 50 years of ruthless exploitation by oil companies complicit with successive Nigerian governments. People in the Delta want a share of their own wealth. It is not just Nigeria that is a target. Most of the countries in Africa are targets for “stability operations”, “nation building”, and “humanitarian” assistance because of their enormous natural resources, especially oil. Somalia is a case in point. This week I read:

in ecoterra int’l’s jan 25th update : Major oil companies who declared force majeure on their Somali assets in the 1990s are reviving their claims to blocks in the unrecognized but relatively peaceful Republic of Somaliland.

Roberto González wrote the book American Counterinsurgency: Human Science and the Human Terrain, and was interviewed by David Price for CounterPunch.

González is a founding member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists and has been at the forefront of debates on Human Terrain within the American Anthropological Association (AAA).

González: … For more than two years, a group of military planners has been involved in a scheme to whitewash counterinsurgency-to clean up the image of anti-revolutionary warfare, which is always a dirty business. Even though the US military has more than a century of experience in counterinsurgency warfare (going back to the “Indian Wars” of the 1800s and the cruel campaign against Filipino revolutionaries in the early 1900s), General David Petraeus and other battlefield technicians have portrayed the method as a “gentler” means of fighting, while recruiting political scientists, anthropologists, and other social scientists to create the tools to do this. The Human Terrain System, which embeds social scientists in combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan, is among the most visible new counterinsurgency programs, and this became the focus of my work.

HTS personnel tend to use outdated anthropological concepts, theories, and methods, mostly from the 1930s and 1940s. For example, Montgomery McFate (the Pentagon’s senior social science advisor for HTS) has recently published articles and given presentations in which she relies heavily upon the concept of “tribalism,” functionalist theory, and data collection methods developed for the Human Relations Area Files. Others have sought to incorporate social network analysis as a research method. Each of these elements was either created or elaborated at a time when many anthropologists were employed by colonial governments to more effectively control indigenous populations. It’s no accident that these are precisely the tools advocated by HTS’s architects.

In the past, when military planners and colonial administrators sought the counsel of anthropologists, they looked for a social science stripped of ambiguity, meaning, and context. They wanted simple analytical tools that might help them accomplish short-term objectives: to put down an uprising, to manufacture propaganda, to conduct psychological warfare, to divide one ethnic group or religious sect against another. Today, anthropologists commissioned by the Pentagon as counterinsurgency consultants use the same tools as instruments for manipulation and social control-not as a means of humanizing other people. Some of this work is published in army journals with titles like, “The Military Utility of Understanding Adversary Culture” and “Operational Culture for the Warfighter.” These kinds of articles tell us a great deal about a principal aim of militarized social science: transforming culture into a weapon.

Recently, a military contract firm called Archimedes Global posted a recruitment ad for “socio-cultural cell” members within the newly-established AFRICOM (US African Command). The ad calls for specialists with “human terrain” expertise, among others. It’s a clear example of how human terrain has become a much broader phenomenon, now embraced by the military, industries, and research universities. Beyond the army’s HTS program, human terrain has become a growth industry.

After Robert Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary, there was a boom in funding for projects focused on human terrain research and “culture-centric” warfare, and this attracted dozens of companies from the military-industrial complex-BAE Systems, Aptima Corporation, MITRE, the RAND Corporation, Wexford Group, MTC Technologies, NEK Advanced Securities Group, and Alpha Ten to name a few. Unfortunately, President Obama has asked Gates-a staunch supporter of HTS-to continue serving as Defense Secretary

Despite this overwhelming evidence pointing to a program run amok, the US Congress has not shown much interest in investigating HTS. … It will be left to citizens of conscience to demand the abolition of human terrain teams-and the imperial wars that employ them.

china-africa

According to Reuters, China’s investment in Africa continues unabated:

China Marches on in Africa Despite Downturn

Chinese investment in Africa is continuing full-speed ahead, Reuters reports:

Beijing and Chinese companies have pledged tens of billions of dollars to Africa in loans and investments mostly to secure raw materials for the world’s fastest-growing large economy.

That long-term interest remains intact, despite a worldwide economic slump that has hit China’s exports to the rich world and a sharp decline in Africa’s mineral shipments to China.

China-Africa trade has surged by an average 30 percent a year this decade, soaring to nearly $107 billion in 2008.

You can read the full article here.

But an article from the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief presents a very different picture:

Commodity Flux and China’s Africa Strategy

During the commodity price boom, China invested massively in Africa seeking to lock up as many raw materials as possible. Some in academia spoke confidently of China having a fifty or one hundred year strategy toward Africa. In practice, Chinese entrepreneurs have been the first to leave when the market turned since the global decline in commodity prices accelerated with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. For instance, according to interviews the authors conducted in Congo, more than 60 Chinese mining companies have left the mineral rich Katanga the last two months, as cobalt and copper prices have tanked. Over 100 small Chinese operators are reported to have left Zambian mines for the same reason.

A similar retreat may be occurring at the strategic level. In 2007, it was announced that China would lend the Congo $5 billion to modernize its infrastructure and mining sector. Under a draft accord, Beijing earmarked the funds for major road and rail construction projects and for rehabilitation of Congo’s mining sector, while the repayment terms proposed included mining concessions and toll revenue deals to be given to Chinese companies. In simple terms it meant 13 million tons of copper for $5 billion—or (even at today’s depressed prices) $40 billion for twenty-times less [1]. The China-Congo deal, however, has gone very quiet as the copper price has plummeted. The market—not grand strategy—is the main Chinese motivation in Africa.

There is much more in the article, you can see more at the China Brief.

China is still buying up large quantities of land in Africa and in other developing countries around the globe. From The Geopolitics of China:

China is more enclosed than any other great power. The size of its population coupled with its secure frontiers and relative abundance of resources, allows it to develop with minimal intercourse with the rest of the world, if it chooses. …
The weakness of insularity for China is poverty. Given the ratio of arable land to population, a self-enclosed China is a poor China. Its population is so poor that economic development driven by domestic demand, no matter how limited it might be, is impossible.

That is why China seeks trade, markets, raw materials, and agricultural land.

To see where, in which countries, China is grabbing up land, GRAIN has posted a table with over 100 cases of land grabbing for offshore food production as presented in this report. It is available in a separate PDF file:
http://www.grain.org/briefings_files/landgrab-2008-en-annex .pdf
You can scroll through the PDF table and see the entries for China, and for many other countries that are making landgrabs in Africa and around the developing world.

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