August 2009


A former Somali ambassador to the UN writes a clear and concise description of the current relationship between the US and Somalia, and its implications for both countries. I have copied his entire piece here, as it is all well worth reading, critical reading for anyone wishing to understand what is going on in Somalia and the US role.

Somali TFG President Sharif, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, August 6, 2009 in Kenya
Somali TFG President Sharif, and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, August 6, 2009 in Kenya

The Somali government the US created in Djibouti, President Sharif’s TFG, the Transitional Federal Government, is neither federal, nor a government. The only true word in that name is the word transitional.  The TFG only controls a few blocks in Mogadishu, and none of the rest of the country.  It has no functioning institutions of government.  As a government, it is a sham and a fraud.

The U.S & Somalia: A Somali Perespective

22 Aug 22, 2009 – 8:28:09 PM

By: Amb: Ahmad Abdi Hashi

US –SOMALI relationship, at different periods, have been characterized by an adversarial relationship as in during the Cold War, a forget about Somalia after the Blackhawk Down disaster, the fight against terrorism after 9/11 and some humanitarian support through international NGOs.

It was, however, the Blackhawk Down incident in October 1993 that defined for a long time US policy towards Somalia. President Bill Clinton ordered all US troops out of Somalia and closed the Somali file in Washington. The world took the cue, labelled Somalia as a failed State and relegated Somalia to the backburner.

It was only after 9/11 that the US showed some interest albeit in relation only to the fight against international terrorism. The US saw the vacuum in Somalia as a possible haven for Al-Qaida but failed to support the Transitional National Government formed a year earlier in 2000.

When the Islamic Courts came to power and consolidated their control over most of southern Somalia, in 2005-6, alarm bells rang in Washington. The Bush administration would not accept an Islamist regime in Somalia. Consequently, CIA hired the notorious warlords to fight the Islamic Courts which resulted in the rout of the warlords. It was another Bay of Pigs debacle for the US but in Africa this time.

With the Islamic Courts entrenched, the Bush administration gave the green light to Ethiopia to invade and occupy Somalia 2006-08. The Islamic Courts made a strategic withdrawal, regrouped and forced the Ethiopian to leave the country in defeat.

Naturally, these foreign military adventures and the post 911 policy of the Bush administration in Somalia served neither the strategic interests of the US nor the aspirations of the Somali people to resurrect a strong Somali State. In short, the Bush administration viewed Somalia with unmitigated hostility.

As the new Obama administration came to power, fires of hope were ignited throughout the world. Hope that the injustices of the Bush era would be corrected. The closure of the Guantanamo Detention Center, withdrawal from Iraq, prohibition of torture, rendition and the olive branch to the Moslem world were a welcome change in US foreign policy. These first tentative steps raised high expectations.

We, the Somalis as well, hoped for a change in US policy towards Somalia based on objective analysis of the real situation on the ground; a new paradigm, different in substance from the Bush administration’s ill-conceived and failed policies in Somalia.

Contrary to the expectations of the Somali people, the new Obama administration remains committed to the same failed policies of its predecessor; engagement in Somalia solely through the narrow prism of fighting international terrorism and piracy off the Somali coast as well as reliance on Ethiopia, the erstwhile enemy of Somalia and chief trouble maker in the Horn of Africa, for all matters relating to Somalia.

What Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced in Nairobi on 7th July, 2009 signalled a continuation of the same arrogant policies of the Bush administration as well as an escalation of US military mischief in Somalia. To the profound disappointment of Somalis, Secretary Clinton declared that the US is sending 40 more tons of military hardware in addition to the 40 tons already shipped. That is a total of 80 tons military materiel and much more is in the pipeline.

The tons of weapons and millions of US taxpayer money as well as political support go to a so-called government in Somalia which has no territory to control, no institutions, does not command the support and respect of the Somali people and whose “ president” hides in a Ugandese APC when travelling to and from Mogadishu Airport.

That is the “government” the US and other western powers support.

By throwing its weight behind a fiction, the US shed the veneer of a backroom player. It has come out of the closet. The aim is to impose upon the Somali people a small group of its choice; former warlords, Islamic turn coats and famously corrupt politicians.

Forcing unpopular politicians on a country does not work. Iraq and Afghanistan are relevant examples. This will not work in Somalia either.

Siding with this insignificant faction makes the US becomes an active participant in the Somali conflict. It remains to be seen whether putting all eggs in this one basket of choice will serve the best interests of the US or the aspirations of the Somali people for durable and sustainable peace. US strategic objectives can only be achieved if it reaches out to the real stakeholders that matter in Somalia. Evidently, the US is again missing the boat.

There are as well other disturbing aspects to this new US military venture in Somalia that defy logic.

In the absence of a responsible government in Somalia, this huge influx of US weapons will make Mogadishu the biggest arms bazaar in Africa south of the Sahara. Illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition will flourish and proliferation of weapons especially in Africa will be out of control. And nobody would know where the weapons end or who has what. Whether a situation like this would contribute to peace and security in Africa and other places remains to be seen.

Another miscalculation is that the US and its allies ignore the easy access to and availability of every type weapons in Somalia. One can even buy a tank and park it in front of the house like a car. There is no weapons scarcity; the result of years of Ethiopian violations of the UN arms embargo on Somalia.

We must not, as well, overlook the devastating effect these military shipments have on Somalia. It is like pumping more gasoline into an already out of control forest fire. Such military fire power will at the end of the day cause heavy damage and destruction, kill, maim thousands of Somalis and add more millions to the already displaced.

A question is relevant in this regard. Whether these US military shipments are in line with the UN arms embargo or not? Security Council Resolution 751 0f 1992 obligated all member Sates of the UN to respect “a general and comprehensive arms embargo on Somalia”. The corollary to this requires all States to refrain from any military venture that jeopardises peace and security in Somalia. US weapons shipments undermine peace in Somalia and are consequently a violation of the arms embargo irrespective of any exemptions.

In further reference to the arms embargo on Somalia, the US sets a double standard with regard to violations of the arms embargo. It has the audacity to scapegoat Eritrea while ignoring its own and those violations of recidivist Ethiopia.

This arrogant behaviour has already encouraged countries like Djibouti as well as the predator States of Ethiopia and Kenya to violate with impunity the arms embargo. Other States will definitely follow suit. Consequently, this will lead to the internationalization of the Somali conflict.

Since the tons of US weapons constitute a violation of the arms embargo and are meant to kill, maim Somalis and destroy their properties, the US must be held responsible. It is the moral obligation of all peace loving nations to do so.

If the US wants to play a constructive role in Somalia, it must accept the urgent need for a structural correction in its policy towards Somalia. And for this to happen, the US and its allies must adjust to certain facts:

FACT I : US support for the fiction created in Djibouti must be exposed for what it is. There is no government in Somalia at the present time. A government that cannot ensure security for its people establish institutions, provide services and which sells, in retail, State patrimony and national assets to the highest bidder is no government worth the name.

This fiction includes warlords who should be facing the music at the Hague. Others were the erstwhile enemy of the US yesterday.

Today, they are the darling of the West and Ethiopia, the same countries they regularly condemned as imperialists, invaders and occupiers. One would wonder how this strange metamorphosis happened overnight and at what price.

FACT II : Attempts to impose a fiction on the Somali people is not right. We the Somalis have, like other nations, the sovereign right to choose our own leadership without foreign interference.

FACT III : Shipments of weapons or any other kind of foreign led military intervention cannot work in Somalia; this will only escalate the conflict. Historically, we the Somalis have an aversion to foreign domination and interference. The US led UN military venture in the early 90s, CIA hiring of the notorious warlords in early2006 as well as the two year occupation of Somalia (2006-8) all failed. History tells that no nation can ever be subdued by any number of troops or weapons. Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan are the most recent examples.

A foreign led military venture of any kind is therefore not an option for Somalia.

FACT IV : Viewing Somalia only from the perspective of piracy and terrorism is a wrong track. This deviates from the real issue which is: the lack of a truly representative central authority. Piracy or any security concerns-perceived or real- can be addressed only when such authority is installed by the Somali people themselves without foreign dictation.

FACT V : The role of the regime in Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa must be re-evaluated and in particular with regard to Somalia. There is an unresolved territorial dispute between us, the Ethiopian occupied Ogaden region. Somalia and Ethiopia fought two wars in 1964 and 1977. The traditional enmity is deep-rooted.

Even Jonnie Carson, the US Deputy under Secretary of State acknowledged this fact in a recent statement when he correctly labelled “Ethiopia as the traditional enemy of Somalia.”

Yet, the US relies and acts on a flow of misinformation provided by this traditional enemy of Somalia. The US and its western allies must understand the long standing animosity between Ethiopia and Somalia and Ethiopia’s interest in a weak unstable Somalia, taking orders from Addis Ababa.

And one more final truth: Somalia belongs to Somalis; we, Somalis are a resilient nation even in times of adversity. Our destiny, leadership and any constitutional arrangements can and must be decided by us, Somalis, without foreign interference.

The models in Somaliland and Puntland were developed by Somalis, under an acacia tree, free from the manipulations of the Ahmedou W. Abdallas of the world. Whether one agrees with their current status is another matter. But, the two areas are peaceful because the process was indigenous and Somali owned. Hopefully at some point and time, these confederate corners will come to the fold of a strong and united Somalia.

We Somalis want peace for our people more than any one else. But we need a genuine lasting peace by the people for the people. The type being offered and supported by the US and Ethiopia is fake. It is manufactured in Washington, New York and Addis Ababa. And there is a growing international consensus that what was created in Djibouti at the beginning of 2009 is a complete failure.

The road to durable and lasting peace in Somalia is evident: a Somali owned process, immediate and full withdrawal of foreign troops, participation of stakeholders on the basis of equality and limiting UN role to logistical support. The result would be a comprehensive peace agreement, with mechanisms for implementation and a truly representative Somali government that can bring peace and stability to its citizens and act as a responsible player at the international arena.

Thus the need for a new paradigm and an unequivocal departure from the failed policies of the Bush administration is imperative. This will serve the best interests of the US and promote the aspirations of the Somali people for peace.

Amb. Ahmed Abdi Hashi( Hashara), Former Somali Amb. to the U.N 2001-2005; Secretary for Foreign Affairs ARS, asharo @ gmail . com

________
h/t africa comments

The US has poured arms and military training on Uganda. Now that Uganda has found oil, the Ugandan military is getting busy displacing the people who live on the land where the oil is located, and seizing those lands for themselves.

CAMP KASENYI, Uganda – Staff Sergeant Andre Amantine of the 2-18 Field Artillery Regiment out of Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, salutes Sergeant First Class Cary Adams-course Sergeant Major, during a 15-week Counter Terrorism Course, June 16, 2009, at Camp Kasenyi, Uganda. More than 100 Ugandan soldiers graduated from this CJTF-HOA-supported course, which covered topics such as individual movement techniques, troop landing procedures, land navigation, first aid, identifying improvised explosive devises, and more. (Photo by Master Sergeant Loren Bonser)

CAMP KASENYI, Uganda – Staff Sergeant Andre Amantine of the 2-18 Field Artillery Regiment out of Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, salutes Sergeant First Class Cary Adams-course Sergeant Major, during a 15-week Counter Terrorism Course, June 16, 2009, at Camp Kasenyi, Uganda. More than 100 Ugandan soldiers graduated from this CJTF-HOA-supported course, which covered topics such as individual movement techniques, troop landing procedures, land navigation, first aid, identifying improvised explosive devises, and more. (Photo by Master Sergeant Loren Bonser)

Army to displace villages in Hoima

OVER 4,000 residents in seven villages of Kyangwali sub-county in Hoima district face eviction. The land will be used to establish an army base for the protection of the oil reserves in the region.

The residents, led by their local leaders and the MP for Buhaguzi, Tomson Abwooli Kyahurwenda, have vowed to resist the eviction saying the land was inhabited by their ancestors.

The land in question measures about 15 square miles and covers the villages of Katikara 1, Katikara 2, Kituti Kasonga, Kabenena, Ngurwe and Ngoma.

Kyahurwenda has written to the defence minister, Dr Crispus Kiyonga, protesting the army’s ‘illegal’ demarcation of the disputed land.

He said officials from the prime minister’s office had demarcated the land.

Kyahurwenda said the officers led by a man only identified as Bataali, had marked the land.

“I seek your urgent intervention. Change your decision to grab the land whose owners have had it customarily since time immemorial,” the letter, also copied to the Prime Minister said.

The Kitakara LC I chairman, Mugenyi Tibamwenda, said army officers had planted mark-stones claiming they had acquired the land.

He said residents had abandoned agriculture because of fear that they would be evicted from their land soon.

Tom Muhe Bigabwenkya, a sub-county councillor warned of serious consequences for the National Resistance Movement during the 2011 general elections.

The mid-western regional Police commander, Marcellino Wanitto, has promised to take up the matter to ensure that it is resolved amicably.

And from June 24:

Reports: Army officers grabbing Amuru oil land

High ranking army officers are forcefully grabbing land in the oil rich belt of Amuru District, the security coordinator in-charge of oil exploration in the area, Lt. Col. David Kagoyo, has said.

“I have reliable information from some sources that some army officers are forcefully grabbing people’s land in Amuru,” Lt. Col. Kagoyo said during Nebbi District’s oil exploration stakeholders meeting last week.

Amuru lies in the oil belt licenced to Heritage Gas company stretching from south of Panyimur to North of Wadlai along the Nile river.

The LC5 Chairman Nebbi, Mr John Pascal Wapokra, was non-committal on the land grabbing question, saying the matter is before court.

Lt. Col. Kagoyo demanded that before anything is done, the land ownership issue should be settled first before the oil drilling takes place since it could jeopardise the gains that the government and development partners have made.

The discovery of the oil wells in Amuru, which was created out of Gulu District, has created anxiety over land ownership in the area.

Area residents who spoke to this newspaper said the incident has created fear that they might lose their land.
Similarly, due to its oil potential, land grabbing is at a high level in Buliisa District.

The US continues to train and supply the Ugandan military, the UPDF. Uganda is a favored partner of the US Africa Command. Pictured above is just one of many training programs. If people are pushed off their traditional lands, the lands they live on and the lands they farm, where are they going to go, and what are they going to do?  If the soldiers evicting them are armed and trained by the United States, how will they feel about the United States?   Evicting these people creates a growing pool of internally displaced persons who have a legitimate grievance against their government, and against all those involved in extracting, in fact stealing, their resources. They will be able to see, but not to share wealth some of which should be legitimately theirs.   That some of these displaced people may be lured into terrorism as a response is something that can be predicted and avoided. To date, no one seems interested in preventing the problem before it starts. So far the approach is first create the problem, then waste lives and resources fighting it.

Africom’s budget of $763 million in the coming fiscal year, compared to the Africa Bureau’s allocation of $226 million, is enabling the US military to take on roles previously played by American diplomats and civilian development experts. (from the East African)

KARAMBO, Rwanda - Members of the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) show Lieutenant Darren Denyer, from Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, a water distribution point built by the RDF during ’Army Week’ — the RDF’s civil-military operations campaign conducted throughout Rwanda. CJTF-HOA sent Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) 104 to Rwanda, August 1-8, 2009, to strengthen the partnership between the Rwanda and U.S. militaries and to observe civil-military operations throughout the country. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Jon E. McMillan)

KARAMBO, Rwanda - Members of the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) show Lieutenant Darren Denyer, from Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, a water distribution point built by the RDF during ’Army Week’ — the RDF’s civil-military operations campaign conducted throughout Rwanda. CJTF-HOA sent Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) 104 to Rwanda, August 1-8, 2009, to strengthen the partnership between the Rwanda and U.S. militaries and to observe civil-military operations throughout the country. (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Petty Officer Jon E. McMillan)

“The US military is stepping into void created by a lack of resources for traditional development and public diplomacy,” the inspector general warns.

That finding appears to confirm charges by some independent analysts that American policy toward Africa has grown increasingly militarised in the years since the 2001 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

… the Obama administration is continuing to move in that direction, despite Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s emphasis on development issues during her recent seven-nation Africa tour.

The inspector general’s report contrasts the work of Africom’s “military information support teams” (Mist) with what it describes as the “failure” of the State Department’s 10-year-old effort to integrate public diplomacy into its operations. “Mist teams have exponentially more money to spend in a country than do embassy public affairs offices,” the report says

For more on the spending inequities the August OIG report, PDF reports:

In Somalia, for example, the Embassy had $30,000 to spend on public diplomacy while the MIST team had $600,000. Given the urgency of combating terrorism in Somalia, money was needed and the reported successes of MIST programs elsewhere served as a recommendation. Under MIST, AFRICOM inherited an established military practice of working closely with embassy public affairs officers to develop and fund effective programs.

In Somalia so far there is no evidence of any success resulting from MIST, or any other US spending. Although if one assumes the purpose of US spending and intervention is to weaken and destabilize Somalia, then the policy has been a success. Spending this money would have been the responsibility of US Ambassador to Kenya Ranneberger, who is tasked with managing Somalia relations, and who has engineered a consistently disastrous policy for Somalia, as well as damaging Kenyan democracy.

Daniel Volman writes that:

In May 2008, the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, hosted “Unified Quest 2008,” … it was the first time the war games included African scenarios as part of the Pentagon’s plan to create a new military command for the continent: the Africa Command or Africom.

There were 4 scenarios gamed, including one in Somalia and one in Nigeria, about which we have some information:

… set in 2013 — which was a test of how Africom could respond to a crisis in Nigeria in which the Nigerian government is near collapse, and rival factions and rebels are fighting for control of the oil fields of the Niger Delta and vying for power in the country which is the sixth largest supplier of America’s oil imports.

As the game progressed, according to former U.S. ambassador David Lyon, it became clear that the government of Nigeria was a large part of the problem. As he put it, “we have a circle of elites [the government of Nigeria] who have seized resources and are trying to perpetuate themselves. Their interests are not exactly those of the people.”

Furthermore, according to U.S. Army Major Robert Thornton, an officer with the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, “it became apparent that it was actually green (the host nation government) which had the initiative, and that any blue [the U.S. government and its allies] actions within the frame were contingent upon what green was willing to tolerate and accommodate.”

This information should not have been a surprise to anyone with even a moderate knowledge of Nigeria. I’m sure most Nigerians could have told the wargamers this same information. I think one thing it makes clear is that diplomacy, NOT military force is what is needed now, and what will be most useful going forward. So far, despite examples such as this, or the ongoing disaster in Somalia, continually made worse by US interference, the Obama administration seems committed to the military path. And despite all the talk of cooperation and development from those promoting Africom:

… neither the commander of Africom, General William Ward, nor his deputy, Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, are under any illusions about the purpose of the new command.

Thus, when General Ward appeared before the House Armed Services Committee on March 13, 2008, he cited America’s growing dependence on African oil as a priority issue for Africom and went on to proclaim that combating terrorism would be “Africom’s number one theater-wide goal.” He barely mentioned development, humanitarian aid, peacekeeping or conflict resolution.

And in a presentation by Vice Admiral Moeller at an Africom conference held at Fort McNair on February 18, 2008 and subsequently posted on the web by the Pentagon, he declared that protecting “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market” was one of Africom’s “guiding principles” and specifically cited “oil disruption,” “terrorism,” and the “growing influence” of China as major “challenges” to U.S. interests in Africa.

So far President Obama, rather than seeking the civil and diplomatic route, has decided:

… to expand the operations of Africom throughout the continent. He has proposed a budget for financial year 2010 that will provide increased security assistance to repressive and undemocratic governments in resource-rich countries like Nigeria, Niger, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to countries that are key military allies of the United States like Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti, Rwanda and Uganda.

And he has actually chosen to escalate U.S. military intervention in Africa, most conspicuously by providing arms and training to the beleaguered Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, as part of his effort to make Africa a central battlefield in the “global war on terrorism.” So it is clearly wishful thinking to believe that his exposure to the real risks of such a strategy revealed by these hypothetical scenarios gave him a better appreciation of the risks that the strategy entails.

________
h/t b real of africa comments for source material

Secretary Clinton is visiting seven countries in Africa this week, Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde. She is visiting to secure safe profits from Africa for American corporations. She began her trip by addressing an AGOA conference in Kenya.

Waiting for work in the EPZ

Waiting for work in the EPZ

Tuendelee Mbele EPZ Workers Welfare is a registered self-help organization founded in 2004 by workers in Kenya’s Export Processing Zones (EPZ).  EPZs have been set up around the world to provide cheap labour to corporations. In Kenya’s zones, as in those of other countries, national labour standards are not enforced. In Kenya companies get a 10 year tax holiday, exemption from import/export tariffs and no restriction on foreign investment and ownership. When Kenya allowed EPZs in the textile industry, the home-grown textile industry collapsed and workers were forced to take jobs in the zone where conditions are horrendous: harder work, less pay, brutal quota systems, no sick care, no sick leave, no maternity leave, extensive sexual harassment. Workers know what time they begin in the morning, but not what time they end.
Pamoja Tunaweza, a registered Kenyan CBO (non-profit), is currently delivering an outreach project with a focus on workers, women and teens. EPZs have been set up around the world to provide cheap labour to corporations. In Kenya’s zones, as in those of other countries, national labour standards are not enforced. In Kenya companies get a 10 year tax holiday, exemption from import/export tariffs and no restriction on foreign investment and ownership. When Kenya allowed EPZs in the textile industry, the home-grown textile industry collapsed and workers were forced to take jobs in the zone where conditions are horrendous: harder work, less pay, brutal quota systems, no sick care, no sick leave, no maternity leave, extensive sexual harassment. Workers know what time they begin in the morning, but not what time they end. Photos by Phil Vernon

AGOA is an act of the US Congress passed to benefit the US. It is not a treaty or an international agreement. In Kenya Steve Ouma Akoth writes that there are a number of subjects which are taboo in discussion of AGOA both for the US and for the countries supposedly benefitting from AGOA. He describes three of these taboo subjects.

PRECARIOUS AND POVERTY JOBS
NATIONAL LABOUR LAWS AND PRACTICE
TRADE POLICIES OF THE US GOVERNMENT AND PURCHASING PRACTICES

Of the first, precarious and poverty jobs, he writes:

… for the first time after the industrial revolution, such huge numbers of unorganised labourers, especially women, are coming under the productive sway of large-scale capital.

Although the zones boast of creating 30,000 jobs, mostly for women, many of the women workers interviewed feel that their jobs are failing to help them and their families work their way out of poverty. So they are struggling and campaigning to turn their jobs into the potential they promise – to be a path for poverty reduction for themselves, their households and their communities.

Of national labour laws:

… there has been enormous pressure on the government of Kenya to trade away workers’ rights, in law and in practice, for a place in the global economy.

Pressure has also been coming from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. The two institutions, which were major sponsors of the EPZs, have advised the government of Kenya to adjust their labour laws to meet sourcing companies’ demands. This conveys an unspoken message: Labour standards should be defined not by governments, but by market forces.

This creates horrendous conditions for workers, who among other practices are forced to work extensive unpaid overtime. This is slavery:

Workers are forced to sign-out for official records and then remain locked in factories to meet the ‘targets’.

And of US trade and purchasing practices:

The third taboo subject relates to trade policies of the US government and their corporate courtiers who are the sourcing companies from Kenya’s EPZs. Take textiles for instance. Under AGOA, Kenya is expected to attain sustained and competitive domestic production of cotton by 2012. 2012 is the sunset date for the exception under the rule of third party origin. Thus for Kenya to continue exporting apparel products to the US, the cotton used from 2012 must originate from Kenya. The idea of producing cotton domestically is a good one. But this assumes that all cotton producing countries or those with the potential for production like Kenya are collectively governed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. This aspiration is silent on America’s trade-distorting domestic subsidies which amount to about US$3.8 billion or 80-90 per cent of total US support for cotton. Domestic subsidies also make up almost all of the European cotton subsidies. The over-subsidy of cotton by the US (held at ransom by big corporations and its domestic farm barons) has been a taboo topic not only in AGOA but also within the WTO circles. During the WTO meeting in 2005, the African Ministers had demanded that 80 per cent of domestic subsidies for cotton be eliminated by the end of 2006, and the rest within a few years. There has been no move on this subject. It is a taboo subject that received not even a mention from the US President Obama during his most recent trip to Ghana.

Phil Vernon of SOLID and Pamoja Tunaweza, reports regarding the Kenyan EPZs:

When Kenya allowed EPZs in the textile industry, the home-grown textile industry collapsed and workers were forced to take jobs in the zone where conditions are horrendous: harder work, less pay, brutal quota systems, no sick care, no sick leave, no maternity leave, extensive sexual harassment. Workers know what time they begin in the morning, but not what time they end.

If you scroll down the Pamoja Tunaweza page, you will find a slide show of pictures revealing more about working and living conditions with the EPZs.

Steve Ouma Akoth tells us the attitude towards labour of US corporations operating in Kenya, and in other countries under AGOA is simple:

Make it flexible and make it cheap. …
The companies’ toolkit includes hiring more vulnerable workers who are less likely to organise – women, often immigrants into the urban centres – and intimidate or sack those who do try to create trade unions and stand up for their rights.

Firoze Manji writes:

With China, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Russia and other emerging powers competing for access to Africa’s natural resources, including oil, there is little doubt that the US belligerence during the era of the Bush junta has potentially created conditions favourable to the new players. Clinton’s visit is directly related to seeking to protect and advance American corporate interests in oil and natural resource exploitation in Africa.

However, as reported by Reuters: China, others shove US in scramble for Africa

A presidential visit followed by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s African tour cannot conceal a stark reality: China has overtaken the United States as Africa’s top trading partner.

Chinese labor practices also involve horrendous slavery conditions. But these are the way China practices business at home. This is capitalism without democracy.

In Sudan China focuses on oil wells, not local needs.

Andrew Small, a China specialist at the German Marshall Fund, a public policy institute, points out that many of Beijing’s worst practices in Africa today stem not from colonialist attitudes, but from China’s own level of development. “Every mining disaster in Zambia, forced resettlement around [Sudan's] Merowe dam,and corrupt deal with government officials, has its counterpart in[China's] Dongbei, the Three Gorges dam, Shanghai, and elsewhere,” he points out.

“There is an attitude among many Chinese that Africa – like Asia decades before – is primed for a developmental take-off … making it a business and investment opportunity rather than just a benighted part of the world that needs to be saved or solely a repository of natural resources,” he says. “[China] will be in the unusual position of being both a superpower and developing country for some time to come, with parts of the Chinese interior having far more in common with Africa than with the West.”

True, perhaps, but the colonial comparison itself is meaningless, says Robert Rotberg … the Chinese are stripping thecontinent of raw material as fast as they can and are fairly ruthless about bringing their own laborers for projects and ignoring locals.

And more from Firoze Manji regarding the breathtaking arrogance of the US Africa Command:

And that brings us to the third dimension. This visit is also about negotiating for AFRICOM to have greater presence in Africa. It is hardly a coincidence that just as Clinton begins her junket, so AFRICOM announces its MEDFLAG initiative in Swaziland.

‘African Command’ does not mean Africans in command, just as the African Growth and Opportunity Act is not about growth and opportunity for Africa, but rather for US corporations. Security is high on the agenda. But it is the security of US corporate interests that is at the heart of Clinton’s agenda, not human security, the security of ordinary people to thrive, to be secure that their children will be safe from impoverishment, secure in the knowledge that they will be able to work; and working, to transform their world to serve the interests of humanity, not the narrow interests of a minority in the North.

There is no democracy in the institution of the Africa Command, as there is no democracy in the trade practices described above facilitated by AGOA. America’s advantage is as an example and advocate of democracy and human rights. When the US undermines democracy and human rights, as with the labor practices in the EPZs, it undermines its own advantage in Africa. Although Bush did enormous damage to the US brand, it may be possible to recover, but only if the US practices some of the democratic and human rights principles it preaches. Being poor does not mean people are blind or stupid. They know when they are being cheated and abused. As Steve Ouma Akoth points out:

People who sell their labour have certain inalienable rights. These rights are premised on the fundamental belief that human beings are entitled to a dignified life. Therefore, working conditions must satisfy the minimum requirements of dignified existence. And this is a fundamental principal in the International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions. It is on this logic that ILO prohibits any form of slavery, servitude and forced labour. The practices above and sexual harassment that constitute the trademark of EPZs in Kenya are coming under microscopic scrutiny due to the value attached to human dignity.

________

Added September 18, 2009:

I made some updates and corrections above as advised by Phil Vernon in the comments. He also recommends reading:

Manufacture Of Poverty

Abstract:
In its advocacy for worker’s rights, the Kenya Human Rights Commission’s research into Women Working in Precarious Conditions in Export Processing Zones confirms the negative effects the conduct and actions of these key non-state actors have on human rights. Hence, justifying the need for monitoring by civil society in this new world order, where private corporations exercise inordinate influence over local laws and policies. With the decline in state authority, focus must therefore be turned to those sectors that have filled the void. The conduct and actions of these non-state actors have a direct impact on human rights ranging from violations of workers’ rights to environmental degradation.

Commonly hired on short-term contracts – or with no contract at all – women work at high speed for low wages, in unhealthy conditions, and they are forced to put in long hours to earn enough just to get by. Most get no sick leave or maternity leave, few are enrolled in health schemes and almost none have savings for the future. The insecurity of these jobs is not only material: they work under threats of sexual harassment. Traditionally, women are the care-givers in the home – raising children and caring for sick and elderly relatives. Women are still forced to play that role even when they have become cash-earners. Doubly burdened, and with little support from their governments or employers to manage, the stress can destroy their own health, break up their family lives and undermine their children’s chances of a better future.

The result? The very workers, who are the backbone of export success in many developing countries, are being robbed of their share of the gains that trade could and should bring. The impact falls on poor communities in rich countries, too, where workers employed in competing trade sectors likewise face precarious conditions. Many workers in the Kenyan Textile Industry feel worn-out after several years of hard work.

China’s big oil companies’ (CNOOC, CNPC, and Sinopec) interests across the globe.

China’s big oil companies’ (CNOOC, CNPC, and Sinopec) interests across the globe.

View the interactive version here.

The map was created by China’s Economic Observer. You may note that Sudan is not indicated on the map, although China purchases approximately 64% of Sudan’s oil.  As the description below says: “The above map in not an exhaustive list of all of the overseas oil and gas projects that the three Chinese oil giants have a stake in , but rather a visual guide to the surge in acquisitions that has taken place in the first six months of 2009.”

Mapping the Overseas Expansion of China’s Three Oil Giants
Interactive Map: China Oil Goes Global

Note: The above map in not an exhaustive list of all of the overseas oil and gas projects that the three Chinese oil giants have a stake in , but rather a visual guide to the surge in acquisitions that has taken place in the first six months of 2009. The map includes deals that were finalized before mid-July but does not include, for instance, CNOOC and Sinopec’s recent investment in an Angolan oil field.

With Sinopec’s recent $7.2 billion acquisition of oil explorer Addax Petroleum and rumors flying that China National Petroleum Corp is about to acquire a large stake in Argentinian drilling company YPF SA, it’s obvious that China’s oil companies really are starting to “Go Global.”

The Chinese oil giants have adopted an increasingly flexible and pragmatic strategy, expanding both the scope of the regions that they’re targeting and also utilising more varied methods when acquiring foreign companies and resources.

By aiming at companies whose business are complementary to their own, the oil companies are attempting to become fully-integrated, internationally-competitive global players.

Potential Risks

However, China’s oil giants global expansion is a risky business.

First of all, by purchasing low-return shares at a very high premium, they’ve opened themselves up to liquidity risk in the future.

Also, the recent jump in global oil prices is likely to lift transaction costs and cause problems for future negotiations.

Moreover, most of the already acquired assets are located in politically sensitive and unstable regions, such as Iraq and North Africa.

Finally, if during the process of this overseas expansion, China’s oil companies fail to coordinate with each other, there is the risk that they may end up competing against each other for resources.

Correction: When originally published the map contained two errors – we’ve since reacquainted ourselves with the true location of Ghana and have also scaled down Addax’s daily outout from 1,365,000 barrels a day to the correct 136,500 barrels a day.

On the interactive map, if you mouse over Tanzania you will find it is labeled Ghana, with mention of Chinese interest in Ghana’s Jubilee field.

Nov. 16, 2009 – I notice Ghana has been moved on the map, but is now pictured on the border between Angola and Namibia, still not back in its home location between Togo and Ivory Coast.

These charts tell us all we need to know about the militarization of the US economy, which has marched hand in glove with the militarization of US foreign policy.

US durable goods shipments from 2000-2009

US durable goods shipments from 2000-2009 (shown full size)

___________

US shipments and orders of durable goods 2008-2009

US shipments and orders of durable goods 2008-2009 (shown full size)

This trend is a particularly ominous sign for American democracy. Back in 2006 Harpers published a conversation about American democracy and the military over the question of whether a military coup is possible in the United States, American coup d’etat: Military thinkers discuss the unthinkable. Participating in the conversation were Andrew Bacevich, Brig. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap Jr., Richard Kohn, Edward Luttwak, and Bill Wasik. A number of interesting points were discussed.

BACEVICH: … another crucial reason there could never be a military coup in the United States: the military has learned to play politics. It doesn’t need to have a coup in order to get what it wants most of the time. Especially since World War II, the services have become very skillful at exploiting the media and at manipulating the Congress—particularly on the defense budget, which is estimated now to be equal to that of the entire rest of the world combined.

WASIK: If we are talking about a “creeping coup” that is already under way, in what direction is it creeping?

BACEVICH: The creeping coup deflects attention away from domestic priorities and toward national-security matters, so that is where all our resources get deployed. “Leadership” today is what is demonstrated in the national-security realm. The current [Bush] presidency is interesting in that regard. What has Bush accomplished apart from posturing in the role of commander in chief? He declares wars, he prosecutes wars, he insists we must continue to prosecute wars.

KOHN: By framing the terrorist threat itself as a war, we tend to look upon our national security from a much more military perspective.

BACEVICH: We don’t get Social Security reform, we don’t get immigration reform. The role of the president increasingly comes to be defined by his military function.

KOHN: And so our foreign policy becomes militarized. We neglect our diplomacy, de-emphasize allies.

BACEVICH: … Meanwhile, we’ve underfunded the State Department for twenty-five years.

DUNLAP: Well, I don’t think it’s anything new that the State Department is underfunded. The State Department has no bases in any state, so it does not have a constituency.

KOHN: One of the great pillars in our history that has prevented military intervention in politics has been the military’s nonpartisan attitude. That’s why General George Marshall’s generation of officers essentially declined to vote at all, as did generations before them. In fact, for the first time in over a century we now have an officer corps that does identify overwhelmingly with one political party. And that is corrosive.

WASIK: So it seems clear that whether we like it or not, the military has learned how to use the political system to protect its interests and also to uphold what it sees as its values. Thinking over the long term, are there any dangers inherent in this?

KOHN: Well, at this point the military has a long tradition of getting what it wants. If we ever attempted to truly demobilize—i.e., if the military were suddenly, radically cut back—it could lead if not to a coup then to very severe civil-military tension.

BACEVICH: Because the political game would no longer be prejudiced in the military’s favor.

KOHN: That’s right.

BACEVICH: But there is a more subtle danger too. The civilian leadership knows that in dealing with the military, they are dealing with an institution whose behavior is not purely defined by adherence to the military professional ethic, disinterested service, civilian subordination. Instead, the politicians know that they’re dealing with an institution that to some degree has its own agenda. And if you’re dealing with somebody who has his own agenda, well, you can bargain, you can trade. That creates a small opening—again, not to a coup but to the military making deals with politicians whose purposes may not be consistent with the Constitution.

Looking at the charts above, it looks like there has already been a coup of sorts on the economy. If spending on the military were reported the way spending on health care is reported, people would be asking some serious questions about this. One can certainly argue that public health and health in general is an equally important part of the defense of a country and its citizens, though I have not ever seen the argument framed in those terms. Of course the money issues are not going to be reported the same way. We have just seen what happens with our corporate dominated news business. Even when news reporting results in actual news getting reported, and is good for ratings, if the major corporations who own the news companies see it as harmful, it will be censored and shut down, witness the Olbermann O’Reilly feud.

China is the paymaster for current US military spending. And China is also a target of US military attention. China is perceived as a great rival for the natural resources of Africa, especially oil, which is one major reason for the creation of the US Africa Command, AFRICOM. We can infer a number of things from the charts above, especially if the trend they map continues. Among those is that the Africa Command will grow, and increase its interference with people, countries, and governments in Africa. The other is that China will have increased ability and power to control what the US says and does, much in the way that the corporate paymasters shut down the Olbermann O’Reilly feud. After all, when your finger is between someone’s teeth, you don’t hit him on the head.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 74 other followers