Africa


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

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

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

Map of known US military locations in Africa.

Map of known US military locations in Africa.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

X-47B drone taking off from carrier deck

X-47B drone taking off from carrier deck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Senator Feinstein said:

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

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

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

US Africa policy:

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

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

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

Sarkozy spoke of this in 2007.

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

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

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

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

Map of conflict in Mali, Jan 14, 2013

Map of conflict in Mali, Jan 14, 2013

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

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

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

Areva uranium mining operations in Niger

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

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

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

Whitehouse continues:

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

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

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

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

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

He concludes with:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The most obvious victim of this destabilization has been Mali.

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

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

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

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

Bill Van Auken writes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Location of US drone and aerial surveillance bases in Africa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ECOWAS EPA Meeting

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

ecowas-countries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Direct investment in African nations by the previous colonial rulers.  Click to enlarge enough to read.

Direct investment in African nations by the previous colonial rulers

This is a very large graphic by Richard Johnson from Canada’s National Post. Click it a couple of times to enlarge enough to read. The reasons for the investment are along the bottom. The west depends on the wealth of Africa.

When water disappears, there is no alternative.

A serious crisis occurs when there is less than 500 cubic meter per person per year.

The World Bank and the WTO are energetic and anti-democratic instruments, eagerly facilitating corporate control and commoditization of water.

Water Wars by Vandana Shiva

The following maps come from the PDF from IOP (Institute of Physics) Publishing: Quantitative maps of groundwater resources in Africa (PDF)
There are several related articles at All Africa

The African continent has enormous reserves of groundwater. Groundwater is finite. Once those reserves are used up they are gone for good. The questions are: How will the water be accessessed? And who will get the water and who will reap the benefits? Will Africans be able to use these in a beneficial and sustainable way? Or will the landgrabbers from other continents take Africa’s water along with their other exploitations of African resources.

Figure 1. Available information on groundwater resources for Africa used to construct the quantitative continent maps. A detailed list of the maps and studies is given in supplementary material 1 available at stacks.iop.org/ERL/7/024009/mmedia.

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Figure 2. Groundwater storage for Africa based on the effective porosity and saturated aquifer thickness. Panel (a) shows a map of groundwater storage expressed as water depth in millimetres with modern annual recharge for comparison (D¨oll and Fiedler 2008). Panel (b) shows the volume of groundwater storage for each country; the error bars are calculated by recalculating storage using the full ranges of effective porosity and thickness for each aquifer, rather than the best estimate. Annual renewable freshwater availability (FAO 2005) generally used in water scarcity assessments is shown for comparison.

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Figure 3. Aquifer productivity for Africa showing the likely interquartile range for boreholes drilled and sited using appropriate techniques and expertise. The inset shows an approximate depth to groundwater (Bonsor and MacDonald 2011).

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Horace Campbell has written about these vast water resources in Water and reconstruction in Africa: an agenda for transformation

once one begins to deal with water one is dealing with the fundamentals of life. In all major religions and forms of spiritual reflection, water plays a central role.

‘Groundwater resources are unevenly distributed: the largest groundwater volumes are found in the large sedimentary aquifers in the North African countries Libya, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan.’ Of these African countries, Libya possessed by far the largest volume of ground water, 99,500 (km3). Algeria with 91,900 (km3), Sudan with 63,000 (km3) and Egypt with 55 200 (km3).

Here, then, is the truth revealed to those who did not know that French and western water companies had for decades coveted this huge resource of water in North Africa calculating how to deny the Africans access to these resources. This report can help those who were confused about the real motives for the invasion of Libya.

For decades it is has been the work of capitalist inspired international organizations to reveal a different narrative, that of water scarcity and water shortages in Africa. …
What was never revealed was the reality that access to water was the major democratic question in Africa and the more democratic a society, the more accessible the resources for water and sanitation.

The World Bank sums up its approach to Water Resources Management on the basis that its goals were: (a) helping the poor directly. (b) improving macroeconomic and fiscal balances, (c) promoting good governance and private sector development, and (d) protecting the environment.

The key basis for achieving these goals was the privatization of water resources. For the past fifty years the World Bank has been supporting giant water projects that served to dispossess the working peoples of the urban and rural areas. The World Bank projects for water management have been especially detrimental for the livelihood of oppressed African women. These women expend hours every day securing clean and potable water. The World Bank and its myriad of sub-contractors have been at the forefront of the struggles over the ideas of whether water should remain a public good, shared by humans everywhere, or a commodity to be bought and sold on the open market.

Trees attract water. To maintain surface water, you need trees. Deforestation makes the water dry up. Reforestation uses water for the benefit of the people who live there, creating forests that attract and capture precipitation, enlarging available water reserves.

Anta Diop in his vision of a federated Africa linked this dream to the reforestation and repopulation of Africa. Diop drew attention to plans that had been drawn up as far back as the fifties for the reforestation of the Sahel. He wrote,

‘The Sahel Zone, the more desert the farther north one goes, is ideal for reforestation. As early as 1950, we suggested a plan for replanting here. Although approved at the time by the Sudanese people and taken under consideration by the administration, this plan has since lain dormant.’

This plan of reforestation has always been linked to the larger project of providing water to those areas where there were water deficits. Wangari Maathai had taken this vision seriously and there are millions of African environmentalists who take seriously the vision of the reforestation of Africa. This vision of reforestation and healing the African environment can mobilize millions of workers, youths and engineers for a new sense of priorities for Africa. It is here where Pan African youths must take full ownership of the Great Green Wall Project. The African Union has supported this plan that had been pushed by visionaries such as Thomas Sankara. Reforestation in Africa is now conceived of as a massive project which calls for planting a 15km wide and 7000km long swath of land from Djibouti in the east and stretching to Senegal in the West (passing through Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania. This “Great Green Wall” is envisaged by the African Union as the Seven Thousand Kilometers of Trees integrated into new agricultural zones. Such a project places the concept of Unity on the level where it touches concretely the lives of the people. Advances in solar energy technology, harnessing the underground water resources, the electrification of Africa and an infrastructure of canal systems await Africa 2025 when Africa breaks from western intellectual and political hegemony.

The philosophy of Ubuntu seeks to break the divisions between the rational and irrational human, between space and time, objectivity and subjectivity and those ideas of ‘science’ that devalues the spiritual dimension of life. Within the present leadership of the African Union are to be found many leaders and intellectuals who are in full agreement with the World Bank and the view that water should be a commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. The present constitution of international politics challenges organic scholars of the oppressed to conceptualise a prolonged popular struggle and not to be lured by the social capital of those who oppress the vast majority. The revelations of the water wealth are only one other component of the information to oppose western imperial domination.

Ghana has effectively fought back against a decades long campaign by the west to privatise its water.

How the Private Sector Didn’t Solve Ghana’s Water Crisis
originally published in Pambazuka

Seventy percent of Ghanaian homes don’t have a WC or a pit latrine. Piped water, if you have it at all, is intermittent, so water in your tap depends on whether you can afford a domestic reservoir. In 2005, the World Bank secured a private sector solution to the water crisis in Ghana – the first independent sub-Saharan African country, and one of the first to be economically adjusted for corporate benefit. But Ghanaian campaigners had different ideas for their taps and toilets.

A remarkable turnaround in Ghana’s water sector occurred in June 2011. After five years of managing Ghana’s urban water services, Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd, a Dutch South African water corporation, failed to renew its contract with the government-owned Ghana Water Company Ltd. Ghanaian opponents to water privatisation had won a resounding victory. They effectively wrong footed the World Bank, private sector advocate and major funder of Ghana’s water sector.

In Accra, you’re unlikely to have a WC plus individual cesspit unless you’re in the elite minority, and pit latrines are largely rural. You therefore have a few options. You can defecate in a bucket or a pan and pay for your ‘night soil’ to be taken, probably manually and illegally, perhaps twice a week, to a cesspit whose contents are then emptied by sewage tankers. You can walk to and then queue for a public latrine, most likely a subhuman hangover from colonial days where you pay for a bit of newspaper to wipe yourself and where there may be six stalls serving 1,000 people. You can defecate in a plastic bag and deposit it in the storm drains that line your street. You can defecate in a storm drain. You can defecate on the beach. Men often urinate in drains. Women sometimes put a bucket under their skirts. The only area with underground piped sewers is the ex-colonial enclave, round Osu, where the president lives and Ministries are located. At the wittily-named Lavender Hill, near some of the poorest areas in town, sewage tankers squirt raw sewage into the sea. A World Bank and Ghanaian government funded treatment plant is said to be in the pipeline at Lavender Hill.

If you have piped water, it’s not safe to drink, however rich or poor you are. If you can afford it, you buy either sachet water or bottled water to drink. Bottled water is expensive, on average GHc2 (US$1.9) a litre when the minimum wage is GHc4.48 (US$2.66) a day. The media periodically report sachet water scams. In any case, your tap will be dry perhaps 75% of the time, depending on your topological relationship to the local pumping station. If you can afford it, you install a huge polytank (a cylindrical plastic container) on a tower in your garden, plumb it into your domestic system, and fill it up when the taps are running. If you can’t afford it, you store water in jerry cans wherever you have room. You might seek professional help to fix your water meter, illegally. If you don’t have piped water, and you’re not paying bills to the Ghana Water Company, you might employ a professional to plumb you into a mains water pipe, illegally. If you don’t, you must buy from a water tanker, or from a stand pipe, which is more expensive than tap or domestically stored water. Fetching three buckets of water a day can cost you between 10% and 20% of your daily income. Thus, the poorer you are, the more you’re likely to pay for water in absolute terms.
Despite these huge problems, in January 2011 the World Bank was confidently stating that Ghana was ‘making steady progress’ towards the United Nations 2015 Millennium Development Goal for safe drinking water.

Water privatisation in Ghana goes back decades. The 1980s and the Rawlings regime saw external funders, especially the World Bank and the IMF, direct the restructuring of the Ghanaian economy as a condition for receiving desperately needed loans. Water reforms in the 1980s included sacking staff in the publicly owned Ghana Water and Sewage Corporation, attempts to curb non-revenue water and an emphasis on ‘cost recovery’ – as opposed to improving access to sanitation and clean water.

By 1999, the GWSC had been replaced by the Ghana Water Company Ltd. While 100% state owned, it’s responsible neither for rural water services nor for sewage disposal. Sewage generates life and plant growth as well as death and disease, but not profit.

In the same year, the World Bank’s plans snarled up on the issue of national sovereignty: the government objected to the accusation of corrupt tendering practices, and the World Bank withdrew its US$100 million loan – but with an eye to elections the following year. And indeed, the new New Patriotic Party government, far keener on the World Bank’s ‘reforms’ than Rawlings’ National Democratic Congress had ever been, ‘quickly organised an international tender for the [public-private partnership] lease contract, and in 2001 they short listed nine [multinational] companies…’ [1]

At this point, the opposition to the proposed water reforms consolidated. The National Coalition Against the Privatisation of Water was established at an Accra forum in 2001. Members of South Africa’s Anti-Privatisation Forum and Municipal Workers’ Union participated, as well as an activist from Bolivia’s Cochabamba water struggle. They ‘shared their experiences of water privatisation, and the adverse impacts it had had on their communities.’ [2]

Independent research in 2002 found ‘… that implementation of a plan for full cost recovery and automatic tariff adjustment mechanisms [in the water sector] will be a condition for the completion of the IMF’s fifth review of Ghana’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility loan. Further, ‘Conditions attached to World Bank lending led to a 95 percent increase in water tariffs in May 2001.’ [3]

By early 2011, the anti-water privatisation coalition had been organising pickets, meetings, and media campaigns for 10 years. It had survived splits and government witch hunts, and had received some (but not nearly enough) international media exposure. NGOs which had previously backed water privatisation were working alongside it. Ghana’s Public Utility Workers Union was now openly campaigning against the renewal of the Ghana Water Company Ltd’s contract with Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd. The Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing began dropping hints that the contract would not be renewed.

But why? Surely the private sector, with its performance, efficiency and revenue targets, could tackle the huge problem of non revenue water? Non revenue water is any water supplied by the water company that isn’t paid for, because of unpaid bills, water leaking from pipes, or water connected illegally. In the late 1990s, Ghana Water Company Ltd’s non-revenue water stood at 50-51%, way above the World Bank’s 15% target.

On all major contractual obligations, however, Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd failed, a contract, furthermore, that they had got on the cheap because it required no investment on their part whatsoever; it was a management contract, not a lease contract. Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd failed to decrease non-revenue water, they failed to increase the production of water, and they failed to improve bill collection. Service delivery (not surprisingly) failed to benefit from reducing the number of workers, i.e. cutting the cost of wage bills.

Five days after Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd’s contract wasn’t renewed, the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing announced the setting up of the 100% state owned Ghana Urban Water Company Ltd, a subsidiary of the Ghana Water Company Ltd, to replace Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd, with a one year tenure ending in June 2012.

Leonard Shang Quartey co-ordinates the Essential Services Programme at The Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), the campaigning NGO which spearheads the anti-water privatisation coalition. ‘This whole idea about Ghana Urban Water Limited, I don’t think it’s necessary,’ Quartey said in June 2011. ’We have to focus our efforts on GWCL [Ghana Water Company Ltd] and make it workable.’ And it’s not as though Ghana doesn’t have water – the mighty Volta Lake is one of the world’s largest reservoirs.

June 2012 and what happens next? The interim Ghana Urban Water Company Ltd still exists. According to Quartey and Oxfam GB’s Alhassan Adam (telephone interviews June and May 2012), the World Bank is pressurising the government to return to the privatisation option. But, Quartey said, any form of privatisation is unacceptable to the anti-water privatisation coalition. They want a strengthened and restructured Ghana Water Company Ltd, that is, a public water authority charged with the provision (as opposed to the cost recovery) of clean water. The issue has very little to do with management, as Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd’s failure proved. ‘The bulk of the problem,’ Quartey said, ‘lies in financing.’

It’s worth remembering that during colonial occupation, African economies were organised primarily for the extraction of raw materials to their northern ‘masters’. Political independence did not bring economic independence, and the advent of IMF and World Bank economic restructuring from the 1980s onwards, driven by conditions on loans and grants, has maintained extractive exploitation. According to Quartey, Public Private Partnership, as in the Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd debacle, is still the World Bank’s preferred privatisation vehicle.

What solutions are there? Quartey and the coalition want increased government spending: the water sector is more than 80% donor funded. But Ghanaians can finance their water sector themselves. Since 2010, the country has produced oil. It’s one of the world’s leading gold and cocoa producers. Taxation needs to be properly regulated, in particular corporate tax loopholes blocked. Last year’s increase in corporate tax on mining companies was a step in the right direction, Quartey said.

Ghana is a wealthy country, as is Africa as a whole. The Ghanaian government, with a little help from the anti water privatisation coalition, need not submit to World Bank pressure. And then there’s China.

In addition to commodifying water as water, the rapacious land grabs operators from various continents are making in Africa mean external exploitation of Africa’s critical water resources. Water gets exported as part of the agricultural products whose growth it irrigates. Biofuel production is a particularly wasteful and unsustainable use of water. Water resources are fouled and destroyed by mining, unregulated construction, and other extractive industries.

To me one of the most exciting possibilities is the proposed Green Wall across the Sahel. Not only would it use Africa’s water resources for African benefit, trees would help replenish water supplies, not just make use of them. The project will require vision, imagination, leadership and struggle to assert African forms of participatory democracy in order to achieve such a goal. We have to start by visualizing goals and sharing that vision in order to get on track to achieving those goals.

Alassane Ouattara is the current President of Ivory Coast, selected by France and the United States on behalf of the international community, and with the assistance of U.N. mission chief to Ivory Coast Y.J. Choi, they declared Ouattara the winner of the November 2010 Ivoirian presidential election in 2011. Ouattara spent much of his career at the IMF, including serving as Deputy Managing Director of the IMF from 1994-1999.

A popular photocartoon of Ouattara as Sarkozy's puppet. I think it is appropriate here.

On Feb. 17 we heard that Alassane Ouattara Is the new Chairman Of ECOWAS. In his acceptance speech he concentrated on security issues, which works well with the the priorities of France, the US, and NATO.

The Ivorian president was elected for a single-year tenure at the 40th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS concluded in Abuja on Friday.

Quattara said in his acceptance speech that his administration would define common policy and combine resources to fight terrorism, piracy, banditry and proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the sub-region.

The Ivorian president also said that he would ensure the modernisation of ECOMOG to tackle security challenges.

He thanked his immediate predecessor, Jonathan, for his efforts in piloting ECOWAS in the resolution of the Ivorian political crisis and consolidation of peace and stability in other member- states.

The next summit of ECOWAS has been fixed for the Ivorian Capital, Yamussoukrou, on a date to be announced by the chairman.

At Nairaland, where the comments can be interesting, in comment #5 here, Danka7777 wrote:

Quattara – a known former IMF executive, this guy that was hand picked by the western countries to rule Ivory Coast. We are finished. Nigerians reading this, don’t take my words at face value, go and do your own research on why former President of Ivory Coast, Gbagbo was hunted and ousted from power. This guy was trying to untie Ivory Coast from the shackles of colonial France, in other words, he was trying to untie Ivorian currency from french currency. … essentially what this means is that the former colonial master(France) still controls the currency value of Ivory Coast. Gbagbo was hunted because he VOWED to untie Ivory Coast from the shackles of colonial slavery. They tell you in the mainstream media that Quattara won? Lets put this in context: how did he win? Who decides on who won elections? What constitutional body has absolute and final say on election malpractices? Is it the supreme court or electoral body? My judgement tells me its the Supreme court and most of you will agree. Who decided the election of President Goodluck Jonathan vs. Buhari few weeks ago and in the past elections, was it Supreme court or Electoral body(INEC)? Of course it was the Nigerian Supreme court. Who decided the election of Bush vs. Gore in 2000? United Supreme court did. Now, conversely, when the Ivorian Supreme court ruled that Gbagbo was the winner of the election in Ivory Coast, the western world said, No! no! no! … Who did these people think they are fooling? Like we are babies and can’t think for our selves.

IMF policies, particularly the market theology inspired SAPs, structural adjustment programs, have been responsible for the death and suffering of hundreds and thousands of people and the dismantling and destruction of vital institutions of government in many developing countries around the world. The IMF is the tool of bankers, with a banker’s view of the world. Currently we can see how harmful that can be in Greece.

I think it is important to consider this in the light of recent studies and information about the nature of global finance.

Revealed – the capitalist network that runs the world

An analysis of the relationships between 43,000 transnational corporations has identified a relatively small group of companies, mainly banks, with disproportionate power over the global economy.

The study’s assumptions have attracted some criticism, but complex systems analysts contacted by New Scientist say it is a unique effort to untangle control in the global economy. Pushing the analysis further, they say, could help to identify ways of making global capitalism more stable.

The work, to be published in PLoS One, revealed a core of 1318 companies with interlocking ownerships (see image). Each of the 1318 had ties to two or more other companies, and on average they were connected to 20. What’s more, although they represented 20 per cent of global operating revenues, the 1318 appeared to collectively own through their shares the majority of the world’s large blue chip and manufacturing firms – the “real” economy – representing a further 60 per cent of global revenues.

When the team further untangled the web of ownership, it found much of it tracked back to a “super-entity” of 147 even more tightly knit companies – all of their ownership was held by other members of the super-entity – that controlled 40 per cent of the total wealth in the network. “In effect, less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network,” says Glattfelder. Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group.

Crucially, by identifying the architecture of global economic power, the analysis could help make it more stable. By finding the vulnerable aspects of the system, economists can suggest measures to prevent future collapses spreading through the entire economy. Glattfelder says we may need global anti-trust rules, which now exist only at national level, to limit over-connection among TNCs. Sugihara says the analysis suggests one possible solution: firms should be taxed for excess interconnectivity to discourage this risk.

the super-entity is unlikely to be the intentional result of a conspiracy to rule the world. “Such structures are common in nature,” says Sugihara.

I don’t believe much in conspiracies, eventually people talk. The more people that know a secret, the less likely it is to stay a secret. Common interests are a different matter. Individuals and groups can organize and act as powerful forces to protect their own interests without the need to conspire.

As a long term employee and official of the IMF, Ouattara is a part of the global financial structure and likely to work for its interests above the interests of Ivory Coast, West Africa, or the continent of Africa. To date he has shown no sign that his allegiances are with Ivory Coast or with Africa above the IMF, Sarkozy, France, and the bankers.

All target regimes have one crime in common: Using their national resources to develop modern secular states – independent of imperial dictates.”

This is a pattern the west, the US, EU, and NATO have pursued in the Middle East in cooperation with the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC. The US/EU/NATO coalition is extending brutal colonial attentions into Africa again.

All the target regimes of the US/EU/NATO/GCC aggression for “humanitarian intervention” and “democracy” share this characteristic, they were governing themselves independent of imperial dictates. This made and makes them ripe for “humanitarian” intervention. The same pattern in the Middle East is extending into Africa.

Freedom bombs

James Petras describes the pattern clearly and unmistakably in his essay The Washington – “Moderate Islam” Alliance: Containing Rebellion Defending Empire.

“Moderate” Islamists have become the Empire’s ‘contraceptive of choice’ against any chance the massive Arab peoples’ revolt might give birth to substantive egalitarian social changes and bring those brutal pro- western officials, responsible for so many crimes against humanity, to justice.

The West and their client officials in the military and police have agreed to a kind of “power-sharing’ with the moderate/respectable (read ‘reactionary’) Islamist parties. The Islamists would be responsible for imposing orthodox economic policies and re-establishing ‘order’ (i.e. bolstering the existing one) in partnership with pro-multinational bank economists and pro US-EU generals and security officials. In exchange the Islamists could take certain ministries, appoint their members, finance electoral clientele among the poor and push their ‘moderate’ religious, social and cultural agenda. Basically, the elected Islamists would replace the old corrupt dictatorial regimes in running the state and signing off on more free trade agreements with the EU. Their role would keep the leftists, nationalists and populists out of power and from gaining mass support. Their job would substitute spiritual solace and “inner worth” via Islam in place of redistributing land, income and power from the elite, including the foreign multi-nationals to the peasants, workers, unemployed and exploited low-paid employees.

The US and EU have openly unleashed their fundamentalists allies in order to destroy independent adversaries in the name of “democracy” and ‘humanitarian intervention’, a laughable claim in light of decade long colonial wars of occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan. All target regimes have one crime in common: Using their national resources to develop modern secular states – independent of imperial dictates.

As with European empires in the past, the modern Western imperial countries have relied on retrograde religious parties and leaders to collaborate and serve their economic and military interests and to provide mercenaries for imperial armies to savage any anti-imperialist social revolutionaries. In that sense US and European rulers are neither ‘pro nor anti’ Islam, it all depends on their national and class position. Islamists who collaborate with Empire are “moderate” allies and if they attack an anti-imperialist regime, they become ‘freedom fighters’. On the other hand, they become “terrorists” or “fundamentalists” when they oppose imperial occupation, pillage or colonial settlements.

Needless to say, wherever US imperialism faces leftists or secular, modernizing anti-imperialist regimes, Washington turns to retrograde Islamic leaders willing and able to destroy the progressive regime in return for imperialist support. Such coalitions are built mainly around fundamentalist and moderate Islamist opposition to secular, class- based politics allied with the Empire’s hostility to any anti-imperialist challenge to its domination.

The same ‘coalition’ of Islamists and the Empire has been glaringly obvious during the NATO assault on Libya and continues against Syria: The Muslims provide the shock troops on the ground; NATO provides the aerial bombing, funds, arms, sanctions, embargoes and propaganda.

What determines whether the US Empire will have a collaborative or conflict-ridden relation with Islam depends on the specific political context. The US allies with Islamists when faced with nationalist, leftist and secular democratic regimes and movements, especially where their optimal choice, a military-neo-liberal alternative is relatively weak. However, faced with a nationalist, anti-colonial Islamist regime (as is the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran), Washington will side with pro-western liberals, dissident Muslim clerics, pliable tribal chiefs, separatist ethnic minorities and pro-Western generals.”

The war on terror is particularly useful here. Terrorism is a tactic, it has no particular ideology. So it is easy to label any inconvenient opposition, any anti-colonial or anti-imperial movement as terrorists. It is then easy, almost a duty, to make war on them.

“Islamist parties are approached by the Empire’s policy elites only when they have a mass following and can therefore weaken any popular, nationalist insurgency. Mass-based Islamist parties serve the empire by providing “legitimacy”, by winning elections and by giving a veneer of respectability to the pro-imperial military and police apparatus retained in place from the overthrown client state dictatorships.

The Islamist parties compete at the “grass roots” with the leftists. They build up a clientele of supporters among the poor in the countryside and urban slums through organized charity and basic social services administered at the mosques and humanitarian religious foundations. Because they reject class struggle and are intensely hostile to the left (with its secular, pro-feminist and working-class agenda), they have been ‘half-tolerated’ by the dictatorship, while the leftist activists are routinely murdered. Subsequently, with the overthrow of the dictatorship, the Islamists emerge intact with the strongest national organizational network as the country’s ‘natural leaders’ from the religious-bazaar merchant political elite. Their leaders offer to serve the empire and its traditional native military collaborators in exchange for a ‘slice of power’, especially over morality, culture, religion and households (women), in other words, the “micro-society”.’

The French have been particularly explicit in their imperial intentions regarding the Middle East and Africa:
from: Libya: NATO Provides the Bombs; The French “Left” Provides the Ideology by Pierre Lévy, he quotes a 2007 speech by Sarkozy:

Europe is today the only force capable of carrying forward a project of civilization. … America and China have already begun the conquest of Africa. How long will Europe wait to build the Africa of tomorrow? While Europe hesitates, others advance.”

Not wanting to be left behind, Dominique Strauss-Kahn around the same time expressed his desire for a Europe stretching “from the cold ice of the Arctic in the North to the hot sands of the Sahara in the South … and that Europe, I believe, if it continues to exist, will have reconstituted the Mediterranean as an internal sea, and will have reconquered the space that the Romans, or Napoleon more recently, attempted to consolidate.”

The Pentagon has been diligent in shoring up repressive regimes and helping to repress any democratic movements.

As the Arab Spring blossomed … the Pentagon acted decisively. It forged ever deeper ties with some of the most repressive regimes in the region, building up military bases and brokering weapons sales and transfers to despots from Bahrain to Yemen.

As state security forces across the region cracked down on democratic dissent, the Pentagon also repeatedly dispatched American troops on training missions to allied militaries there. During more than 40 such operations with names like Eager Lion and Friendship Two that sometimes lasted for weeks or months at a time, they taught Middle Eastern security forces the finer points of counter-insurgency, small unit tactics, intelligence gathering, and information operations skills crucial to defeating popular uprisings.

These recurrent joint-training exercises, seldom reported in the media and rarely mentioned outside the military, constitute the core of an elaborate, longstanding system that binds the Pentagon to the militaries of repressive regimes across the Middle East. …

United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), the Pentagon’s regional military headquarters that oversees operations in Africa, has planned 13 such major joint-training exercises in 2011 alone from Uganda to South Africa, Senegal to Ghana, including African Lion.

The process of imperial “humanitarian” intervention and “democratization” is outlined even more succinctly in this:

Introduction to Democracy

Phase 1) Bring false Accusations against Government
Phase 2) Bomb country to rubble
Phase 3) Install your own Government
Phase 4) Loan the money for the “rebuilding” contract
Phase 5) Win all the contracts
Phase 6) Heavily in debt the country
Phase 7) Impose SAP’s through the IMF
Phase 8) Buy all national assets for pennies
Phase 9) Send foreign “AID”
Phase 10) Demand foreign “AID” procure only western products
Phase 11) Convince the world the country failed because the people are uncivilized

Independence, that crime against imperialism, can be successfully defeated!

An illustration to start the year from the brilliant Somali cartoonist Amin Amir.

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Most readers here will recognize this guy. Most have seen him many times in many places.

He can be found throughout the continent and throughout the world. We need to be careful we don’t see him in the mirror. Too many of our leaders see him there, but don’t appear to recognize him.

The National Post’s Richard Johnson takes a look at the scale of America’s military bases across the globe. This is a huge graphic, you’ll have to click it more than once to get it big enough to read. There is a lot to learn from reading and studying it. It reminds me of the vampire squid.

Mapping the reach of military empire, between 800-1000 bases


** Central Intelligence Agency locations are a mixture of drone bases and rendition centers

Full-spectrum dominance means the ability of U.S. forces, operating alone or with allies, to defeat any adversary and control any situation across the range of military operations (link)

And from The Real Grand Chessboard and the Profiteers of War by Prof. Peter Dale Scott:

” … the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.”
Zbigniew Brzezinski

I have published the following graphics before, but they are worth contemplating in view of the information above.

Who really spends the most on their armed forces?

The following graphics are by David McCandless. The originals are at The Guardian DataBlog.

Which country has the biggest military budget per year?

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The US military budget in context

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GDPs of major nations as combined earnings of US states

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Big spenders, yearly military budget as % of GDP

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Active forces - who has the most soldiers?

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Active forces - the number of soldiers per 100,000 people

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Total armed forces - the number of soldiers, reservists, and paramilitary per 100,000 people

Bases occupy the seas as well as the continents. The following is also a very large graphic picturing a lot of information.

Seabase Overview - Joint Seabasing Responsive Scalable National Power Projection (this is a very large graphic, you may need to click more than once and scroll around to read it all)

You can read more about what is going on at Seabase Diplomacy.

You can view pictures of seabasing in action around the coasts of Africa at AFRICOM Along the Coasts and In the Creeks.

Full Spectrum Dominance, read what it means in the US, Africa, and globally.

updated 1/2/2012

AFRICOM continues constantly expanding seabasing and riverine warfare activities, continuing efforts to monitor and control African nations and African resources for the benefit of the US and the West.

I’ve collected together a number of photos of seabasing and riverine warfare exercises from the last 12 months. You can see how AFRICOM is busily engaged around the entire coastline of the continent, and inland on the rivers.

MOMBASA, Kenya - The guided-missile frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) arrives in Mombasa to take part in a training

DAKAR, Senegal - High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) makes a stop for refueling on its way to Ghana, June 26, 2011. Swift is currently taking part in Africa Partnership Station (APS) 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Carver)

AGADIR, Morocco - U.S. Naval Ship Pililaau ports at Agadir, Morocco recently as part of exercise African Lion 2011. The largest exercise sponsored by U.S. Africa Command, African Lion is a joint, combined U.S.-Moroccan exercise that is designed to promote interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's military tactics, techniques and procedures. The exercise is scheduled to conclude June 18.

TOUBAKOUTA, Senegal - A group of service members from the U.S. and Senegalese Marine Corps and Nigerian Navy search for targets during a live-fire shoot on the river in Toubakouta, Senegal April 23, 2011. Approximately 45 U.S. marines and sailors, along with about 100 Senegalese commandos and Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service troops are participating in Africa Partnership Station 2011, a U.S. Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM) maritime security assistance program that is designed to strengthen participating nations' maritime security capacity through multilateral collaboration and cross-border cooperation. Marine Corps Forces, Africa is supporting APS 11 with a security assistance force based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. (Marine Corps Forces Africa photo by Master Sergeant Grady Fontana)

DOUALA, Cameroon - Cameroonian Navy visit, board, search, and seizure teams approach USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) during the multi-national training exercise Obangame Express 2011 as part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West, March 21, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

KINSHASA, Democratic Republic of the Congo - A Democratic Republic of Congo Navy boat accompanies Exercise Kwanza review participants on a cruise of the Congo River in October 2010. Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) held the exercise in order to validate Central African Multinational Force to African Union (AU) standards. The force is one of five brigade-size elements that make up the AU's Africa Standby Force--created to respond to crises on the African continent. (U.S. Army photo by Major George K. Allen Jr.)

TOUBAKOUTA, Senegal - Sergeant Austin Sabin maneuvers a fire team of Senegalese commandos through a final military operation in urban terrain exercise at the end of a three week partnered evolution in Toubakouta, Senegal, recently. The partnership was an Africa Partnership Station 2011 initiative, in which the Marines of second platoon, Ground Combat Element, Security Cooperation Task Force, APS-11 exchanged concepts and cultures with Senegalese commandos. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Timothy L. Solano)

TOUBAKOUTA, Senegal - Commando marines with Senegal's Company Fusiliers Marine Commando unit patrol the hot dusty trail in army base center training tactics zone 3, in Toubakouta, Sengegal, during Africa Partnership Station 2011. These Senegalese marines are participating in Africa Partnership Station 2011, a U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) maritime security assistance program that is designed to strengthen participating nations' maritime security capacity through multilateral collaboration and cross-border cooperation. Marine Corps Forces, Africa is supporting APS 11 with a security assistance force based out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. (Marine Corps Forces, Africa photo by Master Sergeant Grady Fontana)

TOUBAKOUTA, Senegal - Staff Sergeant Shaun Grant and Gunnery Sergeant Michael Connors exit the water after finishing the Senegalese water obstacle course in the Sadoum River April 24, 2011. This exercise was one of many that the marines of second platoon, Ground Combat Element, Security Cooperation Task Force, Africa Partnership Station 2011 have engaged in during the APS-11 partnered military-to-military exchange. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Timothy L. Solano)

TOUBAKOUTA, Senegal- U.S. Marines, Senegalese Commandos and members of the Nigerian Navy Special Boat Service lay in the prone position during a beach raid exercise launched from rubber raid craft, recently. The raid formation once on the beach is designed to provide 360 degrees of security. (Photo by Lance Corporal Timothy Solano)

MEDITERRANEAN SEA -- Sailors assigned to the deck department aboard the amphibious transport dock ship USS Ponce (LPD 15) prepare for a replenishment at sea March 10, 2011, with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Kanawha (T-AO 196) and the Amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3). Ponce is part of Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Nathanael Miller/Released)

LOME TOGO, Togo - Sailors aboard USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) man the rails during a port visit to Lome, Togo, February 1, 2011. The port visit marks the start of the fifth iteration of Africa Partnership Station (APS) East. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa.(U.S. Navy photo by Lieutenant junior grade Lorna Mae Devera)

PEMBA ISLAND, Tanzania - U.S. Navy Lieutenant Clint Phillips (left) and Petty Officer 2nd Class Bruce Edmunds (2nd from left), Maritime Civil Affairs Team (MCAT) 115, wade through shallow water on their way to Fundo Island, a small islet that is part of Pemba Island, September 14, 2010. The Little Creek, Virginia-based MCAT 115 is deployed to Tanzania as part of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa. Maritime Civil Affairs Teams are deployed worldwide to assess partner-nation infrastructure and enhance capacity. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Laird)

ARTA BEACH, Djibouti - The first group of Navy FY-11 Chief Petty Officer selectees awaits instruction to begin their first waterborne obstacle during a water survival course at the French Foreign Legion's Combat Training Center September 6, 2010. The selectees from Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, completed the course as part of the team building portion of the induction season. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Frank Montellano)

USCGC MOHAWK, At Sea - Petty Officer 3rd Class Antonio Seisdedos fires a .50 Caliber Machine Gun during a gunnery exercise off the coast of Senegal on August 29, 2010, during African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP) operations. U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913) is currently conducting a 10-day underway period in Senegal's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone in support of the AMLEP program. AMLEP enables African partners to build maritime security capacity and improve management of their maritime environment through real-world combined law enforcement operations. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Lieutenant Commander James Stockman)

GULF OF GUINEA - A Togolese defender-class patrol boat comes alongside the guided-missile frigate USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) as part of visit, board, search and seizure training with U.S. and Togolese Sailors during Africa Partnership Station (APS) West, February 8, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative to improve maritime safety and security in Africa training and collaborative activities. (U.S. Navy photo by Ensign Sean J. McMahon)

LUANDA, Angola - An Angolan visit, board, search and seizure team watches during a tactics demonstration given by U.S. Sailors aboard USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49), March 30, 2011. Robert G. Bradley, an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, is homeported out of Mayport, Florida, and is on a scheduled deployment to west and central Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

INDIAN OCEAN - French navy La Fayette-class frigate, FS Guepratte (F714) prepares to come alongside USS Stephen W. Groves (FFG 29) as part of a "leap frog" exercise simulating an underway replenishment during Africa Partnership Station (APS) East deployment, March 14, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class William Jamieson)

LAGOS, Nigeria - Nigerian special operations sailors and U.S. sailors conduct visit, board, search and seizure training at the Joint Maritime Special Operations Training Command as part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West in Lagos, April 13, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

LAGOS, Nigeria - Rear Admiral Kenneth J. Norton, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa deputy chief of staff for strategy, resources and plans, along with other U.S. Navy personnel, ride with a Nigerian visit, board, search and seizure team during Africa Partnership Station (APS) West, August 8, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Carver)

POINTE NOIRE, Republic of the Congo - Congolese sailors participate in a boarding team operations course hosted by High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) as part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) 2011 July 26, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by U.S. Naval Forces Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Carver)

TOUBAKOUTA, Senegal-Corporal Brandon Blackmon of second platoon, Ground Combat Element, Security Cooperation Task Force, Africa Partnership Station 2011, provides front security for the Marines and Senegalese Commandos of a combat rubber raiding craft as they conduct a beach assault training exercise, recently. The inter-military assault teams were created during the APS 2011 security cooperation partnership, in which U.S. Marines, Senegal Commandos and Nigerian Special Service Group troops train alongside one another to compare military and cultural perspectives. (Photo by Lance Corporal Timothy Solano)

DOUALA, Cameroon - A Cameroonian Rapid Intervention Battalion boat patrols the Cameroon coastal waters after the multi-national training exercise Obangame Express 2011, part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West, March 23, 2011. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

LAGOS, Nigeria - Sailors from High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) look at a fishing boat during a community relations project at a local village as part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West. APS is an international security cooperation initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Carver)

USCGC MOHAWK, At Sea - Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Lowry (right) and Petty Officer 3rd Class Shawn Cooper (left) guide a Senegalese fishing vessel away from U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Mohawk (WMEC 913) on September 3, 2010. Mohawk is currently conducting operations in Senegal's territorial waters and exclusive economic zone in support of the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership (AMLEP) program. AMLEP enables African partners to build maritime security capacity and improve management of their maritime environment through real-world combined law enforcement operations. (U.S. Africa Command photo by Lieutenant Commander James Stockman)

ATLANTIC OCEAN - A Cape Verdean visit board, search and seizure team circles the guided-missile frigate USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49), during exercise Saharan Express off the coast of Cape Verde April 27, 2011. Saharan Express is a counter narcotics and proliferation exercise that is part of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West. APS is an international security cooperation initiative designed to strengthen global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Darryl Wood)

The US Africa Command has been busy all around and throughout the continent. I thought I would put together some of the pictures, so people could get a more visual idea of what is going on.

U.S. Navy EOD1 John C. Richards, Master EOD technician assigned to the Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit Eleven (EODMU-11) gives the range control safety brief April 28th 2011, prior to range training in Namibia. From the August 2011 issue of All Hands magazine of the US Navy.

The last time this blog visited EODMU-11 was when they were investigating AFRICOM’s Lake Victoria Secret. These three photos featuring EODMU-11 in Namibia came from the US Navy magazine All Hands. h/t Roger Pociask

Namibian Defense Force (NDF) Sergeant Eugene M. Salionga, explosive ordnance technician student, attaches a non-electric blasting cap to the detonation priming loop April 28 as U.S. Navy Chief Explosive Ordnance TechnicianChief Petty Offcer Justin Berlien, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit11 (EODMU-11), Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, looks on. (Photo by MC2(EXW) Todd Frantom)

Namibia Defense Forces Warrant Officer Mashatu Jonas, Explosive Ordnance Disposal technician, initiates a demolition shot April 28 during the practical application phase of demolition initiation procedures in Namibia.

SEKONDI, Ghana - Ghanaian sailors practice security maneuvers during a tactical combat casualty care course at Sekondi Naval Base, August 17, 2011. The course is being taught in support of Africa Partnership Station (APS) West. APS is an international security initiative, facilitated by Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, aimed at strengthening global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Carver)

POINTE NOIRE, Republic of the Congo (July 26, 2011) Congolese sailors participate in a boarding team operations course hosted by High Speed Vessel Swift (HSV 2) as part of Africa Partnership Station 2011. Africa Partnership Station is an international security cooperation initiative intended to strengthen global maritime partnerships through training and collaborative activities in order to improve maritime safety and security in Africa. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ian Carver/Released)

Added December 31:

The US Navy’s September 2011 issue (large PDF) of All Hands Magazine featured the Navy’s new emphasis on riverine warfare on the cover and with an article. The article describes training exercises in the Chesapeake Bay along the coast of Virginia.

Cover and feature article of All Hands Magazine September 2011.

One way in which the Navy’s deployment of security forces has shifted is the use of its riverine patrol teams. The focus now is bridging the gap between the brown-water (river) and blue-water (open ocean) patrol. The Navy’s newest, state-of-the-art boat, the Riverine Command Boat (RCB), is pushing further into green-water (coastal) zones to achieve that goal.

The RCB is a unique incarnation of the riverine mission, attached to Navy Expeditionary Combat Command’s Riverine Group 1, Riverine Squadron 2, Detachment 2 (RIVRON 2 DET 2) located on Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, Va. At the core, the Riverine Force is a combat-arms force that performs point-defense, fire-support and interdiction operations along coastal and inland waterways to defeat enemies and support U.S. naval and coalition forces.

The RCB is a lethal supplement to their already menacing arsenal, giving riverine squadrons the ability to travel not only in rivers, but also out to bays and coastal regions, expanding the capabilities of command and control and the riverine squadrons’ maritime security reach.

“With the addition of the RCB platform we are now able to potentially stop any threat

Riverine Command Boat fires the .50 caliber gun in reaction to simulated enemy forces on shore.

The craft has proven the ability to operate in between blue and brown water, referred to by coastal security vessels as green water …

“We’re a double threat,” said Gunner’s Mate Seaman Adam Heredia. “Although we work in the coastal environment conducting escorts, security, surveillance, and anti-piracy, we can still operate in a traditional riverine environment.”

The crew aboard a Riverine Command Boat retrieve the crew of a small rigid hull inflatable boat during a night exercise along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay

Sailors attached to to RIVRON 2 DET 2, role play as “enemy forces” firing simulated rounds toward Riverine Command Boat craft off the coast during a night training evolution.

Riverine Command Boat gives Riverine squadrons the ability to travel not only in rivers, but also out to bays and coastal regions, expanding the capabilities of command and control and the Riverine squadrons’ maritime security reach with un-matched fire power

The RCB is equipped with an array of weapons that are sure to deter any potential foes. The arsenal includes a 7.62-caliber M240B machine gun, an electric motor-driven Gatling gun which fires 2,000 rounds per minute, a Mark-19 automatic grenade launcher, twin .50-caliber machine guns, an additional M2 .50-caliber machine gun and a remote-operated, .50-caliber gun.

With its versatility, the RCB serves as the primary boat in combat or patrolling missions. It can serve as a combat information center, and can even be configured as an ambulance boat. It is designed to land on a variety of shorelines, including solid rock, and to drop off and extract personnel from any area.

The Navy’s newest state-ofthe-art boat, the Riverine Command Boat, posts a force protection watch off the coast during a night training evolution.

These exercises are all part of the activities pictured above around the coasts and creeks of Africa. The “enemies” in Africa will be Africans. Many of these “enemies” will be pan-Africanists and local patriots who do not want their countries run as resource troughs for US corporations.

There are many lessons Africa should learn from the Pentagon’s counter revolution against the Arab Spring. Keep in mind that America talks about democracy, but the Pentagon is actively working against democracy in numerous places around the world. It has been particularly active in Africa.

As the Arab Spring blossomed and President Barack Obama hesitated about whether to speak out in favor of protesters seeking democratic change in the Greater Middle East, the Pentagon acted decisively. It forged ever deeper ties with some of the most repressive regimes in the region, building up military bases and brokering weapons sales and transfers to despots from Bahrain to Yemen.

As state security forces across the region cracked down on democratic dissent, the Pentagon also repeatedly dispatched American troops on training missions to allied militaries there. During more than 40 such operations with names like Eager Lion and Friendship Two that sometimes lasted for weeks or months at a time, they taught Middle Eastern security forces the finer points
of counter-insurgency, small unit tactics, intelligence gathering, and information operations skills crucial to defeating popular uprisings
.

These recurrent joint-training exercises, seldom reported in the media and rarely mentioned outside the military, constitute the core of an elaborate, longstanding system that binds the Pentagon to the militaries of repressive regimes across the Middle East. Although the Pentagon shrouds these exercises in secrecy, refusing to answer basic questions about their scale, scope, or cost, an investigation by TomDispatch reveals the outlines of a region-wide training program whose ambitions are large and wholly at odds with Washington’s professed aims of supporting democratic reforms in the Greater Middle East.

United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), the Pentagon’s regional military headquarters that oversees operations in Africa, has planned 13 such major joint-training exercises in 2011 alone from Uganda to South Africa, Senegal to Ghana, including African Lion.

The military also refused to comment on exercises scheduled for 2012. There is nonetheless good reason to believe that their number will rise as regional autocrats look to beat back the forces of change

This spring, as Operation African Lion proceeded and battered Moroccan protesters nursed their wounds, Obama asserted that the “United States opposes the use of violence and repression

(Nick Turse: Did Pentagon help strangle the Arab Spring ?)

AFRICOMs exercises throughout the African continent have grown in number and size every year. In countries where AFRICOM has been most aggressive, it has been consistent in working in the interests of repressive regimes and against the interests of democracy in the same way CENTCOM has been doing throughout the Middle East. The main source of terrorism in Africa is the threat African militaries pose to African people. AFRICOM trains, supports, and expands that threat.

NATO is allowing refugees from the Libyan civil war and NATO bombardment to drown and die of thirst in the Mediterranean. NATO members feel no compassion and no humanitarian impulse to help these refugees. NATO knows where the refugees are and simply ignores them. NATO is letting them dehydrate and letting them drown, although it is NATO that has sponsored and prolonged the Libyan civil war and their suffering. NATO ignores its genuine legally codified responsibility to protect civilians.

NATO allows Libyan refugees to drown in the Mediterranean
By Peter Schwarz
13 August 2011

“According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, 1,500 Libyan refugees have died while trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe since the beginning of the war against Libya in March. On August 4, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported a death toll of 1,820 since the beginning of the year.

Refugees from the NATO bombardment and Libyan civil war

The victims are people from Libya and other African countries trying to flee economic hardship, political persecution or escape the war, risking their lives in the process. Penned into small, unseaworthy boats by unscrupulous traffickers, they drown or die of thirst at sea.

The distance between the Italian island of Lampedusa, the goal of most refugee boats, and Tunisia, the nearest point on the African coast, is just 130 kilometers. The distance to the Libyan coast is about twice as far.

On 26 March 2011, ETNA rescued a stricken boat off the Libya coast with 300 migrants, and carried out 2 medvac to Lampedusa, the first to take ashore a mother with her just born children and the second for a pregnant young woman that unfortunatelly lost her children. The Italian ETNA contributes to the enforcement of the arms embargo under Operation Unified Protector. All NATO vessels abide with the International Maritime Law regarding Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS).

This relatively small area of sea is currently filled by one of the largest navies in the world. About 20 warships from 10 NATO countries, including several aircraft and helicopter carriers, are supporting the assault on Libya. They are equipped with radar and other advanced technology and can easily detect any movement on the sea. The region is also constantly monitored by NATO AWACS aircraft, which can detect minute vessels.

In addition, there are the boats and planes of the Italian border police and the European border agency Frontex, which patrol the waters between Lampedusa and the North African coast in order to detect and send back refugee boats.

Vulnerable refugees therefore could have been easily detected and rescued. The many deaths were entirely avoidable. They are the victims of the failure to provide aid to those in distress—a criminal offence. NATO forced them to flee with its war against Libya and when it transpires that their escape route is a deadly trap, NATO has left them to their fate.

NATO has not merely “overlooked” the refugees. It has also refused to provide shipwrecked refugees assistance when alerted.

Just last week, such a case came to light, in which the culpability of NATO was so obvious that even the Italian government, which conducts its own persecution of refugees, felt obliged to protest and demand an investigation.

The Italian Coast Guard on August 4 retrieved a wrecked, 20-meter-long wooden boat with nearly 300 refugees from the waters south of the island of Lampedusa. The wreck had drifted at sea for a week with a faulty engine. Conditions on the boat were appalling. According to the survivors, 100 people had died of thirst and exhaustion, and had been thrown overboard. The refugees themselves were severely dehydrated, many in critical condition, and were flown to hospital on the Italian mainland.

As it turned out, the damaged boat had already been detected by a Cypriot tug, which sent an SOS signal but then proceeded on course. The Italian Coast Guard then alerted NATO. NATO refused to help the refugees, however, although one of its ships was just 27 nautical miles (50 km) from the stranded boat.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has accused NATO of failing to provide assistance and requested an investigation into the incident. At the same time, he proposed extending the NATO mandate in such a way that NATO is made responsible for the rescue of civil war refugees. This is all smoke and mirrors, however. Under current international law every civilian and military ship is bound under all circumstances to help the shipwrecked.

This is not the first time NATO has been accused of negligence. At the end of March NATO ships are alleged to have ignored distress calls from a damaged refugee boat from Libya. A military helicopter spotted the boat but merely tossed the victims water bottles and crackers. The refugees waited in vain for rescue. According to the British Guardian newspaper an aircraft carrier in the vicinity also failed to respond. In the end, 61 people died of thirst.

The NATO operation against Libya bears the name “Unified Protector” and is officially justified as a mission aimed at the “protection of civilians” from attacks by the Libyan government. If any further proof were necessary, the fate of Mediterranean refugees delivers the final blow to this cynical excuse for an imperialist war. The life of refugees and civilians is the least of the priorities of NATO.

European governments also have no interest in helping the refugees. It would be easy to equip ships to track down and rescue the refugees in the Mediterranean, and such an operation would cost only a fraction of the daily costs of the Libyan war. This is politically undesirable, however, with EU countries fearful of an increase of refugees. The entire European refugee policy is aimed at deterrence.”

Boat filled with refugees from Libya

Rescue and assistance are required by international law. NATO is not requiring its members to obey international law. NATO’s criminal negligence condemns people who could be our friends or even our family members to die a hideous death at sea, by drowning or from dehydration. R2P means the Rush 2 Plunder, not the Responsibility 2 Protect. NATO kills with bombs or kills by deliberate and intentional neglect. It does not rescue or assist. The only thing NATO is protecting is rapacious Western greed.

This is what NATO members, and people of all countries, are required by international law to do for any people in distress at sea:

Customary international law recognizes the duty of a mariner to come to the assistance of a vessel in distress at sea. (116) Article 98 of UNCLOS III states:

Every State shall require the master of a ship flying its flag, in so far as he can do so without serious danger to the ship, the crew or the passengers:

(a) to render assistance to any person found at sea in danger of being lost;

(b) to proceed with all possible speed to the rescue of persons in distress, if informed of their need of assistance, in so far as such action may reasonably be expected of him

Articles 18(2) and 45 of UNCLOS III further authorize a ship to stop and anchor in the territorial sea of another State if necessary to render assistance to persons or aircraft in danger or distress.

This is the true Responsibility To Protect, R2P, that is firmly established in law. NATO participants care nothing for their responsibility or their legal obligations. NATO participants care nothing for the suffering and death of hundreds and thousands of civilians that those same NATO participants have forced into harms way.

For more, see the earlier post: R2P – Rush To Plunder in Libya

Satellite view of a portion of the Nile flowing through the rich land of South Sudan

Here are two noteworthy stories about water and water rights. In summary, growing food or commercial crops in one country to transfer to another country also constitutes a transfer of water from the first country to the second, usually a transfer of water from a poorer country to a richer country. Two scientists have diagrammed and analyzed global water transfers which increasingly benefit the already rich countries. Africa has been a popular target of land grabs that are also water grabs. The second article discusses how the World Bank, often using the IFC, is working to privatize water rights into the hands of a few large corporations. Those corporations are mostly concerned with maximising short term profits, with no interest in infrastructure, conservation or development.

African land grab could lead to future water conflicts
New Scientist | 26 May 2011
by Anil Ananthaswamy

IS THIS the face of future water conflicts? China, India and Saudi Arabia have lately leased vast tracts of land in sub-Saharan Africa at knockdown prices. Their primary aim is to grow food abroad using the water that African countries don’t have the infrastructure to exploit. Doing so is cheaper and easier than using water resources back home. But it is a plan that could well backfire.

“There is no doubt that this is not just about land, this is about water,” says Philip Woodhouse of the University of Manchester, UK.

Take Saudi Arabia, for instance. Between 2004 and 2009, it leased 376,000 hectares of land in Sudan to grow wheat and rice. At the same time the country cut back on wheat production on home soil, which is irrigated with water from aquifers that are no longer replenished – a finite resource.

Meanwhile, firms from China and India have leased hundreds of thousands of hectares of farmland in Ethiopia. Both China and India have well-developed irrigation systems, but Woodhouse says their further development – moving water from the water-rich south to northern China, for instance – is likely to be more costly than leasing land in Africa, making the land-grab a tempting option.

But why bother leasing land instead of simply importing food? Such imports are equivalent to importing “virtual water”, since food production accounts for nearly 80 per cent of annual freshwater usage. A new study into how this virtual water moves around the world offers an explanation for the leasing strategy. Ignacio Rodriguez-Iturbe of Princeton University and Samir Suweis of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne have built the first mathematical model of the global virtual water trade network, using the UN Food and Agricultural Organization’s data on trade in barley, corn, rice, soya beans, wheat, beef, pork, and poultry in 2000. They combined this with a fine-grained hydrological model (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2011GL046837).

The model shows that a small number of countries have a large number of connections to other countries, offering them a steady and cheap supply of virtual water even if some connections are compromised by drought or political upheaval. A much larger number of countries have very few connections and so are vulnerable to market forces.

Most importantly, the model shows that about 80 per cent of the water flows over only about 4 per cent of the links, which Rodriguez-Iturbe calls the “rich club phenomenon”. In total, the model shows that in 2000, there were 6033 links between 166 nations. Yet 5 per cent of worldwide water flow was channelled through just one link between two “rich club” members – the US and Japan.

The power of the rich club may yet increase. The model allows the team to forecast future scenarios – for example, how the network will change as droughts and spells of violent precipitation intensify due to climate change. Predictably, this will only intensify the monopoly, says Suweis. “The rich get richer.”

China and India are not currently major players in the virtual water network on a per capita basis, and as the network evolves they could find themselves increasingly vulnerable to market forces and end up paying more for the food they import. Leasing land elsewhere is an attempt to secure their food and water supply in a changing world. But it could be a short-sighted move.

Last year, Paolo D’Odorico of the University of Virginia at Charlottesville showed that a rise in the virtual water trade makes societies less resilient to severe droughts (Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1029/2010GL043167). “[It] causes a disconnect between societies and the water they use,” says D’Odorico. The net effect is that populations in nations that import water can grow without restraint since they are not limited by water scarcity at home.

Although this could be seen as a good thing, it will lead to greater exploitation of the world’s fresh water. The unused supplies in some areas that are crucial in case of major droughts in other areas will dry up. “In case of major droughts we [will] have less resources available to cope with the water crisis,” says D’Odorico.

In the end, then, the hunt for water that is driving emerging economies to rent African land to grow their crops could come back to haunt them.

Although the next story is not as specifically about African land and water, it has huge implications for Africa. Africa is a favorite target of water grabs.

WATCH OUT: THE WORLD BANK IS QUIETLY FUNDING A MASSIVE CORPORATE WATER GRAB
March 10, 2011
Scott Thill, AlterNet

Billions have been spent allowing corporations to profit from public water sources even though water privatization has been an epic failure in Latin America, Southeast Asia, North America, Africa and everywhere else it’s been tried. But don’t tell that to controversial loan-sharks at the World Bank. Last month, its private-sector funding arm International Finance Corporation (IFC) quietly dropped a cool 100 million euros ($139 million US) on Veolia Voda, the Eastern European subsidiary of Veolia, the world’s largest private water corporation. Its latest target? Privatization of Eastern Europe’s water resources.

“Veolia has made it clear that their business model is based on maximizing profits, not long-term investment,” Joby Gelbspan, senior program coordinator for private-sector watchdog Corporate Accountability International, told AlterNet. “Both the World Bank and the transnational water companies like Veolia have clearly acknowledged they don’t want to invest in the infrastructure necessary to improve water access in Eastern Europe. That’s why this 100 million euro investment in Veolia Voda by the World Bank’s private investment arm over the summer is so alarming. It’s further evidence that the World Bank remains committed to water privatization, despite all evidence that this approach will not solve the world’s water crisis.”

All the evidence Veolia needs that water grabs are doomed exercises can be found in its birthplace of France, more popularly known as the heartland of water privatization. In June, the municipal administration of Paris reclaimed the City of Light’s water services from both of its homegrown multinationals Veolia and Suez, after a torrent of controversy. That’s just one of 40 re-municipilazations in France alone, which can be added to those in Africa, Asia, Latin America, North America and more in hopes of painting a not-so-pretty picture: Water privatization is ultimately both a horrific concept and a failed project.

“It’s outrageous that the World Bank’s IFC would continue to invest in corporate water privatizations when they are failing all over the world,” Maude Barlow, chairwoman of Food and Water Watch and the author of Blue Covenant: The Global Water Crisis and the Fight for the Right to Water, told AlterNet. “A similar IFC investment in the Philippines is an unmitigated disaster. Local communities and their governments around the world are canceling their contracts with companies like Veolia because of cost overruns, worker layoffs and substandard service.”

The World Bank has learned nothing from these disasters and continues to be blinded by an outdated ideology that only the unregulated market will solve the world’s problems

But asking the World Bank to learn from disaster would be akin to annihilating its overall mission, which is to capitalize on disaster in the developing world in pursuit of profit. Its nasty history of economic and environmental shock therapy sessions have severely wounded more than one country

“In the past, the World Bank pushed privatization as the way to increase investment in basic infrastructure for water systems,” said Gelbspan. “But since then bank officials have admitted that the transnational corporations don’t want to invest in infrastructure, and instead want only to pare down operations and skim profits. The World Bank has lowered the bar, satisfied with so-called ‘operational efficiency,’ that cuts utility workforce, tightens up bill collections and shuts off people who can’t pay.”

That’s been a recipe for failure and protest

… the World Bank is simply spinning off its compromised philosophy to the IFC. So while the World Bank may be torn in its endorsement of water privatization, the IFC has no such reservations, in hopes of dodging the slings and arrows of public outcry, and perhaps legal liability.

“What’s really scary,” O’Callaghan added, “is that we are increasingly seeing the International Finance Corporation pick up where the Bank has left off in water privatization. The IFC is a Bank-sponsored institution whose goal is to promote the private sector, and because their financing also comes from the private sector, they can be more difficult to hold accountable. Worse yet, according to our 2000-2008 stats, 80 percent of IFC loans had gone to the four largest multinational water companies, further concentrating the global water industry.”

“Droughts and deserts are spreading in over 100 countries,” Barlow said. “It is now clear that our world is running out of clean water, as the demand gallops ahead of supply. These water corporations, backed still by the World Bank, seek to take advantage of this crisis by taking more control over dwindling water supplies.”

Which is another way of saying that, regardless of the refreshing trend toward re-municipalization, no one should expect the World Bank or its IFC untouchables to give up the privatization and deregulation ghost anytime soon. That means that every city, and citizen, is due for a day of reckoning of some sort, and should fight back against the bankrupt privatization paradigm with everything in its arsenal.

“Get involved at the local level,” O’Callaghan said. “Know where your water comes from. Fight against privatization schemes. Promote conservation. Don’t drink bottled water.”

And Barlow adds, “The only path to a water-secure future is water conservation, source water protection, watershed restoration and the just and equitable sharing of the water resources of the planet. Water is a commons, a public trust and a human right and no one has the right to appropriate for profit when others are dying from lack of access.”

I can only second these sentiments, and repeat: Water is a commons, a public trust and a human right and no one has the right to appropriate for profit when others are dying from lack of access. All of us in every community everywhere should be watching where our water is coming from, and stay involved in questions of water management in our home communities.

Is NATO bombing two thirds of the population of Libya in order to protect the other one third from the (alleged) danger of being slaughtered?

According to a rebel spokesman quoted the Washington Post on June 14:

If the rebels take Zlitan, they would be within 85 miles (135 kilometers) of the eastern outskirts of Tripoli. … they face challenges in advancing on the city.

“We need the people of Zlitan to push more courageously forward. They are dependent on our movements, but the problem is only a third of that city is with the rebels,” said Ibrahim Beatelmal, a rebel military spokesman in Misrata

R2P, responsibility to protect? (read: rush to plunder) is certainly selective. NATO’s chosen third derive their tenuous legitimacy solely from NATO’s choice to back them. Meanwhile, the R2P is continuing bombing every half hour round the clock, 50 or 60 times a day.

In Zlitan, where the rebel leader said 2/3 of the population, the majority, do not support the rebels, only a minority does support them, the rebels are calling for NATO bombs so they can seize the town.

As you know our forces could not get into Zlitan,” said Zuwawi. “We need Nato help. We are very surprised because Nato has delayed to bomb the grad [rocket artillery] forces.”

Nato insists it is taking an active role, but Misrata’s rebels say the alliance’s current level of engagement will not be enough to save Zlitan’s population.

This is to save the 1/3 of the population the rebels claim supports them. The rebels are fine with bombing the other 2/3 of the population. No one could describe that as democratic in spirit or in action.

The rebel stronghold city, may not be entirely enthusiastic about the rebels. I found this account from the end of April about a:

… “second front” in Benghazi. This front consists of the armed groups of civil militia, ordinary citizens who are seeking restoration of the rule of law in Benghazi. They declared that they wouldn’t stand so-called “rebels” any more in their city, who are fighting each other and expose violence on city’s population.

It is difficult to confirm, especially relying on western media. But it appears credible based on what we hear about the rebels.
.

Claiming that NATO is only bombing military targets is disingenuous. Believing the bombs only strike or aim at military targets is naive. Here are a few pictures of the bombing in Tripoli.

NATO bombs strike neighborhoods in Tripoli

NATO bombs strike Kadhafi's neighborhood

NATO bombs neighborhoods in Tripoli

NATO bombs hit neighborhoods in Tripoli

NATO bombs light the night sky over homes in Tripoli

Visiting Zambia, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -

said Saturday that “we don’t want to see a new colonialism in Africa,” when asked about China’s growing influence in the continent during a television interview in Lusaka, Zambia.

She might as well have said: “we don’t want to see a new [read Chinese] colonialism in Africa,” so we are bringing back the old colonialism. In fact the old colonial masters are back as well, joined together in NATO.

Another laugh provoker among Clinton’s remarks:

Clinton also said on Friday that Washington was concerned that China’s foreign assistance and investment practices in Africa have not always been consistent with generally accepted international norms of transparency and good governance

Her words have truth, but the problem is hardly limited to China. Clinton’s words should cause people to fall about laughing except for the fact that people are dying in Libya, in Somalia, in Ivory Coast, in the DRC, and in many more places. On the plus side for US corporations, the dying and destruction provide product demonstrations, testing and merchandising for US weapons manufacturers. It is all good for business.

If the US was providing ANYTHING other than military assistance in Africa it might not be so bad. It is so distorted that a lot of people in the US think that the military assistance IS foreign aid rather than the coercion and dominance it is in fact.

There is something about Clinton’s words reminiscent of the way Ben Ali and Mubarak eloquently demonstrated how far removed they were from the realities in their streets, worse than the fuddling effects of alcohol.

Hilary Clinton’s warning to African nations against “the creeping new colonialism” of foreign investors and governments interested in extracting natural resources to enrich themselves would have been meaningful, if the US had not already gone kinetic in Libya and the Ivory Coast for the same reasons.

It is no longer enough to simply qualify their acts as double-standards, when they involve acts of aggression, impunity, crimes against humanity, chicanery, and plain banditry. Whilst condeming Gaddafi and calling on Africans not to have any dealing with a “regime that is killing its own people”, Obama meets, wines and dines with the Crown Prince of Bahrain. As Juan Gonzalez reads in Democracy Now! Headlines news of June 09, 2011, Obama Hides Meeting with Top Bahraini Leader—And Mutes Criticism of Ongoing Crackdown

I have no great love for the Chinese presence in Africa. They are as ruthless and exploitive as anyone, including of their own people. And I really don’t appreciate them bringing Chinese labor to Africa to do the work. But at least African countries have some chance to maximize their own development with Chinese money if they are willing to take the opportunity and be tough and forward thinking. Unfortunately we have a lot of bad leadership around the continent (and around the world, including in the US) who think the purpose of government is to enrich the governing class.

And the US is offering Africa nothing but military government, which is the main source of terrorism in Africa, and something most people in Africa want to leave behind.

________

h/t The Odikro
h/t MoA

Harvard and other major American universities are working through British hedge funds and European financial speculators to buy or lease vast areas of African farmland in deals, some of which may force many thousands of people off their land …

No one should believe that these investors are there to feed starving Africans, create jobs or improve food security

Much of the money is said to be channelled through London-based Emergent asset management, which runs one of Africa’s largest land acquisition funds, run by former JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs currency dealers.
… Emergent’s clients in the US may have invested up to $500m in some of the most fertile land in the expectation of making 25% returns.

Africa land grab and hunger map (click to enlarge enough to read)

“These agreements – many of which could be in place for 99 years – do not mean progress for local people and will not lead to food in their stomachs. These deals lead only to dollars in the pockets of corrupt leaders and foreign investors.”

“The scale of the land deals being struck is shocking”, said Mittal. “The conversion of African small farms and forests into a natural-asset-based, high-return investment strategy can drive up food prices and increase the risks of climate change.

Research by the World Bank and others suggests that nearly 60m hectares – an area the size of France – has been bought or leased by foreign companies in Africa in the past three years.

“Most of these deals are characterised by a lack of transparency, despite the profound implications posed by the consolidation of control over global food markets and agricultural resources by financial firms,” says the report.

“We have seen cases of speculators taking over agricultural land while small farmers, viewed as squatters, are forcibly removed with no compensation,” said Frederic Mousseau, policy director at Oakland, said: “This is creating insecurity in the global food system that could be a much bigger threat to global security than terrorism. More than one billion people around the world are living with hunger. The majority of the world’s poor still depend on small farms for their livelihoods, and speculators are taking these away while promising progress that never happens.” (The Guardian)

Africa biofuels land grab map (click to enlarge enough to read)

THIS NEW scramble for African land has visited a multitude of problems on ordinary Africans and set the stage for ecological crisis and widespread hunger.

As many critics have pointed out, African governments have falsely claimed that land available for sale is unused. As journalist Joan Baxter writes:

Some defend the investors’ acquisition of land in their countries, saying it is “virgin” or “under-utilized” or “uncultivated” or “degraded” land…This suggests they know precious little about the importance of fallows and the resilience and diversity of agroforestry systems, or about sustainable agriculture and the knowledge base of their own farmers.

Communal land, small farmers and even entire villages are often displaced in the drive for land purchases. The Oakland Institute think-tank released a report on the African land grab, which points out:

Experts in the field, however, affirm that there is no such thing as idle land in…Africa…Countless studies have shown that competition for grazing land and access to water bodies are the two most important sources of inter-communal conflict in [areas] populated by pastoralists.

According to Michael Taylor, a policy specialist at the International Land Coalition, “If land in Africa hasn’t been planted, it’s probably for a reason. Maybe it’s used to graze livestock or deliberately left fallow to prevent nutrient depletion and erosion. Anybody who has seen these areas identified as unused understands that there is no land…that has no owners and users.”

In other words, as activist Vandana Shiva puts it, “We are seeing dispossession on a massive scale. It means less food is available and local people will have less. There will be more conflict and political instability and cultures will be uprooted. The small farmers of Africa are the basis of food security. The food availability of the planet will decline.”

In fact, because much of its food is produced for export, sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where per capita food production has been declining, with the number of people that are chronically hungry and undernourished currently estimated at more than 265 million.

Nations with large amounts of land sold or leased to foreign owners are often food importers, and their inability to feed their own populations is exacerbated by the displacement of food producers who grow for local use. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reports that Africa has lost 20 percent of its capacity to feed itself over the past four decades. Ethiopia alone has 13 million people in immediate need of food assistance, yet its government has put over 7 million acres of land up for sale.

And worsening hunger is still to come. …

Large-scale land acquisition poses massive ecological threats to the African environment. The dangers are numerous: hazardous pesticides and fertilizers cause water contamination from their runoff, the introduction of genetically modified seeds and other problems. Land previously left to lie fallow is now threatened with overuse from intensified agricultural development, a trend further exacerbated by speculative investment and the drive for short-term profits.

Yet deals transferring vast tracts of land are typically taking place far removed from local farmers and villagers with virtually no accountability. As Khadija Sharife writes on the Pambazuka Web site:

The deals involving these concessions are often cloaked in secrecy, but African business has learned that they are usually characterized by allowing free access to water, repatriation of profits, tax exemptions and the ability for investors to acquire land at no cost whatsoever, with little or no restriction on the volume of food exported or its intended use, in return for a loose promise to develop infrastructure and markets

In many cases, farmers and pastoralists have worked this land for centuries. However, governments are claiming this land is idle in order to more easily sell or lease it to private investors. (New African Land Grab)

I found this a particularly telling passage from (Mis)investment in Agriculture: The Role of the International Finance Corporation In Global Land Grabs (PDF) a publication of the Oakland Institute.

Proponents of the land deals will dismiss my concerns and claim that this type of foreign investment will benefit the local people by providing jobs and creating infrastructure. They will also say that the land being offered is “unused.” These are hollow arguments. Investors have been quoted as saying they will employ 10,000 people and use high-tech, high-production farming techniques. The two promises are completely incongruous. As a farmer, I can tell you that high-tech, high production devices are appealing precisely because they reduce labor. Investors will not hire significant numbers of people and simultaneously scale-up their production techniques. And if they choose the former, they are likely to create low-paying jobs and poor working conditions. I may be making assumptions, but they are based on history—a history dating back to colonialism and one that has exploited both natural resources and people.

Particularly disconcerting is the notion that the “available” land is “unused.” This land is in countries with the highest rates of malnutrition on the only continent that produces less food per capita than it did a decade ago. In most cases, this land has a real purpose: it may support corridors for pastoralists; provide fallow space for soil regeneration; provide access to limited water sources; be reserved for future generations; or enable local farmers to increase production. The fact that rich and emerging economies do not have or do not respect pastoralists or use land for age-old customs does not mean we have a right to label this land unused.

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