democracy


Two clever satirical commentaries have come to my attention regarding the demonstrations and riots in the UK.

Yang Jiechi Says Britain’s Cameron Has Lost Legitimacy

Beijing — Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi condemned British Prime Minister David Cameron’s regime for failing to protect Chinese commercial merchandise in London and said the British leader “has lost legitimacy” because of his violent response to legitimate British peoples aspirations for greater social justice.

Speaking with African Union (AU) Chairman Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo at the Foreign Ministry, Yang Jiechi said Chinese officials have spoken with their British counterparts to demand that Britain honor the WTO agreement, which requires countries to protect foreign merchandise and properties, after several days of attacks by British mobs against Chinese and African shops.

Yang Jiechi said the Cameron regime will not succeed in using the attacks on foreign facilities to deflect global attention from “the real story unfolding in Britain” and the months of peaceful protests by its people who have been calling for reforms.

“This is not about China or Zimbabwe or any other country. This is about the legitimate aspirations of the British people for dignity, universal rights and the rule of law,” Yang Jiechi said.

Can NATO help? Would freedom bombs restore peace and democracy to the United Kingdom? (They could certainly bring as much peace and democracy as they have to Libya.)

The violence, arrests and intimidation against the British people “must stop,” the minister said, and neither they nor the international community will accept “half measures or lofty speeches” from the Cameron regime.

Cameron “is not indispensable” and China has “absolutely nothing invested in him remaining in power,” she said. “ Our goal is to see that the will of the British people for a democratic transformation occurs.”

The British leader “has failed to deliver on the promises he’s made. He has sought and accepted aid from the Americans as to how to repress his own people,” Yang Jiechi said. He called on more countries in the international community to speak out “as forcefully as we have.”

Mbasogo said the AU is trying to use its collective political and economic power to get Cameron to turn away from violence. He described the situation of British refugees who have fled the unrest for France as “very grave indeed.”

The AU representative called for an end to the violence, for the British people to have their voices heard, and for them to then be allowed to make the decisions about how their country should move forward.

( The just as absurd template is here)

Posted by b on August 9, 2011 at 04:29 AM

And from South Africa comes:

Africa to send troops, food parcels to UK as riots spread

ETHIOPIA. The African Union today adopted a unilateral resolution to deploy army troops and care packages to England as looting and violence spread from London to other major cities. Spokesperson Charity Khumalo said “We can no longer stand by while these savages tear themselves apart.”

The AU, meeting today in an emergency session to discuss the ongoing rioting in the UK, has declared that they will do “everything in their power to help bring civilisation to England”.

“It’s just so sad, you know?” said Khumalo, speaking from the organisation’s HQ in Addis Ababa. “Sitting here and watching them on TV while their society implodes. We cannot in good conscience remain idle and let it happen.”

The AU has announced a range of initiatives that Africans can get involved with to help alleviate the misery of the English.

“For instance, we have launched an ‘Adopt an English child’ programme,” Khumalo explained, showing journalists brochures featuring the faces of English kids. “If you donate a mere R50 a month, you can see to it that sweet little Johnny from Peckham receives a basic education, a pack of condoms and a pair of pimpin’ Nikes.”

Khumalo also said that the AU would be parachuting in dentists along with army troops as part of a ‘Feel better about yourselves, Brits!’ initiative.

“You can understand why they’re turning on each other,” the spokesperson told journalists. “You look in the mirror and you see teeth untouched by modern dentistry. It’s heartbreaking enough to make anyone put a brick through a Starbucks.”

The organisation also plans to air-drop care packages on major UK cities.

“Vegetables, mainly,” Khumalo confirmed. “We’re sending them vegetables and toothpaste.”

The AU’s flagship event, however, will be a star-studded rock concert to be held in Johannesburg, with all proceeds going towards the establishment of mobile libraries around the UK. Artists ranging from Mafikizolo to Steve Hofmeyr have pledged to perform at the show.

“As a humanitarian, it’s the least I can do,” Hofmeyr said yesterday. “I look at those photos of the adorable little beasts knifing each other in fights over looted X-Boxes and I want to hug them and give them a nice hot cup of Milo.”

Meanwhile, the week’s events have seen terrified South Africans in London and Manchester packing their bags for home.

“This country is going to the dogs, dude,” said Werner du Preez, a gap-year student from Johannesburg. “I’ve been offered a nice little two-bedroom place in Hillbrow where I can feel safe again.”

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Added August 16

Here are a few vignettes from news and news discussions.

To slightly edit David Cameron’s words:

“But there are pockets of our society that are not just broken, but frankly sick.

When we see [banksters and hedge fund managers as young as 25 and 30] looting and laughing, when we see the disgusting sight of [an old couple] with people pretending to help them while they are robbing them [through fraudulent mortgages], it is clear there are things that are badly wrong in our society.”

From MSNBC:

“LONDON — As political and social protests grip the Middle East, are growing in Europe and a riot exploded in north London this weekend, here’s a sad truth, expressed by a Londoner when asked by a television reporter: Is rioting the correct way to express your discontent?

“Yes,” said the young man. “You wouldn’t be talking to me now if we didn’t riot, would you?”

The TV reporter from Britain’s ITV had no response. So the young man pressed his advantage. “Two months ago we marched to Scotland Yard, more than 2,000 of us, all blacks, and it was peaceful and calm and you know what? Not a word in the press. Last night a bit of rioting and looting and look around you.”

Eavesdropping from among the onlookers, I looked around. A dozen TV crews and newspaper reporters interviewing the young men everywhere.”

David Cameron has done his own share of rioting:

“The prime minister has never applied such strong words to condemn the actions of his former club. The Bullingdon Club — a members’ only dining society in the university preserved for the most privileged of (male only) students — is known for breaking the plates, glasses and windows of local restaurants and drinking establishments and destroying college property in Oxford.

A television documentary was devoted to one particular night in 1987 — when both Cameron and the current London mayor, Boris Johnson, were Bullingdon members – during which club members were arrested for causing havoc in Oxford and broke a restaurant window. … An old Bullingdon friend told the paper that Cameron’s determination not be caught was “extraordinary.”

May 10, 2011 introductory note: After reading and learning more I wrote Côte d’Ivoire – Military Intervention Vs Constitutional Legitimacy, which will tell you a great deal more about what actually happened and what next. It is summarized in the first part of this post: Humanitarian Invasion In Ivory Coast.

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Koranteng writes:

The usual practice when handing over to oneself is to hold back declaring results in your strongholds and wait until you know how many votes you need. …
Gbagbo and company couldn’t manage to do this, indeed the electoral commission that this sitting government had put in place took its job seriously and was remarkably independent – as well it should since a tremendous amount of effort had been put in place by Ivorians and the international community to stage these elections. The resort, then, was to say that the electoral commission did not have the right to declare the results. Which brings me again to that video clip I noted earlier that I’ve been stewing over ever since (… I recommend to everyone their closing line: “the elections have been canceled six times in the past five years.”). I haven’t seen a more perfect piece of political theater in years. Every actor played their part brilliantly.

Laurent Gbagbo (L) and Alassane Ouattara (R) laugh during a meeting in Abidjan in this November 27, 2010

When the next day, the head of the electoral commission did manage to sneak out and declare the results, the Gbagbo camp would remark that the declaration was invalid since it hadn’t been made within the requisite timeframe. In other words, the declaration that could have been made the prior night had turned into Cinderella’s carriage once midnight had passed.

What then followed would clearly demonstrate that Ivory Coast has had a fictitious election.

It would only be after the election results were declared that a ‘Constitutional Council’ would throw out the votes of 12 percent of the country so that the “results” would be in Gbagbo’s favour. Surely this must be the most innovative response to an electoral contest. …

First for 15 years ago, you say that a large part of your countrymen are not Ivorians, then you say that they are but that they can’t register, then you delay for 5 years, then you allow only some to register as you then delay registration and again delay the vote. Then the whole country votes and even your folks vote against you so that the opposition win. And now you go and nullify their votes even though most of the irregularities were in your strongholds. Words fail me.

Koranteng also points out:

Incidentally, we were on notice as to how ugly things might turn out. Recall if you will, the September story about that Ivorian man arrested in California attempting to buy arms to smuggle in contravention of the UN embargo. The salient quote:

“$1.9 million wired to the US as a 50 percent downpayment on the weapons… the shipment of 4,000 handguns, 200,000 rounds of ammunition and 50,000 tear gas grenades to Ivory Coast.”

… The fact also that millions of dollars were so readily transferred surely indicates the importance the old government placed on the military option and indeed the kind of planning that was involved …

That should have been a tipoff, as should this diplomatic assessment from July 2009 via Wikileaks: “The Reality: There will not be an election unless President Gbagbo is confident that he will win it — and he is not yet confident of the outcome.”

There are reports of mercenaries coming in from Liberia and Angola, although the facts are difficult to determine. Ouattara is talking up the tales of mercenaries. He wants military intervention to help him assume office. But that does not mean that some accounts are not true. And some of Charles Taylor’s former cohorts are looking for work, grabbing their wigs and heading to Ivory Coast in hope that either side might employ them.

In an interview on Democracy Now, Horace Campbell provides his analysis of the aftermath of the election, along with some history:

As Thousands Flee Ivory Coast, Former Clinton Adviser Lanny Davis is Paid Lobbyist for President Who Refuses to Cede Power:
Well, this is a test for the African Union. It’s a test for whether the concept of people’s rights and the idea of democracy will go beyond elections, because in the case of the Ivory Coast, that is called Côte d’Ivoire, we have a situation where the person who has lost the election, Laurent Gbagbo, is refusing to step down. And in the process of refusing to step down, he and those around him, they are invoking all forms of xenophobia and hostility to people from the north in order to divide the country. Thankfully, the days when Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea were places that could provide the mercenaries so that Gbagbo could develop war, thankfully, we are in the state of transition in Sierra Leone, in Liberia and Guinea so that the possibility for war will be dependent on the extent to which Gbagbo can get support from persons like Lanny Davis in the United States and the bankers and financial elements within the country that will finance his army.

What we have to do in this country, we have, in this country, to call on Hillary Clinton to distance herself from Lanny Davis, who has been employed by Gbagbo to lobby for him in Washington to present the government as a transparent and democratic government.

Gbagbo is trying to exploit differences between the State Department and the White House. The President of the United States called Laurent Gbagbo to urge him to step down, and he was so arrogant that he refused to take the telephone call of President Barack Obama. And he is arrogant enough to believe that he can whip up the kind of xenophobia to divide the people of the Ivory Coast to say that Alassane Ouattara is not an Ivorian … the point is, the people voted for him, and the election’s results should be observed.

And the positive result out of all of this is the clarity of the African Union, the fact that the African Union is taking a very clear position that Ouattara won the election. The African Union is taking a very clear position that they will use force. And the fact that the meeting of ECOWAS that took place two days ago would send a very clear signal so that there could be no manipulation within West Africa itself, I think this is part of the maturity of the African Union process. And we’re going to need that process also in the Sudan in nine to 11 days’ time, when we face a similar crisis in the Sudan. So, what we in this side of the world have to do, we have to keep up our education to the citizens so that people like Lanny Davis and the State Department and the U.S. Africa Command cannot use incidents such as what is happening in the Ivory Coast to represent Africa as backward and divisive and barbarian.

In this interview Horace Campbell also provides some background to the current situation:

Ivory Coast was a jewel in the crown of French colonialism. The Ivory Coast, by its very name, was a place where colonial plunder took ivory and gold. And the Ivory Coast is located in West Africa, bordered by Liberia, bordered by Sierra Leone, and by Ghana. Now, the president of the Ivory Coast, when Ivory Coast became independent in 1960, the president of Ivory Coast was Houphouët-Boigny. Houphouët-Boigny used the Ivory Coast as a base for counterrevolution in Africa. All of the forces of French colonialism, all of the forces of French exploitation, all of the forces of French militarism converged on the Ivory Coast. And for 30 or more years, the Ivory Coast was the base for supporting apartheid in South Africa. It was a base for supporting Jonas Savimbi. Jonas Savimbi was very close to the leader, Houphouët-Boigny. And some of your listeners would know that they were also complicit in the plot to assassinate Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso.

Now, the fact is, because of the intensification of the investment in the Ivory Coast in that period, in the 50-year period, millions of Africans went to work on banana and cocoa plantations, so that there were a number of people, persons from Burkina Faso, persons from Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ghana, who worked in that country. So the country has 20 million persons. There are 10 or a million more persons from north of the country whose ancestors came as migrant workers. Now, in the spirit of pan-Africanism, one should recognize that the borders in the Ivory Coast were artificially created at the Conference of Berlin.

Well, in 1993, after Houphouët-Boigny passed away, Alassane Ouattara was the prime minister. They wrote a Supreme Court judgment to say that those who are from the north were not Ivorian citizens, and Alassane Ouattara, whose mother supposedly was born in the Burkina Faso, could not become a candidate for the presidency. Now, between 1999 and 2000, Gbagbo himself ran in an elections, and when he won the elections, the general who was the head of the army said that Gbagbo could not come to power. Gbagbo himself organized so that he could come to power, and there was a civil war in the country between 2000 and 2004, which, again, brought about the intervention of South Africa and the African Union. In that invention, the African Union worked to overturn that judgment of the Supreme Court that said that persons from the north could not be citizens.

And this idea is a sentiment that is whipped up in the country called Ivority. Ivority is a chauvinistic notion. It is an anti-pan-African notion. It’s a notion that says only those who are Christian from the southern area of the country can be citizens. Now, this is not something that is carried by the majority of the citizens of the Ivory Coast; this is an idea that is whipped up by the elements of the Ivorian capitalist class. These are Ivorians who have made millions of dollars out of cocoa plantation, out of exploiting the workers in the Ivory Coast.

Abayomi Azikiwe writes What’s Behind the Calls for Military Intervention in Ivory Coast, in which he provides more historical background on the situation in the Ivory Coast, including:

Guy De Lusignan in his book entitled “French-Speaking Africa Since Indpendence”, said … They staked their all on big business and foreign capital. The brilliant potentialities of the country are a challenge and their answer to that challenge is undoubtedly ‘neo-colonialist’ in spirit.

And Azikiwe writes about US and French policy in Ivory Coast. He does not support military intervention, at least not yet, because that intervention would inevitably be used as a tool of US imperialism, another exercise in proxy war. Azikiwe writes:

What is happening in Ivory Coast cannot be viewed in isolation from the overall U.S. and French policy of increasing military involvement in West Africa under the guise of the so-called “war on terrorism.”

During the period of French colonialism and the first three decades of independence (1960-1990),Ivory Coast was promoted to the public as a model for imperialist rule that worked.

What the WikiLeaks diplomatic cables revealed was that through successive U.S. administrations, including Barack Obama, the same imperialist aims and objectives determine the character of its foreign policy toward Africa.

U.S. imperialism is strictly designed to further penetrate the economic, political and military affairs of the continent. The threatened intervention by ECOWAS would inevitably translate into large-scale deployments of both Nigerian and Ghanaians troops into Ivory Coast.

Such an operation that would place thousands of ECOWAS troops in Ivory Coast would require the logistical support of the U.S. and France. This would place the imperialists in a position to monitor events in Nigeria, with its own political problems of regional and intra-religious conflict, as well as other states including Mali and Sudan.

Consequently, anti-war and peace movements inside the United States must oppose any effort by the U.S. to bolster its military presence in Africa by utilizing the Ivorian crisis as an excuse to indirectly invade the country through funding, coordinating and transporting ECOWAS troops in an invasion into the Ivory Coast. Such a course of action could spark even more bloodshed in the West Africa region.

The mediation efforts of former South African President Thabo Mbeki provides some hope of resurrecting a political solution to the crisis. Why should their be an ultimatum given to Gbagbo while the other states in the region have been able to work out internal problems through political intervention and negotiations?

The United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) over the last year has conducted large-scale military maneuvers on the continent. In West Africa war games have been conducted under the guise of enhancing the security capacity of African states.

Although some fear the US State Department supports Gbagbo, citing particularly Lanny Davis and his close relationship with the Clintons, Ouattara appears to be the current darling of the US and France:

He is a former International Monetary Fund (IMF) economist. He was deputy managing director of the IMF from 1994 to 1999 and governor of the Bank of Central African States. He [Ouattara] was prime minister of Ivory Coast from 1990 to 1993 and is closely identified with the free market policies introduced under an IMF structural adjustment plan that removed price subsidies and deregulated the labour market. State-owned enterprises were privatized and tariff barriers removed.

The economic and social tensions that were ultimately to break out into civil war can be traced in part to the process of economic liberalisation that began in the 1990s. President Félix Houphouët-Boigny, who ruled Ivory Coast from its independence in 1960 until his death in 1993, was able to maintain a degree of stability by sharing patronage among rival sections of the country’s elite. Under his successors tensions became increasingly acute. Falling commodity prices hit Ivory Coast’s chief export of cocoa, and structural adjustment reduced the amount of patronage available.

Ivorian politicians whipped up communalist sentiments as they attempted to win a greater share of the country’s wealth for themselves and their supporters. This led to two years of civil war that was only brought to an end by a power-sharing agreement in 2004, which left the country divided.

France and the US are eager to see Ouattara in the presidential palace because they see him as the ideal candidate to push through economic measures that will make Ivory Coast the key to developing the entire region as a supplier of raw materials. Their outright backing for Ouattara represents a shift from their previous preference for a power-sharing agreement between the northern, mainly Muslim, and the southern, mainly Christian, Ivorian factions.

The New Forces are not thought to be a match for the Ivorian army and would need help from foreign troops if Ouattara were to attempt to oust Gbagbo by military means. ECOWAS seems to be readying itself to do that, in the form of the ECOWAS Monitoring Group (ECOMOG).

ECOMOG has previously intervened in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea Bissau. The operation in Liberia was noted for the extent of the looting and corruption on the part of ECOMOG forces, which earned them the nickname “Every Car or Movable Object Gone”. ECOMOG would need logistical and other technical support from the great powers. Their intervention would in this sense be a cover for an extension of more direct colonial authority over Ivory Coast.

French defence minister Alain Juppé has said that his country’s troops stationed in Ivory Coast are ready to protect French citizens, but would only intervene directly with a UN mandate. But if Ouattara called on their help as president, they could intervene under a French-Ivorian defence treaty that dates back to 1961. The Financial Times has warned that French intervention would be counterproductive, but with French troops already on the ground this must be one of the most likely outcomes of the conflict over the presidency.

Ouattara’s call for a general strike has undoubtedly followed consultations with his French and US backers. It is uncannily similar to the mass action discussed between Zimbabwean opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, and the US embassy in Harare which has been revealed in the exposed WikiLeaks cables. Tsvangirai agreed to plan strike action for the Christmas holidays when schools, public buildings and many businesses would be closed anyway.

The strike call in Ivory Coast is a cynical manoeuvre, intended to give Ouattara some semblance of popular legitimacy, while possibly providing the pretext for a foreign military intervention. If the strikers came under attack from the Ivorian military, which is still loyal to Gbagbo, then an invasion by West African troops with French and US backing could be presented as a humanitarian operation.

I think the White House is backing Ouattara. And I’m sure Gbagbo didn’t do himself any favors by refusing to talk to President Obama.

Daniel Drezner at Foreign Policy has fantasies of a surgical strike by US special forces citing this BBC report in which Mr. Ouattara is trying to encourage a strike against Gbagbo, saying he could be taken out without starting a civil war or killing Ivoirians.

“Legitimate force doesn’t mean a force against Ivorians,” Mr Ouattara told reporters on Thursday, AFP news agency reports.

“It’s a force to remove Laurent Gbagbo and that’s been done elsewhere, in Africa and in Latin America, there are non-violent special operations which allow simply to take the unwanted person and take him elsewhere.”

Unfortunately the unwanted person has sometimes been the winner of a democratic election, whose removal the US has engineered or facilitated, as with Aristide in Haiti or Zelaya in Honduras or the failed attempts to oust Chavez using proxies. And the US, in the person of Ambassador Ranneberger, backed Kibaki in his coup against what should have been a successful election in Kenya, plunging the country into violence, then forced a power sharing agreement on the country when the coup was so outrageously obvious and widely condemned that it could not stand.

One thing we do know about US policy in Africa, it has relentlessly repeated the same mistakes year after year decade after decade. This includes backing and arming both sides in some conflicts and sponsoring dictators and coup makers, training the militaries that terrorize their people. The present attempts to militarize the continent with the Africa Command, and its shores with seabasing, are just the most recent and vigorous example of this energetic and relentless rush in the wrong direction. It would be fabulous material for comedy if it weren’t so lethal.

Ouattara is a free market fundamentalist and practitioner of the zombie economics so favored by the corporate predator state, policies that helped damage the Ivoirian economy and many more developing economies, the policies that are currently bringing down the US economy. He is also the legitimate winner of the election, chosen by the voters in Ivory Coast and all parties should respect that.

Samuel Adjei Sarfo provides more detail on the election itself and events as they transpired. Follow this link for details of the electoral process and events: Ghana’s Policy On The Ivorian Crisis. Sarfo is an advocate for military intervention. He is justly afraid of a possible power sharing agreement, writing:

Of this kind of arrangement [power sharing], Kenya and Zimbabwe point the way to its insufficiency and danger. That kind of arrangement [power sharing] sets up a paradigm for the demise of democracy in Africa. Why must the winner of elections compensate himself by playing second fiddle to the loser of that election? In the Ivorian situation in particular, such an arrangement is superfluous because power-sharing already existed, and the election was conducted to give meaning to democratic rule through the direct franchise of the Ivorian people, and to end the civil war and the unpopular power-sharing arrangement.

Of course power sharing can be advantageous to outside predators. It keeps a government weak and divided, unable to properly protect itself, its people, and resources.

The situation in Ivory Coast may already be having an unfortunate effect on democracy in Africa, from the Financial Times January 4 Congo rulers use crisis to review poll laws:

Ivory Coast’s disputed election may have become Africa’s latest get-out-of-democracy-free card, after the Democratic Republic of Congo, the vast mineral-rich country to its south, announced it wants to revise its constitution to avert a similar fate.

The government of Congo, which suffers from a conflict in its east that has displaced more than 1.4m people in the past 18 months alone, said this week it would seek to do away with a second round in presidential elections due to be held this year, a move many regard as a pretext for an early victory for Joseph Kabila, the incumbent president.

I don’t know what will happen next. Gbagbo’s position is untenable. I don’t think military intervention is a good idea, see many of the arguments above. Although I do understand the arguments for an ECOWAS intervention. If military intervention occurs, there are certain to be ugly unintended consequences, ugly consequences that should be anticipated, and some ugly consequences that are intended. It should be possible to use pressure and diplomatic negotiation to resolve the situation. Keeping talking, and talking, and talking more is about the only way to resolve issues where the parties are determined not to compromise.

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09ABIDJAN406, ELECTIONS IN COTE D’IVOIRE: THE MYTH AND THE REALITY
cable July 2009 via Wikileaks

http://213.251.145.96/cable/2009/07/09ABIDJAN406.html

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See my later post:
Côte d’Ivoire – Military Intervention Vs Constitutional Legitimacyfor more information on exactly what happened and what it means going forward.

In a State Department briefing Johnnie Carson let us know the real reason for US involvement in Somalia, and the reason for sponsoring African proxies through AMISOM.

Somalia has dominated the 15th African Union summit in Uganda (AFP) July 2010

Not until the very end does Carson give an inkling of what the real U.S. fear is wrt Somalia, which is why the ICU’s revolution was crushed so violently.

It is important that the TFG be strengthened, for if it is not, Shabaab will continue to emerge as a significant political threat not only in the south, but also throughout the region.

They’re not really worried about ‘violent extremists’– after all, what’s more extreme than intentionally dropping bombs from remote control onto human beings as a matter of policy — they’re worried about popular control of political & economic power & authority, as are the regional dictators who understand the role model this would function as. (africa comments)

In other words, they are worried about the possible emergence of democracy, which is much more difficult for external actors to control, and a serious threat to dictators everywhere.

The dictators and their US and EU sponsors do not want a political solution, do not want Somalis to be allowed to stabilize their own country. That is why the continued involvement and the continued destabilizing use of proxy force in Somalia.

In Uganda Carson changes position on Ugandan democracy:

New Vision: Museveni has not become a dictator — Carson
THE US assistant secretary of state for Africa, Johnny Carson, has said President Yoweri Museveni has not turned into a dictator as he had predicted five years ago.

In an article published in The Boston Globe in May 2005, Carson said “Africa’s success story” (Uganda) could return to the dictatorial past if Museveni continued his controversial push for the removal of presidential term limits from the Constitution.

Asked yesterday whether he still held the same view five years later, Carson said: “I don’t believe [there's that phrase again - AC] President Museveni is a dictator. He is a president duly elected in a free and fair election.” (h/t africa comments)

Karoli Ssemogerere tells us: Johnnie Carson has delivered early warning to the Opposition:

After the World Cup attacks, of course all sorts of help have been here. Washington sent Attorney General Eric Holder, their top law enforcement official, to Kampala. Carson has become a regular face in Kampala and this visit is as remarkable since on his last visit, he faced open rebuke from President Museveni and his Foreign Minister Sam Kuteesa for publicly supporting the replacement of the Electoral Commission.

A few weeks later, Carson rewrote the institutional memory …

One of the shortcomings of American foreign policy is its obsession with the status quo, predictability and who is on our side versus who is on their side mentality? Museveni, exhausted after two decades in power, seems to offer the reassurance that Uganda on its own can serve as a bulwark for American interests in the region and now backed by its newfound oil wealth, need not continue on a sustained path to greater democratisation and respect for human rights.

The Americans could not sustain the democratisation rhetoric in the face of oil and the “terrorist threat.” Neither can their public officials in the face of a well oiled lobbying machine that recruits former government officials at will.

Carson is saying in a few words, we understand the complexities of the system. We prefer to deal with the defined quantity Museveni, a product of years of experience, be nice to the opposition through cups of tea and other empty platitudes.

Democracy does not matter, human rights do not matter, American interests, mostly oil, are what matters. Of course in the long run, the big picture, genuine support for democracy and human rights would be far better protection for American interests. But nobody is thinking that way.

AFRICOM’s General Ward recently addressed the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). As b real describes in the comments on the previous post, Gen. Ward manages:

to make clear two main items –

economic development tops the list of opportunities for the u.s. in africa

and

sustained security engagement is required to create & exploit those opportunities

Sustained security engagement is the polite way of saying ever increasing militarization. Militarization is US policy in Africa.

How well is democracy working in four of the US government’s partner/client/proxy states in East Africa? Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda are all presently in election cycles. Are US military partnerships enabling these countries to become more representative and democratic?

Kagame’s leading challenger in the presidential election scheduled for August is Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Kagame, who has not allowed her to register her candidacy, jailed her briefly a month ago, and today (May 28, 2010) he jailed her American attorney, Peter Erlinder, lead defense counsel in the Military-1 trial at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda.

Opposition leader and former judge, Birtukan Mideksa, has again been imprisoned (Dec. 2008) by the US-backed regime of Meles Zenawi

ETHIOPIA

Ethiopia held elections in May.

When human rights Watch criticized the results of Ethiopia’s May elections, in which the ruling coalition “won” an improbable 545 out of 547 seats, leaders in Addis Ababa didn’t ignore the influential NGO. Instead, they paid tens of thousands of demonstrators to gather in the capital and denounce the report. (Newsweek)

And from:

ADDIS ABABA, July 20 (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s highest court on Tuesday rejected a case brought by the country’s opposition against the ruling party’s landslide May election victory, finally exhausting legal appeals for the defeated parties.

The ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and its allies won 545 seats in the 547-member parliament. Both a European Union observer mission and the United States criticised the overwhelming victory.

Medrek and other opposition parties alleged widespread pre-poll intimidation during a campaign in which both sides claimed candidates and activists were murdered. Medrek also said there was some vote rigging.

Eight-party Medrek won just a single parliamentary seat in the poll. The other seat went to an independent candidate.

The aftermath of the May 23 poll is being watched by Western diplomats in a country that is a growing destination for investment and is Washington’s key ally in the Horn of Africa, where it is seen as standing against Islamic militancy.

So do you think Washington will do anything to encourage more free and representative government in Ethiopia? Ethiopia has been one of the principle US and western proxies for interfering in Somali affairs. I’m willing to bet that looking, and not all too carefully at that, is all the US and western governments will do for Ethiopian democracy. So far the US and EU have blithely ignored the electoral regularities and atrocious human rights record of Ethiopia’s Zenawi.

EU and U.S. say poll short of international standards

The 2005 elections ended with the then opposition disputing the government’s victory. Riots broke out in Addis Ababa in which 193 protestors and seven policemen were killed. The top opposition leaders were jailed until 2007.

The lone opposition member to win a seat in parliament:

Girma won his seat in Addis Ababa’s Mercato district, seen as Africa’s biggest open-air market and one of the city’s poorer areas.

“I won because a lot of my voters were merchants who are economically independent,” he said. “They weren’t civil servants or unemployed and subject to the same forms of intimidation as a lot of other people. I was lucky.”

Girma’s victory was slim, however, and he only beat his ruling party opponent by a margin of 114 votes in a constituency where both he and his father were born.
(Reuters)

The strongest of the opposition leaders, Birtukan Mideksa, is still in jail serving a life sentence. The conditions in Ethiopian prisons are dreadful, as I wrote in Guantanamo in Ethiopia. Birtukan Mideksa’s health is deteriorating. Meles Zenawi and his western allies may not have to worry about the threat she poses to their political expediency much longer if she does not get proper medical attention and care.

In Ethiopia the US has acted as an enabler of anti democratic practices, pouring aid and encouragement on Meles Zenawi, regardless of his dreadful human rights record. Meles is also a great favorite of US Senators and Congressmen who are members of the politically powerful religious cult, The Family, who help appropriate and funnel millions of US taxpayer dollars to his regime.

the Ethiopian government got its fingers burnt when it held multi-party elections in 2005 that it almost lost — and has been busy clamping down on opposition parties and free speech ever since.

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UGANDA

In Uganda elections are coming up in the next year, in early 2011. Uganda is a great favorite of the US Africa Command, and of the Pentagon in general. Along with Burundi, Uganda provides the proxy warriors acting on behalf of the US and EU in Somalia known as AMISOM. Uganda also provides soldiers employed by US military contractors in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. Uganda’s President Museveni is also a great favorite of the Senators and Congressmen who are members of The Family, who help appropriate and funnel millions of US taxpayer dollars to his regime.

Both Uganda and Ethiopia are virtual military dictatorships, regardless of whether they hold elections or not. In May 2009 President Museveni:

told NRM Members of Parliament that while he would be “happy” to hand over power, he saw “nobody” ready to take on the daunting responsibility of leading Uganda.

Museveni already had presidential term limits removed so he could continue to run for President. The opposition is trying to reinstate term limits along with some other electoral reforms:

The bill will mainly be seeking to restore the two-term limit on incumbency, reform of the electoral commission and removal of the army representatives from parliament,” he said.

It would also compel the president to seek the opposition’s opinion before appointing senior leaders of the electoral commission, a measure the opposition hopes will make the body more independent.

There are also some other interesting developments among Uganda’s opposition.

If passed it would prevent Museveni, who has already served for 24 years, from seeking re-election.

The main opposition candidate:

Besigye said:

… the reforms before the 2011 elections should include the appointment of an independent elections commission and the removal of the military from monitoring elections.

We will be watching with interest. The US Africa Command has found Museveni and his military a particularly valuable partner and proxy. Will it see political opposition as a danger to this relationship? Will it help Museveni label and treat his opposition as terrorists. The stakes are even higher since the discovery of large quantities of oil in Uganda’s great lakes region.

And the bombings in Uganda, allegedly by Al Shabab, complicate the situation. The Somalis declared the bombings were retaliation for the continued deaths of civilians due to the indiscriminate shelling of civilian neighborhoods by AMISOM troops in Mogadishu, Killing of Civilians by UN Supported Troops in Somalia Admitted But Not Acted On. So far the US has seized on the bombings as evidence of international terrorist aspirations. The real story is far less clear. See the July africa comments for more detailed background and a more complete picture.

Some Ugandans are calling for withdrawal from engagement with Somalia:

It is not yet clear what effect this gruesome attack will have on the Ugandan government’s assessment of its ability to effectively deal with this aspect of its involvement in Somalia, or whether such an assessment will induce it to take real leadership within the region by forcing a rethink on this continent-wide challenge of viability.

Under former US President George Bush’s war on terror, they were able to use American money for upgrading their security apparatus, which was then turned on the local opposition, thus dividing local security resources between looking for terrorists and terrorising government opponents.

The other big risk is whether the militarists in Uganda’s government will be able to resist the temptation to take advantage of this security problem and develop another strategy for regime preservation.

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BURUNDI

Burundi is just concluding its electoral cycle. The opposition boycotted the presidential poll in June, and the parliamentary poll on July 23.

All the main opposition groups boycotted the June presidential election, which Nkurunziza won with more than 90 percent of the vote.

Former rebel leader Agathon Rwasa, who had been regarded as his main rival, went into hiding and later explained in an audio message that he feared for his life after claiming the polls were fixed.

In Bujumbura’s southern Kanyosha district, one group of friends said that they planned to shun polling stations and democracy has deserted Burundi.

“There is no democracy with a single party. This has never been seen anywhere,”

The central African state had hoped the polls would prove its democratic credentials and consolidate a fledgling peace deal but they have instead left the political landscape in ruins and heightened fears of civil strife.

The international community largely endorsed the results of the May local polls despite the fraud claims and urged the opposition to end their boycott and return to the fray for the presidential vote. (h/t, and more information at Breaking the Cycle)

Burundi is awash in small arms, a legacy of years of civil war. A grenade costs about $3, and grenade attacks on politicians are common. Both the ruling party and the opposition blame each other for grenade attacks. Burundi is the other country, in addition to Uganda, that supplies troops to AMISOM in Somalia. The arms and military assistance the US taxpayers provide to this key partner/proxy of the US Africa Command, cannot have a beneficial effect on this divisive political situation. It looks like the Burundi government and military are looking for terrorists by terrorizing government opponents. And the international community seems comfortable with that. This is certainly not a prescription for democracy and US policy appears likely to exacerbate authoritarian rule and a divided terrorized population. President Pierre Nkurunziza’s government is:

… ranked by graft watchdog Transparency International as the most corrupt in east Africa.

________
RWANDA

Rwanda’s presidential election is coming up in August.

For many Western observers – Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Bill Gates among them – Rwanda’s economic growth is the foundation of its democratic transition. Yet, as Rwandans head to the polls next month to elect a president, Paul Kagame’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) has perverted the very democratic ideals it claims to uphold.

Over the last 16 years, the RPF has centralized power into a one-man dictatorship. … The Hutu community, making up some 85 per cent of the population, is largely excluded. … politics, business and the civil service are all dominated by military personnel or former members of the RPF.

In advance of the upcoming presidential elections, many “friends” of Rwanda have remained supportive of its so-called “democratic transition.” They ignore the repeated arrests of journalists and opposition politicians, the closing of independent local newspapers, the ejection of a Human Rights Watch researcher, an assassination attempt against exiled Gen. Kayumba Nyamwasa, who fell out with President Kagame earlier this year, the murder of journalist Jean-Leonard Rugambage, who attempted to report on Nyamwasa’s assassination attempt in the online version of a Rwandan newspaper the print edition of which the government closed down, and the murder of Andre Kagwa Rwisereka, vice-president of the opposition Democratic Green party. While diplomats from some countries, such as Sweden and the Netherlands, have cut their aid, the U.S. and the U.K. continue to publicly support Kagame. Canada’s position is vague as it encourages Rwanda to adopt policies that promote a pluralist society.

Under the watch of a sympathetic and supportive international community, Kagame has done everything within his power to ensure that the August elections consolidate his political power.

The US has been among the most sympathetic supporters of Kagame. With the RDF, he has acted as a US proxy in the Congo, DRC. Many of the minerals mined in the DRC are marketed by Rwanda, and controlled by the RDF or its subsidiary militias.

According to Charles Onyango-Obbo, who generally has succumbed to Kagame’s spell, TRI-STAR corporation is:

… “the business arm of the RPF”. He goes ahead to tell us that TRI-STAR has business interests worth more than 20 billion dollars “making the RPF the richest party in Africa”. So much power and wealth in very few hands.

Another optimistic sign, he reveals, “the party’s local and international assets could be equal to or larger than Rwanda’s gross domestic product.” A classic example of Fascism!

He even sheds more light into the much publicized Lake Kivu “energy” investment. Apparently, the locals will not reap a cent. The investment is a joint venture between TRI-STAR , a British and an American firm.

What is worrying to many of us is the fact that TRI-STAR as a private entity seems to enjoy unfair support from the government. If TRI-STAR is owned by the RPF, then Kagame’s role in securing TRI-STAR’s business interests is a serious conflict of interest.

Now, also worrisome is the fact that TRI-STAR owns more close to 40% of MTN Rwanda. MTN is the country’s sole internet and mobile phone provider. That is why when the banned newspaper, “Umuvugizi” went online, the government quickly blocked its website.

I’ve said it again and again, that the much praised development in Rwanda is simply for the benefit of a very tiny minority. Corruption is deep but runs undetected due to the absence of a civil society. Beyond the façade of wealthy elites, the majority of Rwandans are dirt poor and the government has done almost nothing to improve their lives. (Nkunda)

Kagame had international human rights lawyer Peter Erlinder arrested in Rwanda. He was there defending opposition leader Ms. Victoire Ingabire accused of the crime of genocide ideology, a “crime” that appears common to all Kagame’s opponents, at least according to his justice system.

I have written more about Kagame here, Paul Kagame, Warlord of Congo’s Wealth. With access to the Congo’s minerals, partnership with the Lake Kivu energy project, and alliances with Tri-Star, the US has a lot invested in Kagame and his control of Rwanda. Rwanda is also a key partner of the US Africa Command:

… since year 2000, Rwanda received “$1,034,000,000 billion in United States taxpayer-funded foreign assistance”and that “an additional $240,200,000 is proposed in the President’s fiscal year 2011 budget. (AFJN)

Much of this has been military assistance, which includes occasional photo op humanitarian activities with little coordination or followup. What the military assistance does is help Kagame fight terrorism by terrorizing the opposition and the general citizenry.

And as Nii Akuetteh writes:

The millions who have already sounded the alarm publicly that Kagame is getting away with (mass) murder include The Economist; The New York Times; three different expert panels assembled by the U.N. Security Council; U.S. Sens. Durbin and Feingold; Mrs. Clinton’s State Department – although theirs may be just crocodile tears; the world’s best experts on the Great Lakes region – renowned researchers and thinkers such as Nzongola-Ntalaja, Howard French, Rene Lemarchand, Gerard Prunier, Thomas Turner and Allan Stam; and ADNA, a network of Africa-focused advocacy nonprofits monitoring U.S. foreign policy.

And the critics include millions of individual Rwandans and other Africans – like me.

Kagame’s leading challenger in the presidential election scheduled for August is Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza. Kagame, who has not allowed her to register her candidacy, jailed her briefly a month ago, and today he jailed her American attorney, Peter Erlinder, lead defense counsel in the Military-1 trial at the U.N.’s International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda.
… right now Kagame’s regime is shutting down newspapers, is kidnapping the homeless and is demonizing and pronouncing Victoire Ingabire guilty – before her sham trial even begins.

In Washington’s current relations with Mr. Kagame, we are seeing the replay of a tired old movie. Since 1960, Africa’s year of independence, each and every U.S. administration has praised, financed and kept in power its own set of brutal African strongmen that, in its secret files, it has labeled “friendly tyrants.” Mobutu sese Seko of Zaire, Siyaad Barre of Somalia, Hissene Habre of Chad, Samuel Doe of Liberia and Jonas Savimbi of Angola – these are just five of the dozens.

Zenawi, Museveni, Nkurunziza, and Kagame are some of the most recent of these brutal “friendly tyrants”, a form of government the US still seems to favor for Africans. That tired old movie remains a favorite in Washington. And even if the US State Department has said a few harsh words, the US taxpayer money and the military partnering and the proxying energetically roll on, amassing power and wealth for client dictators.

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

US durable goods shipments from 2000-2009

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

___________

US shipments and orders of durable goods 2008-2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KOHN: That’s right.

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

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

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

President Barack Obama walks with Ghana President John Atta Mills, right, at the Presidential Palace in Accra, Ghana, Saturday, July 11, 2009. In his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office.

President Barack Obama walks with Ghana President John Atta Mills, right, at the Presidential Palace in Accra, Ghana, Saturday, July 11, 2009. In his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office.

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama meet with pregnant women during a tour of LA General Hospital in Accra July 11, 2009.

U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama meet with pregnant women during a tour of LA General Hospital in Accra July 11, 2009.

Vendor with Obama memorabilia in Ghana, July 11, 2009

Vendor with Obama memorabilia in Ghana, July 11, 2009

I spoke to Ghana today. Everyone is thrilled with Obama’s visit. They loved his speech. Throughout the whole country people were watching and enjoying. At the same time, almost everyone is also adamantly against AFRICOM.

People were praising how simple and natural Obama is. They said the visit to Cape Coast Castle was very sad. Nobody can visit there without being affected. And everyone admired the way the Obamas interacted with the people they met, including the musicians and dancers performing at the airport to see them off. The whole country was watching and enjoying the visit. There were posters, signs and commerative items everywhere. The coverage has been wildly enthusiastic, but with some well placed and serious skepticism about US motives.

In his speech Obama included the following:

We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans.

First, we must support strong and sustainable democratic governments. As I said in Cairo, each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: governments that respect the will of their own people are more prosperous, more stable and more successful than governments that do not. This is about more than holding elections — it’s also about what happens between them. Repression takes many forms, and too many nations are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the port authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.

In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in peoples’ lives. …


Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.

America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation — the essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny. What we will do is increase assistance for responsible individuals and institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance — on parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard; on the rule of law, which ensures the equal administration of justice; on civic participation, so that young people get involved; and on concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting, automating services, strengthening hot lines and protecting whistle-blowers to advance transparency and accountability. As we provide this support, I have directed my administration to give greater attention to corruption in our human rights report. People everywhere should have the right to start a business or get an education without paying a bribe. We have a responsibility to support those who act responsibly and to isolate those who don’t, and that is exactly what America will do.

Obama used the word partnership a number of times speaking of:

This mutual responsibility must be the foundation of our partnership. And today, I will focus on four areas that are critical to the future of Africa and the entire developing world: democracy; opportunity; health; and the peaceful resolution of conflict.

This last, peaceful resolution of conflict, is how he chose to characterize military partnership. I wondered some about the use of the word partnership throughout the speech. This is a word the Africa Command uses a lot. And I wondered if the use of it repeated in the speech was to soften and blur the definition away from military partnership. Military partnership and the Africa Command have caused ongoing debate and articles in the Ghana news and on GhanaWeb. Obama is very popular, but the Africa Command is not popular at all. Military partnership means, among other things, military proxies, training African militaries to fight for US interests.

In Obama’s words on military partnership:

the final area that I will address is conflict.

Africans are standing up for this future. Here, too, Ghana is helping to point the way forward. Ghanaians should take pride in your contributions to peacekeeping from Congo to Liberia to Lebanon, and in your efforts to resist the scourge of the drug trade. We welcome the steps that are being taken by organizations like the African Union and ECOWAS to better resolve conflicts, keep the peace, and support those in need. And we encourage the vision of a strong, regional security architecture that can bring effective, transnational force to bear when needed. America has a responsibility to advance this vision, not just with words, but with support that strengthens African capacity. When there is genocide in Darfur or terrorists in Somalia, these are not simply African problems — they are global security challenges, and they demand a global response. That is why we stand ready to partner through diplomacy, technical assistance, and logistical support, and will stand behind efforts to hold war criminals accountable. And let me be clear: our Africa Command is focused not on establishing a foothold in the continent, but on confronting these common challenges to advance the security of America, Africa and the world.

This sounds good, but there are very few specifics and still plenty of reason for skepticism.

An article in The Scotman sees AFRICOM HQ in Ghana as a done deal:

Controversial matters such as the impending transfer of US Africa Command’s HQ from Germany to Ghana, heavy narcotics trafficking and burgeoning oil production, are topics for Mr Obama’s talks with Ghanaian president John Atta Mills.

On development, I tend to agree with Kwesi Pratt:

What we need in the developing world, is not gifts and not aid. What we need must be fair trade. If we could get equitable prices for our products and so on, we could make it on our own.

In putting responsibility squarely on Africans, Obama glossed over ongoing interference in African governance by the US and others. Without this interference, arming sides and picking favorites, Africa could work out its own problems. Obama criticised the violence stemming from the recent Kenyan election, but the US actively interfered with that election. If Obama actually intends to back off from this interfering behaviour, I heartily endorse him.

The Africa Command is wildly unpopular in Ghana, as Kwesi Pratt also said:

The Cheney report also makes a recommendation for the establishment of military bases in order to protect American interests and American oil. For me these are the two key reasons why the United States and Obama are interested in this. It has nothing to do with democracy, but the preservation of American interests.

In Ghana, I do not think there’s any possibility of establishing such a presence, [AFRICOM] because it will be resisted

And NO to AFRICOM has been the overwhelming sentiment expressed in the articles and in the comments published in Ghana news sources and on GhanaWeb.

As Nii Akuetteh says in the same interview with Kwesi Pratt:

Currently, a lot of the oil comes from Nigeria and we know that in southeastern Nigeria, where the oil is, there is a lot of agitation, even including some violence because oil companies from Shell to Chevron have been behaving in a predatory manner. Therefore, the oil is an issue, and the establishment of AFRICOM, where twisting arms of African governments to agree to host AFRICOM, has also been going on. I do support Kwesi. He’s been leading the fight in Ghana to make sure that it doesn’t come. I think the democracy factor is one small factor and it is up to us in Washington and around the United States to make sure that it becomes bigger in the calculations of Mr. Obama. So it is up to us to push him. And because he himself has said it, and his staff in the White House also did say that democracy and governance in Ghana is the reason they chose Ghana, our strategy here in Washington is, okay, we will hold them to their words. We will make sure that any agreement they sign, U.S. policy, U.S. aid projects, put the priority on democracy and strengthening civil society.

And that is what must be done. President Obama has said he values democracy. It was the main theme of his speech. That is the reason he told us he chose to visit Ghana, to recognize and honor its vibrant and successful democracy. But democracy is always fragile. We have seen that in the United States in the last decade. People in Ghana and the US must keep pushing for more democracy, for strengthening civil society, and for the transparency and accountability that makes democracy possible.

In some ways I worry the Obama visit is honoring Ghanaian democracy by offering Ghana the tools and means to dismantle that democracy. But the symbolic importance and resonance of Obama, that the US has elected a black man, the son of an African, with the name Barack Hussein Obama, as president, cannot be overstated. If he is not all we would wish, we ourselves need to make our democratic ideals and aspirations manifest.

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Pictures of Obama from GhanaWeb
Pictures of Obama in Ghana from Yahoo, view as slideshow or gallery.

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Added July 12, links to stories from GhanaWeb on Obama in Ghana. You can view the comments to the stories for more opinions. Be advised there will be some rude and partisan remarks in the comments to the articles, democracy allows for all opinions to be voiced.

Text of Obama’s speech to parliament
Dignitaries savour Obama’s speech
Obama begins historic visit to Ghana
Obama in Ghana on first sub-Saharan Africa visit
Where will Obama Sleep?
Guests for breakfast meeting to park vehicles at State House
Obama admits to be a long admirer of Ghana
Obama lauds La Hospital
Obama tours Cape Coast Castle
Oguaa residents step out early to welcome Obama
Expectant crowd disappointed as security prevents them from seeing Obam
Africa to shape the 21st century- Obama
Obama leaves after Ghana visit

YouTube videos on Obama’s visit:
Ghana goes Obama-mad in preparation for president’s visit (ITN News)
Obama’s Ghana Speech – July 11, 2009 (Part 1 of 4, 8:19)
Obama’s Ghana Speech – July 11, 2009 (Part 2 of 4, 8:39)
Obama’s Ghana Speech – July 11, 2009 (Part 3 of 4, 8:07)
Obama’s Ghana Speech – July 11, 2009 (Part 4 of 4, 8:35)
Welcome song for Obama to Ghana, An All-Star welcome song for President Obama on his visit to Ghana, Africa July 10-11 (4:43)

If there is oil in Uganda, there must be bad people there who need the Pentagon to bring them democracy, a colleague observed. And indeed this is in part correct, there are some very bad people there. The Lords Resistance Army has plagued Uganda for 20 years, committing murders and atrocities, and kidnapping children to be child soldiers and sex slaves. The map below shows the historical areas in which the LRA operated. Much of the time the problem was ignored. But it has been a huge problem, creating hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people, especially children.

Ugandan districts affected by Lords Resistance Army, map created by Mark Dingemanse for Wikimedia.

Ugandan districts affected by Lords Resistance Army, map created by Mark Dingemanse for Wikimedia.

The US has not taken much notice of this until very recently. The Ugandan Army has stepped up its battle against the LRA in recent years, and the LRA has moved and expanded its operations into the DRC, as well as Sudan and the Central African Republic. In December 2008, the US Africa Command, AFRICOM, helped plan and arm a badly botched raid on the LRA, including contributing $1 million worth of fuel. Without the money for fuel, the raid could not have taken place. No effort was made to warn or defend the civilian population. The raid failed, the raiders came up empty handed, but the LRA attacked the civilian population in reprisal. It carried on a reign of terror throughout areas of the DRC that went on for weeks and months. Hundreds have been killed and maimed, children were kidnapped, and are still being kidnapped, and hundreds of thousands displaced. I wrote about it earlier, with links to accounts of what happened, Stability operations cause 900 civilian deaths, 100,000 displaced, miss target and Botched raid. Here is a map of LRA attacks outside Uganda, mostly in the DRC:

Map of LRA attacks in the DRC,  Number of villages attacked: 74,  Attacked once: 47, Attacked twice: 9, Attacked three times: 5, Attacked eight times: 1 (Duru)

Map of LRA attacks in the DRC, December 2007 - January 2009. Total number of villages attacked: 74, Attacked once: 47, Attacked twice: 9, Attacked three times: 5, Attacked eight times: 1 (Duru)

Now there are oil discoveries in the neighborhood. With the oil discoveries there is a lot more US interest in doing something about the LRA.

US Senate wants Obama to crush LRA for good

The East African, June 1 2009
Republicans as well as Demo-crats are pressing President Barack Obama to help the Ugandan military destroy the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

Legislation introduced last week in the US Senate would require the Obama administration to move towards “eliminating the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.”

The proposal calls for military and other forms of US support for multilateral efforts to “apprehend or otherwise remove Joseph Kony and his top commanders from the battlefield and to disarm and demobilise Lord’s Resistance Army fighters.”

Introduced by key members of both major US political parties, the legislation would also provide $20 million in the coming year for humanitarian aid to civilians in Central Africa affected by LRA actions and for efforts to promote recovery and reconciliation in northern Uganda.

“The introduction of this Bill demonstrates the growing consensus on the need for greater US leadership to disarm top LRA leaders and permanently end this violence,” said Democratic Congressman James McGovern.

Republican Congressman Ed Royce said the bill “rightly targets” LRA leader Joseph Kony.

“Kony’s removal is essential to peace in the region,” Royce declared.

It is fashionable to blame conflict in Africa on poverty and other environmental factors,” Royce wrote in a blog he posts on his congressional website.

“But sometimes just getting rid of one person does make a big difference. History is full of captivating leaders with bad ideas who do great damage. It’s a lesson I learned from West Africa, where Liberian president Charles Taylor, ran a gangster regime that brought havoc to neighbouring Sierra Leone. After his hard-fought removal, the region is peaceful. Kony’s removal won’t guarantee peace — but it will make it possible.”

That approach is being endorsed by Human Rights Watch and 21 other non-governmental organisations in the US that are jointly backing the legislation known officially as the Lord’s Resistance Army Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act.

Thousands of young Americans have also taken up the cause of pushing the US government to help put an end to the atrocities that Kony’s forces have inflicted on civilians in Congo, Sudan and the Central African Republic as well as in Uganda.

This co-ordinated campaign by the US president’s political allies is likely to influence the Obama administration thinking. It increases the likelihood that the US Africa Command (Africom) will be ordered to help plan and execute a new Uganda-led offensive against the LRA.

Senator Russell Feingold said in introducing the anti-LRA legislation that the earlier “botched operation does not mean that we should just give up on the goal of ending the massacres and the threat to regional stability posed by this small rebel group.

Moreover, given that the US provided assistance and support for this operation at the request of the regional governments, we have a responsibility to help see this rebel war to its end.”

The LRA is an entirely appropriate target for the Ugandan government. I think everybody would be glad to see the last of the LRA. However, the presence of oil in Uganda and probably the DRC, plus the multitude of other minerals in the DRC makes any incursions there more complex. I doubt the Pentagon’s Africa Command will improve the democracy situation. You can see some some of the problem in this map of the DRC. It includes mineral resources, and the areas where both Rwanda and Uganda operate inside the DRC, ostensibly to go after the various militias originating in their countries, that now include the LRA. Though both Uganda and Rwanda rake in big profits from minerals mined in the DRC.

DRC map, coltan, minerals, and areas of Ugandan and Rwandan activity marked

DRC map, coltan, minerals, with areas of Ugandan and Rwandan military activity marked

[Added March 3, 2010:  For more, and more detailed maps of the location of coltan and other minerals in the DRC, see this post:  Trading Congo Contraband – Maps – 3T Minerals, Coltan, Gold.]

There is also the possibility of major oil finds in northwestern Kenya, bordering on northern Uganda and southeastern Sudan. So the LRA is very much in the way, wherever it is holed up or active. This more than any humanitarian concern is making it more urgent and important to get rid of them. AFRICOM is still wearing its humanitarian makeup in Northern Uganda. If you look at the map of Northern Uganda at the top of this post, Pader, Gulu, and Lira are all featured in the photos at the africom.mil photo gallery photos from Uganda. The one following is of US soldiers grading the road for a bridge crossing that will, among other things, help get goods to market at Lira. I so not wish to minimize the value of this and similar projects. They are a boon and blessing for the local people, until and unless they may be used against the local people. But humanitarian assistance is not the reason for AFRICOM. It would be better for development and democracy if such projects were funded and undertaken by civilian agencies. And the funding for these projects is peanuts compared to the military spending.

AROMA, Uganda - Local residents of Aroma, Uganda look on as service members from the U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion-11, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, grade the area surrounding the Walela Cultvert Bridge on May 5, 2009. This was the final construction phase of a bridge that connects the main Lira road to the Aroma sub-county. Funded by Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, the Walela Bridge was constructed by 25 U.S. Navy construction engineers in partnership with their counterparts from the Uganda People’s Defense force. It will improve the lives of more than 60,000 people from three villages by enhancing their transportation ability, providing them with year-round access to the Lira market, and aiding in the delivery of humanitarian assistance supplies. (Photo by Technical Sergeant Dawn Price, CJTF-HOA)

AROMA, Uganda - Local residents of Aroma, Uganda look on as service members from the U.S. Naval Mobile Construction Battalion-11, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, grade the area surrounding the Walela Cultvert Bridge on May 5, 2009. This was the final construction phase of a bridge that connects the main Lira road to the Aroma sub-county. Funded by Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa, the Walela Bridge was constructed by 25 U.S. Navy construction engineers in partnership with their counterparts from the Uganda People’s Defense force. It will improve the lives of more than 60,000 people from three villages by enhancing their transportation ability, providing them with year-round access to the Lira market, and aiding in the delivery of humanitarian assistance supplies. (Photo by Technical Sergeant Dawn Price, CJTF-HOA)

There is another danger from US militarism in Uganda’s path. Back in February Charles Onyango Obbo wrote in Uganda’s Daily Monitor:

Iraq war could end up on Museveni’s doorsteps

Two weeks ago The Sunday Times (of London) magazine had a striking photograph of Ugandan guards in Iraq. But even more telling was the short text that accompanied it. It reported that while Britain and America are planning on withdrawing their troops from Iraq, “the Ugandans are coming”.

The Ugandans, said The Sunday Times, were ‘desperate’ to be sent to Iraq, and already almost 10,000 of them are working as private security guards in Iraq, risking their lives to guard various American installations. We know this already, but then it gets quite interesting. It describes the war in Iraq as the ‘most privatised’ in history.

Over the last five years, America has dished out contracts worth about $100 billion. More and more of the 230,000 private-sector jobs related to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, it said, have been outsourced to the Third World, what it called “the military equivalent of installing call centres in India”.

It discussed why American and British contractors moved into Uganda to hire guards for Iraq (we speak English, have surplus veterans from our many wars) but, ultimately they came because Uganda “is cheap”. Since the first lot of guards was sent in 2005, the paper reports, competition has driven wages down from $1,300 a month to around $600 today.

To understand how cheap our lives are, the $6000 compares with the $15,000 a British and American guard could make.
It would take a Ugandan two years to earn what a Brit or American makes in a month
. It becomes very ironical: The Uganda government backs Zimbabwe President Robert Zimbabwe in his insane drive to destroy his once prosperous country, and Kampala officials and security officers own the firms that have a monopoly on exporting Ugandan guards to Iraq. However, most of the chaps who train the Ugandan Iraq guards are white instructors from Zimbabwe. Some of them, probably, were officers in the white supremacist army against which Mugabe and his guerrillas fought!

The story of Ugandan Iraq guards, however, is just in the first chapter of its telling. Even at $600 (before the Ugandan firm deducts its njawulo), these guards are already making more than they possibly could at home. Now that the American presence is winding down, by the end of next year, there might be little work for Third World guards in Iraq. If there is, the salaries could be so low, it would no longer be worth it.

When these 10,000 guards return home, then the reckoning will start. Their story might be much like that of the African veterans of World War II. The unintended effect of that war was that when the Africans returned home, they were inspired to join the struggle for independence. Their fear of the colonialist had gone. They had killed the mzungu in war, seen them wail in pain, and flee hot battles, and their allies. They realised that; ‘Hey, these guys are just like us’, and decided that there was nothing special that gave them the right to colonise us.

The Ugandans who are serving in Iraq have seen even a more dramatic humbling of the world’s sole superpower, America. If America can be brought to its knees by a rag tag bunch of dissidents, the UPDF – a comparatively rudimentary and unsophisticated force (its notable bush credentials notwithstanding) – must look very ordinary to them now.

President Yoweri Museveni is a not a fool, one reason he has been able to cling to power as long as he has. He realises that the guards are probably better trained than the average UPDF soldier. And, farther, that having so many people with their skills who are not intimidated by the UPDF returning home and not being within the control of the security services, is dangerous.

Just like the government has done with many LRA former rebels, it will incorporate the guards into the UPDF. That, however, has its risks. Even when they were badly treated, the Uganda guards in Iraq lived better, were paid more and more promptly, than many rank and file UPDF soldiers, some of whom still live in manyattas, and make do with tired sandals for boots. They could spread discontent, and that is hazardous. Also, UPDF cannot possibly absorb 10,000 guards, some of whom might not necessarily have the “correct” political and ethnic profile for the army.

The best option, therefore, would to create a Reserve Foreign Force in which all the former guards are placed, and get a trusted general who is on kateebe, to head it. That will partially solve the problem of control, but it won’t help in ensuring loyalty to the “Museveni way”, as the bulk of the Iraqi guards are unlikely to ever be dyed-in-the-wool NRM cadres.

The private need by the regime to reward insiders by letting them corner the Iraqi guards supply contracts could one day clash with its public need to keep power by monopolising the means and skills of war. Will the Museveni government avoid the fate of the British colonialists after WW II? Only time will tell.

Charles Onyango Obbo is an astute observer and journalist. As he points out, we only know the opening chapters of this story. The comments that follow the original text at the link are worth reading as well, and lend credence to Obbo’s observations. The oil discoveries, and competition for oil money will further complicate the tale. The presence of AFRICOM, which is already on quite friendly terms with Museveni, and the US habit of picking favorites and interfering with domestic politics, as it has been doing in Kenya and Somalia, is likely to play a part in the unfolding story.

________

Map links:
LRA in Northern Uganda
LRA attacks in the DRC
DRC, coltan, and military activity

________

Added June 20:

It looks like Uganda is in for a bunch more partnering with AFRICOM. Obama just appointed/nominated the ambassador to Uganda, from the White House:

Jerry P. Lanier, Nominee for Ambassador to the Republic of Uganda

Jerry P. Lanier is a career diplomat with 26 years of service in the Department of State. He is currently the Foreign Policy Advisor for U.S. Africa Command headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany.
Prior to that, he was the Director of the Office of Regional and Security Affairs in the Africa Bureau at the State Department. Mr. Lanier has also served in the Philippines, Kenya, Thailand, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Ghana. At State he has served as the Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, country officer for the Republic of Korea, Legislative Management Officer for Africa, Deputy Director for the Office of West African Affairs, and Deputy Director for the Office Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh Affairs. He received his B.A. at Pembroke State University, his M.A. at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and served three years as lecturer in the history department of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Mr. Lanier’s employment history looks like he has experience interfering with the internal affairs of other nations.

GEGGADE DESERT, Djibouti - French and American forces head out to a U.S. Marine CH 53 helicopter for transport to desert survival training in the Geggade Desert, Djibouti March 23, 2009. The training provided by the French Forces in Djibouti integrates U.S. service members deployed to Camp Lemonier, Djibouti and French military personnel while teaching survival skills specific to the Djiboutian deserts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Joe Zuccaro)

GEGGADE DESERT, Djibouti - French and American forces head out to a U.S. Marine CH 53 helicopter for transport to desert survival training in the Geggade Desert, Djibouti March 23, 2009. The training provided by the French Forces in Djibouti integrates U.S. service members deployed to Camp Lemonier, Djibouti and French military personnel while teaching survival skills specific to the Djiboutian deserts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sergeant Joe Zuccaro)

Daniel Volman and William Minter describe the problem succinctly in Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa:

The government has presented AFRICOM as a cost-effective institutional restructuring and a benign program for supporting African governments in humanitarian as well as necessary security operations. In fact, it represents the institutionalization and increased funding for a model of bilateral military ties — a replay of the mistakes of the Cold War. This risks drawing the United States more deeply into conflicts, reinforcing links with repressive regimes, excusing human rights abuses, and frustrating rather than fostering sustainable multilateral peacemaking and peacekeeping. It will divert scarce budget resources, build resentment, and undercut the long-term interests of the United States.

While AFRICOM may be new, there’s already a track record for such policies in programs now incorporated into AFRICOM. That record shows little evidence that these policies contribute to U.S. or African security. To the contrary, there are substantial indications that they are in fact counterproductive, both increasing insecurity in Africa and energizing potential threats to U.S. interests.

When the GAO published its February report on AFRICOM, PDF: Actions Needed to Address Stakeholder Concerns, Improve Interagency Collaboration, and Determine Full Costs Associated with the U.S. Africa Command, the conclusion was:

This report addresses three challenges that could affect the ultimate success of AFRICOM. First, DOD has not yet fully allayed concerns about the command’s role and mission both inside the U.S. government and with potential African partners. Second, AFRICOM has not yet determined how many personnel it needs from other U.S. government agencies or what functions they will perform, and interagency planning processes are still immature. Third, DOD has not yet decided the locations for AFRICOM’s permanent headquarters and presence on the continent, or agreed upon criteria with stakeholders for making such decisions, leaving considerable uncertainty about future costs at a time when defense budgets are projected to become increasingly constrained. DOD and AFRICOM are working to address these challenges but it is unclear when their efforts will be completed. Unless these challenges are addressed, the effectiveness of the command may suffer and costs are likely to escalate.

What the GAO report does not address is any overall justification for the command to exist at all. It assumes the command is a good thing and should go forward. It treats African and US skepticism as “misperception”. To assert this is to take the erroneous approach that all the problems are public relations problems: the truth does not matter, what an organization is doing does not matter, only the image projected in the advertising campaign matters.

AFRICOM hurts brand America, and stands in the way of any genuine multilateral efforts towards peacemaking or peacekeeping. AFRICOM stands in the way of civil society groups who are trying to strengthen democratic institutions in their own countries. It is often a threat to these same groups, treating them as “insurgents” or “terrorists” and assisting repressive governments to crack down on them. Bilateral military ties strengthen the military sector in its efforts to suppress competition and regulation from the civilian sector. This comes when Africans throughout the continent want the military out of government and back in the barracks. When the US supports only the military, the civilian sector can whither. We currently see this US policy at work in Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the DRC, Rwanda, the Niger Delta, Mali, Senegal, just to name a few places. This hurts the people in those countries, and by doing so hurts the interests of the United States. It hurts support and goodwill for the United States.

Militarism limits the possibility of developing a climate where entrepreneurs can create business, except those businesses that can be carried out at the point of a gun. And it makes it difficult or impossible to develop the civil infrastructure and institutions necessary for peace and democracy. This strengthens the enemies of the US, by demonstrating the US does not care about the majority of the citizens in Africa or the world, and weakens US influence. Militarism is a lavish gift to the enemies of the US, giving those enemies more credibility, and enhancing their support and ability to attack US citizens and institutions.

Brand America has generally been popular in Africa. Bush policies did it tremendous damage. So far Obama seems to be continuing those same policies. The opportunity for positive change is still open.

At the Summit of the Americas yesterday Obama said:

“It’s a reminder for us in the United States that if our only interaction with many of these countries is drug interdiction, if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence.”

The US War on Drugs has been an unbroken failure, and has now driven the drug trade to West Africa.  AFRICOM has been trying to promote its efforts at drug interdiction in Ghana and throughout West Africa as a way to get its foot in the door. The same goes for “terrorism” interdiction, and “insurgency” interdiction throughout the continent. Both Latin America and Africa would like to leave militarism behind. Let us hope Obama understands and means his own words.

To repeat and expand the wise words of Volman and Minter:

The government has presented AFRICOM as a cost-effective institutional restructuring and a benign program for supporting African governments in humanitarian as well as necessary security operations. In fact, it represents the institutionalization and increased funding for a model of bilateral military ties — a replay of the mistakes of the Cold War. This risks drawing the United States more deeply into conflicts, reinforcing links with repressive regimes, excusing human rights abuses, and frustrating rather than fostering sustainable multilateral peacemaking and peacekeeping. It will divert scarce budget resources, build resentment, and undercut the long-term interests of the United States.

While AFRICOM may be new, there’s already a track record for such policies in programs now incorporated into AFRICOM. That record shows little evidence that these policies contribute to U.S. or African security. To the contrary, there are substantial indications that they are in fact counterproductive, both increasing insecurity in Africa and energizing potential threats to U.S. interests.

There’s no one prescription for those countries now facing violent conflicts, much less for the wide range of issues faced by over 50 African countries. Africa’s serious problems, moreover, will not be solved from outside, either by the United States or by the “international community.”

Nevertheless, it’s important to ensure that U.S. Africa policy does no harm and that the United States makes a significant contribution to diminishing the real security threats on the continent. Once one recognizes that U.S. national security also depends on the human security of Africans, some essential elements of such a framework do become clear. To what extent they can be embodied into practice will depend not only on the internal deliberations of the new administration in Washington, but also on whether Africans working for peace and justice on the continent can themselves chart new directions and make their voices heard.

Africans working for peace and justice on the continent can only be heard if someone is listening. The US needs to listen to these groups, and find ways to include them in the conversation. Working towards democratic processes is needed everywhere. The US needs some work on democracy at home after the past eight years. It cannot be done with guns, or with structural adjustment programs. Without democratic oversight, capitalism is just organized crime.  Democratic oversight requires democratic participation of the people who live in a place.  The people on the ground throughout Africa must be able to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

Unless the US is willing to engage with other than its military, it is wasting its money, showing its weakness, and making it far more difficult to achieve its goals or increase its influence. As Obama said:

“… if our only interaction is military, then we may not be developing the connections that can, over time, increase our influence.”

Police violence following Kenya election, inset Ambassador Ranneberger

Police violence following Kenya election, inset Ambassador Ranneberger

The energetic continuation of Bush administration policies in East Africa and the Horn of Africa are damaging the United States. Though far less well known, these policies are as mishandled and misbegotten as the Iraq war, the handling of the Katrina disaster, and the global financial meltdown.

US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger bears much responsibility for the disasterous handling and direction of these policies. He actively undermined democracy in the Kenya elections a year ago. As a result Kenya is less democratic, and less safe and secure. Extra judicial murders are on the rise.

The New York Times finally wrote some of this up in A Chaotic Kenya Vote and a Secret U.S. Exit Poll. Much of this was reported at the time in a variety of places, you can read an account with links in this article, including the comment thread: The Coup in Kenya.

What the NYT article makes clear is that Ranneberger had determined Kibaki should win the election before the election occurred.

Heading the institute’s Kenya operations in 2007 was Mr. Flottman, on leave from his job as a senior counsel for a major defense contractor. … Mr. Flottman said he was surprised when, before the election, Mr. Ranneberger made public comments praising Mr. Kibaki and minimizing Kenyan corruption.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Flottman recalled, the ambassador was even more direct. A few months before the election, Mr. Ranneberger proposed releasing a voter survey showing Mr. Kibaki ahead and trying to block a roughly simultaneous one favoring Mr. Odinga, according to Mr. Flottman, who said he witnessed the episode during a meeting at the ambassador’s office. The suggestion was dropped, he said, after the embassy learned that the pro-Odinga results were already out.

“It was clear, in my opinion, that the ambassador was trying to influence the perceptions of the Kenyan electorate, and thus the campaign,” Mr. Flottman said.

Many of us watched the polling in Kenya and felt the soaring optimism that democracy might really be working. It was quite clear to any observer that the trend was strongly in favor of Mr. Odinga, and the polling was reasonably orderly and peaceful. As the ballots were being counted, President Kibaki and his cronies made a coup, seized control, and declared Kibaki the winner. Ambassador Ranneberger was quick to congratulate Kibaki on his win, although in the face of international opinion he had to retract this later. Then the US through Ambassador Ranneberger and Jendayi Frazer did its best to prevent completion of the vote count, and prevent a recount. Terrible violence followed the elections, and it was clear the security forces were responsible for a majority of the killings. Since it was clear and could not be denied that Odinga had won a lot of votes, the US pressed for a coalition government. That is not what Kenyans voted for. And now Kenyans say government failing them 1 year later.

During the Kenya election the IRI, was conducting an exit poll, which Mr. Flottman was supervising. Since the votes were not counted, Kenyans really wanted to see the results of the exit poll. but the results were supressed. From the NYT:

Under its contract, the institute was expected to consult with the Agency for International Development and the embassy before releasing the exit poll results, taking into account the poll’s technical quality and “other key diplomatic interests.”

Quality was not expected to be a concern. …

When the voting ended and ballot-counting began, Mr. Gibson and others involved in the exit poll said they expected its results to be announced soon.

But senior institute officials decided to withhold it. Most opposed to releasing the numbers, Mr. Flottman said, was Constance Berry Newman, … Mr. Flottman said Ms. Newman opposed “any kind of release from the outset — essentially suggesting it would be inflammatory and irresponsible.”

Ms. Newman, who had worked with Mr. Ranneberger when she was the Bush administration’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs, declined to comment.

Mr. Gibson said he told the institute that its technical concerns were baseless, to no avail. His contract barred him from publicly disclosing the polling data for six months, and in March of last year the institute asked him to sign a new contract that would have restricted him from speaking publicly about the institute’s polling program without written permission.

I think they were trying to shut me up,” he said. “I refused to sign it.”

In July, after his contract expired, Mr. Gibson and one of his doctoral students presented their analysis of the data at a seminar in Washington. A month later — one day before Mr. Gibson was to testify before Kenyan investigators — the institute announced that, after the outside review, it “now had confidence” in the poll and released the results.

When Mr. Kibaki claimed victory on Dec. 30, 2007, the State Department quickly congratulated him and called on Kenyans to accept the outcome, even though international observers had reported instances of serious ballot-counting fraud. American officials backed away from their endorsement the next day and ultimately pushed the deal that made Mr. Odinga prime minister.

After insisting for months that the poll was flawed, the institute released it last August — long past the point of diplomatic impact — after outside experts whom it had hired determined that it was valid. It showed Mr. Kibaki losing by about six percentage points.

Michael Ranneberger led an active fight against democracy in Kenya. But it is not just in Kenya. As his State Department bio says:

Michael E. Ranneberger is currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and is also responsible for U.S. relations with Somalia.

He has been ambassador to Kenya since mid 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union took control of Somalia. This brought the first functioning government Somalia had in 15 years. Under the ICU, piracy by Somalis stopped completely. Peace was restored, businesses sprang up, Somalis abroad returned home. But the US claimed that the Islamic government was allied with al Qaeda, even though many people knew, and a West Point study told them that:

“Al Qaeda found more adversity than success in Somalia,” states the report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. “In order to project power, al Qaeda needed to be able to promote its ideology, gain an operational safe haven, manipulate underlying conditions to secure popular support and have adequate financing for continued operations. It achieved none of these objectives.”

At the end of 2006, the US supported an invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, contrary to international law. The US helped install a (non) government by the hated Ethiopians allied with the hated Somali warlords, restoring civil war, exploitation, and insecurity to the Somali people. The US arranged with Kenya to rendition refugees of that disaster, who crossed the Kenya border, to be tortured in Ethiopia as “terrorists”. When asked about the US participation in the invasion, and killing Somalis, Ranneberger just ignores the truth and repeats lies:

Question [Dom]: Ever since the last attack by US to Somalia near Kenyan Border, which killed more than 20 innocent civilians. No word of apology has been spelled out yet. Was that not a mistake?

Answer [Ambassador Ranneberger]: I appreciate your question, because there has been a lot of rumors and misinformation, and I am happy to clarify what happened. No innocent civilians have been killed in U.S. attacks. U.S. efforts are solely directly against known terrorists.

This despite the fact that the US was:

running U.S. death squads in Somalia to “clean up” after covert operations. (The latter is no deep dark secret, by the way; officials openly boasted of it to Esquire Magazine.)

But Ambassador Ranneberger blithely continues to support the violent and corrupt TFG he helped install, and innacurately condemn the ICU government he helped overthrow:

Q [Abdalla]: … Somali people were able to say enough is enough and they established a government free from the warlords. The international community instead of forcing the warlords to accept the government it sided with the warlords and allowed the government to be dismantled and Ethiopia succeeded in establishing a client government led by warlords. Somali people again as usual and eager to have law and order they accepted the TFG with it is short comings and the past/present records of its members. The Warlords instead of working for their people they become dysfunctional and started harming the Somali people. Fortunately, in June 2006 the Somali people plus Islamic courts succeeded in getting rid the south-central part from the warlords. The only city they remained was in baidabo with the protection of their Ethiopian master. The international community blatantly ignored the presence of Ethiopian soldiers in a sovereign country. During the reign of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) the Somali people were able to forget the clan mentality and corrupt clan elders. For the first time the minority and un-armed Somali communities felt that they are part of the Somali society. They had a voice thanks to Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Sheikh Dahir aways who was able to control former militias.

Also, we Somalis in the Diaspora were able to invest in the country in my case I built a house for my mum and planned to visit her in January 2007. Unfortunately, the American justice is with us and our old enemy plus the warlord government is back to Mogadishu. America rewarded the warlords and punished the ICU who brought peace and tranquility to their people. …

All of these good things are destroyed now and we are back to 1991.

A [Ambassador Ranneberger]: I recognize that the Islamic Courts did manage to establish a degree of order in Mogadishu. However, the Islamic Courts never had broad support among the Somali people and, importantly, the Islamic Courts were moving in a very radical direction, which would not have been to the benefit of the Somali people. The Transitional Federal Institutions were developed, with the assistance of Kenya, as the legitimate representatives of the Somali people. With the ousting of the Courts, the TFG now has an opportunity to establish its credibility in order to become an effective, inclusive government. Our objective is to support this process.

I want to emphasize our commitment to an inclusive process that truly bring together all Somalis who reject violence and extremism. This is the only way forward for Somalis to achieve lasting stability and security. I believe that the Somali people are tired of the chaos and conflict that has plagued their country and want to participate in an inclusive political process. This will, in turn, lead to a smooth transition to an elected government in 2009.

You can not appeal to people who reject violence and extremism if you have just overthrown their government by violence and extremism. There is no path to “security and stability” that way. Overthrowing the Somili government with Ethiopian proxies meets no definition of the word inclusive. It works against any possibility for democracy.

Ranneberger is telling the Somalis that he knows better what is good for them than they do. Whatever else this is, it is NOT democracy. The TFG brought violence, exploitation, and insecurity. It has been beaten and discredited since then. The 2009 elections were held by a small group of Somalis in Djibouti, arranged by the US, and then called “representational”. They elected Sheikh Sharif, the handpicked choice of Ambassador Ranneberger. Sheikh Sharif has been “persuaded” by Ranneberger to become an ally of the United States. Sheikh Sharif is supposed to give a new face to the TFG, but so far, there is not much evidence he will be accepted, or that things will change for the better. Any solution to the governance or the piracy problems in Somalia must involve Somali communities. Ranneberger’s actions continue to actively harm any possibility for democratic processes or participation. Inviation only “elections” in Djibouti will not help Somalia.

As b real points out, Ranneberger:

… has had official capacity wrt sudan during the early part of this decade, possessing a cv that intertwines w/ a history of cia hotspots & covert arms transfers

  • country officer in angola (1981-84) while the u.s. was overtly supporting the “proto-terrorist” Unita
  • then constructively engaged as deputy chief of mission in mozambique from ’86-9 while the u.s. was covertly supporting the outright terrorist mvmt Renamo
  • then paraguay for the ’89 coup and on through 1992
  • then ’92-94 around el salvador & guatemala for who knows what
  • a brief stint as deputy chief of mission in mogadishu around ’94
  • then some work in haiti
  • then coordinator for cuban affairs (’95-99)
  • on to ambassador to mali from ’99-2002
  • in sudan from 2002-4 for a civil war while the u.s. supporting the south
  • then on to the african bureau
  • sudan again, as senior representative for sudan
  • and, since 2006, ambassador to kenya & responsibility for u.s. relations w/ somalia

One of the things that has distressed me for decades is how negative and counter productive US policy has been towards the developing world, particularly during the Cold War. This is not just in Africa, but in Asia and Latin America as well. Look at the ravages that military coups wrought on Latin America under the training and aegis of Southcom and US Cold War policy. Cheney, with Rumsfeld and Bush, has done his best to lock Cold War patterns and thinking into place, and to lock Bush’s successors into misguided and counter productive policies going forward, policies that ultimately hurt the United States. So far Obama has slipped right into that trap.

In an interview Mahmood Mamdani speaks about the:

way in which the Cold War almost seamlessly morphed into the war on terror.

We see that in action in the work of Ambassador Ranneberger. He opposed democracy when it was actually working. By doing so he hurt the United States by harming people in countries that would like to be our friends, by denying democracy, and by damaging trust, and the reputation and integrity of the United States.

ricemadagascar

Rice fields in Madagascar

Glenn Ashton of the The South African Civil Society Information Service has written a telling article about the new colonial land grabs in Africa titled Madagascar: the new land grab.

Just when colonialism was considered dead and buried, along comes neo-colonialism in its latest guise. Allied with its close relatives globalisation, free marketeering and lack of transparency, it is currently launching a new offensive on the disempowered population of this continent. …

Neo-colonialism is now garbed in new clothes. Powerful interests are presently seeking and gaining access to land in government-to-government deals as well as through private capital. These arrangements ostensibly offer to manage land that is not being economically utilised in order to improve food security. But for whom? …

The global food security focussed NGO, GRAIN, issued a report on this phenomenon in October 2008, where they cited more than 100 examples of this new neo-colonial land grab. These land grabs are primarily by nations that have insufficient natural capital or space – such as the desert-bound nations of the Middle East and overpopulated nations such as China and South Korea. They seek to improve the food security of those nations while undermining the ability of host nations to access similar benefits, through the alienation of prime agricultural land. The ecological impacts can also be significant.

Since the GRAIN report was published, the land grab has continued apace. The recent acquisition of a reported 1.3 million hectares (ha) of land in Madagascar by the South Korean company Daewoo Logistics Corporation on 99-year lease has raised eyebrows around the world. This land represents around half of that island nation’s arable land.

In Madagascar a reported 70% of the population suffer from food shortages and malnutrition. Nearly 4% are fed through aid programmes. Besides this, more than 50% of the population is below the age of 18. What hope is there for local youth when South African farmers are reportedly being recruited to run the highly mechanised and automated farms under the Daewoo lease? …

China is also actively seeking new land. Given its massive population and constrained access to farmland, China has moved aggressively into Africa with land interests in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon and Tanzania. …

Even the World Bank is continuing its role as a neo-colonial consensus agent by actively pursuing and financing access to ‘under-utilised land’ around the world through its International Finance Corporation.

Of course much of the land is “under-utilised” because African countries were following World Bank recommendations and requirements. Malawi used to provide free seeds and fertilizer to its farmers.

The results were impressive, but the subsidies ran afoul of the pro-market policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which argued that subsidies were “crowding out” commercial sales and constituted undue government interference in the economy. Under considerable pressure from these financing institutions, the programme was phased out. The IMF also insisted that Malawi sell much of its national grain reserve to pay off the debts of the state-owned maize marketing agency.

Most Malawian farmers, however, were too poor to pay commercial rates for fertilizer and seeds. As a result, maize yields plunged. When drought struck in 2001 neither farmers nor the government had adequate grain stores to see them through, and more than a thousand people are estimated to have died. Then after the failed 2005 harvest left 5 million of Malawi’s 13 million people on the brink of starvation, the newly elected government of President Mutharika defied the donors and launched the subsidy scheme with its own funds.

Without the seeds and fertilizer, the land was “under-utilized.” People starved because they could not farm. This has been World Bank and IMF policy throughout Africa. As Ashton points out:

… international finance instruments run by the then G5 (now expanded to the G8), such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund used aid and so-called development finance instruments to further their interests.

It has been established by repeated research over decades that the smaller the farm the greater the yield. For more information read the article Small is Bountiful, and check the references listed at the end. There are economies of scale with big agriculture. Big agriculture allows the proceeds to be concentrated among a few people unrelated to the people actually living on the land. It is generally harmful to the land, due to the use of toxic chemicals needed to sustain monocultures, and due to unsafe genetic engineering. It is harmful to the people who live in its vicinity, depriving them of their livilihood and damaging their health.

Ashton continues:

Perhaps more sinister is the recent news of leasehold rights being acquired for approximately 400,000 hectares of land in the Southern Sudan from the family of former warlord Gabriel Matip. In a deal struck by US financier Philippe Heilberg, who has used a British Virgin Islands subsidiary of his Jarch Group to facilitate the deal, private interests have intervened directly in disputed territories. Co-directors of the group reportedly include ex-CIA operatives. Given the ongoing instability in that nation and the forced eviction of millions in the neighbouring Darfur region, this sort of land acquisition is perhaps a harbinger of an unsavoury trend in who gets to control the land in disputed territories.

I wrote about this in an earlier post: Jarch Colonial Holdings, and quote Heilberg: “You have to go to the guns, this is Africa”. His intentions are clear. The Jarch management contains people with connections to both the current and the previous US administrations. You can see their management listed on the Jarch LLC website.

Ashton concludes:

Activities to increase agricultural growth in Africa have also been severely compromised by questionable alliances. For instance AGRA, the African Union endorsed ‘Association for a Green Revolution in Africa,’ has seen the undemocratic and unsolicited intervention of supposedly neutral funders such as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The relationship between these funders and pro-genetically modified food interests (in what is now termed bio-colonialism) has served to actively undermine local agricultural collectives, NGOs and projects that aim to promote and share proven solutions to food insecurity and malnutrition.

This is perhaps the most dangerous manifestation of neo-colonialism as it operates behind a veil of philanthropy while (wittingly or unwittingly) undermining democratic structures and interests. The obscene profits accrued by capital over recent decades, instead of being taxed and distributed by state organs, are now in the hands of ill-informed and often ideologically biased do-gooders. For instance, given the technocratic origins of the Gates fortune, it is logical that undue emphasis will be placed on similar technocratic agricultural solutions.

These ‘solutions’ are imposed through slick public relations and the support of corporate aligned agri-business interests such as Africa-Bio and A New Harvest, both of which are linked to GM corporations such as Monsanto, the worlds biggest seed company and genetically modified seed distributor.

There is an urgent need to examine these new neo-colonial thrusts. Careful and objective analysis must be undertaken as to how food and land sovereignty is being compromised through naïve interaction with the new global powers of finance and trade. The interests of global capital need to be tempered by intervention and through more pragmatic approaches that take account of the historical relationships between land, community, food security and economic development.

It is ironic that while Africans have fought to cast aside colonial oppression and its concomitant heritage, we have instead opened gates (pun intended) to a new wave of colonial interests that threaten, yet again, to bypass the marginalised whilst enriching a well-connected minority.

It would be tragic to cast aside Africa’s recently won freedom for a yoke of a different design.

Under democratic governance the people who live on the land would determine how their land is used. As Vandana Shiva writes:

In a democracy, the economic agenda is the political agenda.

The US claims to support and foster democracy. This is a test. In fact, it is probably THE test. Without food, none of us survive.

Added January 31:

From the GRAIN website:

THERE ARE FOUR MAIN PARTS TO THIS LAND GRAB BRIEFING:

1. A summary and announcement – available online here:
http://www.grain.org/nfg/?id=610

2. The full report is available here:
http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212
Also available in PDF format:
http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212&pdf

3. The Annex to this briefing is a table with over 100 cases of land grabbing for offshore food production as presented in this report. It is available in a separate PDF file:
http://www.grain.org/briefings_files/landgrab-2008-en-annex .pdf

4. GRAIN has released a Google Notebook with full-text news clippings collected during the research for this briefing as a support to those who want to read more.
http://tinyurl.com/landgrab2008

The notebook is only available online, and the news clippings are not in any order, but it can easily be searched. We are doing this because this is not always an easy subject to research on the internet, if you want a broad picture. People may add further clippings to the notebook as they wish, to further build this collective resource – if you would like to participate, please send an email to landgrab@grain.org . GRAIN will not be maintaining nor be responsible for it. Most of the articles are at present in English. (A backup copy is available in PDF format from here: http://www.grain.org/m/?id=209 )

JonesKagame2005

Retired US Marine is to be Obama’s new National Security Advisor. As Rick Rozoff records:

“Jones is expected to play a key role in the Obama administration. According to U.S. press reports, he will be as strong as Henry Kissinger, the all-powerful national security adviser to President Richard Nixon.”

Under Bush:

Jones was appointed to the NATO post of Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) and the overlapping, essentially co-terminous one of Commander, United States European Command (COMUSEUCOM) in the first Bush term and is part of the two-thirds of the Obama administration’s foreign policy triumvirate – National Security Adviser, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense – inherited from the preceding administration.

During his tenure Jones has not been reticent about his intentions:

Jones has been president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy. Until his Dec. 1 selection by Obama, he also served as a board member of the Chevron Corp.” (Houston Chronicle, December 25, 2008)

Establishing such a group [military task force in West Africa] could also send a message to U.S. companies ‘that investing in many parts of Africa is a good idea,’ the general said.” [U.S. Department of Defense, August 18, 2006)

And, just as candidly, he and his NATO civilian cohort declared:
“NATOs’ executives are ready to use warships to ensure the security of offshore oil and gas transportation routes from Western Africa, reportedly said Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO’s Secretary General, speaking at the session of foreign committee of PACE [Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe]. “On April 30 General James Jones, commander-in-chief of NATO in Europe, reportedly said NATO was going to draw up the plan for ensuring security of oil and gas industry facilities. “In this respect the block is willing to ensure security in unstable regions where oil and gas are produced and transported.” (Trend News Agency, May 3, 2006)

Note that while speaking to those he assumes to be interested and complicit parties, Jones is quite candid in moving his finger across the map of the world and indicating precisely where the Pentagon’s – not the State Department’s, say, or the US Department of Energy’s – priorities lie.

In 2006 Afriquechos reported (machine translation):

Interviewed in his headquarters in Stuttgart in Germany by the “Wall Street Journal”, the boss of the European command of the U.S. Army, General James Jones (photo-against), is categorical. For three years, 70% of his time and all that of his deputy, General Chuck Wald, is devoted to Africa. With three obsessions in mind: radical Islam, energy security and the growing influence of China on the continent. The fact that all three are gathered around the Chadian crisis clearly explains the keen interest shown by American diplomats and military to the latest developments of the situation in N’Djamena.

Jones interest in Africa was reported in the Ghanaian news Insight in 2006, from GhanaWeb:

Marine General James L. Jones, Head of the US European Command, who made the disclosure said the Pentagon was seeking to acquire access to two kinds of bases in Senegal, Ghana, Mali and Kenya and other African Countries.

The new US strategy based on the conclusions of May 2001 report of the President�s National Energy Policy Development group chaired by Vice President Richard Cheney and known as the Cheney report. …

In its efforts to promote greater diversity in oil supplies, the Bush Administration is focusing its attention on six African countries, Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, Congo Brazzaville, Chad and Equatorial Guinea. …

The major risks associated with hosting US military installation include terrorist attacks, the destruction of national culture and more direct US control over the lives of the host people

The picture above, of Jones with with Rwanda’s President Kagame is from this 2005 article about military cooperation between the US and Rwanda.

I just heard Hilary Clinton, as Secretary of State (MSNBC Thursday January 22) talking about bringing the 3 Ds, Defense, Diplomacy, and Development. She was followed on the broadcast by a clip of Vice President Biden also speaking about the 3 Ds, but emphsizing the diplomacy and development angle. The 3 Ds have been touted numerous times by spokepersons for AFRICOM. It will be easy to tell what they mean by this. Look at the budget. Where is the money being appropriated and how is it being spent?

And for anyone who knows African history, 3 Ds sounds like a cynically mocking reference to the 19th century 3 Cs, in which Europe was going to bring Africa Commerce, Christianity, and Civilization. We all know how well that worked for Africa. If you need a refresher see Scramble for Africa, or King Leopold’s Ghost, a saga whose murderous ramifications continue to this day. And if you want to see exactly what 3 Cs, now 3 Ds are doing today, Click here to view the 8 minute video Curse of the Black Gold.  Or read the book Curse of the Black Gold, and look at the pictures.  Considering what happened with the 3 Cs, I am continually surprised to hear US spokespersons speaking as though the 3 Ds are anything other than an insult. As Omotaylor at the AfricanLoft said, upon hearing of the 3 Ds: “I see the 3 Fs in their endeavour, – Foolery, Fallacy and Failure.”

With two of Obama’s three major foreign policy positions going to people who were architects of AFRICOM under Bush, Gates as Secretary of Defense, and Jones as a powerful National Security Advisor, it does not look like there will be much of a change in approach. When it comes to US military designs on the continent of Africa, creating proxy wars, manipulating governments, and recolonizing the people who live there are likely to continue. This will be done for the sake of US resource hegemony. I think Clinton is tough, but I don’t know if her focus and interest are all that different from Jones and Gates. I truly hope I am wrong in all this, that Obama has better intentions.  I’ll continue to watch the evidence.

Barack Hussein Obama sworn in as President of the US, Lincoln Bible held by Mrs. Obama

Barack Hussein Obama sworn in as President of the US on the Lincoln Bible held by Mrs. Obama

Some excerpts from his Inaugural Address that I thought relevant to topics covered in this blog.  The entire speech was eloquent and  resonant.  (full text here)

Those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

… a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

And so to all the other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

… our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

mills-sworn-in

In a triumph for Ghana, and for African democracy, power successfully changed hands in the election, and the new President, John Atta Mills was sworn in today, January 7, 2009.

You can view more pictures in this photo report.

And read the biographical profiles of both President Mills and his Vice President, John Drahami Mahama.

ghanaregions

Political regions of Ghana

January 3 update:
Mills declared winner of presidential run-off elections.

The EC has declared Prof John Atta Mills (NDC) as the winner of the 2008 Presidential run-off elections.

The President-elect won with 50.23 % (4,521,032) of the votes. Nana Akufo-Addo (NPP) got a total of 4,480,446 votes, representing 49.77 % of the valid votes. The total turnout of the run-off elections was 77.91 %.

UPDATE:

From MyJoyOnline:

The Electoral Commission Chairman, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan will declare the winner of the 2008 presidential run-off tomorrow at 11 a.m. [GMT] … The opposition NDC is expected to garner enough votes in Friday’s vote in Tain to consolidate its lead and eventually win the race.

NPP withdraws legal suits. The New Patriotic Party has withdrawn all legal suits from the courts relating to the 2008 presidential elections.

Dan Botwe a member of the Nana Akufo-Addo campaign team says the New Patriotic Party (NPP) will not do anything to undermine the country’s fledging democracy.

Afari-Gyan declares results on Saturday 11 a.m. [GMT]

The Electoral Commission Chairman, Dr. Kwadwo Afari-Gyan will declare the winner of the 2008 presidential run-off tomorrow at 11 a.m. This follows a successful conduct of the elections in the Tain Constituency on Friday, January 2, 2009.

The Tain Constituency held the key after close presidential race between the NPP’s Nana Akufo-Addo and the NDC’s Prof. Atta Mills.

The poll was so close the difference between the two candidates after last Sunday’s run-off was only 23,055 votes.

This knife-edge result made it impossible to declare a winner without the Tain results because the votes in the constituency could determine who actually wins the race.

A tiny little constituency which could not vote because of late arrival of election material became the battleground.

Although the ruling NPP pulled out of the election a day before the poll, that does not invalidate the process.

Provisional Results on Prez run-off elections from 131 out of 144 Tain constituency:NPP-1803 (9.01%), NDC-18208 (90.99%) from ghanaelections.

in fact, it is on par with, if not surpassing, elections that i’ve seen and participated in in the U.S. … everything I’ve seen today has been nothing short of textbook election procedure, from grantdobbe

The West African Elections project, African Elections Project Ghana, is aimed at developing the capacity of the media in ICTs in order for them to use it as a tool for election coverage and the provision of elections information and knowledge for planned elections in Ghana, Cote d ‘lvoire, and Guinea from 2008 to 2009. I hope this tool is continued and expanded. There is good background information there. There is also still much to add.

In the December 28th runoff Tain did not receive the election materials in time to conduct the runoff properly on that day. When the certified votes were tallied for the rest of the country, Mills got 50.31% of the vote, and Akufo-Addo 49.69%. The Electoral Commission decided this was too close to call without having results from Tain. So Tain is holding its runoff today. In the December 7th election the NDC got a majority of seats in the National Assembly.

Two Twitter streams from Tain today are quite informative, grantdobbe and ghanaelections.

The NPP is boycotting the Tain runoff, at least to some extent. A VoA article by Peter Clottey had this:

[T]he ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) failed in its bid to legally restrain the electoral commission from declaring the winner of Friday’s special election and subsequently the next president of Ghana. The NPP also served notice to the electoral commission that it would not be participating in the Tain Constituency election, citing security concerns, which it claimed would significantly undermine the transparency of the election. … Bernard Morna is a leading member of the opposition People’s National Convention. … He tells reporter Peter Clottey that by citing security concerns, the ruling NPP was acting irresponsible.

“I can tell you that the security acted so professional to my amazement that all of us were asked to come down from our vehicles, including the former President (Jerry Rawlings). The vehicles were searched thoroughly and we were personally searched so as to ensure that nobody went into Tain with any weaponry or with ballot papers,” Morna noted.

“Indeed at the point of our entry (into Tain), we saw the former general secretary of the NPP whose car was searched and at that point we noticed that thumb printed ballot papers for Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufu-Addo the NPP flag bearer were found and they were taken out. And we are also informed that when the current president got to Wenchi (in the Brong Ahafo region), the Wenchi chief told him that the people of Tain were going to vote overwhelmingly for the NDC. And so the president should go back to Accra to prepare to hand over power to an NDC elected president. So, I am also encouraged by the professional manner the security agents are conducting themselves,” he said.

Morna described as irresponsible claims by NPP partisans of security intimidation.

“I hold that to be a very preposterous and strange position coming from a party and a government. The ruling party that controls the security of this nation turns around to say the security if the nation is bad then that should be the reason for which the people should vote them out because they have shown gross incompetence and gross incapability of managing the security of the nation that you can’t even assure the people of Ghana that the security of something they can rely on,” Morna pointed out.

And most sad is the appalling violence that was perpetrated in a number of places during the original runoff on December 28th and in the December 7th election. I have heard some about this in conversations back home. We have been lucky and so far my family has mostly remained safe. Koranteng has not been so lucky. His uncle, a man we need in Ghana, suffered a severe beating when he went to monitor the polls according to election protocols. Koranteng writes:

Let’s start with this: they almost killed my uncle.

I really can’t write much more than that. When I look at what was done to him, when I look at the pictures, there really isn’t much more that can be said: they tried to kill my uncle, they almost killed my uncle.

The threat had been raised in 2000 and 2004 that “There will be blood on the ground”. There was certainly violence and intimidation back then but we have seen things this time in 2008 and now 2009 that are chillingly close to what transpired in places that no one should ever emulate, in countries that people use as cautionary tales.

The cynical people who incited, who fomented, who organized the political violence are as much to blame as those who attacked, who beat, who kicked, who threw stones, who threw planks, who sprayed acid and sundry powders, who held people hostage until they signed, who chased people off, who surrounded cars that arrived in their villages and towns, who shook cars, who spat, who came with cudgels and cutlasses, who threatened to burn down our family home and many others, who stole watches from bleeding men, who searched for cement blocks to take take lives, who heeded the call to slaughter the strangers in their midst.

I have written about my uncle before in these pages, noting that he was one of three psychiatrists tending to the mental health of 20 million Ghanaians. These days he might well be the only psychiatrist in Ghana since almost everyone who trains in his discipline seems to leave the country. My favourite uncle, I don’t know a gentler man.

My prayers go out to Koranteng, his uncle, and all his family. And I pray also for the many others who suffered while trying to exercise their constitutional rights as citizens of Ghana.
_____ end update _____

Today the Tain constituency in the Brong-Ahafo Region will hold a runoff election to determine the final result of the Ghana presidential election. Tain is located to the west, near the border with Ivory Coast. With luck and the grace of God, this will provide a final, legal, and constitutional conclusion to the electoral process and the next president of Ghana may be inaugurated.

After the Dec. 28th runoff, the vote was very close. All but 4 constituencies reported and certified results. Then 3 of those last 4 came in. Only Tain was left.  The totals for the runoff were so close that it was determined that there should be a final runoff for the Tain constituency that will determine the winner for the country. Tain is generally considered NDC territory, and likely to go for John Atta Mills.

The December 28 runoff was very close. There were reports of ballot boxes stolen, others that were stuffed, plus violence and intimidation of voters, voting officials, and party observers. The most irregularities seem to be in the Ashanti region, stronghold of the current ruling party, the NPP, whose candidate is Nana Akufo-Addo. There was also a fair amount of irregularity in the Volta region which is the stronghold of the NDC, whose candidate is John Atta Mills. If you do not count either of those two regions, the vote total goes to Mills.

In the Ashanti region on the December 28th runoff there was a mysterious upsurge in the numbers of people voting. In just 4 voting discricts in Kumasi in the Ashanti region, a total of 64,149 more voters voted on December 28th than on December 7th. And equally mysteriously, they all voted for Akufo-Addo. To anyone who watches politics anywhere, these figures are obviously fishy.

There have been a number of tapes made of conversations among NPP plotters planning to steal the election. The biggest scandal broke just before the runoff.

As I understand it, all indications are that this is a genuine recording of the actual conversation, despite denials:

Another tape scandal has hit the country with some leading members of the NPP alleged to have hatched a plan to rig Sunday’s run-off, and was played on Radio Gold FM.

The tape which was given prominence by Raymond Arher, Editor of the Enquirer Newspaper, and first aired on Radio Gold an Accra based Radio Station, implicates former mayor of Kumasi Maxwell Kofi Jumah, NPP campaign Chairman, Jake Obetsebi-Lamptey, and Mr Hackman Owusu Agyeman for allegedly meeting an anonymous man to hatch the plan to rig Sunday’s polls.

According to excerpts of the tape which was later aired on JoyFM on Saturday, a voice purported to be that of Kofi “Ghana” Jumah promised the anonymous man and 40 others an amount of 60 million cedis if they are able to steal ballot boxes in some regions across the country

As journalist Kofi Thompson wrote on his blog:

The tapes formed the main topic of conversation on “Election Forensics” – the radio programme hosted by the brilliant Raymond Archer and produced by that intrepid news-hound Roland Acquah-Stevens. Ghanaian democracy owes Radio Gold FM a huge debt of gratitude for putting the outrageous election-rigging activities of Maxwell Kofi Jumah into the public domain.

No one who listens to those tapes will fail to be offended by the utter contempt for ordinary Ghanaians and the unprincipled manipulation of our institutions of state, displayed and engaged in, by the current Establishment, which the Maxwell Kofi Jumah tapes illustrate so perfectly.

Personally, they remind one of similar conversations by some of Mr. Maxwell Kofi Jumah’s political forebears (who also had a similar contempt for ordinary people and for democracy), which one overhead at home as a precocious 13 year-old boy – who had a keen interest in current affairs: even at that age during the immediate post-Nkrumah years.

My loathing for politicians of Mr. Kofi Jumah’s ilk stems directly from that period of my life: when I often overhead after-dinner conversations, telephone conversations and read secret cabinet files of that era. The shocking tribal-supremacist utterances of some of the figures of history from that particular period of our history, whom one encountered at our home from time to time, were a huge disappointment to even a small boy that young then.

Clearly, the minority of powerful tribal-supremacists who have hijacked and dominated the New Patriotic Party (NPP) since the party came to power in January 2001, are determined to hang on to power at all costs – regardless of what the verdict of the people of Ghana in the presidential run-off.

Although he also writes of:

… the sense of fair play that is an inherent part of the character of ordinary Asantes: many of whom were appalled by the monstrous and abominable actions of the NPP activists throughout the Ashanti Region.

The Jumah tape is not the only tape. Another tape made it on the radio about a plot to kill former President Rawlings, who has been traveling the country campaigning vigorously for Mills and the NDC. It was released to the radio by the man supposedly hired to do the killing.

There have been other tapes and accusations as well. Apparently some disgruntled NPP members have recorded and released recordings of NPP political plotting. Some of these NPP members are angry because they have not gotten what they view as their share of the spoils. And some because they may be offended by some of the anti democratic practices.

The NPP has long accused the NDC of being the coup plotting party because of President Rawlings, and the coups he made earlier in his history. But Rawlings served two terms, and performed according to the constitution, stepping down when Kufuor was elected.

However NPP actions during this election season seem designed to prevent democracy from functioning and to maintain political power.

When Rawlings was President he did a lot to bring roads, electricity, and schools throughout Ghana. Many areas such as Tain benefited. During the 8 years the NPP has ruled, almost nothing has been done, particularly in the rural areas. In some places cocoa is rotting because people can’t get it to market, and this while the international price of cocoa is rising. There have been lots of NPP government promises but no follow through. People remember this at election time. Plus there is a lot of anger about trade and other agricultural policies that have hurt Ghanaians. The professional drivers, taxi and others, are strongly for NDC. They are angry about recent creation of a special traffic court and ask, if there is a special court that fines them and puts them in jail, why are there not special courts for armed robbery and cocaine, both of which plague Ghanaians.

The NPP even made an attempt to change already certified results:

One Kennedy Agyepong, a an NPP MP, appeared at the Electoral Commission’s strong room this. By the time he left, one EC official was attempting to change certified Ashanti Region voter figures; figures which had been certified and reported late last night. And when NDC monitoring officials questioned what the official was doing, he responded that the new figures were corrected ones from Ashanti Region; figures not certified by EC personnel at the district level and figures carried into EC headquarters by an NPP MP. And the new figures were all significantly higher than the previously certified ones that were reported to the public earlier.

The NPP has made legal attempts to block the Tain runoff. To date I understand they have been denied. There were many rumblings of violence during the week, but a lot of people were working to try and cool things down. People from a number of countries were warning if the Ghana elections go seriously wrong, the effects will ripple across the whole continent.

There was talk of a power sharing agreement for awhile. I think it was a widely unpopular (and undemocratic) notion. For now at least, that seems to have been dropped.

To follow what is happening, here are some links:

Ghana election news

Ghana latest news

Ghana headline news

December 28 results

December 7 results

Say It Loud – an unmoderated, heated, exuberantly opinionated, sometimes revealing and informative Ghanaian discussion of everything touching Ghanaian life (you need a thick skin and cool head to play on this field)

Ghana Politics – Kofi Thompson’s blog, passionate, opinionated and well informed

There is an American Peace Corp volunteer who happens to be in Tain, blogging live to the world from Tain.
See: http://twitter.com/grantdobbe

ghanaelections on Twitter

Ghana textiles

Ghana textiles

Runoff election results here

Today is election day in Ghana. This is the final runoff election for president. I spoke briefly to people back home. I heard a lot of anger about electoral cheating, stuffing ballot boxes, ballot boxes stolen, voter intimidation, and other dirty tricks. I can’t really tell how bad it is, as tempers are running high. It sounds very like what has been going on in US elections, particularly the presidential elections in the last 9 years. I am praying that the person who actually gets the most votes is declared the winner, and that all the votes are counted. I heard the security forces voted early so they will be available to work on election day, and that they were subjected to voter intimidation. Many government workers are unhappy because they have not been paid, in some cases for several months.

The current Ghana government has treated Ghana very much like the current US government has treated the US. It has been asset stripping the country, selling out Ghana and shipping jobs and resources overseas. It has undermined Ghanaian agricuture, encouraging agricultural dumping by the EU, and some from the US as well.

The latest incident that angered me was this blow to the textile workers:

Floodgates opened to foreign textiles
The speed with which the government has temporarily lifted the ban on imported textile has drawn the expected reaction from the category of Ghanaian workers who would be hardest hit.
… the decision was taken in total disregard to the survival of the local textile industry.

Even before the lifting of the ban, smugglers had outwitted the security agencies at the entry points and got their cheap imports into the country. The sight of Nigeriens and other non-Ghanaians selling foreign textiles on the streets of Accra, Kumasi and Takoradi etc is common. In their place are the numerous Ghanaian textiles workers who have lost their jobs due to the closure of textile factories or the reduction in production capacity by the few factories struggling to stay in business.

A report in 2003 by the Revenue Agencies Governing Board titled “Practical Measures to Combat the Menace of Under Invoicing and Smuggling into Ghana” pointed out that the “local production of textile which peaked at 130 million metres per annum in the 1970s has dropped to under 39 million metres per annum currently; and the labour force in the industry consequently reduced from 25, 000 in the 1970s to under 3,000 as of now.”

The report identified under invoicing in import duties, laxity in the performance of valuation and monitoring functions of the destination inspection agencies etc as some of the acts hampering the growth of the local textile industries. The report further pointed out that as a result of under invoicing there are rampant contraband goods dumped on the market. “This kills competition and also does not give any protection to the infant manufacturing sector because the smuggled goods sell cheaper than the locally produced goods.”

TGLEU wonders if anything has changed regarding local production to warrant the lifting of the ban on cheap foreign imports. ‘Since the reasons for Government’s action was not stated, the NEC considers the timing of the lifting of the ban as politically motivated aimed at influencing the votes of the electorate.”

These jobs are going to China. Ghana needs these jobs.

I was most discouraged in 2007 when I heard that the textiles for the Ghana@50 celebrations were ordered from China. If there was ever a time to show national pride by displaying national talents and products, that was it. That was the time to showcase the country and the people and the work they produce.

As I’ve watched the governments of both the US and Ghana over the past 8 years, I have been struck by the similarities, particularly by the rapacious exploitation and contempt with which the governing elites treat the vast majority of the citizens they govern.

The US has given itself a new chance. I hope Ghana gets the same opportunity.

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