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 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.

Barclays off-shore banking will bring more of this to Ghana

Barclays offshore banking will bring more slums like this to Ghana

In a move guaranteed to increase poverty and crime throughout Ghana and West Africa, Barclays Bank, at the 2005 invitation of former President Kufuor, is setting up off shore banking in Ghana. Other big banks are waiting to join in the tax haven business in Ghana following Barclays lead.

Barclays bank is playing a lead role in the establishment of a tax haven in Ghana, in a move that could see huge mineral wealth in west Africa vanish into it from poverty-stricken countries’ coffers, the Observer can reveal.

The controversial British lender has for the last four years worked closely with the Ghanian government to start an International Financial Services Centre offering low taxes and minimal financial disclosure.

Development charities fear that the establishment of a fully operating tax haven so close to oil- and mineral-rich countries such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea will encourage a rapid increase in tax and capital flight.

There is also concern that cocaine barons, increasingly using west Africa as a trafficking route into Europe, could launder drug money through Ghana.

Oil-producing nations are plagued by corruption and drug trafficking and the creation of this international financial services centre will make this worse – not better.”

This move was initiated in 2005 by former President Kufuor. In light of what we now know about the theiving and raids on the treasury by himself and his cronies, it looks like they were planning ahead to hide stolen assets from the people of Ghana. We know Kufuor initiated this move from an article on GhanaWeb in 2005, when the offshore banking plans got underway:

Barclays Bank to assist Ghana establish off-shore banking
2005 Accra, March 30, GNA
Barclays Bank Plc is to assist the Government to establish off-shore banking in Ghana, Mr David Roberts, Executive Director of the Board of Directors of Barclays Plc and Barclays Bank Plc, said on Wednesday.

“We have to make the necessary arrangements to make off-shore banking operational in Ghana,” he said in reaction to an appeal by President John Agyekum Kufuor that the Bank cooperated with the Government to establish offshore banking.

President Kufuor made the appeal when a delegation of the Bank’s Directors attending the first International Executive Committee Meeting outside Europe in Accra, paid a courtesy call on him at the Castle, Osu.

The discovery of oil in Ghana was not announced until June 2007. But by 2005 they knew it was in the works. The Cape Three Points Deep Petroleum Agreement was signed in 2002, and potential oil fields mapped, also in 2002. So it seems likely Kufuor and his NPP cronies were planning for the influx of oil cash, and a place to stash and hide the money conveniently close to home. Even without oil, their misappropriation of government assets is impressive. There are many examples documented on GhanaWeb, such as Massive looting at Ministries, especially since the change in government has brought a bit more transparency. Financial transparency is what every watchdog group says is needed in the African oil and resource business. Financial transparency is what off shore banking is designed to eliminate.

Barclays Bank has been repeatedly implicated in illegal and unethical banking operations. In March the Guardian published a number of internal memos from Barclays, from WikiLeaks:

The documents are copies of alleged internal memos from within Barclays Bank. They were sent by an anonymous whistleblower to Vince Cable, Liberal-Democrat shadow chancellor. The documents reveal a number of elaborate international tax avoidance schemes by the SCM (Structured Capital Markets) division of Barclays.

According to these documents, Barclays has been systematically assisting clients to avoid huge amounts of tax they should be liable for across multiple jurisdictions.

A commentator to the Financial Times stated:

I was lucky enough to read through the first of the Barclays documents…

I will say it was absolutely breathtaking, extraordinary. The depth of deceit, connivance and deliberate, artificial avoidance stunned me. The intricacy and artificiality of the scheme deeply was absolutely evident, as was the fact that the knew exactly what they were doing and why: to get money from one point in London to another without paying tax, via about 10 offshore companies. Simple, deliberate outcome, clearly stated, with the exact names of who was doing this, and no other purpose.

Until now I have been a supporter of the finance industry – I work with people there regularly and respect many of them, and greatly enjoy the Financial Times and other financial papers. However this has shone a light on something for me, and made me certain that these people belong in jail, and companies like Barclays deserve to be bankrupt. They have robbed everyone of us, every single person who pays tax or who will ever pay tax in this country (and other countries!)

If Barclays can get away with this in the UK, with UK laws and enforcement, how much more can they get away with in Ghana, where the current legal and enforcement communities have a much shorter history, and are grossly underpaid.

Barclays have also been implicated in corrupt associations and illegal dealings with Equatorial Guinea, and along with other banks in Angola. From the BBC:

The same lax regulation that created the credit crunch has let some of the world’s biggest banks facilitate the looting of natural resource wealth from poor countries.

I have quoted Nicholas Shaxson in previous posts, but what he says regarding the movement of money is right on the mark:

There are basically three forms of dirty money. One is criminal money: from drug dealing, say, or slave trading or terrorism. The next is corrupt money, like the fromer Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha’s looted oil billions. The third form, commercial money – what our finest companies and richest individuals hide from our tax collectors – is bigger. The point – and this is crucial – is that these three forms of dirty money use exactly the same mechanisms and subterfuges: tax havens, shell banks, shielded trusts, anonymous foundations, dummy corporations, mispricing schemes, and the like, all administered by a “pinstripe infrastructure” of mainstream banks, lawyers, and accountants.
. . .
In this parallel secret universe the world’s biggest and richest individuals and firms, News Corporation, Citigroup, and, yes, ExxonMobil – can quite legally cut themselves loose from pesky full taxation and grow explosively, leaving smaller competitors, who pay their full dues along with the rest of us, choking in their dust. This undermines the very notion of capitalism: the big companies’ advantage has nothing to do with the quality or price of what they produce. If you are worried about the power of big global corporations, don’t always attack them directly, but attack bank secrecy instead. This is the clever way to take on the big fish, using a net that would also snag the Sani Abachas, the Mobutus, the North Koreas, the terrorists, and the drug lords.
(Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil, by Nicholas Shaxson, p.225&227, ISBN 978-1403971944)

In 2007 Kufuor and Barclays raved on about what a wonderful opportunity offshore banking would be for Ghana:

President Kufuor said … the Government was fully aware of the numerous challenges and difficulties inherent in the operation of the facility and gave the assurance that the necessary safeguards had been put in place to stave off abuses.

Legal and administrative measures, he said, had been enacted to provide the needed checks and balances within the economy in particular and society in general.

“These measures should promote best practices in service delivery. More importantly, they should affirm the good faith and determination of the entire society to make Ghana a safe, secure and peaceful environment for investment.”

President Kufuor, through whose initiative the offshore banking had become a reality, said It must help to transform the financial system for accelerated socio-economic development.

He said last year, 658 billion dollars was transferred from developing countries to the developed countries, noting that if about half of this had been lodged in such a facility in Africa, the pace of development of the Continent would have been tremendously enhanced.

If that money had gone into offshore facilities in or near the developing countries, it would have made no difference. The reason for offshore banking is to evade the checks, balances, and safety measures. In fact, offshore banking will allow and promote the legal and illegal theft of money from Ghana, and is designed to do just that. Corporate money, drug money, stolen money, money from arms deals, money from illegal bunkering and corrupt politicians, all disappear offshore. Barclays and other big banks take money out of the reach of the countries those assets came from, and out of the reach of the governments and the citizens they are supposed to serve. I doubt Kufuor’s lavish praise for offshore banking was due to naivité. He was planning to be one of those advantaged by the bank at the expense of his own country. It is not for nothing he is known as Thiefuor to many of his countrymen.

Aside from those few who become very rich indeed, oil, and other extractive resources can make a country much poorer. The phenomenon is described in this article in Foreign Policy:

Collier’s model shows that producers of oil, timber, and minerals would on average see their gross domestic products rise by 10 percent in the first seven years, only to have them crash two decades later to only 75 percent of where they started. Sudden cash flows in unprepared countries, he says, lead to unsustainable public consumption, rising inflation, soaring inequality, trade protectionism, and a real danger of civil war.

As Shaxson points out:

People often put the problem like this: oil money would be a blessing but politicians steal it, so people don’t see the benefits. But it’s much worse: the oil wealth not only doesn’t reach ordinary people, but it actively makes them poorer.

Barclays and other big banks help make and keep the majority of people poorer. They insure there is no level playing field. Offshore banking is the tool that possessors of criminal money, corrupt money, and commercial money use to hide that money from its source, and to prevent reinvestment in the people and the places the money came from. That is why it is so shameful for Ghana to be setting up offshore banking. It is shameful that a former president initiated and promoted this tool to steal from the Ghanaian people, and it is shameful for the current government if they allow this to proceed as planned. If offshore banking goes forward, slums such as in the picture above will expand exponentially, people will suffer and die because their assets are being stolen from them, and they have nothing to fall back on.

imfpoultryEU dumping chicken parts on Ghana, cartoon by Khalil Bendib for

Once again it looks like Africa will get to to subsidize the disasters of western capitalism.

In past global downturns, the severity of the impact on Africa varied considerably from state to state. This downturn is washing up on all of the continent’s shores, cramping both the formal and informal sectors as currencies lose value, the cost of imports rise, and living standards fall. As the big engines of regional growth have slowed – South Africa in the south, Nigeria in the west, and Kenya in the east – the contagion has spread to poorer countries in the landlocked interior.

Economists, investment analysts and policymakers were all slow to see this coming. Until late last year, many believed that the poorest continent would escape relatively unscathed from the gathering storms. This was partly because African banks were not exposed to the toxic assets eating away at Wall Street and the City of London.

It also resulted from the belief that the continent’s strengthening economic performance has been the result of interwoven trends, not just the commodity boom. …

it now seems painfully obvious just how vulnerable this emerging recovery was likely to be, given its roots in world trade and a relatively narrow base of exports.

Ghana has already suffered at the hands of the free marketeers, the banksters who are eliminating the middle class, and crushing the poor everywhere. Ghana has been the victim of agricultural dumping, chicken and tomatoes from the EU, plus rice from the US. From CorpWatch in 2005:

In 1992 domestic poultry farmers supplied 95 percent of the Ghanaian market, but by 2001 their market share had shrunk to just 11 percent. The imported chicken is available (wholesale) at a price that is only slightly more than half of the wholesale price of local chicken.

The accompanying loss of jobs has also been remarkable. The industry has lost 150 jobs in the past few months alone, say the Farmers Associations. Commercial poultry farms — which do not include small rural producers — employ up to 5,000 people. Any job loss has far reaching implications for Ghana’s 20 million people because each worker often provides support for numerous others in their household.

Foreign producers currently pay a 20 percent tariff or tax on the poultry they send to Ghana. Two years ago, the Ghanaian Parliament passed a law allowing an additional 20 percent tariff to be imposed on imported chicken, bringing the overall tariffs to 40 per cent.

In a dramatic move, just two months after the law was passed, the Customs and Excise Preventive Services (CEPS), the body responsible for implementing the tariffs, issued an order reversing the decision. The new tariffs were said to be in conflict with regional tariffs. In other words, the proposal have been blocked by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), an institution in which the Ghanaian government has less than 0.5 per cent of the vote.

Adding insult to injury:

The IMF made it clear that it was opposed to the higher tariffs on the grounds that it will hurt Ghana’s poverty reduction program.

Wheareas IMF policies consistently increased the number of unemployed, expanded poverty, and decreased productivity and self sufficiency in Ghana as in most countries.

There is some question as to whether a 40 percent tariff on the chicken would actually solve the problem. According “For Richer or Poorer” an April 2004 report released by Christian AID, it was estimated that “tariffs would need to be 80 percent, four times their current level” to allow local producers and processors to compete fairly with EU imports,” because “European producers gave enjoyed decades of subsidies, support and protection from their government.”

In fact IMF policies expand and increase the reach of poverty:

“It is through no fault of ours that our production costs are high,” he adds. “Just look at electricity and water tariffs, as well as the price of petrol and diesel. So, in plain terms, our government is telling us to fold up.”

As pointed out farther along, those electricity and water tariffs are the direct result of IMF actions.

In fact, most members of the once thriving 400,000 member National Association of Poultry Farmers have folded up. And Ghana’s rice and tomato industries are equally threatened.

… Ghana was on the way to becoming self-sufficient in rice production in the 1970s and 1980s. But the IMF structural adjustment program halted farm subsidies to rice farmers. Ghana now produces a mere 150,000 tonnes of rice, or 35 percent of its domestic need.

No longer able to farm because of the high prices of agriculture inputs, many young people are flocking to the urban centers searching for non-existent jobs. More displaced people from the rice and poultry sectors are bound to increase the numbers drifting to the urban centers, causing social problems.

The greed and theft of Wall Street are hitting Ghana through no fault of Ghanaians:

This is a good place to survey what Wall Street and the City of London did to the world. Ghana, which has met its millennium goals on children in primary education and cutting poverty, has been an economic and political success story, with high growth. A centre-left government has just taken over after hard-fought but peaceful elections. It is better protected than some, the prices of its gold and cocoa holding up in the recession. Offshore oil will flow in a few years.

But last year world food and oil prices soared. China’s slashed demand for raw materials is harming much of Africa. Global warming caused a drought that drained the dam powering Ghana’s electricity, requiring crippling oil imports. The last government borrowed to cover these unexpected costs, the currency dropped in value, inflation rose to 20% and credit has dried up.

Economists at the NGO Oxfam point out that this was not caused by profligacy, but by external events last year. A further source of bitterness: if rich countries had kept their 2005 Gleneagles promises, as Britain did, Ghana would have received $1bn, with no need to borrow at all.

Where should Ghana turn? To the IMF, of course, now the G20 has swelled its treasury. But there is deep political and public resistance after previous bad experience. Remember how humiliated Britain felt going cap in hand to the fund in 1976. Ghanaians know how World Bank and IMF largesse came with neoliberal quack remedies.

Cutting public services, making the poor poorer, putting cash crops and trade before welfare was the old IMF way. It was the IMF that insisted on meters for Ghana’s water supply, demanding full cash recovery for the service, steeply raising costs for the poorest. The World Bank insisted on a private insurance model for Ghana’s health service that has been administratively expensive and wasteful. The new government rejects it, promising free healthcare for children. The IMF wants subsidies for electricity removed, again hitting the poorest hardest. A market policy of making individuals pay full cost for vital services instead of general taxation has made the IMF hated; Ghana has now voted for more social democratic solutions. Freedom from the IMF feels like a second freedom from colonialism to many countries.

No wonder the new government hesitates to apply for a loan

The IMF protests that it has changed: it no longer prescribes or monitors so oppressively, and countries seeking loans can set their own goals. A British cabinet minister was quoted on G20 day as saying that it should be no more stigmatising than “going to a spa to recuperate”. Arnold Mcintyre, the IMF’s representative in Ghana, insists that it would be entirely up to the government to propose its own measures. This is, to put it politely, disingenuous.

Every government knows what it has to do to get credit, so Ghana has already said it will lower its deficit from 15% to 9.5% of GDP in one year, steeply cutting public sector costs. “They can do it through efficiency savings, with no damage to services,” says Mcintyre breezily. The government grits its teeth and says it can, and will: IMF economic thought often enters the soul of finance ministers. IMF power makes it the sole credit-rating agency for all other donors and lenders – an IMF thumbs-down means money from everywhere is cut off.

Oxfam’s senior policy adviser and economist, Max Lawson, doubts such cuts are needed, just a loan to tide Ghana over. “The IMF is too brutal … demanding balanced books within one or two years. The only way to make such a deep cut is in social spending: teachers’ salaries are the main item.”

It’s a strange irony that Barack Obama and Gordon Brown embrace a Keynesian fiscal stimulus and in its name pour out global largesse to the IMF to distribute. But loan recipients risk a Friedmanite tourniquet, cutting off their economic lifeblood. Will Obama and Brown see how their policy is translated on the ground?

Free market is a religion, a belief. It is not science or economics. We have brutal global evidence that it does not produce the advertised results, or live up to its promises. As long as the true believers are in charge, there will be no substantive change. The article quoted above points out that microcredit, and local credit unions are the way to raise productivity, relieve poverty, and increase the numbers of children in school and spending on education. The tiny local credit unions in Ghana discussed in the article have a 0% default rate on their microloans. But none of that is big and glamorous, and it does nothing to add to bankster CEO salaries and bonuses. So I doubt we will see much change in the behavior and policies of the IMF.

Note (4/28/09):
Khalil Bendib very graciously extended permisssion to use the cartoon above.  His cartoons combine elegant drawing with witty and incisive commentary.  You can see more at his website: The Pen is Funnier Than the Sword.  
You can buy his book here.

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.”

africa_on_earthcc Hitchster

In view of topics in my last two posts, AGRA & Monsanto & Gates, Green Washing & Poor Washing and African Bloggers At The G20, there are a couple of articles at Pambazuka that have a lot to say.

Yash Tandon writes about the crisis of the global North in relation to the global South:

Western civilisation has been going through a deepening crisis over the last 120 years – to be precise since around mid-1880s when serious colonisation began of the African continent as a desperate attempt to get out of the crisis created by the limits to growth within Europe. The present systemic crisis – whose most recent manifestations are the global financial crisis and the ecological crisis – is only its latest manifestation. Western civilisation’s crisis is deeper than most people realise or willing to acknowledge.

… The ruling political and corporate elites in the West are losing control both in their own countries and over much of the South. Judging by the attempts made by them in recent months, it is evident that they have no clue about how to get out of the dual political-economic and ecological crises. They have serious problems of resource depletion and global warming which compound to create a situation not unlike what they experienced in the 1880s when they faced limits to growth in Europe.

The re-colonisation option does not look promising for the future, because although they are presently attempting to neo-colonise the South, this will meet with stiff resistance not only from the South but also from progressive peoples in the North.

It must be recognised that much of the South is still in the phase of consolidating the gains of national struggles. The vilification of these efforts as ‘failed states’ or as ‘terrorist states’ is misguided and dangerous. We must not fall into that trap.

Tandon provides a great deal more detail describing the historical problem and suggesting approaches to work towards solutions. Read the whole article: Political, economic and climatic crises of Western civilisation – Dangers and opportunities.

Another essay with a lot to think about is The global financial crisis: Lessons and responses from Africa by Demba Moussa Dembele. As the article summary describes:

The crisis provides fundamental lessons, says Dembele, the first being that markets do not have self-correcting mechanisms, and that market failures are not less costly than state failures. Secondly, “the collapse of the neoliberal dogma is a major blow to the international financial institutions. What is even more devastating to them is the reversal of most of the policies they had advocated for decades in Africa and in other ‘poor’ countries under the now discredited SAPs (structural adjustment programmes). The IMF and the World Bank are supporting fiscal stimulus – expansionary fiscal policies – in the United States, Europe and Asia.”

Thirdly, its clear that the state remains a central player in solving crises caused by markets, and is not the sole cause of economic and social problems in Africa that neoliberal policy has categorised it as.

Dembele writes:

One major lesson for Africa is that they should no longer trust the IMF and World Bank and for that reason they should not listen to their ‘advice’ anymore. This is why it is incomprehensible and even a shame to see African countries hold a meeting with the IMF in Tanzania with the aim of building ‘a new partnership’. In the statement issued after that meeting, African countries are calling on the IMF to extend its ‘experience and expertise’ as if African leaders and policy makers had not learned enough lessons from the experience of nearly 30 years of ruinous IMF policies from SAPs to PRSPs (poverty reduction strategy papers).

Another major illustration of the crisis of legitimacy of the neoliberal system is the strong recognition that the state is a central player in solving the crises brought about by unfettered markets, and it will remain a key actor in the development process, whether in developed or developing countries. Some may recall former US President Ronald Reagan’s assertion in the 1980s that the state was ‘part of the problem, not of the solution’. This signalled the era of massive deregulation and the assault on the state and public service and ownership. It opened the door to some of the most sweeping and devastating structural adjustment policies in Africa. African states came under vicious attacks as ‘predatory’, ‘wasteful’, ‘rent-seeking’, ‘corrupt’ and ‘inept’.

All these qualifications were intended to discredit the state as an agent of economic and social development and the experience of state-led development that took place in the post-independence period up to the late 1970s. Despite the remarkable achievements of that period, the IMF and World Bank used every possible negative example to blame the state for all Africa’s crises. They told African leaders that the state was the main, if not the unique, cause of the economic and social crisis in Africa Accordingly, the solutions they advocated included withering away the state by eliminating or limiting its intervention in the economic sphere. Hence the imposition of fiscal austerity programs, the downsizing of the civil service and the dismantling of the public sector with the privatisation of state-owned companies.

But the financial and food crises show that the state is an indispensable and indisputable agent of development and part of the solution to the current global crises. It is deregulation and market fundamentalism that are part of the problem.

Still in the name of ‘comparative advantage’, African countries were forced to give priority to cash crops at the expense of food production. The food crisis and Africa’s great dependence on food imports illustrate once again that the IFIs have misled African countries into adopting policies that are detrimental to their fundamental interests. The IMF and World Bank, which bear a great responsibility in the food crisis in Africa, are now all too happy to ‘assist’ African countries in proposing them ‘emergency loans’ to buy food from Western countries.

The same IFIs are behind the attacks against the state that translated into the destruction of the public sector to the benefit of foreign capital.

… privatisation translated into massive job losses and social exclusion. It may be argued that there is some correlation between the aggravation of poverty and the growing foreign control of resources and assets, because this control is associated with repatriation of huge profits and tax evasion. In a sense, privatisation can be assimilated to a robbery of national patrimony – including strategic sectors – through the transfer to foreign control of assets built throughout years of sacrifices by the people.

Therefore, reversing privatisation is necessary in order to restore people’s sovereignty over a nation’s resources. It is time for African countries to put back into public and collective hands the control of key sectors and natural resources. No genuine endogenous development is possible without control of a nation’s wealth. So Africa should learn from the lessons being given by capitalist countries, including the United States, which are nationalising their banks and financial institutions. But more importantly, African countries should learn from the examples of other southern countries, like those of South America and Asia, where governments are taking back what was sold off to multinational corporations.

There is much more detail, discussion, and documentation, read the whole article, The global financial crisis: Lessons and responses from Africa

I cringe when I hear about the G20 stimulus package using the IMF and the World Bank. Supposedly it is intended to help Africa get out of current problems caused by the collapse of global financial capitalism. So long as the IMF and World Bank continue their traditional practices, they will bring disaster. I think Naomi Klein offers some targeted advice to the US and specifically to the US Congress:

It should first of all demand an independent review of the role the IMF played in creating and deepening the crisis (for instance, by requiring that loan recipients deregulate their financial sectors and eliminate capital controls, as the IMF did during the Asian Economic Crisis). And it should demand that the IMF never require recipients of this loan money to make deep cuts to social spending (on health, education and pensions…) or to lay off public sector workers in the midst of the crisis. This is crucial because the IMF has been requiring exactly these types of budget cuts and layoffs in exchange for loans in Latvia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, causing massive unrest. Further, if governments decide that in order to meet the crisis, they need to do things like subsidize farmers (the major demand in the Greece protests, for instance), they must retain the flexibility to do that.

The reasoning is simple: Obama is on record demanding that other G20 countries spend money on economic stimulus. The trillion dollar G20 pledge was presented to us as a global economic stimulus package. But the IMF is well known for demanding the exact opposite from its loan recipients: deep budgetary austerity, tax increases, and bans on subsidies. That means that unless there are clear conditions attached to the new IMF money, the extra trillion dollars could actually lead to deep economic contractions, with the new money just going to useless financial sector bailouts in countries around the world, rather than into real economy investments. It’s also worth noting that some of the money is going to the World Bank so it’s an opportunity to make demands that the World Bank invest in green energy and infrastructure, as opposed to dirty energy, a bad habit of the bank.


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:


1. A summary and announcement – available online here:

2. The full report is available here:
Also available in PDF format:

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: .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.

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 . 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: )


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.

DAKAR, Senegal - Representatives from Senegal participate in the three-day Africa Endeavor 2009 Initial Planning Conference, January 13, 2009 in Dakar, Senegal. Africa Endeavor, the largest multinational communication interoperability exercise on the African continent, will be hosted in Gabon in July, 2009. The exercise is designed to encourage information-sharing among African nations that will support the development of overall African Union humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peace-support missions. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Justin G. Wagg)

DAKAR, Senegal - Representatives from Senegal participate in the three-day Africa Endeavor 2009 Initial Planning Conference, January 13, 2009 in Dakar, Senegal. Africa Endeavor, the largest multinational communication interoperability exercise on the African continent, will be hosted in Gabon in July, 2009. The exercise is designed to encourage information-sharing among African nations that will support the development of overall African Union humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peace-support missions. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Justin G. Wagg)

This exercise supports a lot of U.S. goals“, U.S. Air Force Major Eric Hilliard, of the Africa Command (Africom)

DAKAR, Jan 13 (Reuters) … Communications experts from around 25 African armies and the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) are meeting in Senegal this week to plan a continental exercise in Gabon in July, the third of its kind and intended to pave the way for a common communications platform.

“The aim is to devise a transmission architecture for control, command and coordination, as well as an information system, for an eventual African Union peacekeeping force,” Captain Mouhamadou Sylla, of the Senegalese army, told Reuters.

This exercise also helps cement the US Africa Command in place as an imperial colonial power organizing and directing proxy armies, controlling the tools, techniques, perhaps the language of their communication. It would be nice if the US would invest in standardizing communications between first responders in the US, or in enableing their communication devices to communicate across the board with each other.

From Congressional testimony by the Africa Faith and Justice Network, in July 2008:

The ‘train and equip’ idea is not new. In fact, it has a very bad history in Africa – a history that harkens back to the proxy wars of the Cold War and U.S. support for illegitimate or corrupt regimes.

In the 1980’s, the U.S. spent $500 million to train and equip Samuel Doe in Liberia. According to a report from the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute, “every armed group that plundered Liberia over the past 25 years had its core in these U.S.-trained Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers. There is thus a fear that when the United States withdraws support for its security sector reform program and funding for the AFL, Liberia will be sitting on a time bomb; a well-trained and armed force of elite soldiers who are used to good pay and conditions of service, which may be impossible for the government of Liberia to sustain on its own.”

AFRICOM’s value as a structure for legitimizing African armies should therefore be called into serious question. The long-term ramifications of irresponsible training and equipping should be taken into consideration before the U.S. military is awarded more power in Africa. PMC’s should be debated and scrutinized by the African people and parliamentary bodies in every country should be encouraged to enact legislation against their operations. Propping up and arming corrupt leaders is no path to stability in Africa. The U.S. must act as a credible force for peace, not an overzealous superpower that employs private contractors to conduct military operations in Africa.

Many question the idea of training and coordinating African militaries at all. Many African military forces are primarily used against their own people in order to keep the current regime in power.

South African poet and activist Breyten Breytenbach spoke of US interest in Africa:

… it would seem that the two major sources of interest when it comes to the African continent for the United States is security, the way they interpret it, in other words, how to counteract the possibility of Islamist influence in Africa.

And the second one, of course, is the access to natural resources, particularly to oil. Same effect. In other words, you’re not concerned about developing society. You’re not concerned about democracy. You’re not concerned about women’s rights. You’re not really particularly concerned about the health problems either, although some work has been done in that field. So, AFRICOM, I think, should be seen within that context.

He also spoke in the larger context on government in African countries:

If I may step back for a minute, there’s a big picture that’s emerging in Africa. Africa is rapidly moving to the point where we’re going to have to reconsider the viability of the nation-state concept, when it comes to the African continent, because governments are falling apart. These are plundering elites, as in the case of Zimbabwe, and as is the case with Senegal, for that matter, who use the notion of sovereignty, of national sovereignty and of national independence to be able to plunder and pillage their own people. African armies don’t fight one another; they fight the civilian population.

But you have—parallel to that, you have developing a network, a continental network of civil society organizations, women’s organizations, children’s organizations, the youth, cultural organizations, human rights organizations. Those really, to a large extent, now produce very essential services. One should invest in these organizations. That’s the way it should happen. But, of course, it’s a complicated thing, because you are then denying this club, this very well fed, comfortable club, international club of rulers recognizing one another.

Mukoma Wa Ngugi writes more on these civil society groups that are actually doing the work of governing in much of Africa:

But there’s another side of Africa, the one that pushes back. This side is comprised of political and social organisations and activists, school teacher organisations, journalists, and health professionals, as well as women, worker, and youth organisations that patiently chip away at Africa’s problems usually with no funding, media coverage, or national and international recognition to speak of.

These Africans work against great odds to prevent famine, war, human rights abuse, the spread of AIDS, and a host of other urgent issues. When tragedy strikes, they work hard to ameliorate the effect. But even when they aren’t facing political persecution, they are under-funded and without the protection that comes with media coverage. They are the unseen, under-supported and unrecognised pillars of African societies.

… the question is why it is much easier for us to listen to philanthropists talk about what is wrong with Africa rather than the serious and dedicated political activists on the ground. Why are we not helping those who are helping themselves?

We love glossy packages that promise big bangs and super solutions. Take the Bill Gates Initiative, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa that promises super seeds for super plants to end famine in Africa. A simpler and more long-lasting solution lies in organic African farming, growing more food crops over cash crops, the diversification of African agriculture, and the depoliticisation of food and other basic human necessities.

The point is that every little bit of support counts and it can come in many forms – moral solidarity, awareness-raising, or financial support. But this help should not be afraid of the Africa that pushes back, or come at the expense of long-term solutions. One helping hand should not kill dreams with the other.

It looks like Breyten Breytenbach is correct when he says to the US:

“… you’re not concerned about developing society. You’re not concerned about democracy. You’re not concerned about women’s rights. You’re not really particularly concerned about the health problems either, although some work has been done in that field. So, AFRICOM, I think, should be seen within that context.”

A U.S. Special Forces soldier instructs Malian troops in counterterrorism tactics through a translator (right, in black turban) on the outskirts of Timbuktu. Photographs by Justin Bishop.

A U.S. Special Forces soldier instructs Malian troops in counterterrorism tactics through a translator (right, in black turban) on the outskirts of Timbuktu. Photographs by Justin Bishop (2007).

To understand AFRICOM, it is important to look at where the energy and where the money are focused.

In May b real wrote at Moon of Alabama:

… maintaining control of the perception of AFRICOM is very important in the initial stages of the new command. However, since the official public image of AFRICOM (”a new kind of command” combining humanitarian missions with the pentagon’s soft power capabilities to help Africans help themselves) hardly matches up with the command’s true mission (secure and guarantee U.S. access to vital energy sources and distribution channels while containing China’s growing superpower status), AFRICOM, and everyone involved in promoting it, will remain beset by their own contradictions and weaknesses.

An article at CNN reports:

Africom’s deputy for military operations, Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller, said in a telephone interview Monday … “Our primary responsibility … is working with our African partners to help them build their security capacity” — mainly by training armies and peacekeepers. Moeller added that “a secure and stable Africa is very, very much in U.S. strategic interests.”

And from General Ward in another story:

“Our primary mission is to work with the nations of Africa and their organizations to assist them in increasing their capacity to provide for their own security,” Gen. William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, told reporters during the inauguration ceremony of AFRICOM.

And yet, Refugees International reports AFRICOM’s security budget is meager:

Currently, no funds are allocated for security sector and governance capacity-building for African nations. Instead, funding is being requested for Global War on Terror priorities.

[In Africa] Global War on Terror imperatives do not address the continent’s biggest needs for security assistance.

From CNN again:

Africans believe Africom is aimed at promoting America’s interests, not Africa’s,” said Wafula Okumu, a Kenyan analyst at South Africa’s Institute for Security Studies.

Most Africans don’t trust their own militaries, which in places like Congo have turned weapons on their own people.

As is also decribed by Refugees International:

… the Defense Department is virtually ignoring the nation’s [Congo's] desperate need of military reform. As a result, an inadequately resourced security sector reform program has contributed to the Congolese army becoming a major source of insecurity for civilian communities.

Refugees International also describes the funding imbalances that both drive and describe the militarization of US foreign policy:

Foreign assistance represents less than one percent of the federal budget, while defense spending is 20% … Between 1998 and 2005, the percentage of Official Development Assistance the Pentagon controlled exploded from 3.5% to nearly 22%, while the percentage controlled by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) shrunk from 65% to 40%.

An article in HStoday (unintentionally) makes even more clear the contradictions in the role of the Africa command:

The CT [AFRICOM counterterrorism] officials told that Al Qaeda and Al Qaeda-influenced Muslim jihadists in Africa are becoming an increasingly serious terrorist threat that has forced much greater attention to be focused on the region.
one of the Command’s fundamental roles is indeed counterterror intelligence and disruption operations.

Yet from the same article:

“in many parts of Africa it is perceived as the US bringing its war on terror to Africa. That is not what AFRICOM is about, but that is how it has been seen.”

Which is almost funny, considering the content of most of the article.

While long-term US strategic interests in Africa clearly are of concern and under the purview of AFRICOM, the more immediate problem for the US is Islamist terrorism, the CT officials told

For the time being, AFRICOM will be based in Stuttgart, with covert intelligence operatives working out of US installations and front companies throughout Africa.

This last strikes me as nightmarishly bad foreign policy. It sounds like the US is replaying all the worst features of US foreign policy in Africa (and in Asia and Latin America) from the last 60 years. This is how you destabilize governments, with “disruption operations”.  It is not capacity building, it does not strengthen human security.  It is not partnering or peacekeeping.  It does not help refugees return home or economies develop.  It does not make things anywhere more secure and stable.  It promotes trade in contraband and the destabilizing movement of money across borders facilitating more trade in contraband.  As well as being destructive, covert disruption operations are not cheap, and they are not easy to justify in budget requests, which makes using and encouraging contraband for funding more attractive.

Contrast again the two statements above:

[In Africa] Global War on Terror imperatives do not address the continent’s biggest needs for security assistance.


… one of the Command’s fundamental roles is indeed counterterror intelligence and disruption operations … the more immediate problem for the US is Islamist terrorism …

The representatives of AFRICOM are telling the American and African public that AFRICOM is all about peacekeeping, capacity building, and security.   But the focus of the energy and funding for AFRICOM is all about counterterrorism, military development, psyops and disruptive covert operations.  The public narrative is lies and illusions.  The public narrative creates a false front and false face to those whose lives will be most seriously impacted.

Africa climate projections from the Economist

Today the twelth annual United Nations Conference on Trade and Development convened in Accra. The theme is Addressing the opportunities and challenges of globalization for development.

At a press briefing on his arrival, the UN Secretary-General noted that the current food crisis that threatened the world, had dire consequences, especially for the developing world, adding that, the conference would take a serious look at the situation and how best to deal with it.

He said another issue that needed to be examined was the current trend of trade liberalisation and its impact on developing countries.

Speaker of Parliament, Mr Ebenezer Begyina Sekyi Hughes … said trade, democracy and development were linked in the modern era of globalisation, but noted that “for a number of years now, the inputs of the Legislature, which is the microcosm of the people, have been left out during global discussions on trade and development”. Mr. Hughes said the trend was slowly, but hopefully changing, and representatives from the Legislature were now being involved in some of these discussions.

Unfortunately, leaving out legislatures and other organizations that gather and express the views of broad cross sections of people has been the practice in far too many countries.

I hope that the conferees at UNCTAD will pay attention to the conversations and conclusions of the IAASTD, International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development. IAASTD concluded a three year study in South Africa last week.

“The question of how to feed the world could hardly be more urgent,” said Robert Watson, director of the IAASTD and chief scientist at the British environment and agriculture department.

The findings of the three-year IAASTD indicate that modern agriculture will have to change radically from the dominant corporate model if the world is to avoid social breakdown and environmental collapse, he explained. “Agriculture has a footprint on all of the big environmental issues…climate change, biodiversity, land degradation, water quality, etc.”

The IAASTD brought together more than 400 scientists who examined all current knowledge about agricultural practices and science to find ways to double food production in the next 25 to 50 years and do so sustainably, while helping to lift the poor out of poverty. They concluded that the way to meet these challenges is through combining local and traditional know-how with formal knowledge.

The effort produced five regional assessments and a synthesis report, as well as an executive summary for decision makers.

Representatives from 30 governments of developed and developing countries, the biotechnology and pesticide industry and a wide range of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including Greenpeace and Oxfam, were involved. Public sessions were also held to gather input from producer and consumer groups, as well as others within the private sector.

However, last year the two biggest biotech and pesticide companies, Syngenta and BASF, along with their industry association — Crop Life International — abandoned the assessment process. This was on the grounds that the final draft of the synthesis report was overly cautious about the potential risks of genetically modified crops, and sceptical of the benefits.

“It’s unfortunate that they backed out … I don’t think they are used to working with a wide variety of participants as equals” …

Isadore Guvamombe writes regarding AFRICOM:

It is a fact that American foreign policy has attracted the retaliatory attacks the Americans love to call “terrorism”. Having tried to effect illegal regime change in over 50 countries in addition to invading 35 others in 56 years, the U.S. made its bed and so must lie on it.
. . .
Most worrisome is the fact that the U.S. always tries to protect its interests by military means to the extent of pursuing illegal regime change on liberation movements, with the hope of replacing them with stooge regimes.

This is not something new. In the 20th century the people who were most willing to do the work to create more egalitarian and more democratic government in many developing countries called themselves Communists, especially during the independence movements and decolonization following World War II. The US worked to undermine and overthrow them around the globe.

Military “stooge regimes” have been the US government of choice for most of the world for some time. And in many of these cases, the reason was that the US perceived an economic threat to corporate interests from the communists. And in many cases there was a genuine threat. Liberation movements were working for the betterment of ALL the people, not just some, not just corporations and their shareholders. Liberation movements were looking for a just return for work, and fair distribution of resources.

Corporations harnessed US anti-communist sentiments for their legislative and economic agenda. The corporations, and the American people, would have been better served to work out fairer means of distributing wealth and resources. In the long run, the US achieved the opposite of what it claimed to want. The US accepted, and often facilitated the severe repression of the vast majority of their people under military governments throughout Latin America, Africa, and Asia, stopping political progress dead. The US only questioned those governments where it perceived some threat to US corporate interests.

In his book The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, Vijay Prashad writes about the US undermining and helping topple the Guatemala government in 1954:

Some US government officials in the field bemoaned their cozy relationship with oligarchies and militaries against the Communists. for example, the deputy chief of the U.S. embassy in Guatemala in the 1950s, Bill Krieg, noted that the reactionary forces were “bums of the first order” who “wanted money, were palace hangers-on,” while the Communists “could work, had a sense of direction, ideas, knew where they wanted to go.” They were “honest, very committed. This was the tragedy: the only people who were committed to hard work were those who were, by definition, our worst enemies.” The CIA and the old social classes crushed the Left in many parts of the darker nations, enlivened the old social classes, and later – much later – found that they had created a monster they could not control.
(The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, ISBN 978-1-56584-785-9, p.164)

Most US military interventions have been to protect US corporate interests. And the long term effect of many of these interventions is to create enemies among people who might otherwise be natural allies, friends and supporters, the kinds of people who share the values the US professes to maintain. The US support for military regimes and oppression has earned much resentment throughout the world. Long term, this has severely harmed US interests and endangered US citizens. That upwelling of anger and resentment is what Prashad calls the monster the US cannot control.

No corporation left behind is not something new in US history, see these words:

“This is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people no longer. It is a government of corporations, by corporations, and for corporations.”
1876—Rutherford B. Hayes, who became President of the US in 1877.

Or see the words of President Eisenhower, who famously warned his nation and the world about the military industrial complex in his farewell speech as president. This was after he spent his entire administration locking the military industrial iron triangle into power.

Unfortunately, there is another phenomenon Prashad describes in the Third World since World War II that has also happened in the US. Military expenditures went up as a portion of national budgets and as a proportion of GDP, domestic savings went down, along with drastic cuts in social spending. Eventually political perception shifted:

. . . security and defense had come to be reality, whereas social development became idealistic.
(The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World, ISBN 978-1-56584-785-9, p.174)

Calling social development idealistic is to say it is a pleasant fantasy, not something we should hope to see in our lifetimes. Therefor, “security and defense” (ever increasing militarization) becomes the only “realistic” policy. But social development is the major value in the opening sentence of the United States Constitution, the Preamble. It is the reason for the Constitution, and the reason why the country and the Constitution must be defended. I hope the US can return to its founding principles, and return the blessings of liberty to posterity. I have emphasized those words that directly establish social development goals:

Preamble to the Constitution of the United States

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Full Spectrum Dominance

Full spectrum dominance is not the method of a democracy. Full spectrum dominance IS imperialism. It is at direct odds with democratic principles. When a country espouses democracy, this should be the approach of last resort, if at all. It may be an appropriate approach for a military organization. The military has a more narrow and specific mission. However, the US has a civilian government. A democratic government should avoid wars when possible, and only engage as a last resort. Although it has migrated away from democratic institutions and principles, the US still preaches democracy. With luck it will alter its direction and return to democratic principles. It still has the tools. The military needs to support and uphold the principles of democratic government, at home and around the world.

Full-spectrum dominance” is the key term in “Joint Vision 2020,” the blueprint DoD, Department of Defense, will follow in the future.

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

Joint Vision 2020 addresses full-spectrum dominance across the range of conflicts from nuclear war to major theater wars to smaller-scale contingencies. It also addresses amorphous situations like peacekeeping and noncombat humanitarian relief. Key to U.S. dominance in any conflict will be what the chairman calls “decision superiority” — translating information superiority into better decisions arrived at and implemented faster than an enemy can react.

The development of a global information grid will provide the environment for decision superiority.

In fact Joint Vision 2020 involves the dominance of space.

Control of Space (CoS) is the ability to ensure un-interrupted access to space for US forces and our allies, freedom of operations within the space medium and an ability to deny others the use of space, if required.
. . .
Global Engagement (GE) is the combination of global surveillance of the Earth (see anything, anytime), worldwide missile defense, and the potential ability to apply force from space.
. . .
Full Force Integration (FFI) seamlessly joins space-derived information and space forces with information and forces from the land, sea, and air.
. . .
Global Partnerships (GP) augment the military’s space capabilities by leveraging civil, commercial, and international space systems. This operational concept results from the explosive growth of commercial and international space capabilities.

After reading this I thought that for the military, full spectrum dominance is the obvious goal in any military scenario. The problem is that the present US government, the Bush administration, sees every scenario as a military scenario. A military approach or “solution” should be the last resort. For Bush, it is the first choice. And full spectrum dominance is not just about scenarios, it is about controlling the whole globe, imperial control of the whole world, from and including space.

The Bush administration has been following an economic policy designed to make the US the economic equivalent of Argentina in the 50s and 60s, spending huge amounts of borrowed money that do not contribute to increases in productivity or infrastructure, a rich country making itself poor. The result has weakened the country and severely weakened the military. The Bush war on science has damaged the US scientific and technological edge. The stature of the US as a global leader has been severely damaged by the unprovoked occupation and destruction of Iraq. And because of all the money wasted in Iraq, the US is farther away from any positive accomplishment or constructive goal.

The US needs to find a political solution to its relationship with just about every country in the world. And it needs an internal political solution to its own dreadful behavior.

Because of oil, and a number of other extractive resources, but mostly the oil, the US has set its sights on full spectrum dominance in Africa. At the same time celebrity condescension and “humanitarian” ad campaigns portray Africans as afflicted and helpless. By painting Africans as people unable to help themselves, the celebrity humanitarian narrative, and the media attention it gets, make it much easier for nations, specifically the US, to engage in imperial acquisition in the name of humanitarian aid and development. And that is exactly the purpose of the Africa Command, and why it keeps describing itself in terms of diplomacy and humanitarian aid. (Pay no attention to the fact that by pouring arms into Africa throughout the cold war, and by backing terrorist organizations in Africa, the US contributed more than its share to the destabilization and suffering in many African countries. This continues through the present.

Those days are gone, as a friend says. Although the US can, and it looks like it plans to, make things very unpleasant in the short term. African countries now have people who can and will push back effectively.

To see a few of these people, and a more positive and productive vision, check out TED Global 2007 (TED = Technology, Entertainment Design) and listen to some of the speeches by Africans at TED Themes – Africa the next chapter. I’ll probably write about these again.


August 14, 2011: To date President Obama has continued and expanded these Bush policies, and has expanded the ongoing militarization of Africa through the Africa Command.

In Ramblings of an African Geek, Kwasi provides as neat and clear an explanation of the background and the issues of ODF and OOXML for Ghana and other developing countries as I have seen anywhere.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) will be voting on this September 2, so it is currently a matter of interest and importance. I’ve included an excerpt, but it is worth reading the whole article, particularly if you may need to explain some of this at some point, or have the opportunity to ask questions.

Excerpt from:
Background information on ODF, OOXML and why It matters in the developing world

Developing countries are still building the vast majority of their IT infrastructure. This means that they do not have a massive base of old documents in a restricted format. Those documents are on paper. Their offices are still being computerized. Their people are still learning how to use those computers. If you are going to teach someone to use an office suite anyway, what difference does it make if that suite is MS Office, or Google Writer? What difference does it make if those legacy paper documents go to ODF or OOXML? Either way the work has to be done and the money has to be spent.

The problem is, what happens when you lock yourself into a company’s proprietary format because they are giving you free stuff and claim the format is open, then they start charging you for it and you realize all those alternatives they assured you existed can’t fully open your documents and you are stuck with them and their licence fees?

In an earlier post he tells us more about why open source is important in Ghana as well as the developing world, particularly in Africa. As he says, money is the most often cited reason but it is not necessarily the most important. From a presentation he has posted:

Problem: At this point in time Africa is overwhelmingly a consumer of other people’s ideas and technology.

Why is this a problem?

Well, it isn’t if we have no issues with playing in second place for all time. Assuming we have a problem with that though, we will not achieve parity while we are dependent on outside brain power to solve all our problems while we sideline local talent and ability.

How does the Open Source movement help us to address this?

The free flow of information gives us a huge chance to level the playing field.
Lowers the barriers of information access.
Gives us a look at their tools and their processes.
This we can use to leverage those tools as we use them, and to create our own.

In other words, this is about more than just getting cheaper consumer goods.
Its about contributing back to the global share of information as equals.

India and Brazil have indicated they will vote in favor of ODF rather than OOXML. And Slashdot has a number of articles with good discussions in the comments. Two of them are here and here.

The Economist has a rather nice article about investing in Africa this week, The sunny continent. It is mostly about two businessmen, Mo Ibrahim and Sam Jonah, and their thoughts and plans about the future.

Mr Ibrahim . . . is ebullient about the potential for mobile phones and mass entrepreneurship to deliver even more dramatic growth and poverty reduction in future, in Africa as well as elsewhere. He recently established a $150m fund to invest in African business.

Mr Jonah is a larger-than-life hail-fellow-well-met Ghanaian, who made his first fortune by selling Ashanti Goldfields, a Ghanaian mining company, to South Africa’s mighty AngloGold . . . He is now doing well in private equity. As evidence of his bullishness, Mr Jonah is trying to raise $250m to build long-distance roads across Africa—the lack which is one of the most obvious failures in the continent’s infrastructure. His goal is to find 50 successful African business people, each willing to invest $5m in the fund, and then to use multilateral funds to leverage the money into the billions.
. . .
There is increasingly a pro-African mood in the global business community nowadays, says Mr Jonah.
. . .
. . . much of the “help” Africa has had from outside has been of the wrong sort. By way of illustration, Mr Jonah points to three once impoverished European countries—Spain, Portugal and Greece—that might have stayed poor had they not been “rescued by their sugar daddy, the European Union.” The point, he says, is that richer European countries invested in these poor countries, “not as charity, but because they saw a win-win opportunity.” The same is now true of Africa, he argues. With a handful of headline-grabbing exceptions, “everyone in Africa is now getting their act together, with free markets and democracy.”

This is where Mr Jonah and Mr Ibrahim are somewhat at odds with each other. Last year Mr Ibrahim endowed an annual prize for leadership in Africa, which will recognise a retired African leader who did a good job in office. Mr Ibrahim, one of Africa’s first home-grown philanthropists, believes this prize will help raise the standard of leadership across the continent.

I have read elsewhere, I think it might have been in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago, that if Africa had received the same kind of investment eastern Europe did after the fall of the Berlin wall, there would have been even more to show for it. The United States has mostly engaged in military assistance, that has destabilized and impoverished its targets.

Many of the top U.S. arms clients –Liberia, Somalia, the Sudan, and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo or DRC) — have turned out to be the top basket cases . . . in terms of violence, instability, and economic collapse.

The US is always claiming to be businesslike. It should act a bit more businesslike.

Business investment can have its downside, think Enron as just one example, and some of my friends think Jonah is a crook. I know very little about Ibrahim. But both men are on the right track in what they are saying. I hope the optimism and investment continue and pay off.
(If the Economist link does not let you in and you would like a copy of this article, or others I cite, email me at crossedcrocodiles, on gmail, I can email a copy.)

Ghana oil discovery, map of potential finds, from Vanco, 2002
Click on image above to enlarge, or click here for the original.
For a map of the Tullow find (to the left above) see the previous post.

As The Economist points out in Into Africa:

After lagging behind the rest of the globe in the 1990s, African output growth has averaged 5% a year since 2001, while the world has averaged just 4.2%. Strong commodity prices have, of course, played a vital part in this. The continent has 8% of the world’s oil reserves; more of America’s oil imports now come from Africa than from the Persian Gulf. . . . The continent has 23% of the world’s land, but only 12% of its farmland; there is scope to bring more territory under cultivation.

Many talk about the “resource curse” that has bedevilled Africa. If an economy has vast natural resources, a government can tax them easily; as a result, there is little incentive to produce the kind of regulatory environment that would encourage the development of a wider tax base. The availability of a “cash cow” such as an oil sector also encourages corruption.

. . . the volatility of African equity returns was no higher than that of Latin America over the period 1995-2006. There may yet come a time when African equities are hot stocks.

Ghana needs to protect her agriculture, and diversify. And when The Economist, or any western voice, talks about putting more land into cultivation, countries should be careful about what they plan to cultivate. Every country should plan to feed itself first, try to minimize environmental damage and create sustainable agriculture. The vision of the US right wing, of Africa as a continent sized sugar plantation growing bio-fuel for the US petrol appetite, would be comic, except that it is part of their reason for creating AFRICOM.

Ghana needs to beware. Oil, and other extractive resources can make a country much poorer, described succinctly in an article in Foreign Policy:

Collier’s model shows that producers of oil, timber, and minerals would on average see their gross domestic products rise by 10 percent in the first seven years, only to have them crash two decades later to only 75 percent of where they started. Sudden cash flows in unprepared countries, he says, lead to unsustainable public consumption, rising inflation, soaring inequality, trade protectionism, and a real danger of civil war.

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