Gulf of Guinea

From Stratfor comes this assessment:

Nigeria is moving to block AFRICOM, the U.S. combat command for Africa, from establishing itself in the Gulf of Guinea region. A few countries will go along with Nigeria, but oil and natural gas newcomers Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe probably will resist the move.

And Uzodinma Iweala asks:

I just wonder if YarAdua and his foreign/defense policy people are savvy enough to actually thwart this. What would it take?

1.) Security agreements with all of the major players (probably even a security agreement with the US). When our navy can’t even deal with oil bunkerers or the Niger Delta we’re going to go and patrol X thousand square miles of Open Ocean.

2.) Economic inducements (which we can do with Sao Tome and some of the smaller countries but we can’t hope to compete with the coercive economic power of the US)

3.) Pan African solidarity (almost laughable)

4.) A MAJOR arms/security deal with China (bingo! lets further sell ourselves to the Chinese).

I pray to God the US keeps out of this… otherwise you’ll see our leaders make some really foolish decisions perhaps more so than they’ve done in the past.

Nigeria seems to have come to the same conclusion I did, that the US is using terrorism to blackmail Nigeria into hosting a military base. There may be other reasons for the US playing the terror card.

There are plenty of other problems for the countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea, including devastating amounts of illegal fishing by European and Asian countries, drug and arms and other contraband smuggling, and plenty more. I know I read somewhere, but don’t know if it is true or exaggerated for humor, that the Nigerian Navy has more admirals than ships.

Also, Kufuor is due to be in the US this week. It seems likely the US will ratchet up the pressure on him. He also owes a lot to Nigeria.

At last West Africa speaks up! Nigeria says NO to AFRICOM.

From This Day:

The Federal Government has begun moves to frustrate the plan by the United States to establish a military base in the Gulf of Guinea.
. . .

“Nigeria is not taking the issue lightly at all and the government is not going to allow the US establish any military base anywhere in the ECOWAS region. The interest of the US government in the Gulf of Guinea has reinforced the commitment of the government to intensify its efforts at providing the needed security in the sub-region,” the source said.

It was learnt that the Federal Government was worried by the terror alert raised by the US authorities last week and saw it as a ploy to label Nigeria and countries in the sub region as unsafe in order to get the opportunity to create a military base in the region.

As a first step to checkmate that plan, the FG has vowed to frustrate the campaign by the US to establish a base in the gulf.

“The government of this country is not ready for any blackmail. What they cannot get through the back doors they want to get through blackmail. We are not going to succumb to that game,” the source said.

I think this can only be good news. While Nigeria’s governments have not demonstrated any great responsiveness to the needs of her people to date, or established any reputation for good governance; letting the US recolonize the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea will cause a great deal more suffering. The present US government is not capable of running the US, and has destroyed Iraq. Until the US can demonstrate both competence and good intentions, all countries should be wary in their dealings with it.

U.S. Navy Seaman fires an Mk-38 25mm machine gun during a general quarters drill aboard the dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry. This machine gun system is a single-barrel, air-cooled, heavy machine gun capable of firing 175 rounds per minute. The USS Fort McHenry will be in the Gulf of Guinea for 6 months starting in November of this year. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Marvin E. Thompson, Jr.

Military aid and questionable trade are the twin pillars of US involvement in Africa. The Ruin of Nations by Karamoh Kabba has more detail on this. This article reminded me of a lot of things I had forgotten, and would be better forgotten if it did not look like the same behavior and the same mistakes all over again.

From Africa Media:

Just another aid agency — with really big guns. (See the YouTube question that wasn’t asked of the US Presidential candidates about this plan. For a general consideration of YouTube and the debates, see Jewels in the Jungle‘s post.)

Gulf of Guinea from Google maps

Here is part of the testimony of Dr. Wafula Okumu before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health. Included here, Dr. Okumu spells out what Africans think of AFRICOM, why Africans are reluctant to embrace AFRICOM, and a number of misconceptions. He also makes suggestions on how to clear up some of the misconceptions. This is as clear, comprehensive, and succinct a statement as you can find. I have included what I think is the key part of it below. The whole document is not too long, much of it is here, and it is well worth reading. Anyone involved in activities connected with AFRICOM, or interested in AFRICOM, or US engagement with Africa, should read it.

Africa Command: Opportunity for Enhanced Engagement or the Militarization of U.S.-Africa Relations?

Dr Wafula Okumu

Head, African Security Analysis Programme, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria, South Africa

(excerpted from)
Testimony given to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health
August 2, 2007

. . . . .

What Africans think of Africom

Despite its altruistic sounding objectives Africom is yet to be warmly and widely embraced in Africa; as the following comments indicate:

· “Africom would destabilise an already fragile continent and region, which will be forced to engage with U.S. interests on military terms.”—Michele Ruiters, Business Day (Johannesburg)

· “Ironically, Africom was announced as Chinese President Hu Jintao was touring eight African nations to negotiate deals that will enable China to secure oil flows from Africa.” Editorial, Daily Nation (Nairobi), 8 February 2007

· Africom is “aimed at influencing, threatening and warding off any competitors by using force.” –Editorial, The Post (Lusaka), 12 April 2007.

· African countries “should wake up after seeing the scars of others (Afghanistan and Iraq).” Reporter (Algiers).

· Mohamed Bedjaoui, the Algerian Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, has questioned why there was no proposal for an anti-terror cooperation with Algeria when the country was experiencing high levels of terrorist violence in the 1990s.

· “How can the U.S. divide the world up into its own military commands? Wasn’t that for the United Nations to do? What would happen if China also decided to create its Africa command? Would this not lead to conflict on the Continent?” Abdullahi Alzubedi, Libyan Ambassador to South Africa.

· “Increased U.S. military presence in Africa may simply serve to protect unpopular regimes that are friendly to its interests, as was the case during the Cold War, while Africa slips further into poverty.”—Nigerian Journalist Dulue Mbachu.

· “People on the street (in Africa) assume their governments have already had too many dealings with the U.S. in the war on terror at the expense of the rule of law. The regimes realise the whole idea is very unpopular.”—Rachid Tlemchani, University of Algiers Professor.

These and many other similar comments expressed during the visits of U.S. officials, and in newspaper editorials and meeting on African peace and development have led a State Department Official to conclude that: “We’ve got a big image problem down there. Public opinion is really against getting into bed with the U.S. They just don’t trust the U.S.”

Why Africans are reluctant to embrace Africom

The coldness with which Africans hold Africom was displayed in July when Gen Kip Ward, the newly appointed first commander of Africom, was denied a meeting with the South African minister of defence, Mosiuoa Lekota, during his visit to the country to drum up support for the planned command. There are a number of reasons why Africans are reluctant to embrace Africom.

First, any country hosting the command will be criticised for violating Africa’s common positions on African defence and security, which discourages the hosting of foreign troops on the African soil. In particular, it is thought, such troops could be used to undermine the Continent’s Non-Aggression Pact, solemn declaration on common African defence and security, and other positions on hosting foreign bases in Africa.

Second, Africans vividly remember that colonialism was preceded by philanthropic missionaries who came to fulfil God’s Will of rescuing Africans from the clutches of barbarism. To paraphrase Kenyatta’s allegory, “when the Whiteman came to Africa, he was holding a Bible in one hand and asked us to close our eyes and pray. When we opened our eyes after the prayer, his other hand was holding a gun and all our land was gone!” Africa’s colonial history was characterised by military occupations, exploitation of its natural resources and suppression of its people. After testing decades of independence, these countries are now jealously guarding their sovereignty and are highly suspicious of foreigners, even those with good intentions.

Third, when Africans reflect on the continent’s relations with the U.S., they see ambiguity, neglect, and selective engagement. For instance, during the period of decolonization, the U.S. did not openly support the UN decolonization initiatives, particularly when these were not aligned with its Cold War positions. Often, the U.S. was reluctant to support anti-colonial and anti-apartheid liberation movements in Southern Africa and colonial Portugal, a member of NATO. U.S. forcefully reacted to African regimes that forged close relations with the Soviet Union and China, while aligning closer to anti-Communist African despots who were anti-democratic and had horrendous human rights records. With this historical background, Africom might be considered in Africa if its objectives did not appear to be based on the principle of “manifest destiny” of “saving Africa.” The proposal will be seriously considered if it primarily seeks to strengthen the capacity of the African Union and other African organizations to implement Africa’s development, peace and security agendas.

Fourth, Africans are not comfortable dealing with the military in matters related to their development and sovereignty. Africans are concerned that the establishment of Africom might do more harm than good—“the poised hammer that makes everything suddenly look like a nail,” in the words of Esquire magazine. They would be much more comfortable dealing with American diplomats, USAID and Peace Corp volunteers rather than the U.S. Marine. Africans are nervously concerned that Africom will sanction the militarization of diplomacy and severely undermine multilateralism on the continent. Africans have consciously adopted multilateralism as a common approach to addressing the continent’s problems and confronting its challenges. Africom seems to be a unilateral approach that would be counter to the current trend towards unity on the continent. Consequently, the establishment of Africom must secure an African consensus otherwise it would bring new and grave threats and challenges to the continent’s peace and security agenda. The issue of foreign military presence on the African soil is in violation of this agenda.

Additionally, the U.S. should bear in mind that following the emergence of other players in Africa; any initiative aimed at the whole continent cannot be unilaterally conceived and implemented. Although it is factually acknowledged that the U.S., as the most powerful global military and economic power, has the will and capacity to undertake unilateral actions, there are severe limitations and far-reaching consequences for the unconsidered use of power. The U.S. engagement in the Middle East has proved that the policy of consolidating democracy in the region, destroying al-Queda and removing abhorrent regimes from power can fail despite all its seemingly good intentions.

Fifth, the launching and the aggressive promotion of Africom are taking place at the same time that Africa is debating the “Union Government” proposal. There are feelings, as expressed in a recently held consultative meeting of the African Union PCRD in Lusaka, Zambia, that Africom is an American attempt to ensure that the aspiration for African Unity is checked by a heavy U.S. military presence on the continent. This concern is based on the track record of American military intervention in Africa. The image of U.S. military involvement in Africa becomes more confusing when one looks at the “hard” security concerns of Africa. Many Africans are asking why American troops were not deployed to prevent or restrain the Rwandan genocidaires. Why the U.S. forces remained anchored safely off the coast of Liberia when that country, the nearest thing America ever had to an African colony, faced brutal disintegration in 2003? Why the U.S. has not supported the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and instead supported the Ethiopian intervention through airpower from CJTF-HOA stationed in Djibouti? Is the U.S. really interested in addressing the felt security needs of Africans, or does its proposed military presence foreshadow the kind of destruction we have seen recently in Somalia? Is Africa to become merely another theatre of operations in which winning the “hearts and minds” forms an essential component of a “security” driven agenda? Why should ordinary Africans welcome an American presence that will create African targets for extremists where none existed, and add an unwelcome dimension to already complex local conflicts? Why is Washington not able to do something to address Africa’s needs by modifying its trade policy? If the U.S. is really committed to participating in the continent’s development why not support the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)? This would surely have a greater developmental impact, if improving the livelihoods of the people is what the U.S. wants; maybe this has not been clearly stated as such in the previous definition of Africa’s needs.

Sixth, Africans were never consulted during the conceptualization of Africom. Rather Africom was announced and has been presented as a fait accompli. Africans are presently experiencing the exuberance of self-importance and confidence to drive their own destiny. There is a prevailing mood on the continent to reassert African self-worth and self-determination. This is why “consultation” has become a common cliché on the continent.

Seventh, there is also a concern that Africom will suffer from mission creep by being transformed from engagement in humanitarian missions to an interventionist force, as was the case with Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1992. The change of the humanitarian objectives could also come about due to the nexus of energy, poverty, and terrorism. Despite the oil wealth of African countries, 23 West African nations are ranked bottom on the UN human development index on poverty. The test case for this mission would be the Niger Delta region where an insurgency has been taking place since 2004, when unemployed youths took up arms to demand an equitable distribution of Nigeria’s oil wealth. Besides using violence, sabotage and kidnapping tactics, these youths under the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), have shut off approximately 711,000 barrels per day (bpd) of Nigeria’s output of 2.5 million bpd. There is a strong feeling that if such activities interfere with U.S. oil supplies in Africa, there is a high likelihood that Africom could be used to protect U.S. interests.

Eighth, militarization of U.S.-Africa relations—Africans are wary of the U.S. record in Iraq and concerned that the Pentagon is taking the lead role in the promotion of U.S. interests. Establishment of Africom could be seen as President Bush’s approach of using military force to pursue U.S. strategic interests. Africom will not only militarise U.S.-African relations but also those African countries in which it will be located. This could have far-reaching consequences, as the presence of American bases in these countries will create radical militants opposed to the U.S. and make Americans targets of violence.

Ninth, the mixed messages being relayed to Africa by the U.S. government have compounded the confusion and heightened the suspicions Africans have of Africom’s objectives:

· In 1995, the DOD in its U.S. Security Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa stated that the U.S. had “very little traditional strategic interest in Africa.” But Theresa Whelan, the Assistant Secretary for Defence, has recently argued that Africa is providing “tens of thousands of U.S. jobs, …possesses 8% of the world’s petroleum; and it is a major source of critical minerals, precious metals and food commodities.”

· Ryan Henry, the Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defence for Policy and Pentagon pointman on Africom, has stated that its purpose is not to wage war but “to work in concert with (U.S.) African partners for a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place.” However, Gen Wald minced no words when he stated that: “I’d like to have some forward bases in Africa. The world has changed and we are going to make our security. The Halcyon days are over.”

· General Bantz Craddock, the EUCOM Commander, told journalists in Washington in June that protecting energy assets, particularly in West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, would guide the focus of Africom. Gen Craddock added that Africom will “enable countries (in West Africa) to improve their security of any type of production—oil, natural gas, minerals.”

· These intentions are reflective of the bold recommendations made by Vice President Dick Cheney’s National Energy Policy Development Group, in 2001, that the Bush administration “make(s) energy security a priority of (U.S.) trade and foreign policy.” One year later, the Bush administration rolled out its “West Point Doctrine” that essentially stated that the U.S. would not allow a major economic, political or military competitor to emerge.

. . . . .

Misconceptions of Americans

In view of the above, it is apparent that Americans have a number of misconceptions that need to be addressed before prescribing ways of how to address African concerns about Africom.

1. Muslims in Africa are attracted to radical ideology promoting violence against Western interests. This is not true, as Muslims are desperate to have education for their children so that they can compete in the globalized world. They want the basics of life like other people and there are many of them who would prefer to live in the U.S. rather than Saudi Arabia if given a choice.

2. Terrorism is a threat to African interests. Terrorism is not generally regarded in Africa as a major threat to the livelihoods of the people. Addressing it is not a top priority in security matters—compared to urban violence, pastoralist conflicts, proliferation arms and state violence. Africa is being terrorised by hunger, diseases (HIV/AIDS, malaria, etc), lack of life basics, oppressive laws, bad leadership, poor governance, unfair terms of international trade, foreign debt, conditionalities of international financial institutions, etc. Africans are afraid that Africom, in the guise of development assistance and combating terrorism, could be used to destabilise African countries, whose leaders and governments the U.S. does not get along with.

3. Africa is incapable of addressing its problems. Africans have been trying since 2000 to come up with strategies to address its underdevelopment, violent conflicts, and many threats to human security. These efforts have seen the formation of the New Partnership for Africa Development (NEPAD) and the African Union (AU). The AU has adopted an ambitious conflict prevention, management and resolution agenda that it is implementing through structures such as the Peace and Security Council. Other relevant structures include an African Standby Force (ASF) that would be based on 5 regional brigades. This is where the U.S. should play a critical role in building the capacities of these structures to promote peace and security in Africa.

4. Africom “will enhance (American) efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote (American and African) common goals of development, health, education, democracy and economic growth in Africa,” according to President Bush. Some Africans think Africom would instead bring to them “military development, military health, military education, military democracy and military economic growth.” U.S. bases have produced a dependency culture in places such as the Philippines that increased poverty and disadvantaged women. U.S. military bases have brought unstable and uneven development to areas in which they were established. In countries with high unemployment and where most of the unemployed are women, sex work flourished, as it became a common means for women to feed their families.

What can be done to address African misconceptions of Africom

The U.S. needs to pay a keen attention to the following in order to overcome the serious concerns that Africans have of Africom.

· Open dialogue with civil society on the rationale, mission objectives and specific benefits that Africom would bring to the African human security agenda.

· Demonstrate opportunities within the proposed structure that would guarantee links with civil society to ensure participation and contextual relevance. Additionally, reconceptualize Africom to complement the African Standby Force and the work of the AU and Regional Mechanisms to prevent, manage and resolves conflicts in Africa.

· Share the exit strategy and phase-out plans and the milestones of Africom activities and encourage civil society to monitor them during the implementation phase, with specific focus on their outcomes.

· Define, elaborate and clarify Africom’s relationships with the AU (Peace and Security Council, AU Commission) and Regional Mechanisms for conflict prevention, management and resolution.

· Guarantee that the interests and sovereignty of African states will not be compromised or undermined by Africom.

· Seek AU endorsement of Africom by the Executive Council and the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government.

· Since Africom is viewed within the wider context of the Global War on Terror and the likelihood of the theatre of terrorism shifting from the Middle East to Africa, it may be wise to review the timing. It could be even much better to wait until a time when the U.S. has an administration that is not regarded as arrogant and uncaring about other countries’ interests.

· Fully implement existing commitments, particularly the U.S. foreign assistance and public diplomacy programs in Africa: AGOA, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), USAID programs/projects, etc.

· Last but not least, the U.S. should seriously think of changing its international engagement and posture, which is increasingly espousing American exceptionalism and unilateralism. Whatever the virtues of the assault on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, it, and its consequences, have impacted very negatively on U.S. prestige. Most African governments have expressed their deeply felt opposition to the enterprise. Those that have not are often seen to be seeking U.S. complicity in their own violations of human freedoms or hoping for some form of reward for their silence. The refusal of the U.S. to countenance the involvement of its armed forces in UN operations unless under U.S. command is also irksome, as are insistences on exemptions for U.S. citizens from prosecution in the ICC, and other objectionable elements of Status of Forces Agreements. This exceptionalism is also exhibited in the way US embassies are built to appear like barracks barricading American diplomats and making embassies no-go zones.


Africom will not be accepted in Africa if it does not take into account the desires and aspirations of the African people for peace, security and development. The policy that Africom aims to enhance should be reflective of the African realities: growing multipartism and democratic consolidation, the continuing quest for sustainable development, the need to enhance state capacity, the craving for good governance, promotion of human security, etc. Any foreign assistance to Africa must incorporate these realities, as well as the desires and aspirations of the African people. Africom will have a win/win outcome if it is reflective of these facts and is presented as a mutually beneficial partnership.

The hostility that it has faced so far points to the fact that Africom could turn out to be an expensive endeavor, both in terms of resources and long-term U.S.-Africa relations. It should not come as a surprise that Washington’s designs for Africa are now viewed with skepticism. Oil, China and terrorism are being seen to be the principal concerns of the U.S. initiative. If the coordination of a securitized development policy for Africa is part of the U.S. strategy, then it is seen by many local observers as essentially secondary and subordinate to the main aim.

Thank you for the honor and opportunity to share with you my views on this important issue. I would be more than glad to answer any question that the Subcommittee may have.

Finance Minister Antoinette Sayeh with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
“It took men three decades to destroy Liberia, and it is now the women who are fixing it.”
– quote from one very impressed man in Monrovia–

Liberia is poor. Its people are poor, its government is poor, the state of the country’s infrastructure is poor. You’d be hard pressed indeed to find a country much poorer than Liberia today.

And yet, paradoxically, Liberia should be filthy rich. From the perspective of its natural resources, Liberia boasts a literal gold mine. Open a map of Liberia, close your eyes and draw an X, and you may very well have located your fortune.
. . .
The hefty profits from extractive industries – diamonds, gold, forestry – have for decades been used against Liberia’s people instead of for them.

“The Bush administration’s new obsession with AFRICOM and its militaristic approach has many malign consequences,” write FPIF columnist and co-director Emira Woods and FPIF contributor Ezekiel Pajibo in AFRICOM: Wrong for Liberia, Disastrous for Africa. “It increases U.S. interference in the affairs of Africa. It brings more military hardware to a continent that already has too much. By helping to build machineries of repression, these policies reinforce undemocratic practices and reward leaders responsive not to the interests or needs of their people but to the demands and dictates of U.S. military agents. Making military force a higher priority than development and diplomacy creates an imbalance that can encourage irresponsible regimes to use U.S. sourced military might to oppress their own people, now or potentially in the future.”

As Woods and Pajibo write:

AFRICOM’s first public links with the West African country of Liberia was through a Washington Post op-ed written by the African- American businessman Robert L. Johnson, “Liberia’s Moment of Opportunity.” Forcefully endorsing AFRICOM, Johnson urged that it be based in Liberia. Then came an unprecedented guest column from Liberia’s president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, “AFRICOM Can Help Governments Willing To Help Themselves,” touting AFRICOM’s potential to “help” Africa “develop a stable environment in which civil society can flourish and the quality of life for Africans can be improved.”

Despite these high-profile endorsements, the consolidation and expansion of U.S. military power on the African continent is misguided and could lead to disastrous outcomes.

Liberia’s 26-year descent into chaos started when the Reagan administration prioritized military engagement and funneled military hardware, training, and financing to the regime of the ruthless dictator Samuel K. Doe. This military “aid,” seen as “soft power” at that time, built the machinery of repression that led to the deaths of an estimated 250,000 Liberians.

. . .

Liberia has already given the Bush administration the exclusive role of restructuring its armed forces. The private U.S. military contractor DYNCORP has been carrying out this function. After more than two years in Liberia and an estimated $800,000 budget allocated, DYNCORP has not only failed to train the 2,000 men it was contracted to train, it has also not engaged Liberia’s Legislature or its civil society in defining the nature, content, or character of the new army. DYNCORP allotted itself the prerogative to determine the number of men/women to be trained and the kind of training it would conduct, exclusively infantry training, even though Liberia had not elaborated a national security plan or developed a comprehensive military doctrine. In fact, the creation of Liberia’s new army has been the responsibility of another sovereign state, the United States, in total disregard to Liberia’s constitution, which empowers the legislature to raise the national army.

This pattern of abuse and incompetence with the U.S. military and its surrogate contractors suggests that if AFRICOM is based in Liberia, the Bush administration will have an unacceptable amount of power to dictate Liberia’s security interests and orchestrate how the country manages those interests. By placing a military base in Liberia, the United States could systematically interfere in Liberian politics in order to ensure that those who succeed in obtaining power are subservient to U.S. national security and other interests. If this is not neo-colonialism, then what is?

And based in Liberia, AFRICOM would be conveniently located to interfere in governments throughout the West Africa, and all along the Gulf of Guinea.

Another unsavory fact, and additional evidence that DynCorp is wrong for Liberia, are the charges of human traffiking, sexual slavery, and paedophilia in Eastern Europe, brought against DynCorp by employees of the company, and documented on video. (Insight on the News; 9/2/2002, Vol. 18 Issue 32, p48) In Liberia, a land whose children have already suffered being conscripted as soldiers, in conjunction with human traffiking, sexual slavery, and paedophilia; Dyncorp is uniquely unqualified to act in any capacity.

I came across another point about defense contracting that people in both the US and Africa need to consider. Kevin Drum points to this:

. . . there has been very little public debate or discussion about military privatization. . . . the kind of privatization represented by the gun-toting Iraq war contractors has created what she called “a live war military-industrial complex” — that is, an industry that depends for its profits, even its existence, on hot wars, wars that kill people. . . . it’s an opening to all sorts of other issues.

Although he adds:

Hmmm. Is this really true? It might be, but the old military-industrial complex seemed to be pretty good at nudging us into hot wars too

Some time ago I came across the Perpetual War Portfolio. In theory, this is satire, but look at the return, and look at the connections. The Bush family, Cheney, and their friends and associates are all heavily involved with these and related corporations, all are profiting from the Bush war presidency.

Fracture zones (lineaments in the sea floor topography offshore Africa) in the oceanic crust show right-lateral movement between Africa and South America. Fracture zones also tend to offset sub-basins and affect sedimentation. Gulf of Guinea

The military base is the US version of a colony.

Nick Turse has written Planet Pentagon: How the Department of Defense Came to Own the Earth, Seas and Skies.

Department of Defense (DoD) . . . (deploys) . . . nearly 255,000 military personnel at 725 bases in 38 countries. Since then, the total number of overseas bases has increased to at least 766 and, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service, may actually be as high as 850. Still, even these numbers don’t begin to capture the global sprawl of the organization that unabashedly refers to itself as “one of the world’s largest ‘landlords.'”

The pentagon also has problems keeping accurate records of money spent. This has been particularly a problem under Bush/Cheney, and seems to be a part of their kleptocratic management style.

. . . it cannot even account for at least $1 trillion dollars in money spent — or perhaps . . . as much as $2.3 trillion.

and -

By its own admission, it is also a slumlord par excellence — with an inventory of “180,000 inadequate family housing units.”

But the piece that should really worry people in African countries, particularly those bordering the Gulf of Guinea:

U.S. military is exploring long-term options to dominate the planet as never before. Previously, the DoD has only maintained a moving presence on the high seas. This may change. The Pentagon is now considering — and planning for — future “sea-basing.” No longer just a ship, a fleet, or “prepositioned material” stationed on the world’s oceans, sea-bases will be “a hybrid system-of-systems consisting of concepts of operations, ships, forces, offensive and defensive weapons, aircraft, communications and logistics.” The notion of such bases is increasingly popular within the military due to the fact that they “will help to assure access to areas where U.S. military forces may be denied access to support [land] facilities.” After all, as a report by the Defense Science Board pointed out, “[S]eabases are sovereign [and] not subject to alliance vagaries.” Imagine a future where the people of countries at odds with U.S. policies suddenly find America’s “massive seaborne platforms” floating just outside their territorial waters.

The Heritage Foundation, which is responsible for the Bush administration thinking and planning behind the African Command, has spelled out Bush/Cheney intentions towards Africa. The basics of the plan are to extract the natural resources, particularly oil, and use the land of the African continent as a gigantic sugar cane plantation to grow bio-fuel to feed the US petrol appetite. The US Africa Command looks more and more a threat to African sovereignty, safety, and economy.

Oil blocks, Niger Delta and Gulf of Guinea

So far we have not seen much sign of the supposedly “humanitarian” side of Africom. We have have already seen plenty of militarization. This little tidbit about the “thinking” behind Africom should send shivers down the spine of anyone from Africa, or anyone who cares about Africa.

Bush Administration Africa policy flows almost directly from recommendations from two right-wing Washington think tanks: the Heritage Foundation that came up with the idea of an African command and the American Enterprise Institute. (The latter would appear to be working to increase its clout by recently adding to its staff former – briefly – World Bank director, neo-conservative, and Iraq war promoter, Paul Wolfowitz, who says his principle interest these days is Africa.)
. . .

Nii Akuetteh, the executive director of Washington-based Africa Action, said Africom “has nothing to do with African interests and programs; its access to oil and the ‘war on terror’.” Akuetteh, a former Adjunct Professor at Georgetown’s University’s School of Foreign Service and one time Research and Education Director of the advocacy group TransAfrica, told me he is of two minds about the appointment of General Ward. “He must be someone of considerable competence to have risen to where he is, given the persistence of racism, and that is a good thing. What bothers me is the concept of Africom itself; I don’t like it. Beyond all the talk about bureaucratic reorganization the real fear must be over the threat of increased militarization of sub-Saharan Africa. If you read the details you will see that that’s pretty much what it is.”

Akuetteh says although some African governments may have welcomed the idea, civil groups in most of Africa and people in the U.S. concerned with U.S. policy toward the continent, “ are all of one mind: we don’t like it.”

Bill Fletcher Jr., BC Editorial Board Member and former President of TransAfrica, said, “It is ludicrous to think that setting up Africom has anything to do with fighting terrorism. It is a dangerous notion.” The real motivation, he says, is to protect America’s oil interests in Africa.
. . .
TransAfrica argues that “While the Bush administration claims this development will build partnerships with African governments that will lead to ‘greater peace and security to the people of Africa’ nothing could be further from the truth. This newest incursion follows a pattern of extraction of minerals and aiding factions in some of Africa’s most bloody conflicts: thus further destabilizing the continent. This operation will strengthen the US military’s presence in the Gulf of Guinea, to aid oil extraction processes and will work to further militarize the Horn of Africa in support of the administration’s ‘war on terror.’ US troops are already on the Horn of Africa carrying out operations within Somalia and on its border with Kenya.”

There is still no sign of addressing the problems of the people who live where the oil is being extracted. And there is no mention of any steps being taken so that they receive a fair share of their oil wealth. So much for “humanitarian”.

And now NATO is ramping up military activity in the Niger Delta. b real posted this information in a comment in the previous post. It is significant enough to repeat here:

b real said…

here’s something to add – they’ve finally announced which ships are involved in some of the gulf of guinea maneuvers

july 24: NATO takes steps to demonstrate interest in N/Delta
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) has deployed six warships to orbit Africa in what is seen as a show of force and a demonstration that the world powers are closely monitoring the worsening security situation in the Niger Delta.

The multinational force comprising six ships from six different NATO nations, Canada, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal and the United States are scheduled to embark on a historic 12,500 nautical mile circumnavigation of Africa on a two month deployment from August to October this year as part of NATO’s commitment to global security.

Coming soon after the Bush Administration announced the creation of a new unified [combatant] command, Africa Command (AFRICOM) to promote U.S. national security objectives in Africa, the NATO move is already being seen as the deepening of the West’s scramble for Africa in the bid to checkmate China’s growing diplomatic and economic influence in the continent. The world’s most populous country and Asia’s emerging economic giant has recently been exerting escalating economic sway especially in the sub-region’s energy sector where it has invested heavily in Nigerian and Sudanese oil fields. Analysts see Chinese mounting influence in a sphere formerly controlled by the West exclusively as a threat to Europe and America both of which are looking at the West African Coast for their energy needs in view of the increasing volatility of the Middle East.

By August 4, NATO’s Standing Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), one of NATO’s four standing maritime forces, will sail from the Mediterranean to the west coast of Africa and the Niger Delta.

most links i’ve been trying to follow to SNMG1 are no longer functional. looks like the u.s. navy took command of SNMG1 from canada back on january 26.

a cached press release states that to force will consist of “one cruiser, four frigates and a tanker.”

the listed ships are:
USS Normandy – “The flagship of SNMG1, the USS Normandy is a guided missile Ticonderoga class cruiser. She is a multi mission anti-air, anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare ship with a distinguished history of active service particularly in the Gulf and off the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. She has the Aegis Weapon System, Tomahawk, two 5-inch guns and can operate two Seahawk helicopter.”

HTLMS Evertsen – “HNLMS Evertsen is a state of the art air defence and command frigate of the Zeven Provinciën class, Royal Netherlands Navy. Her stealth like construction makes her less detectable by radar. She is equipped with an impressive sensor array combined with the Standard Missile, Sea Sparrow, Harpoon, 127 mm main gun, torpedo weapon systems and an NH 90 size Helicopter.”

HMCS Toronto – “The Canadian Halifax Class multi-role patrol frigate HMCS Toronto has an impressive range of tactical and defensive weapons including the Harpoon anti ship and Sea Sparrow anti-aircraft missile systems, a 57 mm gun and anti-submarine Sea King helicopter. She has taken part in Operation Active Endeavour (OAE) in the Mediterranean and in Hurricane Katrina relief operations.”

NRP Alvaras Cabral – “one of the major ships of the Portuguese Navy. She is a Vasco de Gama Class frigate fitted with Harpoon, Sea Sparrow, Torpedo systems and a large flight deck and hangar to operate two Lynx helicopters. Portugal regularly contributes to the Standing NATO Maritime Forces and has long standing historical links with Africa.”

HDMS Olfert Fischer – “The Royal Danish Navy Niels Juel Class corvette, HDMS Olfert Fischer, has been a regular participant in Standing Naval Force Atlantic since 1992. She has served in the Gulf War and Iraq and is fitted with Harpoon, Sea Sparrow and a 76 mm gun”

FGS Spessart – “The German Navy Rhone Class Replenishment Tanker, FGS Spessart will support SNMG1 throughout the deployment, ensuring that the Force has sufficient fuel and provisions to sustain operations far from home for long periods of time. She has a displacement of 10,800 tonnes and is 427 ft long.”

“The Africa 2007 deployment will include conducting ‘presence operations’ in the Gulf of Guinea, a region that has seen many incidents in recent months of attacks on oil installations in the Niger Delta and kidnapping of oil workers. During this phase the NATO force will be in a position to make a difference to security in the region, deterring criminal groups and enabling NATO maritime commanders to compile a picture of maritime activity in the area.”

“SNMG1 will conduct surveillance and ‘presence operations’ in the Gulf of Guinea and off the Horn of Africa passing information back to the two NATO Surveillance Coordination Centres (SCCs) at Northwood in the UK and Naples in Italy.”

John C K Daly for ISN Security Watch reported back in February that

The Pentagon reportedly plans to establish another dozen bases in the region; in Algeria, Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Ghana, Morocco and Tunisia.

That is nine countries and twelve bases. I suspect that means at least two for Ghana. And there are at least two places in Ghana where the US military is very active right now.

The rising violence in Nigeria’s Delta region may well be the rock upon which AFRICOM’s humanitarian focus founders.

Assuming the focus was ever humanitarian,

If a combination of militant attacks and general strikes completely paralyzed Nigerian production, it would seem rather unlikely that US military forces would sit by idly as oil shipments from America’s third largest oil importer ground to a halt.

During this same time, from other sources:

Irregular warfare is a growth market, and converting fishing boats into riverine patrol veseels could soon be a booming business with the US Navy, which is standing up a new riverine command for the first time since the Vietnam War.
So far, no company has applied the same approach with aviation, but that will probably change. US Air Force Special Operations Command is talking about standing up an Irregular Warfare wing, with a full squadron of single-engine turboprop fighters to serve as counter-inusrgency aircraft in the mold of the Vietnam-era Douglas A-1 Skyraider.


Due to current war demands, the Navy provides selected intelligence specialists an eight-week “ground intelligence” course that had previously been reserved for sailors in the naval special warfare community. The course covers terrain analysis, land navigation, tactics and other subjects.
Graduates of the course get assignments with Navy forces operating ashore or close to shore, such as the new riverine squadrons, Seabees, explosive ordnance disposal units, maritime interdiction teams and coastal warfare squadrons, as well as special warfare units.

It seems obvious to me that the Gulf of Guinea and the Niger Delta are the major reason for the renewed US interest in riverine warfare. The US is saying:

Campbell (outgoing US ambassador in Nigeria,) dispelled claims of US military base in the Gulf of Guinea: “There are no military bases in the Gulf of Guinea. We have no plan or intentions to establish any; the relationship between Nigeria military and the US military is primarily training.
“There is no permanent US military presence in the Gulf of Guinea. Obviously, US military vessels would pass through the Gulf of Guinea going from one point to another; it is an open waters.”

I read an interview today with Mike Davis about his book, Planet of Slums. I have copied some key quotes from the article, though I recommend reading the whole article. It has implications for people on every continent. It has relevance to the US and US policies, most immediately in Iraq. It also has particular relevance to West Africa and citizens of the countries of the Gulf of Guinea. Here follow some passages from the interview:

Sadr City, at one point named Saddam City, the Eastern quadrant of Baghdad, has grown to grotesque proportions — two million poor people, mainly Shia. And it’s still growing, as are Sunni slums by the way, thanks now not to Saddam but to disastrous American policies toward agriculture into which the U.S. has put almost no reconstruction money. Vast farmlands have been turned back into desert, while everything focused, however unsuccessfully, on restoration of the oil industry. The crucial thing would have been to preserve some equilibrium between countryside and city, but American policies just accelerated the flight from the land.
. . .
In my book, I looked at the relationship between the pervasive global slum, everywhere associated with sanitation disasters, with classical conditions favoring the rapid movement of disease through human populations; and on the other side, I focused on how the transformation of livestock production was creating entirely new conditions for the emergence of diseases among animals and their transmission to humans.

We have the:

. . . urbanization of livestock . . . millions of chickens living in warehouses, in factory farms. Bird densities like this have never existed in nature and they probably favor, according to epidemiologists I’ve talked to, maximum virulence, the accelerated evolution of diseases.
. . .
At the same time, wetlands around the world have been degraded and water diverted.
. . .
This is a formula for biological disaster and avian flu is the second pandemic of globalization. It’s very clear now that HIV AIDS emerged at least partially through the bush-meat trade, as West Africans were forced to turn to bush meat because European factory ships were vacuuming up all the fish in the Gulf of Guinea, the major traditional source of protein in urban diets.
. . .
the future of guerrilla warfare, insurrection against the world system, has moved into the city. Nobody has realized this with as much clarity as the Pentagon, or more vigorously tried to grapple with its empirical consequences. Its strategists are way ahead of geopoliticians and traditional foreign-relations types in understanding the significance of a world of slums…
. . .
The question of the exchange of violence between the city of slums and the imperial city is linked to a deeper question — the question of agency. How will this very large minority of humanity that now lives in cities but is exiled from the formal world economy find its future? What is its capacity for historical agency?
. . .
Well, here you have an informal working class with no strategic place in production, in the economy, that has nonetheless discovered a new social power — the power to disrupt the city, to strike at the city, ranging from the creative nonviolence . . . to the now universal use of car bombs by nationalist and sectarian groups to strike at middle-class neighborhoods, financial districts, even green zones. I think there’s much global experimentation, trying to find out how to use the power of disruption.
. . . I’ll tell you what I suspect may be the greatest of disruptive powers — the power to disrupt global energy flows. Poor people with minimal technology are capable of doing that across the thousands of miles of unguardable pipeline on this planet.
. . .
The city is our ark in which we might survive the environmental turmoil of the next century. Genuinely urban cities are the most environmentally efficient form of existing with nature that we possess because they can substitute public luxury for private or household consumption. They can square the circle between environmental sustainability and a decent standard of living. I mean, however big your library is or vast your swimming pool, it’ll never be the same as the New York Public Library or a great public pool. No mansion, no San Simeon, will ever be the equivalent of Central Park or Broadway.

One of the major problems, however, is: We’re building cities without urban qualities. Poor cities, in particular, are consuming the natural areas and watersheds which are essential to their functioning as environmental systems, to their ecological sustainability, and they’re consuming them either because of destructive private speculation or simply because poverty pours over into every space. All around the world, the crucial watersheds and green spaces that cities need to function ecologically and be truly urban are being urbanized by poverty and by speculative private development. Poor cities, as a result, are becoming increasingly vulnerable to disaster, pandemic, and catastrophic resource shortages, particularly of water.

Conversely, the most important step toward coping with global environmental change is to reinvest — massively — in the social and physical infrastructures of our cities, and thereby reemploy tens of millions of poor youth.

On February 6 of this year the US announced the creation of the US Africa Command. On April 6 of this year the US Navy convened a Riverine Warfare Conference in Annapolis. At the same time, the Navy is putting energy and money into its new Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, designed to operate in brown and green water. Personnel are lining up to join it.

Coincidence? One definition of coincidence (I believe I read this in a book by John Brunner) is coincidence means you are not paying attention to the rest of what is going on.

The Niger Delta in the Gulf of Guinea is a large riverine environment that is currently becoming increasingly militarized and unstable. The Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea are where the US plans to get a lot more of its oil. If the US wants to use its military there, it will need a force trained and equipped for the riverine environment.

From several pages I’ve linked from, plus some other articles, I was able to collect the following information.

Now, the Navy is spending $200 million on the new Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), reinventing its conventional riverine capability, which has been dormant since the Vietnam War.
. . .
“Once trained, we will be the Navy’s face in the global war on terrorism.”

A major portion of the mission of the Riverine Squadron is:

. . . to conduct port security, coastal surveillance and interception as necessary, as well as protect any maritime asset and infrastructure that we may be tasked,” . . . “This includes ships, submarines, piers, ports, oil platforms or a new beach head for delivering supplies to support humanitarian assistance.” . . . (and includes) anti-terrorism and force protection in harbors and coastal waterways in the continental United States and overseas locations such as Korea, the Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa region.

And in a related article:

. . . these forces provide harbor defense, port security, high value asset escorting, and littoral surveillance support operations . . . They accomplish their mission by locating, identifying, and neutralizing potential threats and maintaining security throughout areas of operation. . . . (they) will help expand the Navy’s inshore war-fighting capabilities, and allow safer travel for U.S. and allied vessels through foreign coastal waters, harbors and rivers.”

“The enemy is definitely going to frown when they hear the U.S. Navy is going into the brown and green water. They are not going to like that,” he said.
. . .
In a written response to questions from National Defense, a Naval Special Warfare Command spokesman said that the riverine force will cover more conventional types of operations, but that the riverine and special operations forces will train and fight together. (emphasis mine)

There remains some awareness and discussion that you can’t operate without some positive interaction with the citizens of the country where you are operating. From the report on the Riverine Warfare Conference:

. . . “riverine warfare … is not control of just the rivers and canals, it is control of the whole area, and that takes more than just boats.” Said Captain Hock, “You have to become part of the culture. You have to integrate.”
. . .
And for riverine work to really work . . . “you have to get off the boat.” Civilian assistance—providing medical aid, delivering essential supplies, and any other type of goodwill initiatives—has to be perceived as a crucial part of the mission. Not only are you doing a good deed, . . . but “you’re taking those villages away as bases of operations” for the bad guys.

No mention is made in any of these articles about the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea. There was mention of Iraq, where there is some riverine activity, and some mention of fighting drugs in Central and South America, especially along Peru and Columbia. I don’t think riverine warfare is a major part of US operations in Iraq. And the drug war has been going on for decades and has achieved nothing that resembles success. Oil in the Gulf of Guinea is the primary motive for Africa Command and this renewed interest in riverine warfare.

Because of the situation in the Niger Delta, I have described here and here, among other places, the US is cruising for more than a bruising in the Delta. Unless the Nigerian Federal and State governments share oil resources with the citizens of the oil regions, there is no chance for peace or safety. The place is too big, and too heavily populated. It is not possible to fight everyone in their own country (a lesson the US seems to have a lot of trouble learning).

Remember these statistics on Nigeria originating from the World Bank:

80% of oil wealth is owned by 1% of the population; 70% of private wealth is abroad whilst 3/4 of the country live on about $1 a day – at least 15 million of those live in the Niger Delta

Unless this inequity can be addressed, and there are suggestions for how to do that here, the only alternative is to defoliate the place, and kill the 15 million people who live there, or fight for many decades killing many people on both sides, and achieving little or nothing except vast suffering. A military force cannot address the political and diplomatic problem. That problem requires leading with political and diplomatic skills. A few smiles, handouts, and a visiting doctor or two will make no difference. For the US Africa Command to try and work with the Nigerian government to “control” the problem by force, without addressing the profound and fundamental inequity that feeds the source, is simply to advise the oppressor that when he grinds people under his heel, he should twist his foot more to the left, or more to the right.

I think this may have been the explosion on Dec. 26, 2006, that killed more than 500 people. It is a powerful picture and I wish I could give credit to the photographer, but I don’t have that information.

Root Causes

According to what I read, there are three root causes of the oil violence in the Niger Delta.

  1. 50 years of exploitation, indifference, and short sighted greed on the part of the oil companies.
  2. Nigerian state and federal officials allocating and stealing the oil money for themselves, with approval and collusion from the oil companies.
  3. Violent actions and reprisals by the Nigerian Army acting as security forces for the oil companies, often acting against towns and people unrelated to an initial incident.

In any discussion of oil and Nigeria, it is important to keep this in mind, it is not sustainable:

80% of oil wealth is owned by 1% of the population; 70% of private wealth is abroad whilst 3/4 of the country live on about $1 a day – at least 15 million of those live in the Niger Delta.

As a consequence of the three root causes, there is now a 4th cause of violence, guerrilla entrepreneurs, as mentioned in the previous post. Initially these were a reaction to the three root causes. But now they are also an escalating cause of violence.

Had the oil companies and the Nigerian government been willing to act in good faith, and to think long term at any point in the process, the present situation could have been averted.

As a result of short sighted attention to the bottom line, and lack of long term attention to the bottom line, which would have included paying attention to the wellbeing of the people and the environment where they operate, the oil companies are losing money as their production is shut down throughout the Delta.

The Oil Companies

The role of the oil companies at this point is quite simple, but they talk about it as being very complicated. They are a major player in the future and the current state of this country. They claim, whenever you ask them critically what they’re doing, they claim that they should not be involved in the affairs of a foreign nation, which is of course absurd, because they’re engaged in influencing the affairs of foreign nations every day. In Nigeria, they literally sit down at the table with the Nigerian government and work with them every day to determine what’s going to happen with petroleum-use laws, with the environment, with actually how to deal with the resistance itself. . . . With the military as their own security. . . . The JTF, which means joint task force, serves as private security forces in, in essence, occupied villages.

Prince Wegwu, head of the youth association in the village of Mbodo Aluu:

What we are agitating for is 25 percent of all oil revenues. We know that the oil companies give money to people in secret and we want them to stop that. The companies should give part of the money to the oldest men in the village and the other part of it to the head of each family.

Sure some elders don’t always use the money correctly but that is where our youth associations come in: We would make sure the money does not go missing and ensure there is no violence.

But we don’t want money; we want jobs. We are all unemployed here.

As long as oil companies and the government give nothing, the youth will be angry. And it’s not good to get angry because that’s when things get violent.

The Nigerian State and Federal Officials – Misappropriation and Theft
The following specifically describes problems in Rivers State. But these problems are not confined to Rivers State. This report describes the basics of how state officials allocate or steal all public money for their own interests, and the problems for the citizens that result. Chop Fine, the Human Rights Watch report, tells us the following:

Human Rights Watch found that the government’s failure to tackle local-level corruption violates Nigeria’s obligation to provide basic health and education services to its citizens.

Since 1999, the revenues accruing to the 23 local governments in Rivers have more than quadrupled. And in 2006, the Rivers state government’s budget was US$1.3 billion, larger than the budgets of many countries in West Africa. But that windfall has not translated into efforts by local governments to bolster basic education and health care systems that have teetered on the edge of collapse for many years.
. . .
The report documents how revenues flowing into local government treasuries in recent years have been grossly misallocated or stolen outright. Many local governments have lavished funds on new government offices and other massive construction projects that dwarf spending on health care and education. One local government dedicated only 2.4 percent of its revenues to maintaining its crumbling primary school infrastructure while spending 30 percent of its budget on salaries and expenses for the offices of its chairman and legislative councilors. Some local government chairmen have set aside more money for their own travel and “miscellaneous expenses” than they allocate to the schools and health clinics they are charged with running.

As one embittered resident put it, “All they do is build their headquarters, massive things, air-condition them, and buy vehicles to drive around in.”

Significant revenues are also lost to apparent theft.
. . .
Civil servants, health workers and others told Human Rights Watch that money set aside in local government budgets for health care and education had never reached its intended destination. The salaries of many health workers are months in arrears, even though the money to pay them is included in the budget. The head teacher of one primary school told Human Rights Watch that when he complained to local officials about his school’s lack of materials, such as chalk, he was told that the local government had no money for education. Human Rights Watch visited clinics so under-equipped that their demoralized staff could offer almost no services, and in some cases staff had padlocked the doors and abandoned their posts altogether. Many primary schools in Rivers state have no desks, textbooks or other teaching materials, and classes are held in crumbling buildings without access to water or toilet facilities.

“We started to produce oil in 1957 here but look at the town – government has done nothing for us,” a teacher interviewed in Akuku/Toru local government told Human Rights Watch. “Local government is supposed to help the school but they don’t. They have not given us any support . . . The most important things we need are textbooks, instructional materials, and a toilet.”

The Rivers state government is charged with overseeing the conduct of its local governments. But many of the problems of local-level governance in the state are mirrored by the state government’s own conduct. For example, the office of the state governor had a travel budget of roughly US$65,000 per day in 2006, along with budgets for unspecified “grants,” “contributions” and “donations” that totaled an additional US$92,000 per day. This official extravagance contrasts sharply with the virtual absence of state services for much of the population.

“Local government corruption in Rivers is astonishingly brazen and has caused untold suffering,” said Takirambudde. “Yet neither Rivers state nor the federal government has done nearly enough to address the problem of local corruption or punish those responsible.”
. . .
The human impact of the government’s failure to live up to its responsibilities to provide basic health and education services is not limited to Rivers state. One in five Nigerian children dies before the age of five, a statistic that translates into more than 1 million child deaths per year. Many are struck down by illnesses that could be easily prevented by the basic health infrastructure Nigeria’s local governments are tasked with maintaining. Public primary schools, part of a school system that was once among the best in Africa, have fallen into an appalling state of disrepair and dysfunction across much of Nigeria.

Nigerian Military Violence

The Nigerian military serves in essence as private security for the oil companies, though I would argue that its actions do not make them more secure, certainly not in the long run.

With the military as their own security. . . . The JTF, which means joint task force, serves as private security forces in, in essence, occupied villages. These villages are the places where pump stations are right literally in the middle of town. Gas flares right next to where people live. And the JTF is serving as security for Chevron and Shell.

There are plenty of documented cases of military atrocities and destruction. The Nigerian government has repeatedly used collective punishment on communities, such as Odi, Odioma, or Aker Base, and many more. Often the perpetrators they are seeking are long gone in their boats, and the local community suffers instead.

From Odioma:

“When the soldiers arrived at the community yesterday with their gunboats, our people thought they came for peace, and so no one raised any dust. Our chiefs gathered immediately at the palace of the Amanyanabo to await the soldiers to explain their mission, but the next thing that happened was shooting, shooting, shooting…. firing and firing. The soldiers were shooting at everyone, and started burning houses at the waterside” – Philemon Kelly Dickson, Odioma community spokesperson

“We are so surprised. Government says they are for peace but it is killing and killing. We never killed anybody, so why this?” – Reuben Diepre, Odioma community youth president

From Aker Base

. . . at least two pickup trucks full of uniformed soldiers entered the Aker Base community carrying canisters of gasoline, residents told Human Rights Watch. They spread out inside of the settlement, moving from building to building, dousing homes and businesses with gasoline and setting them ablaze. It is not clear how many soldiers were involved in the attack, but the burned area covered an area roughly equivalent to four football fields.
. . .
Residents of Aker Base described their community as having been a settlement where many people ran bars, shops or other businesses out of their modest homes. When Human Rights Watch visited the scene two days after the attack, there was not a single structure left standing, and tin roofing lay in twisted piles atop the charred ruins of what had been a crowded expanse of homes and businesses. Dozens of former residents were standing together in the rain amid the wreckage. “We came back here just to stand around,” one man explained. “We have no other place to go.”
Many lost everything they had along with their homes, and some did not even have the money left to buy a change of clothes. “I have only my clothes,” one woman told Human Rights Watch. “For the children there is nothing – we did not even bring one Naira out of the house.”
. . .
One woman who owned a small bar that was reduced to ashes during the attack said:
“All of the struggle of my life is for nothing – look at my property. I used up my whole life serving different men to build this place of my own and now it is all gone just like that, in one night, just because of nothing.”

The picture at the top of this post is from the aftermath of a pipeline explosion, when people were trying to steal oil by tapping in to one of the pipelines, called illegal bunkering. The government blames this entirely on the militias, calling them rascals and oil thieves. Since illegal bunkering from the pipelines is not simple and requires special equipment, and since the quantities of oil bunkered and sold on the black market are not carried away in oil cans, but are carried away by oil tankers, it is a safe bet that military officers and government officials are involved, at least some of the time. Local citizens may collect oil for themselves after the initial theft, taking advantage of the availability, and exposing themselves to danger from explosions.

So what can be done?

In Ogoniland, where much of Shell’s operations have been shut down, the environment is beginning to make a comeback. I remember reading, but can’t find the link right now, that the people in Ogoniland are saying they would rather Shell not come back. They prefer to have their environment back, to farm and fish, rather than have the oil extracted. This could be a serious problem for oil dependent countries such as the US if it catches on.

The Recommendations of the Chop Fine Report would make an excellent beginning to a solution. Briefly, it recommends transparency and accountability in moneys collected or donated, and moneys spent. These recommendations would yield positive results regarding all three of the root causes of the violence. With some action, and given some genuine good will, it may not be too late. Unfortunately there is no visible sign of genuine good will, or good intentions, on the part of those with the power and the money.

Oil companies should have, and might still be able to work directly with local communities, helping with environmental cleanup, providing micro credit loans, building donated facilities such as schools and clinics, and donating equipment. But they show no inclination to serve their own interests in this manner.

Analysts say the key to solving the crisis will be improved governance, free and fair elections, and public provision of services such as water, electricity, roads, public transport, schools and small business development.

Increased militarization, and US involvement via the Africa Command will make the situation infinitely worse. I’ll go into that a bit more in a subsequent post.

(This could have been easily avoided, had there been any will to avoid it, but that chance may be past.)

In Nigeria:

To put the scale of wealth into perspective and to emphasise the stakes for Nigeria, the US and more recently China, the World Bank reported that 80% of oil wealth is owned by 1% of the population; 70% of private wealth is abroad whilst 3/4 of the country live on about $1 a day - at least 15 million of those live in the Niger Delta.

Anyone looking at this situation should be able to see that it is not going to work, that it cannot be sustained. But the oil companies and the Nigerian government have avoided looking, or at least avoided seeing, for decades. The opportunity may be gone.

In many parts of the world, where liberation, or other political movements begin to support and finance themselves with criminal enterprises, the political ideology quickly gets left behind, and the movement becomes a criminal gang. Once the profit motive takes over, a gang does not have much incentive to negotiate seriously for its original goals. And it has very little motive to give up its “struggle” or to lay down arms. Gangs will usually continue to use whatever rhetoric of liberation they started with. It makes them sound a bit more legit, and helps recruiting and media relations. But they become criminal gangs in business for profit.

We’ve seen this in with the IRA and guns and drugs, we’ve seen it in West Africa with diamonds, in Central and South America with insurgencies and paramilitaries and cocaine, in southern and central Asia with opium, and plenty more. Now this is happening in Nigeria with the youth gangs in the delta and oil, and the implications are enormous, for Nigeria’s neighbors, and Ghana is a close neighbor, and for world energy supplies.

The Oil Drum reports on the escalating violence in the Niger Delta. (see the article for maps, pictures, and more information)

MEND, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, was the military branch of the Ijaw struggle. It was relatively easy for the government of Nigeria to reign in the violence in the Niger delta for two reasons: MEND had clearly defined political motivations, and a long-term interest in the viability of Nigeria as an oil exporting state. Further, as a coherent tribal society, the traditional system of tribal relations and leadership exerted effective control over the actions of MEND.
. . .
Over the past year this relatively stable system has rapidly broken down, and the result is the likelihood of a runaway escalation in violence. MEND fractioned amidst infighting among Ijaw tribal alliances. Various factions, with various political agendas, neutralized the ability to push for peace through negotiations—there was no single party, nor accession to a single set of demands, that could defuse the motivation to violence. In addition, the ransom money that foreign oil companies now routinely paid for the return of western employees spawned a market for guerrilla entrepreneurs—actors who were less motivated by traditional Ijaw political goals than by a return on investment. The lure of easy money has led to a proliferation of militant groups (now perhaps best characterized as criminal gangs) and a dramatic increase in attacks. This infusion of easy money to youthful militants broke down the traditional tribal structure of respect for leadership by elders.
. . .
Finally, because of the shift from a political motivation to a profit motivation, militants are no longer invested in preserving the long-term viability of Nigeria as an oil exporter. As a result, the targeting strategy has shifted from the temporary sabotage of infrastructure for political ends to threats of permanent destruction of key infrastructure nodes
. . .
The escalating violence in Nigeria has two important ramifications:
First, the tip from stable violence to perpetual escalation of violence represents a sea change in the level of disruption to Nigeria’s oil exports. . . . The new entrepreneurial violence is comprised of multiple actors, each competing to extort money from a limited target list of oil installations, foreign workers, and foreign oil companies. Because the actors are now militant youths seeking short-term financial gain, rather than careful elders seeking long-term political concessions, there is a strong market incentive to fill the available market space—in other words, to escalate kidnappings and infrastructure attacks until all Nigerian production is shut in.
. . .
Second, this transition from ideologically motivated violence to financially motivated violence portends problems for energy infrastructure throughout the world. . . . as long as marginal returns on investments in energy infrastructure attacks remain positive, there will be a strong incentive to escalate these attacks no matter how completely a region’s export capacity is destroyed.
. . .
Finally, it is worth considering that energy infrastructure was designed to optimize economic performance, not security and defensibility. . . . If this analysis is correct, the increasing incentives to attack energy infrastructure will become yet another factor accelerating the rate of decline of global energy production.

With Ghana’s recent discovery of oil, I see two looming problems here. One is that the people, particularly in the neighborhood of the oil, need to see their lives and livelihoods improve for the sake of security of the whole country. And Ghana oil installations may be at risk from criminal gangs unrelated to Ghana. The oil, and these gangs the US calls terrorists, are the motivations for the US Africa Command. But the Africa Command is likely to make the situation much worse.

Click on image to enlarge, or click here for the original.

This map was published in 2002 by Vanco after signing the Cape Three Points Deep Petroleum Agreement with Ghana. They consider the geology of the deep water areas off the Ghanaian coast well situated for potential oil reserves. The first well was projected for 2007. And as we have just heard in recent days, there is a major oil discovery off the western coast of Ghana. From the looks of this map, there might be more discoveries on the way. Ghana will need strength and foresight to deal with this, so that the oil may have a chance to help rather than harm the people of Ghana. I am praying Ghana may escape the oil curse.

Added from an earlier post -
Here is the core of the debate over African oil development:

  • Can oil revenues be made to work for Africans or will they profit only the corrupt few?
  • Are oil revenues destined to fuel civil wars and pay for the abuse of human rights or can they build peace and prosperity?
  • Is oil development in Africa’s interest or in the interest of the United States? (or, I would add, can the two interests be balanced?)
  • Can African oil and gas reserves be exploited without harming the environment, or is the expansion of the world’s oil-based economy ultimately inimical to our collective future on this planet?

A recent article by Kwadwo Nketsia in the Accra Mail raises the question of a US base in Ghana once again. I have not read that proposed in any US media recently. However, Bush/Cheney are unlikely to make anything public until they are forced to do so. The speculation I have read is that that a military base and Africa Command HQ may be located in Sao Tome and Principe, which would provide fast and easy access to the entire Gulf of Guinea, or possibly in Morroco. Still, Ghana would have much to offer the US Military, and I think it would be a mistake for Ghanaians to think a US Military base would have much that is positive to offer Ghana.

Ghana has much to be proud of as a sovereign nation. As Nketsia correctly records:

Ghana is said to be among six countries being considered for the location of the military base. We are being considered due to our “true young democracy”, freedom of speech, good governance (which has earned us monetary rewards for MCA projects), and an excellent human rights record, (The Global Peace Index study has ranked Ghana the 40th most peaceful country in the world ) and other positive factors for better development.

All these positives are true. Nketsia’s main argument for the base appears to be economic, paychecks would put money into the local economy, and the base would draw visitors from around the world. He thinks that a base will have a positive effect on health. He should look at the situation in the US, or ask the Philippines about the toxic waste and health care issues Clark AFB left behind.

The U.S. military’s choice to ignore such toxic time bombs in the Philippines has already wreaked havoc on the Philippine people. Hazardous substances in the groundwater continue to migrate into heavily populated towns east of Clark . . . Not merely a sore spot in the relationship between the Philippines and the United States, this toxic disaster threatens people’s basic human right to a clean and healthy environment.

Throughout the United States and around the world people who live in the general vicinity of military bases are in terrible danger:

The contaminants emitted from military bases include pesticides, solvents, petroleum, lead, mercury, and uranium. The health effects for the surrounding communities are devastating: miscarriages, low birth weights, birth defects, kidney disease, and cancer.

The U.S. Department of Defense is the largest polluter in the world, producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined. . . the burden of health impacts and environmental destruction falls disproportionately on poorer communities, people of color and indigenous communities. Women face particularly severe problems because of their sensitive reproductive tissues and children because their immune systems are not yet fully developed.

This is what Ghana has to look forward to if there is a US Military base situated in Ghana.

Under Bush/Cheney the current military strategy is the long war for oil. The object of the long war is to co-opt and contain oil supplies wherever they might be found around the globe. The recent discovery of oil in Ghana’s territorial waters may have increased US interest in Ghana as a potential US base.

Nketsia also thinks the days of huge military bases are behind us. At present the US African bases are the lily pads he describes, and there is already some base activity in Ghana. But it you look at what the US is still building in Iraq, the new bases planned are even larger than ever. The US version of the colony is the military base. Countries that are home to these bases become occupied territories of the United States. It is a fast way to lose sovereignty.

click on the map to see the larger view

I spoke to family in Ghana tonight and asked what people were thinking about the oil discovery. Mostly it was very low on the list of concerns. And the general feeling I heard, was that the oil news is mostly government propaganda. This was a minimal part of the conversation, but interesting none the less.
I found the map above, showing the location of the oil discovery, and also the information below from

Anadarko is the technical operator of the well with a 30.875% interest. Kosmos Energy is the block operator and holds a 30.875% interest. Other partners include Tullow Ghana Limited, an affiliate of Tullow Oil plc, with a 22.896% interest and Sabre Oil and Gas Limited with a 1.854% interest in the block. The E.O. Group, a Ghanaian oil and gas company, holds a 3.5% interest in the block. The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation will be carried through the exploration and development phases with a 10% participating interest.

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