This is a very large graphic by Richard Johnson from Canada’s National Post. Click it a couple of times to enlarge enough to read. The reasons for the investment are along the bottom. The west depends on the wealth of Africa.
February 19, 2013
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January 8, 2013
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John Dramani Mahama was inaugurated as president of Ghana in a well attended ceremony at Black Star Square in Accra.
Nana Kofi Acquah sums up the emotions many Ghanaians share:
Ghanaian culture thrives mainly on what is not said. Actually, it isn’t that some things are not said, but that they are said in not so plain language. What we think and believe as a people, is often shrouded in proverbs, symbols, songs, drum beats, dancing and even how we choose to wear our clothes.
There’s a Ghanaian proverb that says “it is the stranger that gets offered a blind chicken”. In other words, never fall for the sheepish, unending grin and amazing humility Ghanaians throw at strangers. We are smarter than we look. We are stronger than we pretend to be.
Our thriving democracy is not an accident. This country is built on belief systems that go far deeper than most people can imagine. There is more that unite than divide us. Ghana has proven beyond all reasonable doubt, that it is not just another unstable African country, in an unstable region, in an unstable continent in an unstable world. We knew governance when the Greeks were still barbarians. We believed in God, and even called Him “great friend” before the missionaries arrived. Our souls are rooted in history deeper than colonialism.
We are a people, blessed and powerful… and I pray we never forget this. The danger is when we forget. Once a people forget who they really are, they easily accept any identity someone else slaps on them.
Am I saying Ghana is special? Let me be “unGhanaian” for a moment and shout “YES. Ghana is special”.
Congratulations, Mr. President on this special day of your inauguration.
Congratulations, People of Ghana.
© Nana Kofi Acquah at 1/07/2013 02:38:00 PM
Nana Kofi Acquah is a professional photographer who takes stunning photos. Visit his blog to see more, and to read more of his observations.
The photos below came from tweets on Twitter using the #GHInaug hashtag.
Read the full text of Mahama’s inaugural speech He is sometimes known as Johnny Digital Mahama. He has a degree in Communications and usually uses a tablet computer as text teleprompter for his speeches. At the inauguration he used a Galaxy Note 10.1, but most of the accounts call it an ipad.
See more photos of the inauguration at GhanaWeb.
It’s clear many people voted for John Mahama the person vrs Nana Akufo-Addo rather than the NDC versus the NPP. Nana Akufo Addo is not liked very much in Ghana for his “arrogance and elitism”. Ask around.
… The NPP with its property-owning democracy and Republican-ish ness makes it appeal more to the rich and elitist folks in Ghana. The poorer folks, not so much? And we all know who makes the majority.
The NDC focused on doing more around the country. If you don’t go around the country and sit in Accra or come to Ghana on holiday and sit around Accra, you wouldn’t know. Next time, travel around Ghana more. It’s quite clear that the NPP won in the urban areas. If you believe then they should be the true winner, . The real Ghana happens in the rural areas and those are the places that can really drive our economic development when they are up to speed with what we need to enjoy the Ghana we crave. I will suggest you pay more attention to these places if you care deeply about Ghana.
We saw how Ghanaians lined up the night before to go and vote. We keep on celebrating our democracy. We see our democrazy selves demonstrate in the streets against politicians and policies. You know the demonstration of democrazy democracy I want to see? That we will hit the streets and demonstrate against indiscipline, corruption, bad mindset and the backward-thinking attitudes of Ghanaians. You know the beauty of this, you can actually make a difference here by influencing and impressing upon others.
Let me give him a few pointers on being a great leader for Ghana and not just a president. John Mahama should get the average Ghanaian to do more for him or herself and the community. Encourage us to work harder. Encourage us to take time off to help a child (and adult) learn to read and count, educate on health and cleanliness, teach people to be more efficient with time and resource, etc. He should motivate us to work for Ghana. Institute a volunteer day (preferably the Founder’s Day). That’s what I want from my president. Oh yeah, and leave a legacy. Like solving our electricity problems, once and for all.
December 6, 2012
Overview of Ghana’s 2012 Presidential Election
On Friday Ghana will hold its Presidential Election. Ghana presidential elections are on the same 4 year cycle as the United States, though the election is in December rather than November. Presidents are limited to two terms, same as the United States. This is the sixth presidential election since the end of military government. Twice an incumbent loosing party has peacefully turned over power to the incoming winners of the election.
The most respected pollster in Ghana, Ben Ephson, predicts that John Dramani Mahama of the NDC will win on the first round of balloting, and that the NDC will maintain a majority in parliament.
Below is a sample presidential ballot for this election.
You can find more information about each of the candidates at Ghana Decides. Click on the picture of a candidate and you’ll more information about that candidate. And you can follow news and commentary from Ghana Politics from GhanaWeb
There are a number of active political parties fielding presidential candidates, the main contest is between the NPP and the NDC. The NPP’s strongest area of support is in the Ashanti region, and the NPP candidate is Nana Akufo-Addo. The NDC’s strongest support comes from the Volta Region, although its presidential candidate, John Mahama, is originally from the Northern region. There is more information on Ghana’s regions here.
Both parties have supporters throughout Ghana. Below you see totebags with the symbols of these two largest parties.
Savvy and enthusiastic young internet users in Ghana have carried on an active get out the vote effort on Facebook, BloggingGhana, BloGh, on Twitter #GhanaDecides, and Ghana Decides on Youtube. AlJazeera featured this internet presence in an article Turning Likes Into Votes.
A candidate they call “The Facebook president,” another who trended worldwide on Twitter, and a third who is speaking directly to voters via Google hangout. With only 10% internet penetration in a country with more than 14 million registered voters, what role will social media play in Ghana’s upcoming presidential election? And will online support for the candidates translate into offline votes?
In the days and months leading up to Ghana’s December 7 elections, candidates and civic organisations are using social media-savvy techniques to engage the Ghanaian electorate to get out the vote.
From #GhanaDedides comes word map of keywords used by the candidates, about the issues, and in news stories about the election.
Ghana has begun using biometric identification for voting. I have serious reservations about this, but will watch to see how it works. My question is who has access to this information, and who will gain access over time. We know the US government wants to collect biometric information on African political figures and activists based on the Wikileaks cables. We know the Pentagon is expanding its spy network in Africa.
Some electoral backstory
In 1992 Jerry John Rawlings ended his tenure as military leader of Ghana and was elected president. He was the flagbearer of the NDC party, which he founded. He won reelection in 1996, serving 8 years, which is the Ghana Constitutional limit, just like in the US. In 2000 he peacefully turned over power to the NPP and newly elected President Kufuor. Rawlings remains very popular but has bitter enemies as well, whose enmity he has earned. In 2000 his Vice President, John Evans Atta-Mills ran as the NDC candidate against John Kufuor, the NPP candidate. Many people thought it was time for a change, that the NDC had been running things long enough. Kufuor is a very likable guy, and he and the NPP won the 2000 election and were reelected in 2004.
Unfortunately the NPP leadership chose to work on enriching themselves rather than the country. Corruption has always been a problem, but Kufuor and the NPP leadership institutionalized corruption to new levels. They sold off Ghana’s assets and land to themselves and to foreign interests, and pocketed the profits. Money for public projects disappeared with nothing to show for it. Kufuor spent much of his terms in office traveling at taxpayer expense. In 2007 it was officially announced that significant deposits of offshore oil would be coming into production for Ghana from the Jubilee field. Kufuor arranged with Barclays Bank to set up Ghana with tax haven offshore banking.
In my observation, the NPP is very similar to the Republican party in the US. It is a party that wants to reward and advantage existing elites. Many of its leaders come from the families of people who were elites before colonialism, and enjoyed privileged status during the years of colonialism. Many of them opposed independence and then opposed the projects that would help Ghana become economically independent, such as the building of the Akosombo dam and Tema harbor. I think if the NPP had been able to dial down the corruption a bit, and produce a bit more, it would have stayed in power. The battle for votes and battles over counting the votes were fierce in the 2008 election, which went to three rounds. John Atta-Mills finally won the 2008 election. It was decided by one constituency, Tain, in the Brong-Ahafo region. Rawlings campaigned energetically for Mills. Rawlings had helped some to build up the area, but it had been mostly ignored during the tenure of the NPP. Roads were neglected and farmers could not get their cocoa to market to sell.
John Atta-Mills was distinguished by his rare degree of wisdom and honesty. That was not necessarily the case with the people around him. He was good natured and people worried he might not be a strong enough leader, though he could be tough. Rawlings wanted to continue running things through Mills and Mills quietly did not let him. Rawlings frequently railed against Mills from the sidelines throughout the 4 year term. Mills also successfully resisted the persuasions of US AFRICOM to send Ghanaian soldiers into Ivory Coast as US proxies in January 2011.
In July 2012 President Mills died suddenly and unexpectedly, though he was known to have health problems. In another democratic triumph, Ghana moved smoothly and quickly to swear in Vice President Mahama as President, following prescribed Constitutional procedures and without incident. At the time he died Mills was a very popular figure and the entire country mourned his passing. Mahama then became the NDC nominee for President and has shown himself to be knowledgeable and able.
In the NPP, Akufo-Addo, who was Kufuor’s Vice President, and who had run for President in 2008 was nominated again. In 2011 in a speech in Koforidua, speaking about his intentions for the election, in a voice shaking with intensity he said three times “all die be die”, meaning that violence is entirely acceptable if needed to win, deaths are an acceptable price for electoral victory. Akufo-Addo has shown himself prone to violence before, as when his bodyguards beat and killed fellow NPP member Seth Michael Ahyiah. Akufo-Addo has tried to weasle out of the meaning of all die be die, but has never withdrawn the words. Many are afraid he will stir up violence if he does not win. Soon thereafter the wild talking NPP member of parliament, Kennedy Agyepong said “if we do not win, Ghana will become like Rwanda” and
… he has declared war on all Ewes living in the Ashanti region, and that the NPP activists in the region should attack Ewes with machetes and cutlasses. He warned that any security personnel who will try to keep the peace in the region will be lynched.
This did get Kennedy Agyepong in trouble with the law, as it should. And there are more recent reports of danger: Akufo-Addo’s all-die-be-die militants unmasked. NPP supporters are not the only source of danger and potential violence, but with “all die be die” they have been the most overt.
Most of the politicians and parties are urging peaceful behavior during the election, and that is a major message of the online electioneering. There is a strong push for peace and respect for the law from all parties.
I have dealt mainly with the political history and maneuvering here, without sufficient attention to the issues. For an understanding of the issues, you might do best listening to the IEA, Institute of Economic Affairs debates, which are on YouTube: IEA Debate in Tamale (30-10-12) [Full], and the edited IEA Final Presidential Debate (21-11-12). Overall my impression was that John Mahama was by far the most knowledgeable with the most breadth and depth of understanding. The most visionary platform (pdf) as I see it comes from the GCPP whose candidate is Henry Lartey, who wants to build a new solar energy based economy. I know little about him or the party, though his father was highly respected.
As mentioned above, you can find more information about each of the candidates at Ghana Decides Click on the picture of a candidate and you’ll find more information about that candidate. Wikipedia has articles on Ghana’s main political parties and candidates. And you can follow election news and commentary from GhanaWeb Ghana Elections 2012
Update December 9, 2012
John Mahama wins.
Dr. Afari-Gyan, head of Ghana’s Electoral Commission, reports all the votes have been counted and all constituencies have reported. 79.43% of Ghanaian voters turned out to vote.
John Mahama is President Elect with 50.70% of the vote.
Nana Akufo-Addo received 47.74%.
August 28, 2012
When water disappears, there is no alternative.
A serious crisis occurs when there is less than 500 cubic meter per person per year.
The World Bank and the WTO are energetic and anti-democratic instruments, eagerly facilitating corporate control and commoditization of water.
The following maps come from the PDF from IOP (Institute of Physics) Publishing: Quantitative maps of groundwater resources in Africa (PDF)
There are several related articles at All Africa
The African continent has enormous reserves of groundwater. Groundwater is finite. Once those reserves are used up they are gone for good. The questions are: How will the water be accessessed? And who will get the water and who will reap the benefits? Will Africans be able to use these in a beneficial and sustainable way? Or will the landgrabbers from other continents take Africa’s water along with their other exploitations of African resources.
Horace Campbell has written about these vast water resources in Water and reconstruction in Africa: an agenda for transformation
… once one begins to deal with water one is dealing with the fundamentals of life. In all major religions and forms of spiritual reflection, water plays a central role.
‘Groundwater resources are unevenly distributed: the largest groundwater volumes are found in the large sedimentary aquifers in the North African countries Libya, Algeria, Egypt and Sudan.’ Of these African countries, Libya possessed by far the largest volume of ground water, 99,500 (km3). Algeria with 91,900 (km3), Sudan with 63,000 (km3) and Egypt with 55 200 (km3).
Here, then, is the truth revealed to those who did not know that French and western water companies had for decades coveted this huge resource of water in North Africa calculating how to deny the Africans access to these resources. This report can help those who were confused about the real motives for the invasion of Libya.
For decades it is has been the work of capitalist inspired international organizations to reveal a different narrative, that of water scarcity and water shortages in Africa. …
What was never revealed was the reality that access to water was the major democratic question in Africa and the more democratic a society, the more accessible the resources for water and sanitation.
The World Bank sums up its approach to Water Resources Management on the basis that its goals were: (a) helping the poor directly. (b) improving macroeconomic and fiscal balances, (c) promoting good governance and private sector development, and (d) protecting the environment.
The key basis for achieving these goals was the privatization of water resources. For the past fifty years the World Bank has been supporting giant water projects that served to dispossess the working peoples of the urban and rural areas. The World Bank projects for water management have been especially detrimental for the livelihood of oppressed African women. These women expend hours every day securing clean and potable water. The World Bank and its myriad of sub-contractors have been at the forefront of the struggles over the ideas of whether water should remain a public good, shared by humans everywhere, or a commodity to be bought and sold on the open market.
Trees attract water. To maintain surface water, you need trees. Deforestation makes the water dry up. Reforestation uses water for the benefit of the people who live there, creating forests that attract and capture precipitation, enlarging available water reserves.
Anta Diop in his vision of a federated Africa linked this dream to the reforestation and repopulation of Africa. Diop drew attention to plans that had been drawn up as far back as the fifties for the reforestation of the Sahel. He wrote,
‘The Sahel Zone, the more desert the farther north one goes, is ideal for reforestation. As early as 1950, we suggested a plan for replanting here. Although approved at the time by the Sudanese people and taken under consideration by the administration, this plan has since lain dormant.’
This plan of reforestation has always been linked to the larger project of providing water to those areas where there were water deficits. Wangari Maathai had taken this vision seriously and there are millions of African environmentalists who take seriously the vision of the reforestation of Africa. This vision of reforestation and healing the African environment can mobilize millions of workers, youths and engineers for a new sense of priorities for Africa. It is here where Pan African youths must take full ownership of the Great Green Wall Project. The African Union has supported this plan that had been pushed by visionaries such as Thomas Sankara. Reforestation in Africa is now conceived of as a massive project which calls for planting a 15km wide and 7000km long swath of land from Djibouti in the east and stretching to Senegal in the West (passing through Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Mauritania. This “Great Green Wall” is envisaged by the African Union as the Seven Thousand Kilometers of Trees integrated into new agricultural zones. Such a project places the concept of Unity on the level where it touches concretely the lives of the people. Advances in solar energy technology, harnessing the underground water resources, the electrification of Africa and an infrastructure of canal systems await Africa 2025 when Africa breaks from western intellectual and political hegemony.
The philosophy of Ubuntu seeks to break the divisions between the rational and irrational human, between space and time, objectivity and subjectivity and those ideas of ‘science’ that devalues the spiritual dimension of life. Within the present leadership of the African Union are to be found many leaders and intellectuals who are in full agreement with the World Bank and the view that water should be a commodity to be bought and sold to the highest bidder. The present constitution of international politics challenges organic scholars of the oppressed to conceptualise a prolonged popular struggle and not to be lured by the social capital of those who oppress the vast majority. The revelations of the water wealth are only one other component of the information to oppose western imperial domination.
Ghana has effectively fought back against a decades long campaign by the west to privatise its water.
How the Private Sector Didn’t Solve Ghana’s Water Crisis
originally published in Pambazuka
Seventy percent of Ghanaian homes don’t have a WC or a pit latrine. Piped water, if you have it at all, is intermittent, so water in your tap depends on whether you can afford a domestic reservoir. In 2005, the World Bank secured a private sector solution to the water crisis in Ghana – the first independent sub-Saharan African country, and one of the first to be economically adjusted for corporate benefit. But Ghanaian campaigners had different ideas for their taps and toilets.
A remarkable turnaround in Ghana’s water sector occurred in June 2011. After five years of managing Ghana’s urban water services, Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd, a Dutch South African water corporation, failed to renew its contract with the government-owned Ghana Water Company Ltd. Ghanaian opponents to water privatisation had won a resounding victory. They effectively wrong footed the World Bank, private sector advocate and major funder of Ghana’s water sector.
In Accra, you’re unlikely to have a WC plus individual cesspit unless you’re in the elite minority, and pit latrines are largely rural. You therefore have a few options. You can defecate in a bucket or a pan and pay for your ‘night soil’ to be taken, probably manually and illegally, perhaps twice a week, to a cesspit whose contents are then emptied by sewage tankers. You can walk to and then queue for a public latrine, most likely a subhuman hangover from colonial days where you pay for a bit of newspaper to wipe yourself and where there may be six stalls serving 1,000 people. You can defecate in a plastic bag and deposit it in the storm drains that line your street. You can defecate in a storm drain. You can defecate on the beach. Men often urinate in drains. Women sometimes put a bucket under their skirts. The only area with underground piped sewers is the ex-colonial enclave, round Osu, where the president lives and Ministries are located. At the wittily-named Lavender Hill, near some of the poorest areas in town, sewage tankers squirt raw sewage into the sea. A World Bank and Ghanaian government funded treatment plant is said to be in the pipeline at Lavender Hill.
If you have piped water, it’s not safe to drink, however rich or poor you are. If you can afford it, you buy either sachet water or bottled water to drink. Bottled water is expensive, on average GHc2 (US$1.9) a litre when the minimum wage is GHc4.48 (US$2.66) a day. The media periodically report sachet water scams. In any case, your tap will be dry perhaps 75% of the time, depending on your topological relationship to the local pumping station. If you can afford it, you install a huge polytank (a cylindrical plastic container) on a tower in your garden, plumb it into your domestic system, and fill it up when the taps are running. If you can’t afford it, you store water in jerry cans wherever you have room. You might seek professional help to fix your water meter, illegally. If you don’t have piped water, and you’re not paying bills to the Ghana Water Company, you might employ a professional to plumb you into a mains water pipe, illegally. If you don’t, you must buy from a water tanker, or from a stand pipe, which is more expensive than tap or domestically stored water. Fetching three buckets of water a day can cost you between 10% and 20% of your daily income. Thus, the poorer you are, the more you’re likely to pay for water in absolute terms.
Despite these huge problems, in January 2011 the World Bank was confidently stating that Ghana was ‘making steady progress’ towards the United Nations 2015 Millennium Development Goal for safe drinking water.
Water privatisation in Ghana goes back decades. The 1980s and the Rawlings regime saw external funders, especially the World Bank and the IMF, direct the restructuring of the Ghanaian economy as a condition for receiving desperately needed loans. Water reforms in the 1980s included sacking staff in the publicly owned Ghana Water and Sewage Corporation, attempts to curb non-revenue water and an emphasis on ‘cost recovery’ – as opposed to improving access to sanitation and clean water.
By 1999, the GWSC had been replaced by the Ghana Water Company Ltd. While 100% state owned, it’s responsible neither for rural water services nor for sewage disposal. Sewage generates life and plant growth as well as death and disease, but not profit.
In the same year, the World Bank’s plans snarled up on the issue of national sovereignty: the government objected to the accusation of corrupt tendering practices, and the World Bank withdrew its US$100 million loan – but with an eye to elections the following year. And indeed, the new New Patriotic Party government, far keener on the World Bank’s ‘reforms’ than Rawlings’ National Democratic Congress had ever been, ‘quickly organised an international tender for the [public-private partnership] lease contract, and in 2001 they short listed nine [multinational] companies…’ 
At this point, the opposition to the proposed water reforms consolidated. The National Coalition Against the Privatisation of Water was established at an Accra forum in 2001. Members of South Africa’s Anti-Privatisation Forum and Municipal Workers’ Union participated, as well as an activist from Bolivia’s Cochabamba water struggle. They ‘shared their experiences of water privatisation, and the adverse impacts it had had on their communities.’ 
Independent research in 2002 found ‘… that implementation of a plan for full cost recovery and automatic tariff adjustment mechanisms [in the water sector] will be a condition for the completion of the IMF’s fifth review of Ghana’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility loan. Further, ‘Conditions attached to World Bank lending led to a 95 percent increase in water tariffs in May 2001.’ 
By early 2011, the anti-water privatisation coalition had been organising pickets, meetings, and media campaigns for 10 years. It had survived splits and government witch hunts, and had received some (but not nearly enough) international media exposure. NGOs which had previously backed water privatisation were working alongside it. Ghana’s Public Utility Workers Union was now openly campaigning against the renewal of the Ghana Water Company Ltd’s contract with Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd. The Minister for Water Resources, Works and Housing began dropping hints that the contract would not be renewed.
But why? Surely the private sector, with its performance, efficiency and revenue targets, could tackle the huge problem of non revenue water? Non revenue water is any water supplied by the water company that isn’t paid for, because of unpaid bills, water leaking from pipes, or water connected illegally. In the late 1990s, Ghana Water Company Ltd’s non-revenue water stood at 50-51%, way above the World Bank’s 15% target.
On all major contractual obligations, however, Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd failed, a contract, furthermore, that they had got on the cheap because it required no investment on their part whatsoever; it was a management contract, not a lease contract. Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd failed to decrease non-revenue water, they failed to increase the production of water, and they failed to improve bill collection. Service delivery (not surprisingly) failed to benefit from reducing the number of workers, i.e. cutting the cost of wage bills.
Five days after Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd’s contract wasn’t renewed, the Minister of Water Resources, Works and Housing announced the setting up of the 100% state owned Ghana Urban Water Company Ltd, a subsidiary of the Ghana Water Company Ltd, to replace Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd, with a one year tenure ending in June 2012.
Leonard Shang Quartey co-ordinates the Essential Services Programme at The Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC), the campaigning NGO which spearheads the anti-water privatisation coalition. ‘This whole idea about Ghana Urban Water Limited, I don’t think it’s necessary,’ Quartey said in June 2011. ’We have to focus our efforts on GWCL [Ghana Water Company Ltd] and make it workable.’ And it’s not as though Ghana doesn’t have water – the mighty Volta Lake is one of the world’s largest reservoirs.
June 2012 and what happens next? The interim Ghana Urban Water Company Ltd still exists. According to Quartey and Oxfam GB’s Alhassan Adam (telephone interviews June and May 2012), the World Bank is pressurising the government to return to the privatisation option. But, Quartey said, any form of privatisation is unacceptable to the anti-water privatisation coalition. They want a strengthened and restructured Ghana Water Company Ltd, that is, a public water authority charged with the provision (as opposed to the cost recovery) of clean water. The issue has very little to do with management, as Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd’s failure proved. ‘The bulk of the problem,’ Quartey said, ‘lies in financing.’
It’s worth remembering that during colonial occupation, African economies were organised primarily for the extraction of raw materials to their northern ‘masters’. Political independence did not bring economic independence, and the advent of IMF and World Bank economic restructuring from the 1980s onwards, driven by conditions on loans and grants, has maintained extractive exploitation. According to Quartey, Public Private Partnership, as in the Aqua Vitens Rand Ltd debacle, is still the World Bank’s preferred privatisation vehicle.
What solutions are there? Quartey and the coalition want increased government spending: the water sector is more than 80% donor funded. But Ghanaians can finance their water sector themselves. Since 2010, the country has produced oil. It’s one of the world’s leading gold and cocoa producers. Taxation needs to be properly regulated, in particular corporate tax loopholes blocked. Last year’s increase in corporate tax on mining companies was a step in the right direction, Quartey said.
Ghana is a wealthy country, as is Africa as a whole. The Ghanaian government, with a little help from the anti water privatisation coalition, need not submit to World Bank pressure. And then there’s China.
In addition to commodifying water as water, the rapacious land grabs operators from various continents are making in Africa mean external exploitation of Africa’s critical water resources. Water gets exported as part of the agricultural products whose growth it irrigates. Biofuel production is a particularly wasteful and unsustainable use of water. Water resources are fouled and destroyed by mining, unregulated construction, and other extractive industries.
To me one of the most exciting possibilities is the proposed Green Wall across the Sahel. Not only would it use Africa’s water resources for African benefit, trees would help replenish water supplies, not just make use of them. The project will require vision, imagination, leadership and struggle to assert African forms of participatory democracy in order to achieve such a goal. We have to start by visualizing goals and sharing that vision in order to get on track to achieving those goals.
July 4, 2012
Two items came out this past week that are intimately related, although probably not intentionally linked. Foreign Policy and The Fund For Peace released their annual Index of Failed States. Africa Ia A Country calls them out, it is a failed index.
We at Africa Is a Country think Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace should either radically rethink the Failed States Index, which they publish in collaboration each year, or abandon it altogether. We just can’t take it seriously: It’s a failed index.
This year, pro forma, almost the entire African continent shows up on the Failed States map in the guiltiest shade of red. The accusation is that with a handful of exceptions, African states are failing in 2012. But what does this tell us? What does it actually mean? Frankly, we have no idea. The index is so flawed in its conception, so incoherent in its structuring criteria, and so misleading in its presentation that from the perspective of those who live or work in those places condemned as failures, it’s difficult to receive the ranking as anything more than a predictable annual canard issued from Washington, D.C. against non-Western — and particularly African — nations.
The problem is that there are any number of reasons why the Fund for Peace might decide that a state is failing. The Washington-based think tank has a methodology of sorts, but Foreign Policy insists on making the list accessible primarily through a series of “Postcards from Hell.” Flipping through the slide show, it’s impossible to shrug off the suspicion that the whole affair is a sloppy cocktail of cultural bigotries and liberal-democratic commonplaces — a faux-empirical sham that packs quite a nasty racialized aftertaste. How do we know if a state is failing or not? Old chestnuts like the rule of law are certainly considered, but also in play are things like economic growth, economic “success,” poverty, inequality, corruption, nonstate violence, state violence, human rights abuses, body counts, terrorism, health care, “fragility,” political dissent, social divisions, and levels of authoritarianism. And yes, we’ll be indexing all of those at once, and more.
The golden principle by which this muddle is to be marshaled oh-so-objectively into a grand spectrum of state failure coefficients is apparently the idea of “stability.” But is it really?
Stability is where the other item falls into place. William Easterly published the a new ad from the Marine Corps, calling it The Worst Promotional Aid Video of All Time
Courtesy of the Marines, ad during the Euro Cup final paid for with your taxpayer dollars, “Moving towards the sounds of chaos”.
“We are the first to move towards the sounds of tyranny, injustice, and despair” (image of helicopter gunship carrying boxes labelled “aid”)
The target audience of the commercial included vast numbers of people from the majority of the world whose states the Index labels failed or failing.
This is aid at gunpoint, it is also called stability operations, the reason the US Africa Command was created. The notion of stability is meant to be incoherent. It needs to be redefined for each country whose resources the US wants to acquire. Stability operations are needed to quell and control any groups or individuals who may stand in the way of perceived US interests, including acting against legally constituted governments.
Military aid and questionable trade are the twin pillars of US involvement in Africa. Imperial acquisition masquerades as humanitarian aid and manifests as the militarization of the continent through the US Africa Command, AFRICOM. Of course AFRICOM’s fact sheet speaks about working with military partners. These partners are intended to be proxies or surrogates that will provide stability without accountability for corporate interests to extract resources.
Below are stills from the commercial. The invasion pictured is exactly what the US is training itself and its intended African proxies to do along the coasts and in the creeks of the entire continent.
Polling in 2010 revealed something about US citizens’ understanding of the country’s budget. Although 1% of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid, when asked, American’s median response was to say 25% of the budget goes to foreign aid. One may deduce the reason for the discrepancy between the reality and the perception of aid is that many Americans think their military activity around the world is aid. The Marines commercial is certainly intended to reinforce that view.
Stability operations are intended to stabilize a country, not to make it more democratic, not to make its government more accountable, but to make it easier and more efficient for corporations to extract the resources they want from a country. Instead of being self governed, countries are subjected to military occupation with unaccountable NGOs supposedly doing the service work of government. Failed states may be more desirable to deal with than states with democratic or somewhat representative government. Those states must answer to their own people, not US or international corporations. The US has been trying to label Nigeria a failed state for more than a decade. The kind of “humanitarian” invasion so vividly depicted in the commercial (although there is no blood in the commercial) is quite likely to bring, or increase, tyranny, injustice, and despair to the countries it targets.
The US Africa Command puts heavy emphasis on fighting terrorism. But a terrorist may be anyone acting against US perception of its self interest, frequently those called terrorists are just political opposition. You can see this at work in the Index of Failed States.
Foreign Policy explains to its readers that Malawi (No. 36 on this year’s index) is to be considered a failed state on account of the 19 people killed by police during popular protests against Bingu wa Mutharika’s government a year ago. Yet such dissent is evidence of the strength of Malawian civil society and the determination of ordinary Malawians not to get screwed by their government. Malawi is undoubtedly better off for these protests, not worse. What makes the country’s listing as a failed state look even sillier is that Malawi recently endured a blissfully peaceful transition of power following Mutharika’s sudden death, with constitutional guidelines scrupulously adhered to despite the vested interests of many of the country’s ruling class.
… So how exactly can a democratic country like, say, Nigeria ever hope to satisfy the whimsical judgment of Foreign Policy magazine? The Occupy Nigeria movement that demonstrated against corruption and the removal of the country’s fuel subsidy in January was a peaceful mass movement that achieved major gains for working people. It was a thoroughly global protest, with Nigerians in the diaspora taking to the streets of Brussels, London, New York, and Washington, D.C., to demand better governance in Nigeria. Yet these protests are listed on the country’s “postcard” alongside terrorist attacks by Boko Haram as equal evidence of Nigeria’s “hellishness.” For some reason, the postcard neglects to mention the extraordinary spectacle of protesters in Nigerian cities standing guard outside each other’s places of worship — Muslims outside churches, Christians at the doors of mosques — so that each group could pray without fear of further bombings.
Many of the Postcards from Hell, in fact, simply show popular protests taking place, as though dissent and social demonstrations are themselves signs of state failure. What kind of half-baked political theory is this? Maybe protests are bad for business and troublesome, but for whom exactly? And are we ranking the state or the society? Or both at once?
The Postcards from Hell also insist that there are no white people in this year’s story of state failure …
There will never be a Postcard from Hell that bears a picture of an American street. But what if there were? What would go on there?
Perhaps the picture could be of the moment last year when a police officer seized a U.C.-Berkeley college professor by the hair and flung her to the ground.
One thing is certain, Foreign Policy and The Fund for Peace are enabling the lie that military intervention is humanitarian aid, particularly in resource rich Africa. They reinforce the notion that poor people are dangerous people. In doing so they are actively working against development in Africa and against the best interests of African people. They help justify the poisonously destructive picture of aid painted by the Marine Corps commercial.
Added July 5
What we see in the Marine Corps ad is a Marine Air Ground Task Force. In 2010 the US Africa Command began developing MAGTF units for use in Africa.
“MAGTF’s are readily available, self-sustaining, combined arms warfighting organizations,” the Marines’ Web site explains, noting among other things that such task forces are equipped to move forces into crisis areas without revealing their exact destination or intentions and project combat power at night and under adverse weather.
These are warfighting units designed to project US power and defend US interests.
Who would need to give permission for these strike forces to strike? What would constitute a legal and appropriate use of these forces? Suppose the US government, or US based corporations do not like the policies of a certain African government? Would that government be subject to attack? Or suppose the US government or US based corporations are very happy with a particular government but that government is highly unpopular with its own people. Will the US strike against the opposition? Would it strike against political demonstrations? What would make such a strike legitimate? I can’t think of any good answers to these questions, but they must be answered, and in fact will be answered, in deed and by default, if not with diplomacy. The message the US is sending is that it feels entitled to take what it wants, wherever it wants, by force. This is the basic message of colonialism.
William Easterly, @bill_easterly, had several relevant tweets today. He sums it up most succinctly:
“Failed State” means “state which somebody is advocating invading.” bit.ly/NoNhiD
“Failed State” is conveniently vague for Great Powers that want to intervene in their own interests
1 Term justifies Drug War MexicoColombia and War on Terror IraqAfghanistanYemenPakistanSomalia
He pointed out the flaws in the term “failed state” over two years ago:
1) “State failure” is leading to confused policy making.
For example, it is causing the military to attempt overly ambitious nation-building and development to approach counter-terrorism, under the unproven assumption that “failed states” produce terrorism.
2) “State failure” has failed to produce any useful academic research in economics
3) “State failure” has no coherent definition.
4) The only possible meaningful definition adds nothing new to our understanding of state behavior, and is not really measurable.
5) “State failure” appeared for political reasons.
You can read more explanation and detail and view diagrams tracking the term at the link. His initial tweet on the subject today still sums it up.
“Failed State” means “state which somebody is advocating invading.”
April 29, 2012
East Africa’s Great Rift includes four rift systems that promise to hold significant deposits of oil. Africa Oil Corporation has been exploring and drilling here, and prepared a report that includes a number of excellent maps and graphics of seismic data. I’ve selected a few to show you here, but you can see them in greater clarity and detail in the PDF report Hunting Elephants In East Africa’s Rift Basins = January 2012 PDF.
The four rift systems from different geologic time are illustrated above and below. You can click the maps to enlarge enough to read.
Tertiary Rift: runs through Uganda Kenya Ethiopia
Cretaceous Rift: runs through Sudan Kenya Mali
Jurassic Rift: crosses to include Yemen and the Puntland region of Somalia
Permian Triassic Rift: crosses the sea from Ethiopia through southern Somalia to Madagascar
The Tertiary Rift
The Cretaceous Rift
The Jurassic Rift
The Permian Triassic Rift
Here is some detail of the Dharoor block in Puntland Somalia.
Here is some detail on Block 10A in Kenya where they are beginning to drill.
A seismic cross section of the Pai Pai prospect, site of drilling in Block 10A.
A map of East Africa suggesting the underlying petroleum system.
These are the local totals for potential barrels of oil that Africa Oil Corporation expects to be able to recover from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Puntland in Somalia.
This is the total size of the potential oil prize in both barrels of oil and dollars.
Do note the caveat:
There is no certainty that any portion of the resources will be discovered. If discovered there is no certainty the the discovery will be commercially viable to produce any portion of the resources.
All of these countries and locations mapped are of interest to the United States and its Africa Command, AFRICOM. Many aspects of that interest have been covered here in this blog.
These earlier posts, along with their comments, are particularly relevant to East African oil.
Uganda – Stepping On the Mission Creep Accelerator
If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy
Uganda – Oil Reserves To Rival Saudi Arabia?
April 16, 2012
The coup in Mali appears to be over, and President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso is leading talks on how to organize and move forward.
“Former parliament speaker Dioncounda Traoré was sworn in on Thursday as interim president after Amadou Toumani Touré resigned under the 6 April agreement.
The 70-year-old mathematician turned politician is expected to name a prime minister soon, and to organise elections within 40 days.
He has threatened “total war” against the northern rebels, who seized a vast swathe of territory amid the disarray that followed the 22 March coup, which the mutineers justified by accusing Touré’s government of mishandling the Tuareg rebellion.”
The following interview with Andy Morgan from March 27 provides knowledge, history, and insight regarding what is going on with the Tuareg uprising in Mali.
“Q: Could you give us the general picture of what is going on in Mali at the moment?
A: The Tuaregs have been fighting an insurgency against the central power in Mali since the late 1950s but in terms of open fighting, since 1963. So this is a very old story. What we are seeing is the latest chapter, but a chapter with a great many differences. The Tuaregs this time are better equipped, better trained and better led than they ever have been before and as a result they have been able to clinch a series of military victories which have given them control of the northern half of Mali …
Q: What about the AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb)? Does this group exist and are there any links with the MNLA as some have suggested?
A: No Tuareg has ever killed or maimed another human being in the name of religion – certainly not in the last sixty years. I say that just to make clear that there is no cultural affinity between the Tuareg and AQIM. There is no question that AQIM does actually exist, this has been verified, but the more difficult question is who are its friends and enemies? They carry out kidnappings and have murdered people, including soldiers and policemen and have carried out suicide attacks. But there is a great deal of conjecture about this whole issue. What does certainly happen is that many western African and North African governments use Al Qaeda to discredit political or independence and autonomy movements.”
Here is the map of Mali from near the end of March.
An excerpt from The Causes of the Uprising in Northern Mali by Andy Morgan:
“Iyad Ag Ghali, Ansar Eddine and Mali-AQIM collusion theory
Iyad’s creation of Ansar Eddine and his reported ties with a certain Abou Abdelkarim aka Le Targui, one of the minor AQIM leaders operating in the southern desert, have opened the flood gates to national and international speculation about the possible links between the Tuareg rebel movement and Islamic terrorists, a link that the Malian government is all to keen to stoke and publicise in order to discredit the movement. As his name indicates, Abdelkarim le Targui is supposedly a Tuareg, a native of the Tinzawaten region and the erstwhile preacher at the mosque in In Khalil, a remote and fairly lawless border town in the far north east of Mali. He is reportedly a subordinate of the thuggish emir Abou Zeid, and leader of his own small katiba called Al Ansar which was responsible for kidnapping the septuagenarian French humanitarian worker Michel Germaneau in 2010. According to an announcement by Abdelmalik Droukdel, until recently the supreme leader of AQIM, which was posted up on the AQIM website, Abdelkarim Le Targui was also responsible for murdering Germaneau in cold blood as well as negotiation major drug deals on behalf of AQIM with the representatives of a Colombian drugs cartel in Guinea-Bissau. Not the kind of person you should be associating with if you want to present yourself as a legitimate political organisation.
Iyad’s association with Abdelkarim Le Targui is vague and conjectural. Some Tuareg even argue that far from being a true targui, Abdelkarim is an Algerian Arab, like all the other AQIM leaders in the southern desert. Nonetheless this link, together with the perceived religious extremism of Iyad and his Ansar Eddine movement, has spawned a smear campaign in Bamako which aims to convince the world that the MNLA are in cahoots with AQIM. The AFP reporter in Bamako even claimed that Abou Zeid took part in a recent MNLA attack on the army in the village of Aguel’hoc north of Kidal. Nothing is more poisonous to the international image of the Tuareg cause than this taint of fundamentalism and AQIM, not even the Gaddafi links.
There are several reasons why that taint is wholly unjustified. The first is that since the inception of the MNA and MNLA movements, one of their loudest, most cherished and oft repeated aims is to rid their homeland of AQIM, an organisation which they consider to be one of Mali’s most effective weapons in its fight against their cause. “AQIM was parachuted in and installed in our territory by the Malian government,” declares Hama Ag Sid’Ahmed, with total conviction. “It was the initiative of certain drugs barons, who are advisors to the President, in the shadows of the Koulouba Palace [The Presidential palace in Bamako]. They brought them into the Timbuktu region and then to Kidal. In return for the release of the 32 hostages in 2003, a pact of non-aggression was signed between Bamako and Al Qaeda, who then progressively occupied this territory. Those contacts became permanent and it’s clear that since then all the operations led by the terrorist groups have originated in Mali, and the terrorist have always fallen back to Mali. It’s their safe haven. Everyone knows that the terrorists are in communication with military leaders, and that politicians from Bamako meet the terrorist emirs quite regularly.”
Far fetched? Maybe. Like Professor Jeremy Keenan’s controversial theory that AQIM are a creation of the Algerian DRS, the Mali-AQIM collusion theory remains conjectural. But the circumstantial evidence that links a cabal of Malian army and secret service operatives, usually Arabs from the north of the country close to the upper echelons of Mali’s political and military hierarchy, to the huge drug smuggling operations that have blighted the stability of the northern deserts in recent years and to AQIM is very strong. It’s hardly a secret anymore that a consensus exists among US, French and Algerian diplomats in the region that Mali has been long on words but short on action in its dealings with AQIM since 2006. The frustration with Mali’s lack of firm resolve and decisive action in this regard, despite the millions of dollars in aid that it has received from the US and France specifically for the purpose of fighting terrorists on its soil, has been growing exponentially in the embassies and foreign ministries of the world powers. Apart from one clash with AQIM in the desert north of Timbuktu back in 2006, there have hardly been any confirmed reports of the Malian army doing any damage to AQIM at all. In fact, the most determined opposition that AQIM has encountered during its five year campaign of terror in Mali has been at the hands of the ADC, the Tuareg rebel movement launched in 2006, who skirmished with the terrorists several times between 2006 and 2009, with lives lost on both sides. And now that the entire might of the Malian army has been thrown against the Tuareg uprising with such devastating force, including fighter jets, tanks, armoured vehicles, missiles of every stamp and thousands of troops, it’s little wonder that Tuaregs, diplomats, analysts and commentators are feeling a tad cynical about Mali’s repeated assertions in recent years that they’ve never had the military wherewithal to deal with the AQIM threat.
A senior Malian politician once had the temerity to declare in a private meeting at the US Embassy in Bamako that the presence of AQIM in the north east of the country was a good thing, as long as it meant that the Tuareg rebel movement wasted its resources and time trying to combat it. At another meeting, the new Algerian ambassador informed his US counterpart that he suspected collusion between Mali and the terrorists. He cited the then recent case of a joint Algerian-Malian operation to attack an AQIM base that had failed because the AQIM katiba in question had been tipped off in advance. All these frankly startling revelations are contained in the US Embassy cables leaked by Bradley Manning and Wikileaks. In fact, there is no better way to understand what really went on in the northern deserts of Mali between 2006 and early 2010 than to read those US Embassy cables. The level of intelligence, analysis and research contained in them is often of the highest order. And yes, they do reveal that the US Embassy has also suspected Mali of at best tolerating and at worst colluding with AQIM at one time or another.
If the implantation of AQIM on Tuareg soil was part of a deliberate Malian strategy, then it has been extraordinarily effective. The main campaign of AQIM kidnapping and extortion began in March 2008 (interestingly there had been a five year hiatus since the 2003 hostage incident), just when relations between Mali, the ADC and Ag Bahanga were reaching their nadir. Since that time AQIM has knocked the Tuareg rebellion squarely off the front page, both national and internationally. Until January 17 of this year that is. The presence of AQIM in Mali put the country in the front line of the USA’s global war on terror, giving it kudos and a receptive ear in Washington whilst justifying the huge amounts of money, training and equipment that America lavished on Mali in the context of its Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Programme (TSCTP) and Pan Sahel Initiative (PSI). It has also emptied the north of foreign journalists, foreign observers, foreign NGO workers, foreign tourists and foreigners in general, whose presence could have been inconvenient for certain shady army or secret service (DGSE) operations, especially those linked with the drug trade. Most of all, AQIM have simply throttled the region and deprived its Tuareg population of any hope of building a viable future and developing a strong economy. In short, AQIM has crippled Tuareg society in Mali’s north east. No wonder MNLA have vowed to rid their land of Al Qaeda.
And yet Iyad Ag Ghali’s Ansar Eddine movement continues to sow the seeds of doubt and Mali’s propaganda machine continues to milk any possible connection between the MNLA, Iyad and AQIM for all its worth. Apparently Iyad tried to sell his plan for an Islamic inspired movement to the Ifoghas meeting in Abeibara by promising that his political approach would be no different to that of the moderate Islamic parties that have come to power following the Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. There also happens to be another Islamic organisation in Mali with the name Ansar Dine. It has a vast following amongst southern Malians, who flock to football stadiums in their thousands to hear the preachings of the movement’s leader, Cherif Ousmane Madani Haidara. Ansar Dine preaches tolerance, democracy and social morality inspired by faith in the teachings of The Prophet. It is also an ardent critic of government corruption and incompetence. Perhaps Iyad sees his movement as a Tamasheq off shoot of the bigger Ansar Dine. Who knows? “What’s very important is that all the religious leaders of the Adagh des Iforas have categorically rejected this foreign Salafist culture that has been planted in their midst,” Hama Ag Sid’Ahmed declares with emphasis. “I know that Iyad is an important person in the region and I know that he’s involved in religious matters. But I cannot believe that he would completely abandon the tolerance that is part of our Tuareg culture. Not for one second. Maybe Iyad and others realise that AQIM has a hold on some of our young people, and they’re trying to present a different message about Islam that might possibly win back all those that the Salafists have co-opted into their ranks.”’
There is also this article that is worth noting:
Terrorism In The Sahara And Sahel: A ‘False Flag’ In The War On Terror? – by Richard Trillo
“Some Sahara analysts believe that AQIM, which was formed in 2007, is a false flag organisation. In this scenario, many of AQIM’s members may be genuine Islamic ideologues from Algeria, with a background in the Armed Islamic Group (GIA) and the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) that were formed after the cancellation of Algeria’s 1991 elections in which the Islamic Salvation Front won a sweeping victory. The activities of these AQIM ground troops, however, are said to be coordinated by none other than the Algerian intelligence service itself, in a strategy aimed at justifying the country’s authoritarian government, procuring arms and drawing their American military partners into the region in the “Global War on Terror” (there is a significant American military presence in the Sahel, notably a large US training base at Gao, in Mali).”
And a comment to the article says:
“I was in Mauritania spring 2009. On June 25 (2009, not 2010) Christopher Leggett, a husband and father of four, was shot multiple times. Leggett was an American aid worker teaching computer classes. At the time AQIM issued statement: “Two knights of the Islamic Maghreb killed Christopher Leggett for his Chistianizing activities”. Soon after more than 100 Peace Corps volunteers were evacuated to Senegal. (The Peace Corp had worked in Mauritania 40+ yrs)
In Novemeber 2009 AQIM also kidnapped three Spanish aid workers in Mauritania…
Agree, the operations of AQIM appear focused on running blackmarket opperations (smuggling, drugs, money-laundering & protection rackets). It appears to me AQIM does not want witnesses, foreign observers, especially those trusted by locals. Leggett and the three Spanish aid workers were neither political targets nor ransom targets (corporate engineers/execs).
AQIM violence not only drove off tourists, but also aid workers… which may have been their objective.”
Outsiders who are trusted by local residents might bring back reports of what is really happening. Those with a political agenda might want the outside to know of their deeds when they are effective. They may have less to hide. Those with a criminal agenda might want to prevent any whiff of real information from reaching the wider world. They may have much more to hide.
Here is more from the interview with Andy Morgan in Global Dispatches on the subject of Mali’s Tuareg Rebellion.
“From about October 2011 onwards, they basically started preparing the uprising, with long meetings out in the desert where they indulged in a great deal of soul searching about what had gone wrong in previous uprisings, so as to get it right this time. What happened is that they entered into an alliance with a much younger group of Tuaregs, you might say young intellectuals, very Internet savvy young Tuaregs, who set up the National Movement of Azawad, the MNA at the end of 2010. They eventually merged with the MNLA. This was an important move as one of the aspects that was deemed to be lacking in previous uprisings was good communications with the international media, and with the world at large.
Q: When we talk about Tuaregs we are talking about many different tribes, spread over different countries. Some say the MNLA is just a small group of a few thousand fighters. What sort of support does the MNLA have from Tuaregs as a whole?
A: There are roughly 1.5 million Tuaregs, although an accurate census does not exist. They are spread out over 5 countries: Mali, Algeria, Libya, Niger and Burkina Faso. They have a very complex clan and tribal structure, at the top of which you have 5 large confederations which are then broken down into tribes, then clans and families etc. It’s very complex. They don’t all see eye-to-eye and historically they have fought against each other, sometimes very bitterly. The idea of a Tuareg identity is a relatively recent phenomenon. Up till about 50 years ago, they did not see themselves as a unified people, they saw themselves as different families, tribes and clans – nomads from different parts of the desert who often fought against each other.
Q: So who are the MNLA?
A: The MNLA are basically led by Tuaregs from the north-east of Mali, especially by two particular clans, called the Iforas and Idnan. The Iforas are the traditional rulers of north-eastern Mali. The Idnan are also a traditional warrior clan, bearing in mind that their society is very hierarchical and each clan had its different role. All of these old structures have been modified and deconstructed over the last one hundred years, but basically these two groups, the Iforas and the Idnan, are very much at the head of the MNLA. Support for the MNLA amongst Tuaregs is quite broad, partly as a result of the MNA’s propaganda and certainly before this latest conflict happened, I got the feeling from talking to various friends, that a lot of Tuaregs felt that at last they had a rebel organisation that was worthy of their cause. However they do not represent all Tuaregs by any means, and even less, all the people living in the north of Mali, where there are quite a number of different ethnicities apart from the Tuareg, including Arabs, Songhai and Peulh. All I can say is that it’s been along time since a rebel movement has enjoyed the level of support that the MNLA have, but this support is by no means universal.
Q: Is there any internal opposition?
A: There is one group that is seemingly opposed to the MNLA and they are called the Inghad. They are the former subordinate or ‘vassal’ class in the old hierarchical structure, subordinate to the more noble Idnan and Iforas Tuaregs. Many of the Inghad were in favour of the Tuareg lands becoming part of the Republic of Mali, as the socialist principles upon which the Malian Republic was built meant that they were freed from their subservient status in Tuareg society. One of the most frequently touted names in this conflict is a Tuareg military commander called Colonel al-Hajj Gamou. He has been the Malian army’s champion in the north-east for quite a number of years and he is an Inghad, from one of these vassal tribes. Ag Gamou has been built up as the defender of the Malian cause in the north. Apart from the Libyan Tuareg presence in the MNLA, there have also been a lot of desertions to the MNLA from the Malian army since December, as the Malian army did comprise a large number of Tuaregs. The actual number of people in the MNLA is difficult to gauge but I am sure that the numbers are growing.
Q: What are the aims of the MNLA?
A: They want a country of their own, a country called Azawad, which will comprise the three northernmost provinces or regions of present-day Mali – Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. There has long been a debate within Tuareg society about what they want; autonomy within a federalist Malian structure or a completely independent state. After the last big rebellion in the early 1990s, when the suffering among the civilian population was quite extreme, many Tuaregs fell back to a more conciliatory position, saying that they did not want an independent country but wanted their rights; cultural rights and economic rights. This position has hardened in recent years to the point where the MNLA want absolute independence for Azawad, the long-dreamed-of Tuareg state.
By saying that they are only interested in Mali, the MNLA are trying to limit the fear and concern of neighbouring states that a Tuareg uprising in Mali will lead to Tuareg uprisings elsewhere in all the 5 other countries where Tuareg are present.“
Morgan continues to describe in more detail why the nearby countries are extremely nervous about the situation. He speaks about the reasons for the coup, and the very real grievances the Malian military had against their government. He discusses the origin and nature of Ansar al Din, and the links and frictions between it and the MNLA, and the AQIM. Morgan describes how AQIM’s kidnapping and drug running destroyed tourism and related business in northern Mali. This led to bad feelings towards AQIM. Morgan discusses how during peaceful times, Malians and the Tuareg generally get along pretty well. And he discusses the tensions between Mali and Mauritania.
Ansar al Din probably caused Alexandra at Libya360 to write:
“I have been expressing concern for Tuareg for several months. My research uncovered two parallel movements. One, a genuine uprising of the Tuareg. The other, an imperialist-backed initiative aimed and manufacturing consent for the takeover of another African nation and the genocide of the Tuareg.
The US and the French have had their Special Operations forces in northern Mali and neighboring countries for most of this century, and the French long before that. The French have been particularly active in Niger. The US has used this time to create a decade of lies in order to establish the GWOT in the Sahara and give some legitimacy to AQIM in order to justify anti-terrorism.”
Moeen Raoof writes:
“The conflict in Libya has had a devastating effect in Niger and Mali where the nomadic Tuareg peoples in the Sahara Desert regions of northern Niger and Mali and southern Libya have been involved in a spate of kidnappings and armed uprisings known as the ‘Tuareg rebellion’. This is especially dangerous for northern Niger in and around the town of Arlit, an industrial town located in the Agadez region, where uranium is mined by French companies in two large uranium mines (Arlit and Akouta).
Put simply, this is about Uranium to be found in the Tuareg areas of Mali, Niger and Libya, the next step will be UN/ECOWAS/NATO Peace-keepers, Military intervention and killing of thousands of Tuaregs.”
Not only is uranium an issue, oil is in the picture as well. As Andy Morgan puts it:
“Q: What about oil and gas? Is the area strategic in terms of its mineral resources?
A: Yes, one thing that has been happening in the last 5 years is that northern Mali has been explored, and parcelled off as lots for oil drilling. Those lots have already been sold off – and I should say this is where things get very murky and where some serious investigative journalism needs to be done. Total, the French oil company, were involved in the exploration, as were the Qatar Petroleum Company. As we know, both Qatar and France were heavily involved in the overthrow of Gaddafi and many Malian commentators see a conspiracy theory in which France (remembering that France and the Tuaregs did try and set up a Tuareg state back in the ’50s prior to Malian independence which was quashed by the FLN in Algeria and the leaders of independent Mali) have always rued the fact that they lost all their colonies and access to the rich minerals in northern Mali. So many Malians see the Tuareg rebellion as being engineered by the French.”
Energypedia provides an outline of Mali’s oil blocks, and this piece of information from October 2011:
“Algerian state energy group Sonatrach will start long-awaited drilling for oil in Mali’s section of the Taoudeni Basin by mid-2012, the company’s managing director said on Malian state radio. Sonatrach signed a deal for oil exploration in Mali in 2007, but progress has been slow in the basin, which straddles Mali, Algeria and Mauritania. The area is overrun by gunmen, some of whom are linked to al Qaeda”
The Taoudeni Basin in Mali, which extends far into Mauritania, and somewhat into Algeria, is thought to be the location of significant reserves of oil.
There is an interview with a spokesman for the MNLA from March 28 at Afrik.com
MNLA : « L’indépendance ne se donne pas, elle se mérite, google translation here. Mossa Ag Attach, communications officer for the MNLA tells us in the interview that the MNLA is determined to control (free) the three northern cities, Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu. He indicates the MNLA is happy to negotiate so long as the government of Mali will respect Azawad independence. You can check for more from the source at the MNLA website.
The international community is hyping the threat of terror, linking it to the Tuareg victories in the north of Mali. But if Mali’s army and political elite have been a more active partners and participants with AQIM’s drug smuggling and criminal endeavors, the Tuareg may make life more difficult for AQIM, and cost some big people money. Also, how does the quest for oil and uranium interact with AQIM’s criminal endeavors?
The north of Mali is hostile and unfamiliar to soldiers from the south. ECOWAS has spoken of sending troups, but getting actual troop commitments is chancy, and no way guaranteed.
If the upper echelons of Mali’s army and political elite are allied with AQIM, and the US knows this, then all the train and equip is another example of the US knowingly partnering with the perpetrators, and actively concealing the truth. What is the goal of such a policy?
Be sure to read the entire article, The Causes of the Uprising in Northern Mali by Andy Morgan. I only included a small portion here. He covers many more aspects of the recent history and the present situation.
Check the interview as well Mali’s Tuareg Rebellion.
Earlier posts relevant to this topic:
Inherent contradictions of AFRICOM – lies and illusions
US Policy Versus Democracy In Mali
Lied Into the War On Terror In the Sahara
New York Times catapults the propganda for AFRICOM
Obama’s African Rifles – Partners/Surrogates/Proxies
Supplying Arms and Military Training – The US Gift to Africa
h/t Joerg Tiedjen
for informative links