December 2007

Malam Nuhu Ribadu

Corruption presents huge dangers for Nigeria. Some in the US, in the Pentagon and the Department of Defense, already view Nigeria as a failed state. And they are also talking about redrawing boundaries in Africa. This is imperialism at its most aggressive. AFRICOM is designed to accomplish these plans, mostly by indoctrinating and enlisting African militaries to do the work for the US. China is using economic techniques, but both China and the US are after Nigerian oil and resources. The most effective way for Nigeria to consolidate its power, and resist the latest colonial aggression, would be to actively and sincerely fight corruption at home. Such a battle won’t be won overnight, but it must at least be engaged, so that the Nigerian people have some control over their government. Malam Nuhu Ribadu appears to have been engaged in this battle.

Wole Soyinka has written a passionate lament on the removal of Ribadu as head of the Nigerian Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the EFCC. He writes of political power in Nigeria:

. . . power derives from corruption which in turn fuels and guarantees power . . . The tree of democracy cannot thrive on the compost of corruption.
. . .
. . . it is the ruling party itself, the PDP, that continues to suffocate the nation in its folds of corruption . . . (it is) the very quagmire of corruption, nurtured on corruption, sustained by corruption and dependent on corruption for its very survival.

Let all sophistry be abandoned – the removal of Nuhu Ribadu is not about the removal of one individual. . . . The timing, when viewed with the recent call to re-open the case-files of unsolved political murders, will be regarded as a coincidence only by starry-eyed innocents from space – good luck to them. Those of us who have the slightest knowledge of behind-the-scenes manipulations since the trail of detection moved ever closer to the very apex of governance under the past regime, know that the nation was being brought closer and closer to the dismantling of one of the most sinister and corrupt governance machines that this nation has ever confronted – including even the incontinent reign of Sanni Abacha.

Ribadu’s removal is therefore not an individual predicament . . . The issue is that an effective agency has been tampered with, unnecessarily, but with transparent motivations that constitute an assault on the corporate integrity of the nation.

There is more, but I think these lines capture the heart of his message.

Imnakoya at Grandiose Parlor writes:

I’m speechless! This must be a joke!

Despite the EFCC lapses, Ribadu is one of the best officers (if not the best) in the Nigerian Police Force. Despite overwhelming influences from the powerful political community, he has done what can best imagined in Nigeria – fighting corruption.

If this ill-timed study leave indeed marks Ribadu’s exit, I can only hope that his replacement finds the courage to continue the fight.

Soyinka is absolutely correct when he writes the tree of democracy cannot thrive on the compost of corruption. Here in the United States we are beginning to see the destruction of democracy by an interwoven web of corruption. At a minimum, democracy means a majority of the people have a say in how they are governed, and how the monies of government are spent. Corruption turns those decisions over to a few people and corporate interests trading power and money.

But these views of Ribadu are somewhat different from the views in the story I quoted previously by Tony Eluemunor:

Nigerians may not know it but the man Obasanjo used to ram in support for his failed third term bid and in getting the last April polls to go his way, Nuhu Ribadu, has become active again in advancing pro-Obasanjo plans.
. . .
Ribadu’s used his anti-corruption agency to discredit Obasanjo’s political enemies ahead of the April 2007 elections but his sins are now forgotten. He had produced reports indicting dozens of politicians, who were opposed to Obasanjo’s Third Term bid, and which INEC acted upon to bar such persons from contesting the elections.

Courts have been reversing such decisions in ruling after ruling. To show that INEC was insincere, scarcely any of those so barred from the polls have been prosecuted six months after.

There is more there, and it is worth a look. These things said, there are numerous possible explanations. As to the failed prosecutions, at first it looks like the actions of the Gonzales Dept. of Justice in the US, who forced US Attorneys around the country to prosecute Democrats running for office before the 2004 elections. Most of those prosecutions were later dropped or abandoned as without merit or evidence. They were a tool to discredit opposition candidates.

However, prosecutions may be dropped for corrupt reasons, rather than lack of evidence, because of threats or bribes to judges and prosecutors, as Soyinka says has occurred. The state governors are often the nexus of corruption in Nigeria.

So is Ribadu an anti-corruption hero? Is he a fixer for Obasanjo? He is certainly a hero in the eyes of many citizens of Nigeria, and to some, the last best hope against corruption. It is very difficult to advance in a corrupt system without participating in corruption. It is still possible to want to change things and to try to clean them up. He made enemies in the police force as well, both with prosecutions, and because his successes made the police look incompetent or corrupt.

The Daily Trust has a long article discussing the removal of Ribadu, Nigeria: The Coup Against Nuhu Ribadu, and discusses the story from a number of different angles. It concludes:

Hate him or like him, no one can deny the fact Ribadu brought in a commitment that has been unsurpassed in the history of the country in the fight against sleaze and combating the evils of financial and economic crimes in Nigeria. There may be truth in fears expressed in some quarters that the sacking of Ribadu may serve as the epilogue to anti-corruption crusade but the government should move in to assuage frayed nerves by appointing a committed person that is capable of continuing where Ribadu stopped.

As General Buhari once declared, the fight against corruption is not a tea party. Ribadu himself has said that his agency’s commitment to prosecute powerful men and women engaged in sleaze has led to the killings of some of his officers. The dusk is closing in for a man who gave all to cleanse the country of rot. The bigger challenge is finding a man who will take over in this crucial period in the anti-graft fight that has led to the killing of some EFCC operatives. And anyone coming to take over from Ribadu must be ready to take up this challenge.

Allan Gichigi/Standard

Kenya had record making heavy turnout for the elections today. People wanted, and took advantage of their chance to participate and vote. And from what I read so far, things went well. People had to wait in long lines, but it was generally peaceful, and people were able to cast their ballots. Heavy turnouts usually signal people want a change of government, but the results are not yet in. You can read more at, and the AllAfrica blogs on Kenya. If you click these last two links, by that time all the information may be updated, and we may know more about the results.

The polling was not without problem or incident. There were some serious problems with missing names from the voter rolls, including the candidate Raila Odinga’s name was missing,
from The Standard:

ODM presidential candidate Mr Raila Odinga finally voted on Thursday at 12.36pm.

Earlier in the morning, Raila and his wife, Ida, had failed to cast their votes because his name was allegedly missing from the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) LangÕata constituency voter register.

Moving over to South Africa, Dibussi Tande has collected selections and links to a number of South African blogs that discuss the recent party congress that elected Jacob Zuma to be President of the ANC, which means Zuma is likely to be the next President of South Africa.

Kenyan blogger Ken Opalo believes that Zuma’s election is a loss for Africa because he lacks Mbeki’s Pan-Africanist credentials
. . .
He has proven to be a populist and to the best of my knowledge has not shown much interest on the region as a whole. If he chooses to be a domestic leader, like he seems he will, his election will indeed end up being a loss to the African people who desperately need visionary continental leadership to correct the evils of poverty, disease, ignorance and bad leadership.

There are a number of other bloggers who express both optimism and doubt about Zuma’s potential as a leader, and his strengths and weaknesses. All have points of view worth considering.

And in Nigeria Yar’Adua has removed Malam Nuhu Ribadu as Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). Ribadu has been ordered to attend a compulsory one year study at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), in Kuru near Jos.

Ribadu has gotten a lot of credit for cracking down on the 419 scammers. But it also looks like he may be a fixer for Obasanjo. On Dec. 22 I quoted from an article by Tony Eluemunor, who is Abuja chief for the Daily Independent.

Eluemunor writes:

Nigerians may not know it but the man Obasanjo used to ram in support for his failed third term bid and in getting the last April polls to go his way, Nuhu Ribadu, has become active again in advancing pro-Obasanjo plans. Ribadu is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman.

It is said that after meeting Obasanjo in early June, Ribadu began to arraign Yar’Adua’s former governor colleagues, distancing them from him, so that if the presidential poll was cancelled, Yar’Adua would have scant support among his former co-governors.

Yar’Adua’s ratings had remained high everywhere until Ribadu began to spread the message that the President was shielding his former co-governors from being prosecuted for corruption.
. . .

Ribadu’s used his anti-corruption agency to discredit Obasanjo’s political enemies ahead of the April 2007 elections but his sins are now forgotten. He had produced reports indicting dozens of politicians, who were opposed to Obasanjo’s Third Term bid, and which INEC acted upon to bar such persons from contesting the elections.

Courts have been reversing such decisions in ruling after ruling. To show that INEC was insincere, scarcely any of those so barred from the polls have been prosecuted six months after.

So it looks like Yar’Adua is consolidating his position. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Policemen keeping the peace stops and searches youths on the Buguma Road in Ogbakiri, about 50 kilometres from the oil city of Port Harcourt in the Niger Delta: Armed groups have been demanding autonomy and greater control over oil resources in the Niger Delta.
Tony Eluemunor has written a fascinating summary of the current Nigerian political situation with his article Nigeria faces a tunnel at the end of the light. Conflict is increasing in the Delta region, and seems to be expanding, as this report would indicate. There are more violent actions, and more threats of violent action.

As Eluemunor reports, Yar’Adua’s election is still under a challenge that may succeed. If the challenge is successful, Nigeria’s constititution may not be up to the resulting situation.

So far, tribunals have invalidated the elections of five state governors.
. . .
It is expected that over 26 of Nigeria’s 36 state governors will be thrown out by the tribunals over election rigging, thus giving a judicial approval to the widely held belief that the polls were flawed.

The presidential election could also be invalidated. The President could remain in office, or the Senate President might temporarily take over. If the election is invalidated, the constitution mandates a new election must be held within three months.

This time frame would be the real source of the danger. A large percentage of Nigerians have no faith in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) leadership, which has been roundly condemned for conducting the worst election in modern times, to handle the expected presidential elections. This mistrust is buttressed by the fact it has been demonstrated that the INEC chief was sponsored into that sensitive position by Uba, a former aide to Obasanjo, whose election as Anambra State Governor lasted for only three weeks.
. . . An updated voters’ register is long overdue and its preparation will certainly take more than 90 days.
. . .
There is also the possibility of having an interim national government, which the Obasanjo camp is waiting for as is the former military president Ibrahim Babangida’s group.

Yar’Adua faces opposition within his own, and from opposition political parties. His own party may oppose him as candidate. The opposition is gearing up. And Obasanjo is still manuvering for legislation that would allow him a third term.

Nigerians may not know it but the man Obasanjo used to ram in support for his failed third term bid and in getting the last April polls to go his way, Nuhu Ribadu, has become active again in advancing pro-Obasanjo plans. Ribadu is the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) chairman.
. . .
Ribadu’s used his anti-corruption agency to discredit Obasanjo’s political enemies ahead of the April 2007 elections . . . To show that INEC was insincere, scarcely any of those so barred from the polls have been prosecuted six months after.

(Sounds a bit likes Bush’s Department of Justice trying to indict Democrats before the 2004 election.)

In the Delta the Navy says it is preparing to handle the insurgency in the country’s Niger Delta region because the region had become more complex for ordinary security agencies to manage.
. . .
The belligerence in the area was being subdued when on September 3, Henry Okah a kingpin in the Niger Delta insurgency and his seafaring companion, Captain Edward Atata were arrested in Angola for alleged gun running. Okah became prominent two years ago when he demanded the release of two Ijaws then facing trial – former Bayelsa Governor Diepriye Alamaiseye and Asari Dokubo, head of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force.

When the two men were released, Okah announced that MEND would unilaterally cease hostilities for a while to allow the newly elected Yar’Adua time to settle down and work on his electoral promises. Thus, while other armed Delta militias degenerated into hostage-taking and were being denounced as mere criminals, MEND remained above that recrimination and even threatened to join government forces in ending the hostage-menace.
Okah’s arrest in Angola has derailed the rapprochement between MEND and the government that had been achieved after President Yar’Adua’s inauguration in May 2007.
. . .
The Delta insurgency looks certain to become worse next year as the MEND accuses the government of conniving with Angola to arrest Okah. However, Yar’Adua’s request that Angola should extradite Okah to face trial in Nigeria is bound to keep the MEND belligerence in check, at least until it becomes clear whether the government would jail Okah or release him to appease to the people of the Niger Delta.
But as things are, even if Okah were allowed to walk away a free man on his return from Angola, there would be a new cause for concern with the rivalry between two militant groups in the delta escalating into a turf war.
This rivalry heightened when the leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, Alhaji Asari Dokubo hailed Okah’s arrest describing him as a mere criminal. It would appear that there is no way out of the dilemma.
If Okah is held and tried in Nigeria, his movement will take
to arms whereas Dakubo will cause problems if the rival goes scot-free.

Shell is already talking about moving some operations out of the Delta, and the other oil majors may follow. So Nigeria may face financial setbacks that will exacerbate the political problems.

As Eluemunor concludes:

If Yar’Adua’s election is not nullified, the storm may die out. If it is, a titanic fight that might see the generals in power again could break out. People have began to speak about this possibility in hushed tones but there is a feeling that a military government would be resisted, its excuse of restoring sanity and filling a power vacuum notwithstanding. The military option emerged during Obasanjo’s bid for a third team. Unfortunately, it has not fully receded and the feared power vacuum, should the polls be annulled, is not making things any better.

I recommend you read the full article: Nigeria faces a tunnel at the end of the light. It certainly makes it a bit more clear why Yar’Adua might want to trade up godfathers, as some have said he did while visiting Bush in Washington, notably The Independent, Yar’Adua’s Washington Diplomatic Gaffe:

The quid pro qui from the US for Yar’Adua’s government for endorsing the AFRICOM idea is the pledge to help him surmount the political brickbats being hauled at him from both his own political party, the PDP, and the opposition parties. The US government knows that Yar’Adua’s government lacks legitimacy. Yet, Bush deliberately refused to comment on the election heavily censured by both local and international observers. By so doing, the US president left open a tiny window of blackmail. This is pay back time and the American establishment is pulling the strings.
It is not by mere coincidence that Yar’Adua’s state visit to the US came at a time when it is rumoured that he may have lost favour with the PDP hawks, who have reportedly concluded plans, in the even of the tribunal annulling the presidential polls and calling for fresh election, to field a presidential candidate other than Yar’Adua. This is what happens when a government lacks legitimacy as Yar’Adua’s obviously does. The man at the driver’s seat looks up to external forces to sustain himself in power rather than the people that elected him. But it is a dangerous gamble. In a world where the unwritten code of international engagement seems to be, as Bush himself once put it “you are either with us or against us,” all those fighting US global hegemony are bound to see Nigeria as an adversary, being a military ally of their enemy, the US.

His announcement about “partnering” and AFRICOM has scandalized Nigeria and the continent, where many people feel, as it says in Business Day:

[T]he American-led war on terrorism was designed primarily to “secure Western access to other people’s natural resources without being ready to pay economic market prices and compensations for these resources.

After writing about how partnering with AFRICOM works, and what it means, in this blog, and at African Loft, and that Djibouti is the model, we hear the same thing from a former commander in Djibouti:

“As CJTF-HOA (Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa) transitions to U.S. Africa Command, it will only enhance their ability to be more engaged and more perceptive as all of Africa comes under one command and one focus,” said Helland. “They can combine all of the assets and all of the energy and all of the resources that are available to focus on a unified, coordinated effort across Africa to enhance security and stability and to help the partner nations as they think they need to be helped.”

AFRICOM, will be structured as an inter-agency command with State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development officers filling positions usually reserved for uniformed personnel. A great deal of AFRICOM’s mission and focus will be determined by the countries in their area of responsibility — those on the African continent.

CJTF-HOA is positioned to serve as a model for AFRICOM

It was the CJTF-HOA that engineered the destruction of the only functioning government Somalia has had in 15 years. I wrote that the model for AFRICOM includes aid to win hearts and minds, and special forces, to enforce the Bush/neocon military agenda. If you look at the bottom of the story quoting the commander in Djibouti, you will see a list of related articles that indicate the aid activities, and some joint military training with Djiboutians. This is the happy face of partnering:

Related Articles:
CJTF-HOA vaccinates herds in civic action program
CJTF-HOA celebrates school dedication in Ali-Adde
Former commander visits CJTF-HOA, gives insight into future
CJTF-HOA partners with USAID to distribute medical supplies
CJTF-HOA personnel, French compete in Slim Cat challenge
Photos : Admiral Fallon visiting CJTF-HOA
Djibouti air force, Camp Lemonier work to build stronger partnership
Interview with 2nd Lt. Park
Marines Conduct Mil to Mil Training With Djiboutians
Djiboutians delight in the sounds of “Hot Brass”

But the good deeds, music, athletic competitions, and training exercises are only part of the story. The invasion and bombing of Somalia earlier this year was organized from Djibouti, the reason given was an attempt to catch al Qaeda members, although al Qaeda is not popular or welcome in Somalia. From my earlier post Proxy war in Somalia – another great leap backward:

Bush killed dozens of Somali civilians in bombing raids on fleeing civilians in an attempt to knock off a couple of the alleged dastards. He failed, of course; but at least the men, women and children who had their guts ripped out and their heads blown off and their limbs torn from their bodies died in a good cause. . .
. . .
It’s “worse than Darfur,” says the UN’s humanitarian chief, John Holmes.

But once again, terrorism had nothing to do with it, oil had everything to do with it:

Actually, there is no more reason to believe the Bush administration promoted this war, in clear violation of international law and the UN Charter, ‘to catch a handful of al-Qaeda men’, than that the invasion of Iraq was to eliminate weapons of mass destruction. What has unfolded over the past three months flows from much larger strategic calculations in Washington.
. . .
On file are plans – put on hold amid continuing conflicts – for nearly two-thirds of Somalia’s oil fields to be allocated to the US oil companies Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips.
It was recently reported that the US-backed prime minister of Somalia has proposed enactment of a new oil law to encourage the return of foreign oil companies to the country.

Nigeria has a lot more oil than Somalia, at least from what is known to date. Bush must be thrilled to be partnering with Nigeria. And this partnering is already going on, with Nigeria, and a number of other countries. It was going on before Yar’Adua’s visit to the White House. You can see the pictures of partnering at work, training, conferring, and assisting, at the photogallery of the African Partnership Station, the USS Fort McHenry, currently deployed along the coast of West Africa, and partnering with a number of countries. You can type the name of a country into the search box on the upper right of the page, and see related pictures where the APS has visited. I don’t know if the USS Fort McHenry docked in Nigeria, but it did engage in some training activities with Nigerian military. AFRICOM is already in the neighborhood.

Note: Thanks to the article by Werther at for the title of this post.

I wrote a guest column on what partnering means.
Check it out at the African Loft.

After meeting with Bush at the White House, Nigeria’s President Yar’Adua appears to have reversed direction and announced Nigeria is ready to “partner” with AFRICOM. To understand what partnership means, see my earlier post on how it works in the Philippines, and how that relates to AFRICOM. Partnership may provide the US with everything it wants and needs, both access and resources. I don’t know what combination of bribes and threats were directed at Yar’Adua, but combinations of bribes and threats are how Bush and his cronies do business. The story was reported by This Day, and in Nigeria: Yar’Adua in White House, Ready to Partner U.S. On Africom.

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua yesterday at the White House in Washington, D.C., United States (US) stated that Nigeria would partner the US/AFRICA Command (AFRICOM) on security on the continent.

The Council of States of which the President is Chairman, recently voiced opposition to the command.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, who is part of the President’s delegation to the US had himself stated that Nigeria would not support the presence of US troops on African soil under the auspices of AFRICOM.

But at a press briefing at the Oval Office, with President George W. Bush in attendance, Yar’Adua made known his new position.

“We have discussed on security issues, security within Nigeria, the Niger Delta, the Gulf of Guinea and peace and security on the African continent. We shall partner AFRICOM to assist not only Nigeria but also the African continent to actualise its peace and security initiatives. It is an initiative to have standby forces in each of the regional economic groupings in Africa,” said the President.

The President did not give details of the discussion on AFRICOM, such as whether Nigeria will be used as the Command’s base, an issue that has emerged contentious in recent times.

But his support at the White House was a clear departure from the leaning of his administration on the issue.

As CareTaker at African Loft writes:

This disclosure is opposite of what was disclosed by the Nigerian government in November, and clearly contrary to general expectation of AfricanLoft users (See AfricanLoft debate on AFRICOM) and the Nigerian public.

And as Omotaylor writes in the comments:

It will be a grevious mistake in the long term if Nigeria i.e. Yaradua deviates from his earlier decision and partners with the US on AFRICOM. It will be interesting to hear in the near future his full explanation and reasoning behind changing his mind. Leaders are accountable to the people for when the problem starts, the people are the same that would suffer for it.

Again, referring to my earlier post, Bush’s AFRICOM may not need much of a geographic headquarters to accomplish what it wants, if it can get enough African “partners”.

click on map to enlarge, or see original here

It is very pleasant to report some good news! Ghana ranks High, number 40, as one of the more peaceful nations in the world on the Global Peace Index, developed in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit. Ghana scores high above the United States, which ranks Low, and is number 96 out of 121 countries rated. The full list of rankings is here.

As the Global Peace Index states:

Peace and sustainability are the cornerstones of humanity’s survival in the 21st century. The major challenges facing humanity today are global – climate change, accessible fresh water, ever decreasing bio-diversity and over population. Problems that call for global solutions and these solutions will require co-operation on a global scale unparalleled in history. Peace is the essential prerequisite, for, without peace, how can the major nations of the world co-operate to solve these issues?

The Global Peace Index aims to:

  1. Highlight to the general population the relative position of nations’ and regions’ peacefulness;
  2. Catalyse philanthropic support for further research of peace and funding of peace initiatives;
  3. Serve as a foundation for primary, secondary and tertiary educational study;
  4. Emphasise the need for governments to consider the drivers of peace in policy decisions.

You can see Ghana’s scores in detail here.

Appreciation to Strategist, who posted Global Peace Index, and writing from New Zealand, adds these comments:

It’s fascinating to compare the indicators between different countries. For example, in New Zealand the level of distrust in other citizens is 2 (scale of 1-5, where 1 = most peaceful), whereas in Israel (119 on the index) it is 4. In Norway, the level of ease of access to small arms is 1, while in Iraq it is 5.

The study also sets out a range of potential determinants (“drivers”) that may “influence the creation and nurturance of peaceful societies”. These include functioning of government, 15-34 year old males as a percentage of total population, importance of religion in national life, and number of paramilitary personnel per 100,000 people.

I have a strong feeling that there are other important drivers, including:

  • A society’s ability to deal with competition, conflict, grievance and aggression through lawful, regulated and fair mechanisms, e.g., a functioning legal system, parliamentary democracy, and sports.
  • The capacity for governments to acknowledge and provide some measure of redress for past wrongs committed against minority groups, thus allowing societies to put chequered pasts behind them. (Interestingly, the New Zealand and Canadian governments have programmes to settle the colonial-era grievances of their indigenous peoples.)
  • Equable access to natural resources (such as clean water) and recreational space, fair pricing for essential commodities and services (like electricity), and statutory protection for rivers, forests and other life sustaining ‘natural services’.
  • An ethos of sustainability – which emphasizes living simply and within one’s means, rather than zero sum competitions with others for money, resources, and prestige.

And SethP in the comments to Strategist suggests another important driver:

I’d add effective local level govt which provides its citizens with an adequate level of basic services – sewerage, refuse collection, power etc etc.

Pyramid of Capitalist System, issued by Nedeljkovich, Brashick and Kuharich,
Cleveland: The International Publishing Co., 1911.
The drawing of the cake described below reminded me of this old, but still relevant, graphic.

Sokari describes the role of China in Africa:

China is doing to Africa what Europe and the US have been doing for 100s of years. Instead of joining in Western economic paranoia we should recognise this is merely an extension of colonialism / neo-colonialism and economic exploitation and deal with it as such. The US and the West have their own issues with China and to some extent this is played out on our soil. We should be seizing the time and using this as a weapon to ensure we get the best deal for our resources and citizens.

Recently the BBC reported on the Chinese in Angola.

It is not just the capital Luanda that has become a vast construction site. In the provinces too, blue-jacketed Chinese workers are ubiquitous, building roads, railways, and schools.

. . . all the materials from bags of cement to scaffolding poles have been imported from China.

Apart from the security guard at the gate and two Angolan women employed to wash vegetables and clean the latrines and bathroom, I see no local people here.

Since 2004, Angola has taken out $8-12bn in loans from China. Thanks to its huge oil deposits in the Gulf of Guinea, the former Portuguese colony has become China’s biggest African trading partner.

In exchange for Angola’s oil, energy-hungry China is helping to repair the country’s infrastructure.

Although Beijing insists its credit comes with no strings attached, the deal in Angola is that 70% of tenders for public works must go to Chinese firms.

That means tens of thousands of jobs here for Chinese workers, engineers, planners – and even doctors.
. . .
But the lack of jobs for Angolans in Chinese firms is causing increasing resentment in a country suffering from chronic unemployment after nearly three decades of war.

Because of its oil and diamonds, and a projected economic growth of 24% this year, Angola looks rich on paper. But most people live in abject poverty.
. . .
But why do we need to import unskilled labour from China ” . . .
“It doesn’t make any sense.”

It looks like Angola is not doing much to get the most for either its resources or citizens. But it is hardly alone. And this pattern of aid tied to exclusive contracts is one the west has employed for decades.

Nicholas Shaxson spoke with a local journalist in the Congo Republic (Congo Brazzaville) and relates the conversation:

A local journalist does not see two worlds, but several. On a beer mat he draws a cake, shading each layer. “On the bottom: we, the Congolese. Next up, traders: Nigerians, Senegalese, and Malians. You have rich boutiques: the Mauritanians. Then, Lebanese and Indians; then, higher up, French businesses.” He puts a final layer of icing on top, and shades it black. “The Mafia. Congolese, French, all nationalities. They rule!” He adds little arrows, pointing at each layer. “The Chinese … they are now coming in at all levels. In photocopy shops, construction, and soon oil. They start on one level; in six months they are up at the next. They will be at the top now for sure.” A friend of his expands the point. “The democracies have mafialike things they want to do, but cannot do at home. So they come and do them here, chez nous.”
(Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil, by Nicholas Shaxson, p.117, ISBN 978-1403971944

I would amend the journalist’s statement in only one respect, the democracies he refers to might more accurately be referred to as the capitalists. Where there is some practice of democracy, there are some controls on capitalism, and some accountability. Without at least minimal checks and balances of actual democracy, capitalism is exactly the same thing as gangsterism, exactly the same as the mafia the journalist describes. Capitalists are attracted to Africa both by resources, and lack of accountability. (To state the obvious, a country calling itself a democracy still does not necessarily practice democracy.) As a matter of policy China has embraced capitalism and rejected democracy. So far as I know China does not preach, or claim to practice democracy abroad. China comes to trade, take advantage of resources, and provide the most opportunity for Chinese people. Chinese labour practices and environmental practices are appalling, and have already created angry reactions in African countries. African countries need to look out for themselves, managing their resources to provide the most opportunity for their own people. African governments should be able to take advantage of the rivalries between China and the west to serve African advantage.

As Sokari says:

We should be seizing the time and using this as a weapon to ensure we get the best deal for our resources and citizens.

TAKORADI, Ghana, (Nov. 28, 2007) Lt. j.g. Erica Goodwin visits the children going to school next door to Essikado Hospital in Takoradi, Ghana. Members of Africa Partnership Station (APS) visited the school while working at the hospital to assess the possibility of working on the school during a future community relations project. The APS volunteers spent three days at the hospital building shelves, benches, laying concrete, painting and fixing the ambulance. APS is scheduled to bring international training teams to Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, and Sao Tome and Principe, and will support more than 20 humanitarian assistance projects in addition to hosting information exchanges and training with partner nations during its seven-month deployment. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elizabeth Merriam, 071128-N-0193M-401 Released) A cheerful picture, regardless of doubts about the APS.

We can learn a lot about AFRICOM by observing US military activity in the Philippines, particularly if we understand the thinking behind it. Much of the military planning of the Bush administration has been done by participants in PNAC, Project for the New American Century. PNAC has been around since the early 90s and includes Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, and just about all the other neocon “thinkers” who wanted to invade Iraq since the early 90s, caused the invasion in 2003, and got it so wrong. They are the same ones who have been threatening Iran on the basis of information they know to be false. They used 9/11 to implement plans they had been discussing for years, taking advantage of the attack to push an increasingly aggressive militarism on the US and the world.

The self-avowed aim of the US is to perpetuate its position of being the world’s sole superpower in order to re-order the world. Its strategy to perpetuate its status is to prevent the rise of any rivals. To do this, it is seeking the capacity to deter and defeat potential enemies anywhere in the world by retaining and realigning its “global posture” or its ability to operate across the globe through its worldwide network of forward-deployed troops, bases, and access agreements. Today, the US believes that, of all its potential rivals, China poses the greatest threat and must therefore be contained before it becomes even more powerful. [1]

As well as calling for “regime change” in Iraq, some PNAC neocons have called for “regime change” in China and describe: “the defining military conflicts of the twenty-first century: if not a big war with China, then a series of Cold War-style standoffs that stretch out over years and decades.”

Although at present: “China lacks the military capacity to compete with the United States; neither does it appear to be seeking to.”[1] I am sure the neocons imagine many of their “Cold War-style standoffs” taking place in Africa, over African resources, especially oil.

In the guise of fighting terrorism, but in fact to “contain” China, US is unofficially reclaiming the Philippines as a military base of operations. The Philippines is generally friendly to the US, and strategically placed near China. The methods used in the Philippines look a lot like what the USS Fort McHenry is doing as the African Partnership Station along the Gulf of Guinea, or like what is happening in Djibouti.

Two articles detail how the US is reclaiming the Philippines as a military base, and also reveal a great deal about what all the AFRICOM talk about partnerships, aid, and development mean. The first of these:
At the door of all the east: the Philippines in United States Military Strategy by Herbert Docena, ISBN 978-971-92886-8-8 [1]
is extensively and meticulously documented, and in more abbreviated form:
How the US got its Philippine bases back by Herbert Docena in Asia Times [2]

The US closed its bases in the Philippines in 1991-2, but since 2001, a constant and increasing stream of US military personnel has been rotating in and out. No individuals, or individual units are there for long, but new units are constantly arriving.

For those who have been reading about AFRICOM, this should sound familiar:

Recognizing constraints posed by political realities (a population hostile to American military bases), the US has since been seeking access in ways that would be able to overcome domestic opposition by taking gradual and tentative but incremental steps, publicly justifying them in ways that are more acceptable to the public – i.e. as part of the “war on terror”, to help modernize . . . etc.
. . .
. . . few are the days or weeks when there would be no US troops somewhere in the country giving lectures to . . . troops, participating in large-scale maneuvers, joining command exercises, simulating war games, or taking part in other related activities. . . .

Largely presented as efforts to modernize the . . . armed forces, the objectives behind the exercises are manifold and overlapping. First, the exercises allow the US military to be more familiar with the capabilities, organization, doctrines, and other characteristics of military forces . . . which they may have to fight against or fight alongside with in the future. . . . “[G]iven that these . . . militaries may well be U.S. partners or adversaries in future contingencies, becoming familiar with their capabilities and operating style and learning to operate with them are important.”
. . .
“Maintaining an active program of military-to-military contacts . . . (so that) when the need arises, US military forces can find adequate access to perform their missions both quickly and safely.”
. . .
Implicit in the relationship – as has been the case in previous US-led wars – is that the US will retain over-all command of any coalition in war. Hence, the goal behind the efforts to build ties with, train, strengthen, and develop the capabilities of local militaries is actually to de facto subsume and subordinate them under the US military organization.

. . .
Access over time can develop into habitual use of certain facilities by deployed US forces with the eventual goal of being guaranteed use in a crisis, or permission to pre-position logistics stocks and other critical material in strategic forward locations.”

As US troops come and go in rotation for frequent, regular exercises, their presence – when taken together – makes up a formidable forward-presence that brings them closer to areas of possible action without need for huge infrastructure to support them and without inciting a lot of public attention and opposition.

. . .

“A cooperative security location can be a tucked-away corner of a host country’s civilian airport, or a dirt runway somewhere with fuel and mechanical help nearby, or a military airport in a friendly country with which we have no formal basing agreement but, rather, an informal arrangement with private contractors acting as go-betweens … The United States provides aid to upgrade maintenance facilities, thereby helping the host country to better project its own air and naval power in the region. At the same time, we hold periodic exercises with the host country’s military, in which the base is a focus. We also offer humanitarian help to the surrounding area. Such civil-affairs projects garner positive publicity for our military in the local media… The result is a positive diplomatic context for getting the host country’s approval for use of the base when and if we need it.”

This is what has been going on in the Philippines, and this is what the AFRICOM training, partnerships, aid and development are all about. It brings the words of Nigeria’s General Victor Malu into sharper focus (though this was some years earlier):

To make matters worse, even when we have reluctantly accepted because of the pressure from our Commander-in-Chief, to allow the Americans to train us, the Americans insisted they must live in the barracks with the soldiers. I left Abuja and flew to Sokoto to go and meet the governor, to plead with him to give us an area outside the barracks we would prepare it for the Americans. The governor accepted to do that. But the Americans turned it down insisting that they must live in the barracks with soldiers. I asked General Danjuma who was my GOC as far back as 1970, I said sir, you are my GOC in 1970, would you have allowed any army of any other country to come and stay with your own troops in the barracks? Well, at a point I didn’t know whether he understood me or not, but this was the type of argument that was going on.

The other thing that is happening in the Philippines is that US is making special forces a more permanent presence, although one of which both the US and the Philippine public are not really aware.

Since 2002, a unit now called the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P) has been deployed to . . . the southern Philippines. (T)his unit has continuously maintained its presence in the country for the past six years.

. . .
US troops belonging to the unit have characterized their mission as “unconventional warfare”, “foreign internal defense” and “counter-insurgency”.
. . .
As Colonel Jim Linder, former head of JSOTF-P, has stated, “We’re very much in a war out here … We’ll spill American blood on Jolo. It’s only by luck, skill and the grace of God we haven’t yet.”
. . .
In terms of profile and mission, the JSOTF-P is similar to the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-Horn of Africa), which was established in Djibouti in eastern Africa in 2003 and also composed mostly of Special Forces. Like the JSOTF-P, the CJTF-Horn of Africa has also been conducting “humanitarian” missions and aid projects. Similar to the Philippines, Djibouti has also seen a dramatic increase in the amount of military aid it receives from the US. As a sample of the US’s new austere basing template, the CJTF-Horn of Africa has been described as the “model for future US military operations“.

And the infrastructure and humanitarian projects all have military significance. All of this is relevant to AFRICOM:

But it is not just military assistance per se that has military dimensions. Economic aid, development projects, or other forms of indirect compensation . . . may also be given with military considerations in mind. For example, for the past few years USAID has been constructing dozens of roads, piers, wharfs, bridges, and other infrastructure projects in the very areas where US troops have been deployed. As of 2006, USAID had finished 558 small infrastructure projects and 20 larger ones in Mindanao. As previously mentioned, many of these infrastructure projects support US military mobility; at the same time, they have also proven very useful in gaining local public acceptance for US military presence. For the Special Forces, especially, the infrastructure and humanitarian projects are seen as instrumental in “winning hearts and minds” in the aim of getting what they call “actionable” intelligence. As Army Captain Steve Battle of the JSOTF-P admitted, “I have a military objective behind my projects.” Former JSOTF-P commander Col. Jim Linder said, “To do my job right, I am embedded inside USAID.”

It is important for us all to be aware of what is really going on. There is much more in both these articles worth considering, with implications for all of Africa.