May 2008

In Route of Evil How a Tiny West African Nation Became a Key Smuggling Hub For Colombian Cocaine, and the Price It Is Paying, Kevin Sullivan of the Washington Post tells us how Columbian cocaine dealers are taking over a small impoverished country on the west coast of Africa. So far there does not seem to be any help in sight.

Guinea-Bissau, one of the world’s poorest nations, has become a major transshipment hub and the epicenter in Africa for the cocaine trade, according to U.S., European and U.N. officials. The shift demonstrates how the flow of drugs adapts not only to law enforcement pressure but also to the forces of global economics.

Officials said some of the world’s richest criminal gangs are exploiting barely functioning countries such as Guinea-Bissau, which has 63 federal police officers, no prison and a population that still lives largely in thatched-roof homes on dirt roads with no electricity or running water.

“West Africa is under attack,” said Antonio Maria Costa, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, who recently visited Guinea-Bissau and concluded that it is so overrun by the cocaine trade that it could become Africa’s first “narco-state.”

The Colombian cartels are responding to the pressure for cocaine in nations such as Britain, Spain and Italy, where demand is soaring as the U.S. market has leveled off, officials said.

Costa described the strong currencies in Europe, where cocaine sells for twice as much as in the United States, as “a magnet” for the cartels. Police raids in Colombia are increasingly turning up suitcases full of euros instead of the traditional dollars.

… the country’s 1.5 million people are suffering because of global currency fluctuations and because European “bankers and models want to snort …

“This isn’t even our problem — we do not produce cocaine here, but it is destroying our future,” said Lucinda Barbosa, chief of the judicial police in the former Portuguese colony.

… the national budget of Guinea-Bissau is roughly equal to the wholesale value in Europe of 2 1/2 tons of cocaine.

… its main attractions for the cartels are its weak government and coastal waters dotted with scores of uninhabited islands.

“The traffickers have a paradise here,” said Constantino Correia, a top Justice Ministry official who is coordinating the government’s efforts against the traffickers.

“Justice does not work. The police do not work,” he said. “A place where criminals can do whatever they want is not a state. It is chaos.”

Without computers or other investigative tools, police have no way of telling which of the foreign “businessmen” in Bissau might be smuggling drugs. “It’s a war without faces or borders,” Correia said.

The Caretaker at the African Loft has written about the plight of Guinea-Bissau:

Guinea Bissau: The First African Narco-state?


Guinea-Bissau Battles Drug Barons with Little Hope

Guinea-Bissau desparately needs help. So far there is no sign of any effective assistance.


Africa Command is a headquarters staff whose mission entails coordinating the kind of support that will enable African governments and existing regional organizations, such as the African Standby Force, to have greater capacity to provide security and respond in times of need.

Guinea-Bissau is in great need. Security there has been completely destroyed. When the APS was touring West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea, there was no mention of Guinea Bissau. There is no talk I have heard or read anywhere of helping Guinea-Bissau. Without help, the drug smuggling will escalate and spread.

There is one US program connected with AFRICOM that might help the government of Guinea-Bissau. That is the African Coastal and Border Security Program (ACBS Program) However, the Bush government did not any request funding for it in the current budget request. It got about $4 million in FY2006 and the same in FY2007. But no funding was requested for FY 2008.

As described by Daniel Volman:

African Coastal and Border Security Program (ACBS Program)
This program provides specialized equipment (such as patrol vessels and vehicles, communications equipment, night vision devices, and electronic monitors and sensors) to African countries to improve their ability to patrol and defend their own coastal waters and borders from terrorist operations, smuggling, and other illicit activities. In some cases, airborne surveillance and intelligence training also may be provided. In FY 2006, the ACBS Program received nearly $4 million in FMF funding, and Bush administration requested $4 million in FMF funding for the program in FY 2007. No dedicated funding was requested for FY 2008, but the program may be revived in the future.

I don’t quite know why Guinea-Bissau is being ignored. Is it just ignorance and neglect, a trademark of the Bush administration. The US certainly knows what is going on in Columbia. Of course this cocaine is going to Europe. Would the US prefer a “failed state” in Guinea-Bissau, providing a chance to intervene? In that case, would it help if the problem spreads first, to give more excuses for intervention in more places. Does Guinea-Bissau’s lack of oil make it lack interest for the US.

In general, I suspect countries would be far better off if AFRICOM just left them alone. But if it is capable of actually being constructive, this would be the opportunity to demonstrate all the positive rhetoric has some meaning.

UN peace building

The Human Security Report Project has just released the Human Security Brief 2007 PDF. It contained two most compelling pieces of information:

Fatalities from terrorism have declined by some 40 percent, while the loose-knit terror network associated with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda has suffered a dramatic collapse in popular support throughout the Muslim world.

This is directly contradictory to the fear mongering of the Bush administration. Every day it seems to be adding new states to the list that either harbor or sponsor al Qaeda. This is particularly true in African countries where the US has an interest in oil, natural resources, or in blocking Chinese access. We constantly hear about al Qaeda threats in a variety of African countries.

The Brief also describes and analyses the extraordinary, but largely unnoticed, positive change in sub-Saharan Africa’s security landscape. After a surge of conflicts in the 1990s, the number of conflicts being waged in the region more than halved between 1999 and 2006; the combat toll dropped by 98 percent.

The Brief (PDF) contains the following regarding Africa:

° There has been a major decline in the scope and intensity of conflicts.
° Refugee numbers have shrunk substantially.
° The share of global humanitarian assistance going to Africa doubled between 1999 and 2006—from 23 percent to 46 percent
. . .
Between 2002 and 2006 the number of campaigns of organized violence against civilians fell by two-thirds.

Why the Sharp Increase in Conflict Numbers in the 1990s?

The increase in new state-based conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s was not unique to the region and was clearly related to the end of the Cold War. Regimes and rebel groups that had long been propped up by the assistance given by one or the other of the two superpowers suddenly found that this support—political as well as economic—had disappeared. The result in many cases, not just in sub-Saharan Africa, was regime change and ongoing political instability.

However, in sub-Saharan Africa something else was happening: The countries of the region, to a greater degree than in other parts of the world, were undergoing profound and wrenching political change. In 1988 nearly 90 percent of sub-Saharan African states had autocratic governments. By 2006 there were just two autocracies in the region, while the number of democracies had increased sixfold, from three to 18.

Had the only change been a decrease in autocracies and an increase in democracies, it would likely have enhanced regional security, since democracies tend to experience fewer armed conflicts than do autocracies. But these were not the only changes.

[There were] trends in “anocracies”—a third regime type, one that is neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic, but a mix of both systems.

The increase in the number of anocracies in sub-Saharan Africa between 1988 and 2000 is startling—far greater than in any other region of the world. In 1988 there were two anocracies and 37 autocracies in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2000 there were just four autocracies, but 30 anocracies. This change is an important part of the explanation for the sharp increase in conflict numbers in the 1990s.

So what then does explain the sharp increase in the number of conflicts that have been brought to an end since the early 1990s? A major part of the answer lies with the extraordinary upsurge in international activism in the region directed towards stopping ongoing wars and seeking to prevent them from starting again. From the early 1990s, the international community— including the African Union (AU)—was bringing real pressure to bear on warring parties to negotiate an end to hostilities rather than to fight on to the bitter end. The big increase in negotiated settlements during this period suggests that this strategy has been effective. with the UN, to help stop wars and prevent them from starting again.

Postconflict peacebuilding missions also expanded rapidly and have played a positive role in helping prevent negotiated peace settlements from breaking down. From 1950 to 1999 there were just 18 negotiated settlements—and nearly half broke down within five years. From 2000 to 2005 there were 10 such settlements—thus far not one has broken down. Postconflict peacebuilding’s critical security role lies in helping to make negotiated settlements more stable.

It looks like negotiated settlements, followed up by some peacebuilding activity works, particularly those efforts of the UN and the AU.

Before visiting Africa Bush proposed major cuts in the US contribution to UN peacekeeping.

ABC News: U.S. Slashes Africa Peacekeeping Funds

The Bush administration will request no more funding for United Nations peacekeeping efforts, leaving in place proposed cuts expected to be as deep as 25 percent, according to officials and budget documents. Among the programs facing sharpest cuts are efforts to quell violence in Africa.

When ABC News first reported the proposed cuts in February, the administration contended that it might seek additional funding later in the year. But officials confirmed last week that they requested no additional funding in their supplemental budget recently submitted to Congress.

“Unless you are expecting the emergence of peace worldwide,” the cuts are hard to understand …
[Before Bush’s trip to Africa] White House officials talked up the trip and Bush’s commitment to the continent, telling reporters how the president “really cares about Africa.”

U.S. funding for U.S. peacekeeping operations this year could reach $2.1 billion, but the administration had requested less than $1.5 billion to cover its share of the costs of U.N. peacekeeping efforts for 2009.

But “US peacekeeping” in Africa is not necessarily the same as peacekeeping. Under George Bush, “US peacekeeping” is more about controlling oil and other resources for US needs. In fact, Bush’s intentions have been described as trying to undermine and circumvent both the UN and the AU, and replace them with AFRICOM, using the US military, mercenary corporations, and African surrogates to protect US corporate interests, the latest colonial occupation.

Section of a PDF map of the Great Lakes region, one of many maps available at, click on map to enlarge.

The Washington Post recently featured an article on how women are becoming successful entrepreneurs in Rwanda.

“We have overwhelming evidence from almost all the developing regions of the world that [investment in] women make better economics,” said Winnie Byanyima, director of the United Nations Development Program’s gender team.

For the worst of reasons, Rwanda became a testing ground for such theories after the 1994 genocide.

As both female and male survivors sought to rebuild coffee plantations with financial and technical assistance from international organizations, Maraba’s women, most trying their hands at the business of farming for the first time, were by far the faster students. They showed more willingness than men, officials here said, to embrace new techniques aimed at improving quality and profit. Now, Maraba’s female farmers are outdoing their male counterparts in both, numbering about half of all farmers in the village’s coffee cooperative but producing 90 percent of its finest quality beans for export.

The march of female entrepreneurialism, playing out here and across Rwanda in industries from agribusiness to tourism, has proved to be a windfall for efforts to rebuild the nation and fight poverty. Women more than men invest profits in the family, renovate homes, improve nutrition, increase savings rates and spend on children’s education, officials here said.

It speaks to a seismic shift in gender economics in Rwanda’s post-genocide society, one that is altering the way younger generations of males view their mothers and sisters while offering a powerful lesson for other developing nations struggling to rebuild from the ashes of conflict.

“Rwanda’s economy has risen up from the genocide and prospered greatly on the backs of our women,” said Agnes Matilda Kalibata, minister of state in charge of agriculture. “Bringing women out of the home and fields has been essential to our rebuilding. In that process, Rwanda has changed forever. . . . We are becoming a nation that understands that there are huge financial benefits to equality.”

“I think that now, boys and girls are different than they were,” said Eric Muhire, a junior in high school. “Today, woman are in business; before, if a woman had some money, she would have to give it to the man. They could not compete against a man. But now, they are competing and doing better.”

This is a very positive and encouraging article. A lot of this was done by the use of micro loans. I hope that this trend continues in Rwanda, moving toward full participation by all citizens in the economy of the nation.

Right across the border, in North Kivu in the DRC, things are a lot uglier. Sexual violence continues on a scale that is unimaginable. Some have called it femicide, it is not just a matter of rape, in the Congo there is a medical term for it – vaginal destruction.

Dr Mukwege and others have said time and time again that the current saga of the Congo has been going on for more than a decade.

The sordid saga ebbs and flows. But it was brought back into sudden, vivid public notoriety by Eve Ensler’s trip to the Congo in July/August 2007, her visit to the Panzi hospital, her interviews with the women survivors of rape, and her visceral piece of writing in Glamour magazine which began with the words ‘I have just returned from Hell’

From Women left for dead – and the man who’s saving them by Eve Ensler:

Before I went to the Congo, I’d spent the past 10 years working on V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls. I’d traveled to the rape mines of the world, places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Haiti, where rape has been used as a tool of war. But nothing I ever experienced felt as ghastly, terrifying and complete as the sexual torture and attempted destruction of the female species here. It is not too strong to call this a femicide, to say that the future of the Congo’s women is in serious jeopardy.

Dr. Mukwege has been fighting an heroic battle to save bodies and lives. But the odds are impossible, and not improving.

Stephen Lewis argues that the level of rape and sexual violence in the Congo is an act of criminal international misogyny, sustained by the indifference of nation states and the delinquency of the United Nations.

… suffice to say that in the vast historical panorama of violence against women there is a level of demonic dementia plumbed in the Congo that has seldom, if ever, been reached before.That’s the peg on which I want to hang these remarks. I want to set out an argument that essentially says that what’s happening in the Congo is an act of criminal international misogyny, sustained by the indifference of nation states and the delinquency of the United Nations.

Stephen Lewis goes on to say that even with the attention the violence in the Eastern Congo is beginning to receive, the recent peace commitment drafted by the UN hardly mentioned rape and sexual violence, and the amnesty provisions are a license to continue this violence without fear of accountability.

The same positive techniques that are rebuilding the economy in Rwanda can work in the Congo. In fact, they are already at work. But in places like North Kivu there isn’t a chance until the violence stops. Nevertheless, there are small efforts all around:

Chingwell Mutombu has created First Step Initiative (FSI), a microfinance organization setup for women in Democratic Republic of Congo. And she is just one of many working to improve conditions at home. She says:

My inspiration comes from the women I saw growing up. The concept of microfinancing is not new to African countries. They have been doing it for centuries. It is similar to when the community gathers money and gives it to one person to do business, and when the person is done with the money they give it to the next person. FSI was started to continue in that type of practice but through microfinancing which is more formal.

She gets a repayment rate of 95-98%, but there is far more need than resources. Most all microfinancing efforts in the DRC are headquartered in or near Kinshasha, although much of the need is out in the provinces among the villages.

But the violence and displacement in the Eastern Congo makes development of any kind next to impossible. To US and international business, the place is made of money:

The DRC holds 80% of the world’s coltan reserves, more than 60% of the world’s cobalt, and the world’s largest supply of high-grade copper.

These minerals are vital to maintaining U.S. military dominance, economic prosperity, and consumer satisfaction. Because the United States does not have a domestic supply of many essential minerals, the U.S. government identifies sources of strategic minerals, particularly in Third World countries, then encourages U.S. corporations to invest in and facilitate production of the needed materials. Historically, the DRC (formerly Zaire) has been an important source of strategic minerals for the United States. In the mid-1960s, the U.S. government installed the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, which ensured U.S. access to those minerals for more than 30 years.

U.S. military aid has contributed significantly to the crisis. During the Cold War, the U.S. government shipped $400 million in arms and training to Mobutu. After Mobutu was overthrown, the Clinton administration transferred its military allegiance to Rwanda and Uganda, although even the U.S. State Department has accused both countries of widespread corruption and human rights abuses. During his historic visit to Africa in 1998, President Clinton praised Presidents Kagame and Musevini as leaders of the “African Renaissance,” just a few months before they launched their deadly invasion of the DRC with U.S. weapons and training. The United States is not the only culprit; many other countries, including France, Serbia, North Korea, China, and Belgium, share responsibility. But the U.S. presence has helped to open networks and supply lines, providing an increased number of arms to the region.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have knowingly contributed to the war effort. The international lending institutions praised both Rwanda and Uganda for increasing their gross domestic product (GDP), which resulted from the illegal mining of DRC resources. Although the IMF and World Bank were aware that the rise in GDP coincided with the DRC war, and that it was derived from exports of natural resources that neither country normally produced, they nonetheless touted both nations as economic success stories.

As noted above, the United States bears a fair amount of responsibility for the ongoing violence in the DRC. In Central Africa’s Great Lakes Region:

Today, President George W. Bush supports corrupt, illegitimate regimes that will either cooperate in the Global War on Terror, provide U.S. companies access to vital natural resources, or both. If history is any indication, this infusion of wealth and military training is likely to be disastrous for the people of Africa.

As Kagame hosts President Bush this week, (February 21, 2008) Rwanda continues incursions across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with support from the U.S. government.

From 1996-2003, the Congolese people suffered a great deal from two wars that pitted Rwanda and its allies against the DRC. A recent report from the International Rescue Committee estimates that 5.5 million Congolese have died as a result of this conflict. According to Inter Press Service journalist Tito Dragon, “to control coltan mines that was the principal, if not the only, motivation behind the U.S.-backed 1998 occupation of part of DRC territory by Rwanda and Uganda.” In fact, in 2004, after a three-year investigation, a UN Panel of Experts implicated three major U.S. companies (Cabot Corporation, Eagle Wings Resources International, and OM Group) for fueling war in DRC by collaborating with rebel groups trafficking coltan. In spite of major human rights violations, Bush administration assistance to Rwanda continues today largely due to Kagame’s willingness to be engaged in the so called War on Terror.

So who and what is the War on Terror fighting? The following, which has been repeated many thousands of times in the eastern Congo, certainly meets the definition of terrorism. From the conversations with Dr. Mukwege as reported by Eve Ensler:

Most doctors, teachers and lawyers fled the Congo after the wars started. It never occurred to Dr. Mukwege to leave his people at their most desperate hour.

He first became aware of the epidemic of rape in 1996. “I saw women who had been raped in an extremely barbaric way,” he recalls. “First, the women were raped in front of their children, their husbands and neighbors. Second, the rapes were done by many men at the same time. Third, not only were the women raped, but their vaginas were mutilated with guns and sticks. These situations show that sex was being used as a weapon that is cheap.

“When rape is done in front of your family,” he continues, “it destroys everyone. I have seen men suffer who watched their wives raped; they are not mentally stable anymore. The children are in even worse condition. Most of the time, when a woman suffers this much violence, she is not able to bear children afterward. Clearly these rapes are not done to satisfy any sexual desire but to destroy the soul. The whole family and community are broken.”

The US is funding this terrorism, rather than fighting it.

Although Kagame publicly denies any direct involvement, Rwandans acknowledge that their president funds renegade General Laurent Nkunda’s militia in the DRC – a militia whose primary purpose appears to be to keep Hutu rebels away from the Rwandan border. UN peacekeepers accuse Nkunda’s Tutsi faction of some of the worst human rights abuses of any rebel group currently operating in the eastern region.

Bush knows that Rwanda’s involvement in the armed conflict in the DRC delays peace in eastern Congo, but he continues to authorize military aid to Rwanda. In 2007, the United States armed and trained Rwandan soldiers with $7.2 million from the U.S. defense program Africa Contingent Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA) and $260,000 from the International Military and Education (IMET) program. At the same time, the United States is involved in facilitating peace talks between Rwanda and the DRC and the various rebel groups operating in eastern Congo. Not only does arming Rwanda contradict the peace process, but it also delays the recovery of Rwanda from its 1994 genocide.

During the Cold War, the United States provided military aid to African countries to counter communism. Many of those countries – Somalia, Sudan, and the DRC – have now become hotspots of violence and economic chaos. It is no surprise that lending arms and financial support to corrupt dictators and human rights abusers contributes to destabilization, but still the U.S. government has yet to learn its lesson. Today, the rationale for providing military aid to countries like Rwanda is to counter terrorism; the methods and outcomes will likely be the same as they were in the Cold War era.

The Department of Defense argues that training and equipping African military forces will bring greater stability and legitimacy to African governments. This argument for professionalizing militaries was also made during the Cold War to support a policy that ultimately failed. Yet the same justification is being used to mask U.S. corporate interests in Africa’s vast resources.

For “anti-terrorism” read corporate welfare, at the expense of the citizens of Africa’s Great Lakes region, and ultimately, the citizens of the United States. Note in the Rwanda story at the beginning of this post, the military is conspicuously absent from the stories of development success. As long as the US leads its engagement with its military, the women, and all the citizens of the DRC will continue to suffer brutal terrorism. Only by leading with diplomacy and seeking political solutions will the US actually help rather than cause more harm. As Bahati Ntama Jacques points out:

Most countries have vehemently rejected the creation and implementation of a new U.S. military command for Africa (AFRICOM) and expanding the U.S. military footprint in Africa. Shifting U.S. policy away from defense toward human security, development, and diplomacy is the best path to long-term peace in the Great Lakes region and throughout Africa.

Sweet Crude is the story of Nigeria’s Niger Delta – a story that’s never been captured in a feature-length film.

Watch the preview over at the African Loft.

In April filmmaker Sandy Cioffi and crew were detained by the Nigerian military JTF while traveling in the Delta, and turned over to the Nigerian State Security Services. They were held without being charged, and without access to counsel. Thanks to international efforts, they were released a week later. It seems obvious there are those who do not want this story told.

From a user comment at the Internet Movie Database:

The film calls for nothing more radical than third-party-led negotiations between the locals and the oil companies so the presence of the latter benefits rather than harms the former. Watch for this documentary. It is going to be astounding, and terribly important. Also compelling is the incredible irresponsibility of big American media in reporting this story, essentially calling those who organize peacefully to defend the people of the Delta “terrorists.”

Keep in mind:

80% of oil wealth is owned by 1% of the population;

70% of private wealth is abroad whilst

3/4 of the country live on about $1 a day –

at least 15 million of those live in the Niger Delta (link)

What’s Next?
Sweet Crude is moving ahead on several fronts. We’re back in the studio and will be finishing the film this summer. Meanwhile, we are seeking a distributor and entering festivals. We will also continue to advocate for political solutions with U.S. lawmakers. Many people have asked where they can see the film or how to get a copy. We will let you know as soon as we know – so sign up for our email list to stay informed.

Resistance? Insurgents?

The US Army has fallen hard for counter insurgency, COIN. However, NPR reports:

An internal Pentagon report is raising concerns about whether the Army’s focus on counterinsurgency has weakened its ability to fight conventional battles. The report’s authors — all colonels with significant combat experience — say the Army is “mortgaging its ability to (successfully) fight” in the future.

The counterinsurgency doctrine emphasizes the use of minimal force, with the intent of winning the hearts and minds of a civilian population.

The idea in a counterinsurgency campaign, Nagl says (Lt. Col. John Nagl, one of the Army’s top experts on counterinsurgency doctrine) is to drive a wedge between the civilian population and insurgents who live among them.

However, when we talk about counter insurgency, is it really counter insurgency we have in mind? In Iraq the “insurgency” looks a lot more like a resistance.

And what about AFRICOM? Is counter insurgency what the US has in mind for the combatant aspect of its latest combatant command? And what situations will be called insurgencies?

Over at Moon of Alabama b writes:

Insurgencies are, by and large, social movements challenging their own government because of some grievance. If the movement is small, it can be fought down through sheer brutality. If it is larger and backed by a significant part of the population, it can only be accommodated by social-political compromise. To achieve the compromise both parties usually fight until everyone is sick of it. The compromise does not necessarily need to be a change of government, but can be participation of the insurgency in the political process or simply a change in social-economic issues.

A resistance is also a social movement, but it is fighting primarily against an invading and occupying force. Its grievance is the fact of occupation, not some local social problem. If the resistance fights against the local government, then only because the government is seen as illegitimate tool of the occupation.

The difference of a resistance towards an insurgency is motivation and possible accommodation. While an insurgency can be accommodated by letting it participate in the general political process and alleviating its grievance, a resistance can only be satisfied by retraction of the occupation.

In Implementing AFRICOM: Tread Carefully by Robert Gribben, he writes:

it is worth examining the premise that African military establishments merit American support at all. Even though national defense is regularly cited as their primary task, African armies rarely need to repel foreign invaders. Most African conflicts … arise from domestic issues. Only the unresolved Ethiopia-Eritrea border war, the recent Congolese wars and the Ethiopian presence in Somalia fit the mode of external aggression.

So instead of defense, the primary job of African armies is to protect the ruling regime by keeping the life president in power (by informal count some 15 current leaders initially came to power via military means) and to thwart threats to the status quo mounted by the opposition, democratic or otherwise.

… American attacks against purported terrorist elements in Somalia, for example, do raise the issue of if-you-have-the-assets how will you use them?

As to the humanitarian assistance and capacity building that AFRICOM claims to represent:

Obviously, military programming risks duplication where USAID, the Centers for Disease Control, Peace Corps Volunteers and others are already engaged. That said, host governments are quick to realize where the money is, so they will increasingly focus requests on U.S. military elements.

And here is the big question regarding humanitarian arguments supporting AFRICOM:

… The U.S. already does a pretty competent job of economic development and humanitarian relief. What additional benefits – besides money – can AFRICOM bring to those tasks?

So there are several questions here. Is counter insurgency a practical use of Army resources? And, is counter insurgency action actually counter insurgency? Is it really occupation? The places where it is being discussed or applied, or where it may be applied, such as the Niger Delta, are not part of the US. So US military involvement, including the use of mercenaries or surrogates, is effectively occupation. In the Niger Delta, MEND, Niger Delta Vigilante, and similar organizations are fighting the exploitation and occupation of their land by the oil companies. If AFRICOM becomes involved, it will be coming in as part of an occupying force, regardless of what agreements it may make with the Nigerian government. AFRICOM will assist the oil companies to continue their occupation.

Considering the traditional role of African militaries, protecting leaders who generally have not come to power through democratic processes, do these militaries merit American support? What will be the effect of developing only that military infrastructure, especially if the money is siphoned away from US institutions that have the structure and skill to spend it in support of peaceful development.

Over at Moon of Alabama b real makes a couple of critical points about AFRICOM’s purpose, and about Department of Defense talking points: Africom: Talking Points for Screwing Mother Africa:

(Brig. Gen. Michael A.) Snodgrass stressed the same message at a business expo hosted by AFRICOM near the German base on May 1st.:

“We’re going to take this one step at a time, we’re going to listen to the Africans and take their advice,” Snodgrass said. “At an appropriate time, we will be invited by countries to come to Africa to bring our presence, which then means (there) will be an increase in activity and an increase in effectiveness in our programs.”

As we have documented here off and on following the February 2007 public announcement of the creation of AFRICOM, one thing that its spokespersons, planners and transition team have typically not done is listen to Africans or anyone bringing up things they don’t want to hear. It’s hard to imagine that changing much at this point, other than trotting out those African representatives already on board and “advising” the U.S. on how to best to go about accomplishing their objectives.

Going from the lineups presented at the various thinktank conferences and seminars, a high percentage of these influential Africans are military officers, usually graduates of IMET or other U.S. training programs.

When General Ward testified before the Armed Services Committee in March, he used the phrase:

… “persistent engagement” five times throughout the 22-page text which emphasizes the long-term focus on building the capacity to help Africans help the U.S. take advantage of Africa’s wealth in “human capital and mineral resources.”

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

Read the whole article, as well as some of his coverage of what is happening in Somalia, which b real continues to document, providing detailed information and insight.

We see these contradictions over and over. The Pentagon and the State Department continue to deny any US interest in oil or China as reasons for the creation of AFRICOM, despite the documentary trail citing oil and China specifically as the reasons for the command.

The denials saying AFRICOM is not about oil and China are no more convincing than denials that the Iraq war is about oil (as has been openly stated by Alan Greenspan, and implied by John McCain in his statements on energy policy last week). The Pentagon is the largest single consumer of oil on the entire globe.

In his book Blood and Oil, Michael Klare describes the Pentagon’s seldom acknowledged oil dependence:

The American military relies more than that of any other nation on oil-powered ships, planes, helicopters, and armored vehicles to transport troops into battle and rain down weapons on its foes. Although the Pentagon may boast of its ever-advancing use of computers and other high-tech devices, the fighting machines that form the backbone of the U.S. military are entirely dependent on petroleum. Without an abundant and reliable supply of oil, the Department of Defense could neither rush its forces to distant battlefields nor keep them supplied once deployed there. (p.9, ISBN 978-0805079388)

A friend sent me a link for a CBS segment about AFRICOM training Ugandans to fight in Somalia. The piece was entirely DoD talking points. I even wondered if it was one of the advertisements masquerading as news items produced by the Bush administration: U.S. Reaches Out In Africa Al Qaeda Fight.

American soldiers are training the Ugandans to combat terrorism, CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey reports, preparing them to go to Somalia to fight Islamic insurgents so the U.S. doesn’t have to.

Al Qaeda and other militants have expanded their operations to Africa. Across the top of the entire continent, rebel groups and discontented youth make ideal recruits-a situation made all the more dangerous by growing American dependence on African oil. It’s something the U.S. cannot ignore.

The hardest job facing Africom is image-making. In the words of a senior American official, “It’s open season on U.S. foreign policy. We have to convince people that this is not some diabolical George Bush plot.”

To make Africom succeed, the general has to spend as much time being a diplomat as a soldier. If he does it well enough, the enemy gathering in Africa won’t be America’s alone.

People from Uganda and Namibia have been heavily recruited as mercenaries in Iraq. Many have been recruited for Iraq under false pretences. This is quite controversial in some places. There is much concern about how mercenaries will behave once they return home. Namibia recently closed down and evicted the operations of an American company recruiting mercenaries. This training the US is providing is also suitable for creating an ongoing supply of mercenaries and surrogates for US purposes. And the US will need mercenaries and surrogates if it attempts to control the world by force, as it seems inclined. In fact the rebel groups and discontented youth [who] make ideal recruits – a situation made all the more dangerous by growing American dependence on African oil that the CBS piece describes are far more likely to be ideal recruits for American military aims if they have the opportunity. Al Qaeda is not really popular. Nobody likes outsiders coming in and telling them they are inferior practitioners of their religion. And the Somalis have generally been cool to hostile to al Qaeda. The only thing giving al Qaeda any credibility is US behavior.

In Somalia the US is encouraging one country, Ethiopia, to invade another, Somalia, helping overthow the existing government and occupying the country and bombing civilians. That is not counter terrorism. It is imperialism. Much of it is run out the the CJTFHOA, being held up as a model and template for the rest of AFRICOM.

But all the US news sources are lapping up the al Qaeda terrorist spin and spitting it back out again, letting Americans think they are being protected from a terrible enemy instead of themselves becoming a terrible enemy of peace, and being conned into endless war of imperial aggression. And the only African voices that will be heard are the ones that have been coopted to replay the Pentagon talking points.

The real promise of AFRICOM is foolery, fallacy and failure, for the US, and for Africa.

Jamaal Montasser took this shot of a man ploughing a field with cattle while on a work placement with Ghana’s ministry of agriculture.

Henry Saragih, the International Coordinator for La Via Campesina. Has written an open letter to the Secretary General of the Food and Agriculture organization (FAO). La Via Campesina is an organization of millions of small farmers and landless workers in more than 60 countries around the world. Mr. Sarigih has described the current food crisis succinctly and accurately:

This current food crisis is the result of many years of deregulation of agricultural markets, the privatization of state regulatory bodies and the dumping of agricultural products on the markets of developing countries. According to the FAO, liberalized markets have attracted huge cash flows that seek to speculate on agricultural products on the “futures” markets and other financial instruments.

There is lots more, read the letter.