February 2009


Somali coastal seas with coastal shelf visible

Satellite view of the Somali coastal seas with the undersea coastal shelf visible, the target of IUU fishing fleets

You can read my article There Are Two Piracies In Somalia over at the African Loft. Only one of the piracies gets media attention. Everyone has heard about the Somali pirates raids on shipping. Not so many know of the far larger piracy. Since 1991-2 IUU, Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing fleets from all over the world have been fishing out the waters off the Somali coast, destroying the livelihood of Somali fishermen and fishing communities. During that same period, primarily countries from the European Union, have been dumping toxic and nuclear waste off the Somali coast.

With its usual double standards when such matters concern Africa, the “international community” comes out in force to condemn and declare war against the Somali fishermen pirates while discreetly protecting the numerous Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing fleets there from Europe, Arabia and the Far East.

Biased UN resolutions, big power orders and news reports continue to condemn the hijackings of merchant ships by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. If response to both piracy menaces was balanced and fair, these condemnations would have been justified. European Union (EU), Russia, Japan, India, Egypt and Yemen are all on this piracy campaign, mainly to cover up and protect their illegal fishing fleets in the Somali waters. …

The IUUs, which are estimated take out more than $450 million in fish value out of Somalia annually, neither compensate the local fishermen, pay tax, royalties nor do they respect any conservation and environmental regulations – norms associated with regulated fishing. It is believed that IUUs from the EU alone take out of the country more than five times the value of its aid to Somalia every year.

During this same time, as Johann Hari describes:

In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness …

There is lots more to the story, read more at the African Loft.

Special thanks to b real for his extensive research on the unfolding situation in Somalia, posted in the comment threads at Moon of Alabama. You can read some of the more recent developments with links to more information in the comment threads on these posts:
Behind ‘Fighting Piracy’
A Carrier Group to Attack Somalia

b real continues these topics and more at his newer location
africa comments blog. 
If you want to follow events in Somalia and East Africa, I suggest you visit.

ug-drcmap1

Steve Coll, author of Ghost Wars, a careful and thorough look at US involvement in Afghanistan through 2001, has written a column in the New Yorker about the botched raid across the Uganda DRC border sponsored by AFRICOM. The map above shows Garamba Park, where the raid took place.

Coll writes about how AFRICOM describes itself:

The explanatory “commander’s vision” on Africom’s Web site is a mush of “Dilbert”-inspired, PowerPoint mission creep. The Africa Command, it says, “develops and implements military programs that add value to the important endeavor of stability and security on the content of Africa and its island nations.” It also “directs, integrates and employs credible and relevant military capability in peace and in response to crisis.” It is a “trusted and reliable partner for nations and security institutions in Africa.” And, of course, it is a “listening and learning organization.”

If you could even sort out what those slogans mean in practice, would you believe them? Not anymore. On Saturday, the Times published an important piece about the training, planning, intelligence, and financial support Africa Command provided for a cross-border raid by Uganda’s military against the Lord’s Resistance Army, which had gone to ground in a national park in the Congo. The raid turned out to be the military equivalent of poking a bee’s nest with a stick—the L.R.A. escaped, and, in the ensuing rampage, its members killed hundreds of Congolese civilians.

Coll continues:

The L.R.A. is a cult-like militia with a long record of atrocities whose leader has been indicted by the International Criminal Court. One can imagine the White House review in the expiring Bush Administration that authorized support for an Ugandan mission, which included intelligence photos and mapping, operational plans, satellite phones, and a million dollars worth of fuel. As it has done for this season’s producers of “24,” mucking around in Africa would have offered the outgoing President and his advisers the fantasy that they could reframe, in a final act of heroism, the moral equation of their misbegotten Global War on Terror.

… Rather than the satisfying, vindicating capture of a child-conscripting war criminal, the George W. Bush Administration received a final lesson in the immutable laws of unintended consequences in war (which laws the Administration might have memorized after Iraq).

The larger issue here is the momentum that military liaison creates when it becomes the heavily funded nexus of U.S. policy. Africa Command’s mission is to “engage” with brother armies, its commanders have a professional bias to action, and they often do not take strategic direction from civilians until they are ready to present their war, engagement and training plans, whether in Colombia or Pakistan or Uganda. Military liaison, even if it is conceived progressively, becomes its own self-fulfilling destination, especially when the rest of the U.S. government is starved, by comparison, for resources.

AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, is the heavily funded nexus of US policy in Africa. US military investment dwarfs all other investment.

kony-lra

Photo of Joseph Kony and leadership of the Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, from a photo essay by Erin Baines taken in 2006. Kony is seated, front row, the second face from the right; lower left inset of some young LRA “soldiers”.

The Lord’s Resistance Army has plagued Uganda for 20 years. It is most notable for kidnapping children and turning them into LRA soldiers and slaves, and for its brutality towards civilians. It created a phenomenon in Northern Uganda called night commuters, children walking long distances to shelter in town overnight so they would not be kidnapped by the LRA.

AFRICOM, demonstrating its goal to “enhance the ability of each one of our African partners to provide for their own security”, helped plan and pay for a thoroughly botched attempt by the Ugandan Army to crush the LRA, Operation Lightning Thunder. According to the New York Times the LRA:

… had been hiding out in a Congolese national park, rebuffing efforts to sign a peace treaty. But the rebel leaders escaped, breaking their fighters into small groups that continue to ransack town after town in northeastern Congo, hacking, burning, shooting and clubbing to death anyone in their way. [map here]

The United States has been training Ugandan troops in counterterrorism for several years, but its role in the operation has not been widely known. It is the first time the United States has helped plan such a specific military offensive with Uganda, according to senior American military officials. They described a team of 17 advisers and analysts from the Pentagon’s new Africa Command working closely with Ugandan officers on the mission, providing satellite phones, intelligence and $1 million in fuel.

The operation made no effort to warn or protect the civilan population although reprisals and civilian massacres are standard operating procedure for the LRA.

The LRA got word the attack was coming and fled, leaving empty campsites.

In an indescribably savage manner, the rebels then attacked several homesteads, axing, cutting, slitting throats and crushing skulls with wooden bats and axes. …

According to the president of the civil society of Dungu, Felicien Balani: “The LRA entered around midnight. They surprised the faithful of the church who were in a prayer vigil. They burned them in the church,” said Balani. …

“In Doruma, it was really awful. They had killed at least 300 people. We were in a village where there are only six survivors, all the others were killed,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, who coordinates the investigations on behalf of Human Rights Watch. …

After the massacre, the rebels “ate the Christmas feast the villagers had prepared, and then slept among the dead bodies before continuing on their trail of destruction and death” through another 12 villages.

In September 2007 Jendayi Frazer, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs said:

So we will not sit still and just let them live in Garamba Park and cultivate land and kill animals. … the US government is worried that a fresh regional war involving Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo could flare up …

According to Dr Frazer, the US government is ready to back co-ordinated military operations by the three countries to fend off rebel forces fighting any government while using a neighbouring country as a military base.

Dr Frazer also vowed that her government would not shy away from employing military means to end the activities of the “negative forces” if efforts to end conflicts through dialogue are not successful – yet another indicator of the new approach the US is taking on conflicts in the region.

Instead of providing stability or security the US and Uganda have succeeded in expanding the war against civilians in the DRC. That area of the DRC had been relatively peaceful before Operation Lightning Thunder. Now many thousands more are suffering. And the slaughter of civilians has not ended. The LRA continues its path of slaughter and devastation through villages in the Congo. Uganda appears to consider the operation a success:

“The operation has been a success in that it has left Joseph Kony naked,” State Minister for Defence Ruth Nankabirwa told IRIN.

“Because of the surprise nature of the attack, he fled from his camp empty-handed. He left behind everything, including food, equipment and other gadgets, so this has reduced his capacity,” she added.

AFRICOM along with its African military partner, Uganda, launched Operation Lightning Thunder. The result is their target, the rebel LRA, escaped untouched, around 900 civilians are dead, thousands raped, maimed, injured and their homes destroyed, hundreds of children conscripted, at least 100,000 displaced. Of those 100,000 people who have been displaced, it is estimated at least half of them are inaccessible to help. And any aid would be a magnet to the LRA as they continue to restock by murder and theft.

I wonder how the AFRICOM side of the military partnership sees this. Is the biggest problem the devastation they have helped create? or is it the bad publicity? In recent history African militaries rarely engage in military to military wars. Most wars are against the civilian population. America had many of these military partnerships with Africa during the Cold War, with horrifying results. As long as American foreign policy is military policy in Africa, as long as military to military partnerships are the goal, there will be many more equally horrifying attacks on civilians.

1999 demonstration in Port Harcourt welcoming home Owens Wiwa, the brother of Ken Saro-Wiwa (faces intentionally blurred by the photographer)

1999 demonstration in Port Harcourt welcoming home Owens Wiwa, the brother of Ken Saro-Wiwa (faces intentionally blurred by the photographer)

The people of the Niger Delta are a principal target of AFRICOM and the Human Terrain System, HTS. The people in the picture above are targets. We know this because in the same month AFRICOM was announced, contractors for the US Marines were looking for academics to “study” ethnic groups in the Niger Delta. The Delta is considered a prime candidate for “stability operations” because of the social unrest generated by 50 years of ruthless exploitation by oil companies complicit with successive Nigerian governments. People in the Delta want a share of their own wealth. It is not just Nigeria that is a target. Most of the countries in Africa are targets for “stability operations”, “nation building”, and “humanitarian” assistance because of their enormous natural resources, especially oil. Somalia is a case in point. This week I read:

in ecoterra int’l’s jan 25th update : Major oil companies who declared force majeure on their Somali assets in the 1990s are reviving their claims to blocks in the unrecognized but relatively peaceful Republic of Somaliland.

Roberto González wrote the book American Counterinsurgency: Human Science and the Human Terrain, and was interviewed by David Price for CounterPunch.

González is a founding member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists and has been at the forefront of debates on Human Terrain within the American Anthropological Association (AAA).

González: … For more than two years, a group of military planners has been involved in a scheme to whitewash counterinsurgency-to clean up the image of anti-revolutionary warfare, which is always a dirty business. Even though the US military has more than a century of experience in counterinsurgency warfare (going back to the “Indian Wars” of the 1800s and the cruel campaign against Filipino revolutionaries in the early 1900s), General David Petraeus and other battlefield technicians have portrayed the method as a “gentler” means of fighting, while recruiting political scientists, anthropologists, and other social scientists to create the tools to do this. The Human Terrain System, which embeds social scientists in combat brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan, is among the most visible new counterinsurgency programs, and this became the focus of my work.

HTS personnel tend to use outdated anthropological concepts, theories, and methods, mostly from the 1930s and 1940s. For example, Montgomery McFate (the Pentagon’s senior social science advisor for HTS) has recently published articles and given presentations in which she relies heavily upon the concept of “tribalism,” functionalist theory, and data collection methods developed for the Human Relations Area Files. Others have sought to incorporate social network analysis as a research method. Each of these elements was either created or elaborated at a time when many anthropologists were employed by colonial governments to more effectively control indigenous populations. It’s no accident that these are precisely the tools advocated by HTS’s architects.

In the past, when military planners and colonial administrators sought the counsel of anthropologists, they looked for a social science stripped of ambiguity, meaning, and context. They wanted simple analytical tools that might help them accomplish short-term objectives: to put down an uprising, to manufacture propaganda, to conduct psychological warfare, to divide one ethnic group or religious sect against another. Today, anthropologists commissioned by the Pentagon as counterinsurgency consultants use the same tools as instruments for manipulation and social control-not as a means of humanizing other people. Some of this work is published in army journals with titles like, “The Military Utility of Understanding Adversary Culture” and “Operational Culture for the Warfighter.” These kinds of articles tell us a great deal about a principal aim of militarized social science: transforming culture into a weapon.

Recently, a military contract firm called Archimedes Global posted a recruitment ad for “socio-cultural cell” members within the newly-established AFRICOM (US African Command). The ad calls for specialists with “human terrain” expertise, among others. It’s a clear example of how human terrain has become a much broader phenomenon, now embraced by the military, industries, and research universities. Beyond the army’s HTS program, human terrain has become a growth industry.

After Robert Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld as Defense Secretary, there was a boom in funding for projects focused on human terrain research and “culture-centric” warfare, and this attracted dozens of companies from the military-industrial complex-BAE Systems, Aptima Corporation, MITRE, the RAND Corporation, Wexford Group, MTC Technologies, NEK Advanced Securities Group, and Alpha Ten to name a few. Unfortunately, President Obama has asked Gates-a staunch supporter of HTS-to continue serving as Defense Secretary

Despite this overwhelming evidence pointing to a program run amok, the US Congress has not shown much interest in investigating HTS. … It will be left to citizens of conscience to demand the abolition of human terrain teams-and the imperial wars that employ them.

china-africa

According to Reuters, China’s investment in Africa continues unabated:

China Marches on in Africa Despite Downturn

Chinese investment in Africa is continuing full-speed ahead, Reuters reports:

Beijing and Chinese companies have pledged tens of billions of dollars to Africa in loans and investments mostly to secure raw materials for the world’s fastest-growing large economy.

That long-term interest remains intact, despite a worldwide economic slump that has hit China’s exports to the rich world and a sharp decline in Africa’s mineral shipments to China.

China-Africa trade has surged by an average 30 percent a year this decade, soaring to nearly $107 billion in 2008.

You can read the full article here.

But an article from the Jamestown Foundation’s China Brief presents a very different picture:

Commodity Flux and China’s Africa Strategy

During the commodity price boom, China invested massively in Africa seeking to lock up as many raw materials as possible. Some in academia spoke confidently of China having a fifty or one hundred year strategy toward Africa. In practice, Chinese entrepreneurs have been the first to leave when the market turned since the global decline in commodity prices accelerated with the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. For instance, according to interviews the authors conducted in Congo, more than 60 Chinese mining companies have left the mineral rich Katanga the last two months, as cobalt and copper prices have tanked. Over 100 small Chinese operators are reported to have left Zambian mines for the same reason.

A similar retreat may be occurring at the strategic level. In 2007, it was announced that China would lend the Congo $5 billion to modernize its infrastructure and mining sector. Under a draft accord, Beijing earmarked the funds for major road and rail construction projects and for rehabilitation of Congo’s mining sector, while the repayment terms proposed included mining concessions and toll revenue deals to be given to Chinese companies. In simple terms it meant 13 million tons of copper for $5 billion—or (even at today’s depressed prices) $40 billion for twenty-times less [1]. The China-Congo deal, however, has gone very quiet as the copper price has plummeted. The market—not grand strategy—is the main Chinese motivation in Africa.

There is much more in the article, you can see more at the China Brief.

China is still buying up large quantities of land in Africa and in other developing countries around the globe. From The Geopolitics of China:

China is more enclosed than any other great power. The size of its population coupled with its secure frontiers and relative abundance of resources, allows it to develop with minimal intercourse with the rest of the world, if it chooses. …
The weakness of insularity for China is poverty. Given the ratio of arable land to population, a self-enclosed China is a poor China. Its population is so poor that economic development driven by domestic demand, no matter how limited it might be, is impossible.

That is why China seeks trade, markets, raw materials, and agricultural land.

To see where, in which countries, China is grabbing up land, GRAIN has posted a table with over 100 cases of land grabbing for offshore food production as presented in this report. It is available in a separate PDF file:
http://www.grain.org/briefings_files/landgrab-2008-en-annex .pdf
You can scroll through the PDF table and see the entries for China, and for many other countries that are making landgrabs in Africa and around the developing world.

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