Foremost among the neo-colonialists is the United States … with methodical thoroughness and touching attention to detail, the Pentagon set about consolidating its ascendancy, evidence of which can be seen all around the world …
The general objective … to achieve colonialism in fact while preaching independence. Kwame Nkrumah
Presidents Obama and Mills in Ghana July 2009 (I like this picture because the two men look so genuinely pleased to greet each other.)
This is in large part what Obama was doing when he gave his speech in Ghana. I have put together a number of reactions to President Obama and his speech in Ghana here. As Stephen Gowans writes:
It should come as a surprise to no one but the weakly naïve and politically untutored that the role of the US president in Africa is to promote and defend the interests of the United States, not Africans. This is so, even if the US president shares the skin color of Africa’s majority. … It is Obama’s goal as representative of US capital to open, and keep open, Africa’s vast resources to exploitation by Western, and particularly US, capital without impediments of corruption, war and pan-African, nationalist or socialist projects of independent development getting in the way. …
[In Ghana] Obama used his speech to sell two fictions: (1) that Africa’s underdevelopment has nothing to do with colonialism and neo-colonialism, but is rooted in corruption, tribalism and Africans’ blaming others for their poverty; and (2) that Africa’s development depends on adopting institutions that allow foreign capital unfettered access to African markets and resources.
Salim Lone discusses the meaning and implications of Obama’s visit in What Obama can do for us. Lone allows Obama a bit more benefit of the doubt as to Obama’s intentions. But Lone is a keen observer and no fool, and he realizes the US Africa Command is not going away.
His visit can help African democracy if he curbs a misguided US belief in security by military force.
The president’s personal knowledge of and interest in Africa, his charisma and his grassroots support mean that he could be a major player here. This is particularly true since Africa’s low profile among the American political elite allows US leaders a lot of leeway in formulating policy towards it.
But as Obama devises US approaches to African challenges, he will face difficulties from an unexpected quarter – the US military. George Bush and his war on terror, and his reliance on force as a first resort, gave the military extraordinary power in shaping African policy – symbolised by Bush’s creation of the United States Africa Command (Africom), in the misguided notion that the military approach was the best way to tackle terrorism. Thankfully, African governments overwhelmingly resisted the siting of Africom bases.
But Africom is a reality, so it is vital that Obama move to curtail one of its most dangerous mandates: its involvement in economic development and humanitarian actions. This risks the militarisation of Africa’s political and social life – areas that remain the best hope for a better Africa.
People don’t give up power easily or generously. Having acquired premier status in US Africa policy, the Pentagon is unlikely to want to rescind any of that power. Those working on the front lines are building their careers, and have little incentive to cut back. There is also a huge corporate juggernaut driving the policy. As Lone points out, it is vital to curtail the Pentagon’s development and humanitarian mandates. These activities are much more effectively done by civilian organizations. Done by the military, this inevitably militarizes civilian space, the opposite direction from what most people in Africa want, and the opposite direction from good governance and democracy.
Lone writes that Obama has made hawkish appointments, and has recently decided to ship arms to the TFG government in Somalia, not just continuing, but escalating US involvement in Somali internal affairs.
This new intervention is a continuation of the ruinous Bush policy in Somalia, which resulted in the militant al-Shabab Islamists – a previously negligible group – emerging as the country’s dominant force after large numbers of Somalis were radicalised by US air strikes and the 2007 invasion by Ethiopia, Somalia’s arch enemy, to topple the popular and moderate Union of Islamic Courts.
And most critically, Obama must confer with civil society leaders.
One thing he would consistently hear from our civil society leaders would be that good governance – democracy, inclusion, respect for human rights and the rule of law – is non-negotiable. He would also hear that some of the significant gains made in expanding freedoms in multi-party Africa are being rolled back. This is not surprising, as the strategy of the US war on terror reverted to the cold war model of supporting dictatorial allies, which in east Africa included the Ethiopian and Ugandan leaderships.
Obama would also hear that there can be no compromise on free and fair elections. In too many countries recently – including America’s close allies Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya, as well as Zimbabwe – elections have been seriously tainted, and have been followed by violence, the loss of liberties and the strengthening of state security organs.
One of President Obama’s most important priorities for Africa must be to work with and encourage the emergence of a progressive group of African leaders who can become indigenous models for democratic, accountable and inclusive governance – which alone will ensure African, as well as global and American, security.
If Obama were committed to these actions and goals, as Lone says, it will enhance American as well as African security. Unfortunately, that does not look like the direction Obama is heading. From the East African: US names ‘military’ envoys to Kampala, Dar
By nominating an advisor to the US Africa Command (Africom) as Washington’s envoy to Kampala and a retired US Army general as envoy to Dar es Salaam, Obama is signalling that security concerns will remain at the top of the US agenda in East Africa, just as they were during the Bush years.
In statements to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, both nominees put emphasis on fighting terrorism in the countries where they would respectively represent the United States.
James Shikwati wrote Obama Redefined the “Door of No Return” But…, in which he points out a number of metaphorical doors of no return that Obama spoke about, and other important ones on which he was silent.
Obama’s hard hitting statements on Africa’s tyrannical leaders, corruption, tribalism and lack of institutions symbolically point at the continent’s self inflicted modern day doors of no return. His emphasis that “…Africa’s future is up to Africans” could be based on the fact that after 500+ years of people on the continent suffering the fate of externally engineered “doors of no return” it is nonsensical to expect salvation from the same (outsiders). It is up to Africans to either shut the door and or turn it into a door of opportunity where one can always “return” a hero.
The myths such as that propagated in Kenya that some communities are more enterprising and educated than others masks tribalism as another door of no return. If one particular group holds hostage the governance system of a country and goes ahead to award tenders and strategic opportunities to themselves, they subject others to a door of no return.
President Barack Obama either deliberately or through omission opted to engage in silences in his address to Africa. In pointing out that Kenya had a higher per capita economy than South Korea at the time he was born, Obama failed to discuss who “owned” that economy he refers to. It is one thing to refer to a successful nation and another when one discusses individual citizen’s role in such a success. Kenyans are still struggling 46 years after independence to move out of spectator status (picking flowers, serving as watchmen, cooks – what I refer to as employment economy; while actual wealth is transferred elsewhere) in terms of wealth creation. …
Gowans give us more about Korea, why it is such a bad comparison:
“It is easy to point fingers, and to pin the blame for (Africa’s) problems on others,” said Obama, explaining that,
“Countries like Kenya, which had a per capita economy larger than South Korea’s when I was born, have been badly outpaced. Disease and conflict have ravaged parts of the African continent. In many places, the hope of my (Kenyan) father’s generation gave way to cynicism, even despair.”
During the years of its rapid economic growth, south Korea did not follow the development path Obama prescribes for Africa today. Instead, it built five-year industrial plans that singled out industries the government would nurture through tariff protection, subsidies and government support. Foreign currencies necessary for importing machinery and industrial inputs were accumulated through foreign exchange controls, whose violation was punishable by death.
In his speech, Obama created the impression that south Korea developed rapidly because it followed policies the World Bank endorses, while at the same time Africa stagnated, because it didn’t. This is doubly false. Not only did south Korea not follow World Bank policies – in fact, it did the very opposite – Africa has been practically run by the IMF and World Bank since the 1980s. Under their guidance, African living standards have worsened, not improved. Over the same period, the Western world’s financial elite – which exercises enormous influence over the World Bank and IMF – saw its wealth expand greatly.
Returning to Shikwati’s article:
On Zimbabwe, Obama got it wrong. Whereas it is true that the West is not 100% responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwe economy; Obama “silence” here ignores the West’s involvement in land politics and subsequent lack of productivity in this country. The Zimbabwe story might one day turn out to be a clear case of sabotage and an attempt to perpetuate the notion that only particular types of people can be farmers.
Stephen Gowans tells us more about Zimbabwe:
Until 2000, land reform moved at a snail’s pace. As part of a negotiated settlement with Britain, the independence movement agreed to a willing buyer-willing seller arrangement, whereby land could only be acquired for redistribution if the owner wanted to sell. This restriction was to remain in effect for the first 10 years of independence. Since most farmers of European origin were unwilling to sell, little land was available to redistribute.
Eventually Harare was free to expropriate land from farmers who didn’t want to sell. Britain had agreed to help compensate expropriated farmers but renounced the agreement, denying it was ever under any obligation to fund land reform. Since Harare didn’t have the funds to pay for the land it needed for redistribution, it had two choices: Carry on as is, with land redistribution proceeding at a glacial pace, or expropriate the land and demand that expropriated farmers seek compensation from London, which after all, was ultimately responsible for the theft of the land and had promised to underwrite the land reform program. The Mugabe government chose the later course, setting off alarm bells in Western capitals. Mugabe couldn’t be allowed to get away with uncompensated expropriation of productive property.
Analyses that attributed Zimbabwe’s economic disaster to mismanagement overlooked the reaction of Washington to the Mugabe government’s lese majesty against private property. For not only did the turn of the century mark the beginning of fast-track land reform, it also marked the passage of the US Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA.)
ZDERA is not a regime of targeted sanctions against individuals, as many believe. Sanctions against individuals do exist, but ZDERA is something altogether different. ZDERA has two aspects. First, it authorizes the US president to “support an independent and free press and electronic media in Zimbabwe” and “provide for democracy and governance programs in Zimbabwe.” This is code for doing openly what the CIA used to do covertly: destabilize foreign governments. Second, it instructs the United States executive director to each international financial institution (the World Bank and IMF, for example) to oppose and vote against:
(1) any extension by the respective institution of any loan, credit, or guarantee to the government of Zimbabwe; or
(2) any cancellation or reduction of indebtedness owed by the government of Zimbabwe to the United States or any international financial institution.
Since ZDERA was passed in 2001, Washington has blocked all lines of credit, development assistance and balance of payment support from international lending institutions to Zimbabwe.
As bad as ZDERA is, it’s not the only sanctions regime the United States has used to sabotage Zimbabwe’s economy.
You can find more information and detail in Gowans article.
Shikwati continues discussing what Obama left out of his speech.
Obama also deliberately engaged in “silences” when he simply chose to gloss over Western patronage in Africa; governance and talked of “old habits must also be broken” in reference to dependence on commodities as if all this is Africans fault not to engage in value added exports. What is governance for instance, is it government service delivery to its people? Paid for by whom? African countries cannot purport to have good governance if other countries pay for their upkeep. Patronage will continue unless Africans pay for the upkeep of their own governments. A value added relationship with external and African markets is what will translate to positive contribution to governance.
As to US support for good governance, that is also a myth. As student leader and leading activist of the Progressive Movement for Change Victoria Lakshmi Hamah writes from Ghana:
The basic goal of US military programmes is to provide for the security of the local political elite and economic hit men and to insulate them from the social consequences of their economic decisions. Its orientation of African military officers will also ensure that there will be no possible rise of nationalist governments that will aim at the nationalization of oil and mineral production. A political elite isolated and insulated from the prevailing social conditions will have no incentive to protect even the existing semblance of democratic culture. The rise of patronage politics and sectarian outlook will mirror a situation of hopelessness where social opportunities are so limited that the great mass of the people have to be dependent on very narrow layer of society. The rise to public power by politicians will depend on US money and intelligence activity than on the existing limited form of popular consent.
It is important to note that US military and intelligence presence in any part of the world has created and re-enforced the most tyrannical and corrupt regimes of the world. In Africa we know of at least Bokasa, Mmobotu . But it is important not to forget our own history with the United States of America. History and the Present
Forty three years ago the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the US financed and coordinated the bloody overthrow of the Government of Kwame Nkrumah. Declassified CIA documents establish the fact that the CIA hired Ghanaian military and police officers to carry out the 24 Feb 1966 bloody overthrow of Nkrumah. Analysis of the CIA documents also reveals the incredible: Nkrumah’s head had a price tag!
As she points out earlier in her article:
Last year, in Accra, President Bush evaded the question of the establishment of a US military base in Ghana put him by Kwesi Pratt Jnr, editor of an Accra leftwing newspaper—the Insight—with the derogatory ‘baloney’ retort. Available evidence supports the fact that George Bush visited Ghana with a proposal to make the country host the Headquarters of the Africa Command Division of the United States Army.
Obama is no doubt a sensation. But the heroism, sensation and public appeal has overshadowed the real character and direction of Obama and the content of the ‘change’ he promised.
Nkrumah had maintained strong ties with the US and allowed the American Peace Corps into the country. In trying relating to the US Atta Mills must not take label to mean content and should access the real implications of the Obama visit. The cold war conditions that provided Nkrumah with development options also exist today. Yokohama’s end of history theory published after the collapse of the ‘iron curtain’ is itself now history. Islam is new world force. Russia is back! China is reaching to the skies!! The world stage now looks like a multi-polar world.
President Atta Mills has the obligation to defend Ghana’s sovereignty and independence. After all the US is broke; Ghana can depend on the assistance of other rising powers in the short term to stabilize the economy alongside building the conditions for self reliance both in production capacity and markets in the context of south-south cooperation. In dealing with America we should go beyond the handsome Negro face of the young Harvard graduate; we should analyze within the context of the existing global balance of power and western credit crunch the foreign policy aims of a desperate world power.
Daniel Elombah writes Obama should apologise to Africa. He points out that Obama made apologies to Europe and apologies to the Arab world when he travelled to France and Egypt, but his words to Africa had a different tone:
Obama said in Cairo: “Each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions”, but America and the West has not allowed African democracy to evolve on its own. In so many ways and in so many times, they have interfered in Africa’s development – by sponsoring coups (against Murtala Muhammad and Mobutu Sese Seko against Patrice Lumumba); by manipulating elections (Nigeria, 1960’s); by encouraging murder (Abiola); by doctoring census results (Nigeria); by Imposing foreign and harmful policies (IMF/World Bank); and by generally ravaging the continent and bringing about environmental and social degradation (oil exploration in the Niger Delta, Copper and Diamond Mining in Congo).
Barack Obama said in Ghana: “for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun. There are wars over land and wars over resources”, but what he failed to add was the role of western and American companies in fuelling these conflicts- in the Niger Delta, in Congo, Sierra Leone, Congo and elsewhere.
As Gowans points out about Obama’s words on conflict:
As leader of a country currently engaged in three wars of aggression (Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan) and which threatens to escalate its aggressions against Iran and north Korea, one might think Obama would be ashamed to lecture anyone on the importance of resolving conflicts peacefully.
Returning to Elombah:
Obama is right when he said: “development depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans”.
However, let us not forget that at the root of Africa’s predicament are the tri-partite combination of bad leadership, rich countries exploitation of Africa and the imposition of wrong policies by international Institutions.
Obama has come and gone, the speech is classic and the rhetoric is exceptional. But the best way to test whether he would be different from other American presidents is to explore the question of African strategic interests, or, alternatively, American strategic interests in Africa, and examine the ways in which and the degree to which Obama’s pursuit of American policy is consistent with or diverges from that of his predecessor- George W. Bush.
For example: Africom was established during George W. Bush’s regime, will the Barack Hussein Obama’s regime continue with Africom? What about the interest of American oil companies in Angola, Equatorial Guinea and the Niger Delta? Will an Obama regime move against their interest vis-a-vis African environmental, economic and political interest?
In Obama’s speech in Ghana, did he mention anything about Barclays Bank establishing a tax haven in Ghana, warning against such vehicle being used for tax evasion and money laundering – in support of transparency and anti-corruption efforts, to expand cooperation in intelligence gathering and sharing and reigning in the vicarious liability of tax havens and offshore banks.
Did he talk about pushing the boundaries of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) (passed by the US Congress before his tenure) to have the expanded power to bite both givers and takers of bribes – both American multi-national countries and kleptomaniac African leaders?
Did he talk about stopping and Withdrawing US Visa from corrupt African politicians – to stop them spending their looted funds in America; Stopping the marketplace for high stakes elite bribery?
One observer said: To many, the Bush personality was a bit too crude and, in some respects, brutish for the world to accept. Put some colour on him, with a sophisticated and intelligent personality, and now you have the same agenda for Africa, skilfully repackaged in an Obama. The agenda remains the same–imperialistic, exploitative, and, ultimately, deadly–but the general perception is different. It is seductive.
Africa should not expect too much from Obama. The reason being that those that understand the way things really work in the United States, a change of a person as president do not necessarily signal a change in policy and direction.
In the United States, the president is less a leader than a manager of policies formulated by corporate elite interests. Thus there is stability of the political system, regardless of who is president. US presidents come and go, but the interests remain constant.
If, in fact, you want good governance in Africa, developing the military, and emphasizing military to military cooperation is the last thing you should do. Victoria Lakshmi Hamah got it exactly right when she said the role of the military is to protect leaders and ruling elites from the social consequences of their actions. We can see it at work in US allies/clients, Equatorial Guinea, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia. Where democracy and responsive government may begin to grow, the military can be used to crush it. In fact, helping crush democratic movements is one purpose of US military “cooperation.” We have seen it on many continents for many decades. Nkrumah’s words quoted at the beginning above are even more true today than when he wrote them in 1965. He also said:
IN order to halt foreign interference in the affairs of developing countries it is necessary to study, understand, expose and actively combat neo-colonialism in whatever guise it may appear. For the methods of neo-colonialists are subtle and varied. They operate not only in the economic field, but also in the political, religious, ideological and cultural spheres.
World Bank/IMF policies have consistently increased the number of unemployed, expanded poverty, and decreased productivity and self sufficiency in Ghana as in most countries. Once again Ghana is caught in that vicious cycle.
Anti WTO poster from the Thai Labour Campaign 2005, TNC = transnational corporations, the results listed across the bottom read in English: Privatisation, No job security, Suppression of union rights, Environmental destruction, State Violence against citizens, Displaced and landless population, De-democratization, Destruction of local culture, Increasing poverty (click image to enlarge)
An article on Ghana web gives a clue as to what Ghana is up against with loans from the World Bank and IMF, and shows it got into these problems by following the prescriptions of the World Bank and IMF. As an earlier article pointed out. Ghana has been an economic and political success story, but:
… last year world food and oil prices soared. China’s slashed demand for raw materials is harming much of Africa. Global warming caused a drought that drained the dam powering Ghana’s electricity, requiring crippling oil imports. The last government borrowed to cover these unexpected costs, the currency dropped in value, inflation rose to 20% and credit has dried up.
Economists at the NGO Oxfam point out that this was not caused by profligacy, but by external events last year. A further source of bitterness: if rich countries had kept their 2005 Gleneagles promises, as Britain did, Ghana would have received $1bn, with no need to borrow at all.
Every government knows what it has to do to get credit, so Ghana has already said it will lower its deficit from 15% to 9.5% of GDP in one year, steeply cutting public sector costs … an IMF thumbs-down means money from everywhere is cut off.
And so Ghana needed a loan, and is trapped in the vicious cycle:
…Public sector labour freeze costs Gov’t 1billion dollars
Ghana’s, dependence on donor-fundings, and their attendant conditionalities, for the implementation of her fiscal policy year in and out, is beginning to take a heavy toll on the country.
News about the recent International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s $1billion total financial facility to Ghana for her budgetary support, as approved by its board on July 15, 2009 came just a day after the Attorney General, Hon. Betty Mould Iddrissu had disclosed that Government of Ghana (GOG) owes as much as over $1 billion dollars in judgment debts which have accumulated over the past 10 years.
She explained that the problem boils down to the fact that, the attorney general’s department lacks the human resource capacity to function adequately as government’s legal advisor in all transactions government enters into.
According to her, “Ghana lacks the capacity to retain attorneys for all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), so out of frustration, the MDAs hire private legal practitioners to guide them in some of their transactions, some of which bring about legal problems.
“The department also lacks the requisite manpower to send attorneys to court to defend the state whenever those litigations come up”, she disclosed, adding, “it is a systemic and an endemic problem with the department which has been there over the years”
For this reason, government is now saddled with such a huge debt including those to CP Construction, Attachment Awards against the government in France, Britain Belgium, USA and Holland.
It has been suggested that the genesis of the problem of the lack of human resources in the public sector dates back to the late 1980s and 1990s when government was instructed to freeze public sector recruitments in return for World Bank/IMF supported Economic Recovery Programmes.
This same condition, of freezing public sector employments, is said to have been reaffirmed by the Breton Woods institutions in the current loan agreements, but Finance Minister explains it is government’s own decision to manage public funds prudently.
However another contradictory condition is also the call on government to establish a Public Sector Reform Ministry as a requirement for further assistance from the World Bank. Opinions are divided as to where manpower would be secured to run such a new ministry if recruitments into the public sector is to remain frozen.
Although Finance Minister, Dr. Dufuor has told this reporter that the AG’s department has been given the clearance to recruit 20 new attorneys, Financial Intelligence (FI) investigations have revealed that the problem of inadequate manpower is not peculiar to the Attorney General’s Department, but a general problem that has bedeviled the whole of the Civil Service in Ghana.
Departments such as the Veterinary Department, Extension Services of the Ministry of Agriculture and other government departments have been crying over the years for more personnel to be recruited to beef-up their activities.
For the Crop Extension Services and Veterinery Services, although their training schools in Kwadaso, Nyankpala, Ohawu, and Pong-Tamale have been churning out well-trained personnel over the years, due to World Bank conditions that were introduced as a result of the Economic Recovery Programme and The Structural Adjustment Programmes, employments of these personnel have remained frozen till date, leaving the departments with the only other option of replacing retiring and diseased staffs.
The Cocoa Services Division is on record to have attracted a large number of extension officers from the Agric Ministry, while engaging many others who had either completed the Agric Training Institutions as well as some Sixth Form leavers from the early 1990s, and current gains being made in that sector is believed to be as a result of those investments earlier made in human resources.
Questions are being raised as to whether it is prudent to continue freezing recruitments into the public sector, when evidence has started emerging that it can be costly in the long run as evidenced by happenings at the AGs department.
If the MDAs can find money to hire the services of private legal practitioners whose legal advice in transactions have proven to be costly to the nation, it would have been better if the state spent money employing full time attorneys for the AG’s department, for onward attachment to the MDAs.
A senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana Business School, Kwame Gyasi … “it is the public sector which moves the private sector and not the vice-versa, then; there is a problem if you freeze employment in the public sector down here”.
“Now that the private sector is collapsing, freezing employments in the public sector would not only end up in some costly financial consequences for the state as has happened in the judgment debts, but will also create upheavals”
Neoliberal free market practices have brought disaster on the western governments of the northern hemisphere. But the World Bank and the IMF continue to impose those policies on the developing countries when they issue loans.
As one impassioned comment on the article said (all caps are frequently used in the comments):
IMF AND WORLD BANK SUCCESS STORIES SOON TURN INTO MIRAGES EVERYWHERE. I CHALLENGE ANY IMF, WORLD BANK OR GHANAIAN OFFICIAL TO CITE ONE SIMPLE EXAMPLE OF REAL SUCCESS.
THE IMF IS THE ACRONYM FOR “I MOSTLY FAIL”, “INTERNATIONAL MONSTER WITHOUT FEELINGS”, “INTERNATIONAL MISMANAGER OF FINANCES”
THE WORLD BANK (WD) STANDS FOR “WORST BANDIT”, “WORLD DESTROYER”, “WORST DEATH”.
THEY REJOICE WHEN THEY SEE AFRICANS MARGINALIZED AND IMPOVERISHED. THAT IS WHY THEY PRESCRIBE STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT FOR AFRICANS WHILE THEY EMBRACE RESCUE PACKAGES.
Ghana does not have the personnel to oversee and regulate contracts because those staff were laid off and reduced, due to previous World Bank/IMF requirements to lay off and reduce staff. Without those public sector legal advisors providing advice and oversight, Ghana incurred expensive judgements.
At a time when the economy is contracting and losing private sector jobs, it is a huge mistake to also reduce public sector jobs. In fact, public sector jobs help create private sector jobs, particularly in health and education, which often suffer the most under World Bank/IMF requirements and structural adjustments. A healthy workforce is productive, the more healthy, the more productive. And an educated workforce brings business and employers looking for a large available pool of smart, healthy, and well educated people to work for them. A strong public education system, including universities, attracts and creates strong private sector growth.
But as the earlier article: What Wall Street did to Ghana said:
Oxfam’s senior policy adviser and economist, Max Lawson, doubts such cuts are needed, just a loan to tide Ghana over. “The IMF is too brutal … demanding balanced books within one or two years. The only way to make such a deep cut is in social spending: teachers’ salaries are the main item.”
In the West governments are undertaking huge fiscal stimulus programs to repair their economies. But in the developing world those same governments and institutions continue to advocate reductions, restructuring and belt tightening. It looks like the plan is not to help but to prevent developing nations from developing.
Note: graphic above from here
The Jubilee field is one of West Africa’s biggest oil strikes in years, likely containing recoverable reserves of at least 1.2 billion barrels of oil equivalent, with first output scheduled for the second half of 2010.
Jubilee Field Ghana offshore oil map (click to enlarge)
Jubilee Field (click to enlarge)
I thought I’d put together some information on Ghana’s Jubilee oil field, as it will have a powerful effect on Ghana, and change Ghana in ways we may not anticipate.
From the Ghanaian Times via Ghanalinx, source of the offshore map above:
“The International Monetary Fund predicts government revenues from oil and gas could reach a cumulative $20 billion between 2012 and 2030 in the Jubilee field alone,” a statement issued jointly by the Integrated Social Development Centre (ISODEC) and Oxfam America said.
The statement signed by Ruby Kissiedu for the Co-odinator, Media and Campaigns of ISODEC has, therefore, commended President John Evans Atta Mills for his commitment to increase transparency and public participation in the oil sector.
It said the exploitation of national resources in Africa, has often led to increased poverty and conflict, a phenomenon often referred to as ”resource curse”,
The statement said President Mills could help Ghana to avoid corruption, underdevelopment, social conflict and environmental damage brought on by too many oil booms around the world.
It recalled President Mills’ recent announcement in which he promised accountability on the part of all public officials and asked Ghana’s development partners and non-government agencies to support government’s efforts to build transparent and anti-corruption initiatives.
“This is an important step to preserve Ghana’s record of good governance and stability by preparing Ghana to support accountable and efficient development of the oil industry and the billions in government revenue it will generate.”
It said the two bodies were ready to work with the government to improve revenue generation especially by reviewing the mineral’s fiscal regime to ensure that mining companies pay more than the current minimum of three per cent royalties and to monitor the Jubilee Oil Field and other oil projects to ensure a maximum oil recovery at minimum cost.
“We are also ready to support government in the protection of the livelihoods of fisher folk and other communities around the Jubilee Oilfield as well as the larger marine ecological zone of the Gulf of Guinea,” it pledged .
The statement said the World Bank has committed 215 million US dollars in financing Kosmos Energy and Tullow Oil in support of the development of the Jubilee field.
It said, there was therefore the need for transparent revenue and payment practices, open and competitive contract bidding, active participation by civil society, and adequate legal and regulatory regime of the oil sector.
Let us hope these promises are fulfilled, and do what we can to see that they are fulfilled.
And from Ghana’s coming oil boom by Masahudu Ankiilu Kunateh:
The Jubilee field, named for the fact that it was discovered in the same year the country celebrated 50years of independence, may reach a production level of 120,000 barrel per day (bpd) by 2011. (Ghana’s current consumption of oil is 40,000 to 60,000 bpd, almost imported.)
Depending on oil prices and future production levels, Ghana could soon see more than $1billion added to government revenues each year, according to conservative estimates by the German Technical Cooperation Organisation (GTZ). Even much lower estimates will easily eclipse current revenues from mining (largely gold) exports.
It is important to point out that, Ghana’s life as an oil producer may be relatively short-20-30 years-and the country must move rapidly to beef up its legal and administrative framework to meet the significant managerial, administrative, political, and financial challenges the oil rush presents.
Ghana ’s birth as an oil producer coincides with a political transition-with a new presidential administration, cabinet ministers, and parliament installed in January 2009.
Because the Jubilee field straddles two blocks governed by two petroleum agreements, the oil companies involved and the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) have had to develop a “unitization agreement” to develop a joint contractual framework and geographically delimit the Jubilee field area.
Instructively, beyond the Jubilee field, there is active exploration and licensing interest in Ghana ’s offshore areas, much of this spurred by the 2007 discovery.
Kosmos, Chief Executive Officer, Musselman told African Energy during an October 2008 visit to Ghana that “We have been able to identify a couple of areas with the attributes as Jubilee field, and we have a high degree of confidence of making another find as big as Jubilee”.
In October 2008, Kosmos said the company would sink five wells in the coming 200 days in the Jubilee field, spending up to $100million in the process. Tullow drilled a successful exploration well-Ebony 1-in the shallow water Tano license area.
Anadarko’s CEO has said, “The partnership expects to be active in the area in 2009 and anticipates drilling development, appraisal, and at least three additional high impact exploration wells, including Tweneboa, Teak, and Onyina”. The drilling of Tweneboa was planned to begin in January 2009.
Other exploration wells have been drilled or are being planned for the Keta block and the South Deepwater Tano block.
Added July 17
Kosmos Energy was originally scheduled to auction off its 30% stake in the Jubilee Field today. A number of major corporations and countries, including India and China, were interested in bidding. But this week Kosmos was able to obtain funding to develop it themselves:
Financing to Fully Fund Company’s Share of Jubilee Oil Field Phase-One Development Offshore Ghana DALLAS, Texas, July 14, 2009 – Kosmos Energy announces today that it has signed definitive documentation for US$750 million project finance debt facilities.
The facilities are to be secured by the shares of the company’s subsidiary Kosmos Energy Ghana and its interest in the world-class Jubilee oil field offshore Ghana. This financing will fully fund Kosmos’ share of Jubilee’s phase-one development.
Kosmos, operator of the West Cape Three Points Block, drilled the Mahogany-1 exploration well that discovered the Jubilee Field, the world’s biggest oil find in 2007 and one of the largest oil discoveries offshore West Africa during the last decade.
Kosmos has drilled seven consecutive successful exploration and appraisal wells for a 100 percent success rate for all the wells the company has drilled to date offshore Ghana. (more) Kosmos and its partners are executing a phased development plan for the Jubilee Field, which is located on the West Cape Three Points Block and adjacent Deepwater Tano Block. The company believes that phase-one development will produce in excess of the planned 300 million barrels of recoverable oil. The designed production capacity of phase one is 120,000 barrels of crude per day.
At the same time the Ghana government is taking steps to provide accountable and efficient development of the oil industry, Ministry issues a stern warning:
Accra, July 15, GNA – Dr. Edward Kofi Omane Boamah, Deputy Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, on Wednesday said the ministry would not stand by and watch players in the oil and gas exploration industry destroy the country’s ecology and sacrifice the health and safety of citizens.
It appears the current government is serious about trying to protect the citizens of Ghana. I hope they are truly serious and this continues. I feared the previous government was setting itself up to loot the country. President Kufuor invited Barclays to establish an offshore tax haven. That danger is still present, I wrote more on it in this post: Barclays Bank To Support Poverty & Crime In Ghana & West Africa. A nearby tax shelter would be a powerful and convenient tool to steal from the Ghanaian people, and to hide the bribes that fuel corruption.
With tax havens and banking secrecy, the big corporations, already richer than many countries, the big money players:
… can quite legally cut themselves loose from pesky full taxation and grow explosively, leaving smaller competitors, who pay their full dues along with the rest of us, choking in their dust. This undermines the very notion of capitalism: the big companies’ advantage has nothing to do with the quality or price of what they produce. If you are worried about the power of big global corporations, don’t always attack them directly, but attack bank secrecy instead.
(Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil, by Nicholas Shaxson, p.225&227, ISBN 978-1403971944)
Who are the victims of corruption?
The most obvious way corruption hurts society is its neutralizing effect on public servants, be they police or politicians, or anyone in between. Nigerians have their own word for when that happens; those on the take are said to be “settled.”
Nuhu Ribadu was a crusading prosecutor in Nigeria before an attempt on his life forced him to leave the country.
“When you fight corruption, it fights you back,” he says matter-of-factly. … “Unless we address the problem of corruption,” he says, “there is no hope, there is no future.”
President Barack Obama walks with Ghana President John Atta Mills, right, at the Presidential Palace in Accra, Ghana, Saturday, July 11, 2009. In his first visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office.
U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama meet with pregnant women during a tour of LA General Hospital in Accra July 11, 2009.
Vendor with Obama memorabilia in Ghana, July 11, 2009
I spoke to Ghana today. Everyone is thrilled with Obama’s visit. They loved his speech. Throughout the whole country people were watching and enjoying. At the same time, almost everyone is also adamantly against AFRICOM.
People were praising how simple and natural Obama is. They said the visit to Cape Coast Castle was very sad. Nobody can visit there without being affected. And everyone admired the way the Obamas interacted with the people they met, including the musicians and dancers performing at the airport to see them off. The whole country was watching and enjoying the visit. There were posters, signs and commerative items everywhere. The coverage has been wildly enthusiastic, but with some well placed and serious skepticism about US motives.
In his speech Obama included the following:
We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans.
First, we must support strong and sustainable democratic governments. As I said in Cairo, each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: governments that respect the will of their own people are more prosperous, more stable and more successful than governments that do not. This is about more than holding elections — it’s also about what happens between them. Repression takes many forms, and too many nations are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the port authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.
In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success — strong parliaments and honest police forces; independent judges and journalists; a vibrant private sector and civil society. Those are the things that give life to democracy, because that is what matters in peoples’ lives. …
… Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.
America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other nation — the essential truth of democracy is that each nation determines its own destiny. What we will do is increase assistance for responsible individuals and institutions, with a focus on supporting good governance — on parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard; on the rule of law, which ensures the equal administration of justice; on civic participation, so that young people get involved; and on concrete solutions to corruption like forensic accounting, automating services, strengthening hot lines and protecting whistle-blowers to advance transparency and accountability. As we provide this support, I have directed my administration to give greater attention to corruption in our human rights report. People everywhere should have the right to start a business or get an education without paying a bribe. We have a responsibility to support those who act responsibly and to isolate those who don’t, and that is exactly what America will do.
Obama used the word partnership a number of times speaking of:
This mutual responsibility must be the foundation of our partnership. And today, I will focus on four areas that are critical to the future of Africa and the entire developing world: democracy; opportunity; health; and the peaceful resolution of conflict.
This last, peaceful resolution of conflict, is how he chose to characterize military partnership. I wondered some about the use of the word partnership throughout the speech. This is a word the Africa Command uses a lot. And I wondered if the use of it repeated in the speech was to soften and blur the definition away from military partnership. Military partnership and the Africa Command have caused ongoing debate and articles in the Ghana news and on GhanaWeb. Obama is very popular, but the Africa Command is not popular at all. Military partnership means, among other things, military proxies, training African militaries to fight for US interests.
In Obama’s words on military partnership:
… the final area that I will address is conflict.
Africans are standing up for this future. Here, too, Ghana is helping to point the way forward. Ghanaians should take pride in your contributions to peacekeeping from Congo to Liberia to Lebanon, and in your efforts to resist the scourge of the drug trade. We welcome the steps that are being taken by organizations like the African Union and ECOWAS to better resolve conflicts, keep the peace, and support those in need. And we encourage the vision of a strong, regional security architecture that can bring effective, transnational force to bear when needed. America has a responsibility to advance this vision, not just with words, but with support that strengthens African capacity. When there is genocide in Darfur or terrorists in Somalia, these are not simply African problems — they are global security challenges, and they demand a global response. That is why we stand ready to partner through diplomacy, technical assistance, and logistical support, and will stand behind efforts to hold war criminals accountable. And let me be clear: our Africa Command is focused not on establishing a foothold in the continent, but on confronting these common challenges to advance the security of America, Africa and the world.
This sounds good, but there are very few specifics and still plenty of reason for skepticism.
An article in The Scotman sees AFRICOM HQ in Ghana as a done deal:
Controversial matters such as the impending transfer of US Africa Command’s HQ from Germany to Ghana, heavy narcotics trafficking and burgeoning oil production, are topics for Mr Obama’s talks with Ghanaian president John Atta Mills.
On development, I tend to agree with Kwesi Pratt:
What we need in the developing world, is not gifts and not aid. What we need must be fair trade. If we could get equitable prices for our products and so on, we could make it on our own.
In putting responsibility squarely on Africans, Obama glossed over ongoing interference in African governance by the US and others. Without this interference, arming sides and picking favorites, Africa could work out its own problems. Obama criticised the violence stemming from the recent Kenyan election, but the US actively interfered with that election. If Obama actually intends to back off from this interfering behaviour, I heartily endorse him.
The Africa Command is wildly unpopular in Ghana, as Kwesi Pratt also said:
The Cheney report also makes a recommendation for the establishment of military bases in order to protect American interests and American oil. For me these are the two key reasons why the United States and Obama are interested in this. It has nothing to do with democracy, but the preservation of American interests.
In Ghana, I do not think there’s any possibility of establishing such a presence, [AFRICOM] because it will be resisted …
And NO to AFRICOM has been the overwhelming sentiment expressed in the articles and in the comments published in Ghana news sources and on GhanaWeb.
As Nii Akuetteh says in the same interview with Kwesi Pratt:
Currently, a lot of the oil comes from Nigeria and we know that in southeastern Nigeria, where the oil is, there is a lot of agitation, even including some violence because oil companies from Shell to Chevron have been behaving in a predatory manner. Therefore, the oil is an issue, and the establishment of AFRICOM, where twisting arms of African governments to agree to host AFRICOM, has also been going on. I do support Kwesi. He’s been leading the fight in Ghana to make sure that it doesn’t come. I think the democracy factor is one small factor and it is up to us in Washington and around the United States to make sure that it becomes bigger in the calculations of Mr. Obama. So it is up to us to push him. And because he himself has said it, and his staff in the White House also did say that democracy and governance in Ghana is the reason they chose Ghana, our strategy here in Washington is, okay, we will hold them to their words. We will make sure that any agreement they sign, U.S. policy, U.S. aid projects, put the priority on democracy and strengthening civil society.
And that is what must be done. President Obama has said he values democracy. It was the main theme of his speech. That is the reason he told us he chose to visit Ghana, to recognize and honor its vibrant and successful democracy. But democracy is always fragile. We have seen that in the United States in the last decade. People in Ghana and the US must keep pushing for more democracy, for strengthening civil society, and for the transparency and accountability that makes democracy possible.
In some ways I worry the Obama visit is honoring Ghanaian democracy by offering Ghana the tools and means to dismantle that democracy. But the symbolic importance and resonance of Obama, that the US has elected a black man, the son of an African, with the name Barack Hussein Obama, as president, cannot be overstated. If he is not all we would wish, we ourselves need to make our democratic ideals and aspirations manifest.
Pictures of Obama from GhanaWeb
Pictures of Obama in Ghana from Yahoo, view as slideshow or gallery.
Added July 12, links to stories from GhanaWeb on Obama in Ghana. You can view the comments to the stories for more opinions. Be advised there will be some rude and partisan remarks in the comments to the articles, democracy allows for all opinions to be voiced.
Text of Obama’s speech to parliament
Dignitaries savour Obama’s speech
Obama begins historic visit to Ghana
Obama in Ghana on first sub-Saharan Africa visit
Where will Obama Sleep?
Guests for breakfast meeting to park vehicles at State House
Obama admits to be a long admirer of Ghana
Obama lauds La Hospital
Obama tours Cape Coast Castle
Oguaa residents step out early to welcome Obama
Expectant crowd disappointed as security prevents them from seeing Obam
Africa to shape the 21st century- Obama
Obama leaves after Ghana visit
YouTube videos on Obama’s visit:
Ghana goes Obama-mad in preparation for president’s visit (ITN News)
Obama’s Ghana Speech – July 11, 2009 (Part 1 of 4, 8:19)
Obama’s Ghana Speech – July 11, 2009 (Part 2 of 4, 8:39)
Obama’s Ghana Speech – July 11, 2009 (Part 3 of 4, 8:07)
Obama’s Ghana Speech – July 11, 2009 (Part 4 of 4, 8:35)
Welcome song for Obama to Ghana, An All-Star welcome song for President Obama on his visit to Ghana, Africa July 10-11 (4:43)
Up to 13 million barrels of oil have spilled in the Niger Delta ecosystem over the past 50 years, representing about 50 times the estimated volume spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989. Niger Delta Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Project, PDF.
Oil spill in the village of Ikarama, Bayelsa State, Nigeria, 7 February 2008 © Kadir van Lohuizen/NOOR
These spills equal the amount of 1 Exxon Valdez sized oil spill per year. And this is taking place in one of the most sensitive wetlands of our planet, part of the lungs of the planet. The spills pollute the land, pollute the water, clog the creeks, and gas flaring pollutes the air and the rainwater, bringing down toxic acid rain on land and water and all that live there.
As one Niger Delta fisherman stated:
If you want to go fishing, you have to paddle for about four hours through several rivers before you can get to where you can catch fish and the spill is lesser … some of the fishes we catch, when you open the stomach, it smells of crude oil.
The Niger Delta is one of the 10 most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems in the world and is home to some 31 million people. The Niger Delta is also the location of massive oil deposits.
Under Nigerian law, local communities have no legal rights to oil and gas reserves in their territory.
This report focuses on one dimension of the crisis: the impact of pollution and environmental damage caused by the oil industry on the human rights of the people living in the oil producing areas of Niger Delta.
This report is a report from Amnesty International Nigeria: Petroleum, Pollution and Poverty in the Niger Delta – Report PDF. The report was released June 30, 2009.
The main human rights issues raised in this report are:
- Violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food – as a consequence of the impact of oil-related pollution and environmental damage on agriculture and fisheries, which are the main sources of food for many people in the Niger Delta.
- Violations of the right to gain a living through work – also as a consequence of widespread damage to agriculture and fisheries, because these are also the main sources of livelihood for many people in the Niger Delta.
- Violations of the right to water – which occur when oil spills and waste materials pollute water used for drinking and other domestic purposes.
- Violations of the right to health – which arise from failure to secure the underlying determinants of health, including a healthy environment, and failure to enforce laws to protect the environment and prevent pollution.
- The absence of any adequate monitoring of the human impacts of oil-related pollution – despite the fact that the oil industry in the Niger Delta is operating in a relatively densely populated area characterized by high levels of poverty and vulnerability.
- Failure to provide affected communities with adequate information or ensure consultation on the impacts of oil operations on their human rights.
- Failure to ensure access to effective remedy for people whose human rights have been violated.
The report also examines who is responsible for this situation in a context where multinational oil companies have been operating for decades. It highlights how companies can take advantage of the weak regulatory systems that characterize many poor countries, which frequently results in the poorest people being the most vulnerable to exploitation by corporate actors. The people of the Niger Delta have seen their human rights undermined by oil companies that their government cannot or will not hold to account. They have been systematically denied access to information about how oil exploration and production will affect them, and are repeatedly denied access to justice. The Niger Delta provides a stark case study of the lack of accountability of a government to its people, and of multinational companies’ almost total lack of accountability when it comes to the impact of their operations on human rights.
More oil is being prospected and discovered throughout Africa. Rather than an outdated holdover from an ugly past, Shell’s pollution of the Niger Delta is probably the model for oil exploitation across the African continent. Only if African countries stand up for themselves and their people, can the devastating effects be mitigated. Far too many governments in Africa are not accountable, or only barely accountable to their people. And even where there is a will, the outside powers and donor countries will not make it easy. Look at what is happening in Somalia, another potential source of oil. The international donor countries are keeping it destabilized in the name of fighting “terrorism”. When Somalia did develop its own government in 2006, it was rapidly crushed by the US using Ethiopia as a proxy. This is what is known as stability operations.
In response to a question, I was talking to someone in the neighborhood where I work about pollution and oil exploitation in the Niger Delta. He was not really interested and brushed it off, saying, “we have to get our oil from somewhere.” This is someone with whom I’ve had a number of friendly conversations, and generally think of as a nice guy. I think his response typifies the attitude of people in the US, and in the developed and rapidly developing world.
Just as the European colonial powers spoke of bringing Africa the 3 Cs, Christianity, Civilization and Commerce, the US, and the US Africa Command speak with straight faces of bringing Africa the 3 Ds, Defense, Diplomacy, and Development. It was a mirage the first time, and this is pretty much the same thing, minus Christianity. It is not done to benefit the people of Africa but to fool them. It is like the distraction of a magician, so you don’t see how he does the trick.
As Dr. Wafula Okumu testified:
To paraphrase Kenyatta’s allegory, “when the Whiteman came to Africa, he was holding a Bible in one hand and asked us to close our eyes and pray. When we opened our eyes after the prayer, his other hand was holding a gun and all our land was gone!” Africa’s colonial history was characterised by military occupations, exploitation of its natural resources and suppression of its people. After testing decades of independence, these countries are now jealously guarding their sovereignty and are highly suspicious of foreigners, even those with good intentions.
There are many professed good intentions, and very few genuine good intentions among the powers gathering around for this latest scramble for Africa, particularly in the search for oil. It behooves Africans to be very wary indeed.
It looks like Obama is marching in zombie lockstep with Bush policy in Somalia and Honduras. It also looks like a Great Leap Backward to the days of US suported military coups in Latin America, and despots propped up by US aid in Africa. In both cases the United States provides the military training and the weapons.
… General Vasquez attended the School of the Americas and … a good part of the Honduran military were trained there and in its successor, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).
… the U.S. has a military base in Honduras, gives the Honduran military a few million dollars each year, and … most of the military equipment used against the people was from the U.S.
… a group that openly supported the coup, “Paz and Democracia” (Peace and Democracy), received money from the USAID. (Eva Golinger reported that the USAID pumps more than 50 million dollars into the country each year.)
… the immediate response from Washington was tepid and non-committal. … Dan Restrepo, the presidential advisor for Latin American affairs, said the administration was waiting to see how things would play out. (The response has been stronger since then, but still seems to lack the strength other America nations have put forward in their demands.)
This is most unfortunate for the Obama administration, or for any US government and ongoing relations with Latin America. Like Africa, most people in Latin America want the military back in the barracks, and want democratic governments. A coup is not democracy. Supporting, or even tolerating a coup is a US blow against democracy. Eva Golinger writes
Yes, I know Fox News is not the best way to judge the political scene in the US, but this video clip
is a hint into the way US media is now beginning to portray the coup events in Honduras over the past few days. And note the NPR correspondent’s comments, very similar analysis as to mine over the past few days regarding Washington’s ambiguity regarding this coup so as to buy time and possibly recognize the coup government as “transitory” until the elections in November…….very dangerous.
Note, this will isolate the US/Obama Administration from the rest of Latin America and definitely show Obama is not an agent of change.
Meanwhile, in Somalia, the US is still trying to prop up the TFG, the Transitional Federal Government, in Somalia. As one Somali commentator put it, the only true word in that name is the word transitional. The TFG is neither federal, nor a government. The TFG only controls a few blocks in Mogadishu.
: Al Shabaab and allied fighters control much of southern and central Somalia and have boxed the government and 4,300 African Union peackeepers into a few blocks of Mogadishu.
The US has stepped up arms transfers and training, ostensibly to the AMISOM troups, but in actual fact it is violating the UN arms embargo, US, EA gunrunners violating UN’s Somalia arms ban
. And the US is stepping up the training of troops in Somalia.
US violations are said to include a missile attack on a target inside Somalia along with “intensive and comprehensive military training” conducted inside Ethiopia for officers from the breakaway Somalia region known as Somaliland.
The previous incarnation of the TFG was an alliance of the oppressive warlords and the hated and oppressive Ethiopian army. The current incarnation of the TFG was engineered by the US ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, in an election held in Djibouti. Because the TFG is under siege, and controls so little of Mogadishu, and none of the rest of Somalia, the TFG has invited the hated Ethiopians back in for help. The US, Ambassador Ranneberger, and the UN donor countries characterize the the TFG as a representative government, although they are the only ones it represents. They characterize the opposition as al Qaeda, although their only proof is to keep invoking the names of two men who bombed the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. al Qaeda has never been welcome or successful in Somalia. But as long as the US government and media say al Qaeda whenever any opposition in Somalia is mentioned, US citizens will shiver with fear and support more bombing and killing. And it looks like the US and the donor countries are stepping up their outside interference, rather than letting the Somalis settle their own affairs.
Daniel Volman writes on security policy in Somalia:
The only other indication we have about the president’s true intentions is provided by his decision to authorise the use of force to rescue the kidnapped captain of the Maersk Alabama in May 2009. When he was a candidate, President Obama declared that he believed that ‘there will be situations that require the United States to work with its partners in Africa to fight terrorism with lethal force.’ But his action during the kidnapping episode show that he is also willing to use military force in situations that have nothing to do with terrorism. According to recent news articles, a debate is currently underway within the administration about the wisdom of direct US military intervention against Somali pirates or against the al-Shabaab insurgents. Top administration officials and military officers are convinced that, in the words of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, ‘there is no purely military solution’ to piracy and political conflict in Somalia. And Johnnie Carson, the president’s new assistant secretary of state for Africa, told the BBC that ‘there would be no case of the US re-engaging on the ground with troops’ in Somalia. But some in the military and a number of prominent neo-conservative leaders contend that the United States must strike back at the pirates and the insurgents to prevent future acts of piracy and terrorism against Americans. It would be a mistake to assume that Obama will not take further military action if the situation in Somalia escalates.
If you read this transcript of the June 25 State Department daily press briefing, it sounds like the US government really does not know what it is doing in Somalia. And so far it looks like more US interference just recruits more Somali insurgents. US violence and interference will never resolve Somali problems. The US is interested in possible oil in Somalia. The EU continues to steal fish from Somali waters, and dump toxic and nuclear waste in those same waters. Keeping things unsettled in Somalia works to the advantage of all these outside meddlers.
As b real puts it:
the TFG2 has always been a weak actor in the mix. as i’ve elaborated on in multiple threads, there is more evidence that, rather than create a strong federal govt, the int’l community’s overriding objective has been to pit islamist factions against each other in order to engage them into battle amongst themselves rather than be united and  establish an independent govt and , so goes the reasoning of the unrestrained paranoid fantasies of the int’l actors, threaten & carry out ‘terrorist’ activities beyond the borders of somalia. letting them wage a war of attrition between themselves requires a minimal amount of overhead & a modicum of commitment.
their lip service to sh. sharif’s govt can be seen as an inside joke, directing, instead, the bulk of support to AMISOM and putting pressure on the UN to get more countries paying for the militarization of east africa. meanwhile, the main beneficiaries are int’l arms dealers, int’l NGOs, and, eventually, the wildcatters up through the big oil companies still comfortably playing the force majeure card.
In the long run it does not pay to be an international bully. It comes back to bite you. And the US cannot afford to garrison the entire world. It cannot afford the wars it is already waging. The proxy armies it is creating with the US Africa Command will go into business for themselves. President Obama has a lot on his plate at home. It may seem easier to let the policies that were already in place continue to run their course. In general Obama seems reluctant to get out front and lead on specific issues. If the US is going to retain its own democracy, and carry any moral weight in the world, President Obama will have to step forward and lead in the democratic direction. There is no hope and change without democratic leadership.
Note: the illustration above is from BibliOdyssey.