Rageh Omaar presents a look at AFRICOM that touches most of the major issues of its origin and its continuing operation. There are two films, each divided into four parts: America’s New Frontline: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, and Diplomats or Warriors.
America's New Frontline, a film about AFRICOM (click once or twice to enlarge)
Considering the scope and complexity of the topic, these films do an excellent job of introducing the issues surrounding the creation of AFRICOM, and its ongoing actions and existence. Omaar considers how AFRICOM may continue to affect African countries where it operates.
AFRICOM was created by the Bush administration. It grew from the conflict between the Pentagon and State Department for control of foreign policy, which the Pentagon won. Its emphasis on military training and military solutions, called stability operations, has vast implications for the continent of Africa, the people who live there, and for the American people and their relationship with the world.
Here are the links, I highly recommend viewing both films.
America’s New Frontline: A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, with links to all four parts.
Part 1 – 12:03
Part 2 – 10:20
Part 3 – 12:23
Part 4 – 11:03
I particularly recommend Diplomats or Warriors?
Scroll down the page to see:
America’s New Frontline – Diplomats or Warriors?, with links to all four parts.
Part 1 – 9:35
Part 2 – 13:17
Part 3 – 12:11
Part 4 – 10:48
The films were produced and directed by Callum Macrae of Outsider Films, who was kind enough to contact me during the planning of these films.
I do not share Mr. Omaar’s optimism about Obama and recent events in Somalia. The US continues to prop up, and is escalating military attempts to maintain the TFG government, which was chosen in Djibouti by delegates approved and transported there by the US. Ambassador Ranneberger, who ran Somali policy for Bush, and continues running it for Obama, made remarks in an interview in September that sound exactly like a mob boss offering “protection”:
The US Ambassador to Kenya and also in charge of Somalia affairs, Michael Ranneberger, said Wednesday the only solution of the Somali problem is to support the Transitional Federal Government led by president Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed.
“It is important for the Somali people to know also, that the best way to end their suffering is by providing support for this transitional federal government because ultimately they will continue to suffer unless there is stability in Somalia, and the only way to bring about stability is through this Transitional Federal Government” Michael Ranneberger told Shabelle Media Network in an exclusive interview. *
This is a little taste and demonstration of the true meaning of stability operations. It isn’t pretty. The films provide more pointers to other places on the continent destined for stability operations.
* h/t b real, whose Africa Comments are an excellent place to follow the unfolding story in Somalia.
KITGUM, Uganda - Soldiers from Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States participate in an opening ceremony at the start of Natural Fire 10, October 16, 2009. Natural Fire 10 is a multi-national, globally-resourced exercise focused on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and regional security. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Africa)
AROMO, Uganda - Seaman Apprentice John Sanders, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3, and Uganda Peoples' Defence Force Corporal Ongora Bonny begin constructing the foundation of a bridge in Aromo, Uganda, October 10, 2009. The bridge, scheduled to be completed in January 2010, will benefit local residents by improving their transportation ability. (Photo by Staff Sergeant Ronald Lafosse, CJTF-HOA)
Natural Fire 10, a multinational military exercise involving five East African partner states — plus partners from the U.S. military — began October 16, 2009 in northern Uganda.
Soldiers from Kenya, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States opened the exercise with a ceremony attended by senior military officials from each country.
The 10-day exercise focuses on humanitarian and civic assistance, disaster relief and regional security.
Roughly 550 U.S. personnel and 133 military personnel from each of the five partner nations are taking part. Altogether, there will be nearly 1,220 participants. Three training opportunities are going on simultaneously. Medical, dental and engineering projects will assist the local community and security partnership exercises near Kitgum which will increase the soldiers’ ability to work together.
Meanwhile, in Kampala and Entebbe, military leaders and senior civilian officials from participating countries will take part in a tabletop exercise — facing simulated emergencies in Africa. This type of exercise will sharpen senior and mid-level military leaders’ skills in their response to disasters, to offer humanitarian assistance and to prepare for pandemic situations.
Medical care will include direct care by a doctor or dentist, to include optometry and pharmacy services as well as dental extractions. Education classes on HIV/AIDS, nutrition and hygiene will also be provided. The care will be provided at Pajimo Health Center, Palabek Health Center, Mucwini Health Center and Kitgum Government Hospital.
Engineers will work together to make improvements at a high school, primary school and a hospital. Improvements include repairing or replacing roofs, window panes and doors, repairing walls, installing handicap ramps and placing a concrete floor. Engineer projects will be conducted at the Kitgum High School, Mucwini Primary School and Kitgum Government Hospital.
Natural Fire 10 closes with a ceremony October 25, 2009, when all participants will return to their countries.
Natural Fire was first held in Kenya in 1998, with U.S. partnership. Since, then it has been held every two years in East Africa. In 2000, it grew to include Tanzania and Uganda, as well as the U.S. and Kenya — a significant step for the EAC alliance. In 2006, Natural Fire expanded to include field training and humanitarian assistance. Since then, the exercise has grown to feature five partner states, with the addition of soldiers from Burundi.
This gives you the basic description of the exercise. You can see the location of Kitgum on this map. You will notice that Kitgum is right on the border of southern Sudan, where there is oil, and where US coporations are buying up large tracts of land. There are recent significant discoveries of oil in Uganda, with more expected both in Uganda and in the DRC.
Ugandan districts affected by Lords Resistance Army, map created by Mark Dingemanse for Wikimedia.
There are many questions about what other agendas are at work with this exercise, besides the ones that have been publicly announced.
Paul Amoru describes the location of the exercise:
Northern Uganda, the former epicentre of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) conflict, has become home for US Marines and army officers, at least for the next three weeks.
Over 600 military personnel from Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda are also expected to arrive in Kitgum District, where Uganda, along with these partners will hold a 10-day exercise, focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
For a region that has just returned to normalcy, three years ago, the high levelled military cooperation has triggered raw excitement among the formerly displaced community. The US-led exercise is dubbed Natural Fire 10.
Advanced US military personnel, who are settling in the war battered region, have already mounted several installations in Kitgum, including a water purification plant at Akwang Sub-county. The plant will produce up to 20,000 litres every day.
UPDF 4th Division spokesperson Ronald Kakurungu yesterday remained upbeat about the event. “This is an opportunity for us to associate more with civilians. We expect to cement our strategic relationship with the community,” Capt. Kakurungu said.
As an article in the East African points out:
…the decision to site the exercise in northern Uganda raises questions about whether it may presage a renewed US-supported assault against the Lord’s Resistance Army.
Natural Fire 10 will involve live fire in the field as well as convoy operations, crowd control and vehicle checkpoints, the US Army reports.
And while Maj Gen William B. Garrett III insisted recently that the exercise is focused on training for humanitarian relief, the US Army commander added that the forces he will lead in Natural Fire 10 will be ready to respond to any security threat that may arise in the Kitgum region.
The Obama administration is being urged by dozens of Democratic and Republican members of Congress to help finish the fight against the LRA.
Several non-governmental organisations based in the US also advocate US military action to put an end to the maraudings of the LRA.
The US provided operational support to a joint Ugandan-DR Congo-Southern Sudan offensive last December that was aimed at capturing or killing LRA leader Joseph Kony and dealing a decisive blow to an insurgency that has terrorised Ugandan civilians for the past 20 years.
But the operation dubbed Lightning Thunder failed in its objectives.
[you will find more details on Operation Lightning Thunder here and here]
Kony escaped, and his forces embarked on a killing spree that took the lives of an estimated 1,000 Congolese villagers.
Natural Fire 10 may well have the primary purposes claimed for it, but the skills being taught to the East African soldiers “are readily transferable to any sort of operations that their commanders want to undertake,” notes Daniel Volman, head of the Washington-based, non-governmental African Security Research Project.
Kony and the LRA have spread out from northern Uganda into both Sudan and the DRC. They are in the way of the exploitation of the oil and other natural resources. So suddenly, in addition to the humanitarian horror they have always been, they are now inconvenient to the interests of global money. So now there is talk of further military action against them. The Acholi Leaders Peace Initiative writes to us courtesy of Africa Focus, about the possibility of a military option:
The military option has been explored numerous times in the past, notably Operation North (1991), Operation Iron Fist (2002) and Operation Lightning Thunder (2008-2009).
Experience shows that despite such attempts to end the conflict, only dialogue can be attributed to the relative calm experienced in Northern Uganda since July of 2006 Military strategies launched against the LRA have time and again led to severe reprisal attacks on the innocent civilian community as illustrated by the recent 900 civilian deaths during Operation Lightning Thunder.
Not only has the cost of the military option been expensive regarding the loss of human life, the financial implications of war are also immense. The large sums of money required to carry out war drain the resources needed to bring about development and reconstruction of affected areas.
It must be acknowledged that there are numerous groups which are causing insecurity throughout the region. While the LRA is one said group, any strategy that is put in place must also address the other negative forces working in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, and Uganda who pose a threat to stability.
As the conflict has transformed into a regional issue, diplomatic engagement with regional stakeholders, namely those from Democratic Republic of Congo, Southern Sudan, Central African Republic, and Uganda is integral so that the needs and concerns of all affected are adequately addressed.
Furthermore, we feel that not all non-violent strategies have been explored adequately. While some have put forward that dialogue has failed, we argue that there were certain factors such as the stick and carrot approach, vested interests, presumptions, and the lack of coordination and communication between the LRA, GoU, and mediating parties did not provide a fruitful environment for dialogue to take place.
Time and again, issues of spoilers both regionally and internationally have played a role in frustrating any attempts at peace. For any regional strategy to be successful, we feel that such spoilers need to be investigated, made known if found guilty, and held accountable for their actions in the interest of sustainable peace.
It has been observed that past development programs in Northern Uganda have failed to make an impact on the ground due to various factors such as corruption. … [a] plan needs to be put into place to ensure that support is maintained to the affected civilian population to prevent them from once again being victims due to the actions of others.
Among the regional spoilers have been the governments of Uganda and Rwanda, both of whom have been in competition with each other and with the DRC to take advantage of the mineral resources of the DRC. Both those governments are taking part in this exercise. And both of those governments have acted as proxy warriors, looking after the interests of US and other western interests in minerals in the DRC, in addition to their own interests. This has led to unending war and humanitarian disaster in the Eastern Congo.
Democratic institutions need encouragement and support in East Africa, as in many other places. Military exercises, no matter how humanitarian their decriptors, do not provide support for democratic institutions. Military exercises feature soldiers as government. Those who eye Natural Fire 10 and other recent US military exercises on the African continent with skepticism and apprehension have much to justify their fear.
China’s development projects in Africa reach from Morocco to South Africa. From soccer stadiums to TV stations and oil rigs …
Students take cultural courses at the University of Nairobi's Confucius Institute (photo: gezidiy.blog.sohu.com)
Africa China bilateral trade, "distinct patterns of trade and exchange between Beijing and African nations have fostered a relationship focused on the future"
In March 2009 Billy Noiman wrote The Africa Plan. The article contains some excellent graphs and charts, one of which is pictured above. It also contains an interactive map of China’s activities in relation to areas in which there has been conflict. The map is well worth a look. The entire article provides a concise overview of China’s presence in Africa.
From television broadcasts to cultural projects, China’s presence in Africa has been rapidly increasing.
“They are putting in Confucius institutes, where the Chinese are paying for the study of Mandarin, the study of Chinese culture and history,” Powell said. “Just as the French have their programs, the British have the British Council, the U.S. has American libraries, the Chinese are putting in their culture and educational outreach in a very significant way.”
While China is often portrayed as an oil-thirsty giant caring more about pipelines than people, the country’s involvement in Africa is not so cut and dry.
“Contrary to what many assume, China’s large oil companies are not dominant players in Africa’s energy industry. With the important exception of Sudan, where the China National Petroleum Company (CNPC) is the major operator, Chinese oil companies are relatively minor players in Africa,”
Nevertheless, trade is growing exponentially. Total trade between China and Africa reached US$107 billion in 2008, a 45% jump since the previous year. There are now over 800 different Chinese enterprises doing business in Africa. The Southern African reported in January 2009 that Angola recently became China’s largest African trader, with total volume exceeding US$25 billion. With China’s continued drive for natural resources and Africa’s need for infrastructure development, the relationship appears to be a match made in economic heaven.
Carine Kiala, a Senior Analyst for the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosh University in South Africa, said that in general, “Certain African governments are receiving credit lines and services in exchange for their natural commodities. How this benefits the general population is subject to interpretation.”
The Chinese have become creative in working with African states whose heavy indebtedness makes it difficult for them to get construction loans. China Exim Bank permits such nations to use natural resources to pay for infrastructural development.
Kiala said that the infrastructure projects undertaken jointly by China and the local governments are having a highly visible impact on African societies.
“Most certainly, the infrastructure being put in place will solidify internal and regional linkages, thus facilitating trade and empowering the masses,” Kiala said. “Although job-creation is a direct benefit, African countries need sustainable employment and skills development.” A lack of capacity building – the development of the domestic population’s capabilities as a work force – has been one charge against China’s “resources for infrastructure” trade strategy.
This last is one of the angry criticisms I hear most often against the Chinese presence in a variety of countries.
Besides cultural exchanges and industrial development, China has also played an active role in providing aid for poverty-stricken African countries. In late 2006, President Hu Jintao pledged to provide African countries with US$5 billion in aid including soft loans and credits over the next few years. With this pledge China hoped to bolster trade between the two regions. Others, however, see more harm than good in China’s aid packages. In early 2007, the British government warned Beijing that their assistance agreements and inexpensive loans threaten to drive countries back into debt after just recently beginning to realize the benefits of other debt relief programs.
In discussions with African governments, Chinese officials emphasize the country’s long-term commitment to the relationship. Given the region’s colonial past, several African nations see this as a refreshing change. Furthermore, China’s “hands-off” approach in political affairs is a business advantage. Unlike its Western competitors, the Chinese government has chosen to keep political matters completely separate from business engagements.
“Some people worry about it in terms of the Chinese only wanting oil and raw materials, which is true. But they see this as a very long-term commitment.”
Map showing the number of active hate groups by state in 2008 from the Southern Poverty Law Center. See the interactive version of this map that lists the groups by state at http://www.splcenter.org/intel/map/hate.jsp
In Tangipahoa Parish Louisiana, slightly north of New Orleans, a white Justice of the Peace refused to marry an interracial couple:
NEW ORLEANS – Two civil and constitutional rights organizations called on a Louisiana justice of the peace to resign Friday after he refused to marry an interracial couple, saying any children the couple might have would suffer.
The leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union in Louisiana and the Center for Constitutional Rights and Justice in New York said Keith Bardwell, a white justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish in the southeastern part of the state, should quit immediately. Earlier this month, Bardwell refused to issue a marriage license to Beth Humphrey, who is white, and Terence McKay, who is black.
“Perhaps he’s worried the kids will grow up and be president,” said Bill Quigley, director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Justice, referring to President Barack Obama, the son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas.
Obama’s deputy press secretary Bill Burton echoed those sentiments.
“I’ve found that actually the children of biracial couples can do pretty good,” Burton told reporters aboard Air Force One as it flew to Texas.
Marjorie Esman of the ACLU said the group was calling on Bardwell to resign “before he infringes on the constitutional rights of another person.”
Humphrey and McKay were eventually married by another justice of the peace, but are now looking into legal action against Bardwell.
“A justice of the peace is legally obligated to serve the public, all of the public,” Quigley said. “Racial discrimination has been a violation of Louisiana and U.S. law for decades. No public official has the right to pick and choose which laws they are going to follow.”
Tangipahoa Parish President Gordon Burgess said Bardwell’s views were not consistent with his or those of the local government. But as an elected official, Bardwell was not under the supervision of the parish government.
“However, I am certainly very disappointed that anyone representing the people of Tangipahoa Parish, particularly an elected official, would take such a divisive stand,” Burgess said in an e-mail. “I would hope that Mr. Bardwell would consider offering his resignation if he is unable to serve all of the people of his district and our parish.”
Bardwell, a Republican, has served as justice of peace for 34 years.
Racism is still a festering wound in the United States. And every so often it bursts open, pouring out its poison. As offensive as this is, in this incident no one was hurt or threatened with physical harm. Although Mr. Bardwell has shown a lengthy pattern of painful and discriminating behavior that did not offend his voters, this couple is both able and willing to seek legal redress. That has not always been true within my lifetime.
Recently there has been an upsurge in public racist rhetoric and hate speech, even making its way into what is loosely termed “news” on television. We saw it in the people who came armed to town meetings, especially during August, bearing overtly racist signs and symbols, and the way their behavior was covered by the news. The leadership of the Republican party has allied itself with those delivering this hate speech, which has escalated and increased the real threat of violence, by making it more socially acceptable. Especially since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Republican Party has made itself the party of white supremacy, particularly in the south. Much of Republican opposition to social programs that help all the citizens of the US, comes from resistance to the possibility that any tax money might be spent to help people of color.
We are still hearing this from members of Congress, before Obama’s speech to Congress on Health Care in September: Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said … “I think he’s gonna have to express some humility … “ or: During President Obama’s major health care speech on Wednesday, South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson (R) yelled out “You lie!”, something that has never before happened in a presidential speech to Congress.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, SPLC, traces the history and follows the activities of hate groups, as does the blog Orcinus. Both feature thoughtful articles and in depth research.
From a recent SPLC Report: Return of the Militias:
A key difference this time is that the federal government — the entity that almost the entire radical right views as its primary enemy — is headed by a black man. That, coupled with high levels of non-white immigration and a decline in the percentage of whites overall in America, has helped to racialize the Patriot movement, which in the past was not primarily motivated by race hate. One result has been a remarkable rash of domestic terror incidents since the presidential campaign, most of them related to anger over the election of Barack Obama. At the same time, ostensibly mainstream politicians and media pundits have helped to spread Patriot and related propaganda, from conspiracy theories about a secret network of U.S. concentration camps to wholly unsubstantiated claims about the president’s country of birth.
Almost 10 years after it seemed to disappear from American life, there are unmistakable signs of a revival of what in the 1990s was commonly called the militia movement. …
One big difference from the militia movement of the 1990s is that the face of the federal government — the enemy that almost all parts of the extreme right see as the primary threat to freedom — is now black. And the fact that the president is an African American has injected a strong racial element into even those parts of the radical right, like the militias, that in the past were not primarily motivated by race hate. Contributing to the racial animus have been fears on the far right about the consequences of Latino immigration.
… “All it’s lacking is a spark. I think it’s only a matter of time before you see threats and violence.”
In reference to Congressman Wilson’s outburst, and some of the other racist incidents and behavior around the country, I think President Carter is absolutely correct when he says:
“I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American,” Carter told “NBC Nightly News.”
“I live in the South, and I’ve seen the South come a long way, and I’ve seen the rest of the country that shares the South’s attitude toward minority groups at that time, particularly African-Americans.”
President Carter grew up in racially segregated Georgia. I heard him say once in a television interview that he is good at monitoring elections around the world, because everything he has seen around the world he had already seen at home. He also knows first hand from long experience working through the civil rights struggles how to get people with uncompromisingly opposed views to talk to each other and to keep talking and to keep talking more, until some common ground and some progress can happen. We can learn a lot from his experience and wisdom. It is worth listening to what he has to say.
Exercise Africa Endeavor 2009 ran from September 29 until October 8 this year. This is a U.S. Africa Command-sponsored initiative designed to assist African militaries with improving their communication capabilities, and is planned to become an annual exercise.
BARAKA, Gabon - Participants of a communications exercise called Africa Endeavor conduct collaborative radio and data testing at the Gabonese Army Camp in Baraka, Gabon, October 5, 2009. Africa Endeavor is an annual, U.S. Africa Command-sponsored initiative designed to assist African militaries with improving their communication capabilities. Almost 200 people from 26 countries and three international organizations participated in this year's exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Samara Scott)
Of course when the US is coordinating communications between the military organizations of 25 African countries, the US has very convenient access into their communication systems. This will be very useful for the United States in developing, coordinating, and deploying proxy armies in the quest for oil and natural resources. It will also be very useful if any of these militaries is allied against the United States at a later date. The United States will find it much easier to tap into their communication systems.
In advantaging African militaries far beyond any other sector of society with money and attention in these 25 countries and more, the US is preparing a large new cadre of potential leaders for military coup governments across the continent. This will be convenient for the US military who will already be familiar with these individuals and their organizations, and well used to working with them.
As Victoria Lakshmi Hamah writes:
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.
DefenceWeb publishes more information about Africa Endeavor in Exercise Africa Endeavour strengthens military capabilities and communication.
Almost 200 people from 26 countries and three international organizations came together in Gabon, September 29, 2009, to participate in Exercise Africa Endeavor, an annual US Africa Command-sponsored initiative to assist African militaries with improving their communications capabilities.
The exercise focuses on two important areas of military communications: data, which includes the hardware and software of computer networks, and radio, used to send voice and data transmissions. On October 1, Zambian service members joined with Marines from US Marine Forces Africa to practice their skills with a communication check.
Marine Sergeant Zach D. Zapotoski, exercise data chief/lead planner, said the purpose of the exercise was to bring communicators from throughout the various economic regions of Africa to evaluate and standardize communication plans.
“We are testing to ensure that all of the different kinds of gear that each participant uses is compatible,” Zapotoski said “Through this process we are collecting data, identifying gaps and shortfalls, and then working to address the areas where those gaps occur.”
According to Marine Captain Dave Fuller, exercise technical director, the effort to standardize is one of the main goals of the exercise. “The first goal is to increase the interoperability with the countries that are going to be working with each other in the different African Standby Forces,” Fuller said.
Because each nation brings different capabilities, experience levels and operating methods, establishing standard operating procedures (SOPs) is key to future success, said Marine Sergeant Ryan Kish, exercise test network coordinator.
“The most important thing is that we are establishing SOPs,” Kish said. “It’s important because as the African nations work together in the future or when we work with them in the future, we can have that data to look at to see what worked and what needs a solution.”
In addition to the technical and professional aspects of the exercise, Fuller said .
“Our second goal is to pair up these nations to not only build up partner relations between us, but also to create and bolster partnerships between the African countries as well,” Fuller said.
The exercise is broken down into phases in order to establish the SOPs and collect all of the necessary data.
Both the radio and data portions have three phases of execution throughout the exercise.
According to Valencia, in the first phase of the radio portion of the exercise, each nation uses internal testing to ensure that everyone’s equipment is compatible and functioning properly.
“Each nation generally has the same types of gear, but brands and capabilities vary,” Valencia said. “So, in this first phase we are ironing out compatibility issues to get the ball rolling for the next phase.”
During the first phase, Valencia said all of the internal testing happens between radios on the site here.
From the testing phase, the radio communicators move to phase two where they reach back to their home nation to establish communications.
During phase three, participants communicate from the host site to sites within other countries.
“We are taking the results of the various tests and compile them into a single package that can be used for future reference,” Valencia said.
Zapotoski said the phases for the data portion of the exercise run along similar lines as the radio portion. During the first phase, each nation partnered with one other nation and constructed and tested their network.
During the second phase, the nations are building and testing a series of interconnected computers that share data within their associated economic region.
In the last phase, the regional networks will be tied together to simulate a wide area network.
“Our goal is to be able to identify and configure a routing protocol that can be used to communicate on a basic level,” Zapotoski said.
Building Strong Relationships
A quick visit to one of the tents or buildings on the site reveals that the exercise involves even more than technical exploits and data gathering.
Fuller said the exercise has provided the US and African participants with an opportunity to build professional and personal relationships.
“It’s a rare opportunity to interact with military representatives from 25 different countries at one time,” Kish said. “So there have been plenty of chances to interact with each other and share in each other’s culture.”
“The whole experience has been tremendous,” Augustine said. “In the sense that we are all Africans and we each face similar problems, being able to cooperate and work together to solve some problems is very nice.”
According to Fuller, various events designed to increase interaction and cultural sharing are built into the exercise itself, including traditional meals, social gatherings, team sports and even the exercise’s location, which is held in a different country each year to promote cultural exchange.
For this year’s exercise, even the initial and mid planning conferences were held in different countries.
“That’s what this exercise is really all about,” Fuller said. “Getting on the same sheet of music, as far as communication is concerned, and building those relationships so that either these partner nations can work together in the future.”
I like what Augustine says above, if solving problems means solving them for all of society. I very much fear most of the problem solving will be aimed at solving the problems entrenched elites and authoritarian governments face protecting their power and privilege from the rights, needs and desires of the people they govern.
The US military is full of good people with excellent intentions and with high degrees of skill and professionalism. It is fun and a privilege to work with them. But the overall intentions of US leadership, and its corporate power brokers, may not always be so benign.
On October 8 Richard Ellimah published the following on GhanaWeb, which articulates many of the important questions for Ghanaians regarding the exploitation of oil resources:
Environmental Impact Assessment Of Jubilee Field And Matters Arising
Ghana Oil truck and worker
The public hearings which are a mandatory part of the processes towards securing a permit to start oil drilling are almost over. At least, all the oil affected districts – Jomoro, Ellembele, Nzema East, Ahanta West, Shama and Sekondi-Takoradi – have had the opportunity to interrogate the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of Tullow Oil and her partners.
Judging from press reportage of the hearings, some critical issues need addressing. First of all, it is obvious that people within the six districts that will be affected barely have enough information about the oil that has been discovered close to them. They therefore are incapable of participating in processes that would help them deal with any possible impacts that will occur. The information they have does not go beyond the rudimentary chorus of “Ghana has discovered oil”. Information is absolutely necessary to enable affected people make crucial choices. Absence of information produces half-truths. As people who will suffer potential impacts of the oil industry, they have a democratic right to information. For instance, to what extent has the district assemblies been updating communities on the impacts of the oil discovery to enable a more coherent response to be prepared? Already, fisher folk in these districts have started suffering some impacts. They have been instructed to steer clear of a particular radius of the oil rig. Incidentally, all the fish appear to have taken cover in areas close to the rig, making it difficult for the fishermen to get them without incurring the displeasure of the navy that patrols our territorial waters.
Furthermore, the public hearings have re-opened debate about environmental impact assessments. Judging from what happens in the mining sector, these are highly technical reports which even the average educated person cannot read and understand, let alone interrogate. The Non-Technical Executive Summary alone of the Jubilee Field EIA is 62 pages. Public hearings are supposed to be an avenue for the oil companies to tell the people how their operations will impact them and the measures that have been proposed to deal with these impacts. At these hearings, the public can question portions of the report that, in their opinion, are unsatisfactory and proceed to make inputs into it. These inputs are then taken onboard in the design of an Environmental Management Plan which the companies are expected to submit to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Unfortunately because capacity is low at the local level, the public most times, make little or no inputs at all into the process. Sometimes, the few educated people may also raise issues which are either over-blown because they have not had time to look at the report and make informed comments, or simply make comments out of ignorance. Probably this calls for a review of the design process of the EIA so that it can be disseminated to community groups in a language they understand, over a period of time so that they will be fully armed to question the process. These one-day public hearings where uninformed people are expected to comment on technical documents do not help. One is tempted to describe the process as being only cosmetic. Simplifying the process is critical to enlightening affected people on the potential benefits and problems. When actual drilling begins, they would therefore have been armed and well prepared for the impacts.
Another major concern is the over-concentration of all activities in the Sekondi-Takoradi Metropolis. Curiously, all literature about the oil find acknowledges Takoradi as potentially the most impacted community. Indeed, the non-technical executive summary of the EIA of the Jubilee Field only acknowledges Takoradi Metropolis and Shama District as the most impacted communities. A comprehensive population profiling has been done for these two communities in the document, curiously leaving out the three Nzema Districts and Ahanta-West District. Though attempts have been made to address this in the main technical document, it is still not enough to assuage this unpardonable error. At this stage of project development, it is dangerous to give any group of people the impression that they are being marginalised. As a result of the undue emphasis on Takoradi and Shama District, interventions have been narrowly designed to address their socio-economic problems. It is undisputable that Takoradi is the major urban centre with all the facilities and services that can support the industry. It also does not take away the fact that other satellite communities need to be developed. The best way to do this is to re-locate some of the functions and activities concentrated in Takoradi to communities like Axim, Essiama, Agona Nkwanta and Half-Assini. This, apart from decongesting the Metropolis will also lead to a spread of infrastructural development in the other districts. This requires a concerted policy direction from government to address the imbalances in settlement development in the region.
The oil companies have committed themselves to undertaking rigorous corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a way of ameliorating the impact of their activities on the communities. There is no doubt that oil drilling will have some socio-economic and environmental impacts, though much of the drilling will take place offshore. Designing a comprehensive, community-sensitive and coordinated corporate social responsibility programme will go a long way to help. Historically, CSR has been a voluntary initiative by industry. Current practice has called for a radical review of the way CSR is conceptualised. For instance, in the mining industry CSR has been used as a balm for soothing community demands for fairness in their dealings with the mining companies. More often than not, companies have undertaken social responsibility projects more as a deliberate attempt at boosting their corporate image rather than a genuine effort to address community concerns about their operations. To make it more practical and relevant, I propose that legislation on social responsibility should be passed. Like happens in the forestry sector, companies wishing to undertake oil exploration and drilling should be compelled to sign social responsibility agreements with their catchment communities. This initiative will serve two purposes. Firstly, it will ensure bottom-up development planning by encouraging the fullest participation of ordinary community people in deciding what kind of development they want. Doing this will ensure that resources are channelled to areas where they are specially needed. Besides legislating CSR in the oil sector, there is also the need for a more coordinated approach to providing projects within the oil catchment areas. The district assemblies in these areas should not under any circumstances be sidelined in the provision of CSR. I propose that every CSR endeavour must find space in the Medium Term Development Plans of the district assemblies. This way, development will be better coordinated and ensure that resources are channelled to priority areas of development.
The other concern that the EIA presents is the human resource requirement for the project. According to the report, 760 people will be employed in the initial development phase of the project. This figure will however, drop to 300 during actual drilling. My concern is not with the number but the fact that 50 percent of this 300 will be expatriates before the percentage drops to 10 percent within four to eight years. What this effectively means is that between 4 – 8 years of the project life, only 150 Ghanaians can be employed in the oil business. The 50 percent expatriate participation is extremely high considering that Ghana has enough capacity to handle some of the middle-level positions that the companies will be requiring. The Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) that has been in the oil business for more than 20 years has enough trained Ghanaians who can handle any position in the companies. Some of these Ghanaians have even supported the oil sector of countries like Qatar, Gabon, Angola, Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and Mozambique. We do not need to wait for eight years to put Ghanaians in positions where their expertise can be utilised.
Finally, there is the absolute need for transparency in the oil industry. Transparency here does not only refer to revenues that will accrue to government and other stakeholders but also includes transparency in terms of the disclosure of the content of all agreements our governments have signed with the companies. Full disclosure will clear doubts that the country’s interests have been sacrificed for a pittance. This is where civil society groups must be more proactive. They should not wait for these agreements to be signed and operationalised before raising the red flag. Right from the beginning they should engage the stakeholders to ensure that the country is not short-changed.
Ghana cannot afford the luxury of waiting for another generation to correct mistakes that it has committed in the prudent management of her resources. Next door neighbour Nigeria has a lot to teach us about what can happen if the right structures are not put in place in the management of oil. If Nigeria is too extreme an example, let us consider what over a century of mining has done to the country.
The author is a Development Practitioner and resides in Obuasi. He can be reached on Post Office Box UPO 853, KNUST-Kumasi; or on telephone 0244-514559; and by email on richellimah (at) yahoo.com.
* * * end * * *
From the comments on the article:
Ghanaba Papa: Good Comment:
The traditional councils in the impacted areas should also be part of the monitoring and reporting on the effectiveness of the Environmental Management Plans. Also, the impact of the oil activities on agriculture (fishing), as you allude to, nust be fully addressed and mitigated.
Slugger reemphasizs the final paragraph: Way Forward:
Ghana cannot afford the luxury of waiting for another generation to correct mistakes that it has committed in the prudent management of her resources. Next door neighbour Nigeria has a lot to teach us about what can happen if the right structures are not put in place in the management of oil. If Nigeria is too extreme an example, let us consider what over a century of mining has done to the country.
I know: CSR:
The CSR personnel at Tullow are actually not CSR experts. They were put there for political expediency. At best, they are only Public Relations Practitioners, and not professionally trained Social Impact Assessors.
Any good environmental and social impact assessment should profile communities “directly impacted” by the extractive industry, be it mining or oil and gas exploration, construction and production. And the assessment must include environmental, economic, social, cutural, and health impacts, and detail mitigative measures that would be put in place to ameliorate the negative impacts, as well measures to advance income enhancement and community development interventions necessary for sustainable development. These are lacking in the draft EIS.
Reading through the draft EIS,it is apparent that the team is heavily skewed for marine engineers than social assessors. And that is the cause of the flaw.
It is not too late to amend. Otherwise we are heading for another Ogoni!!! Who knows whether it is deliberate. I dont trust these guys, anyway.
Marcus Ampadu: REMEMBER KEN SARO-WIWA:
Environmental groups in Ghana should organize and position themselves to closely monitor the ecological consequences of the oil exploration and drilling in the affected areas. One activity we shouldn’t allow is gas flaring.
We shouldn’t wait for something terrible to happen environmentally to tragically get our version of Ken Saro-Wiwa of Blessed Memory.
There is more in the comments discussing these issues.
Over at Say It Loud Patriot Turncoat writes:
A Model for a Petrochemical Industry in Ghana
Ghana expects to generate about $3.5 billion a year in revenue from the export of crude oil. For a country with a population of 25 million, this translates to only about $140 per person per annum, as compared to some middle-eastern countries where tens of thousands of dollars are generated per person from the mere export of raw crude oil.
In other words, if Ghana were to focus merely on exporting raw crude oil, there would not be enough money to make all Ghanaians happy, so a few would be made happy at the expense of many; a recipe for resentment and political agitation, more so given the high expectations.
We can however make a large number of Ghanaians happy by facilitating and creating the right business environment for the establishment of petrochemical industries to add value to crude oil. Such an industry would provide employment for many while generating higher returns due to the value-add. For the African and world market, Ghana could produce assorted chemicals, insecticides, fertilizers, plastics, engine oil, machine lubricants, power steering fluids, detergents and soaps, paints and varnishes, pharmaceutical chemicals and many more. After all, merely exporting crude would only feed the petrochemical industries of foreign nations, generating more employment for their citizenry while our citizens are left unemployed and destitute.
We are all aware of how exporting raw cocoa, without first adding value, has fed the chocolate industries of developed nations at the expense of our economy. Same applies to other raw material exports. …
Fortunately, Ghana does not have to reinvent the wheel. There are working models all around the world which Ghana could adopt and adapt to address her specific needs.
For example, we could model Ghana’s petrochemical industry after Houston’s Spaghetti bowl which has several miles of pipe-lines connecting salt domes, fractionation plants, chemical plants, and refineries. The pipeline system emerged under private ownership in the 1940s to feed an ethylene production industry, thus paving the way for Houston’s petrochemical industry which provides employment to millions.
Patriot Turncoat has some good ideas, but shows an uncritical faith in free markets. Recent events in global capitalism demonstrate the need for some skepticism and oversight.
Today there are further developments in the issue of the sale of Kosmos’s stake in the Jubilee Field.
Kosmos’s Ghana sale bid “illegal” -GNPC source
ACCRA, Oct 12 (Reuters) – State-run Ghana National Petroleum Corp (GNPC) has told Kosmos Energy that it does not recognise a deal to sell its stake in the Jubilee oil field to Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) as it was illegal, a NGPC source said.
The source, who declined to be named, also said that Ghana had received expressions of interest from the China National Offshore Oil Corp for Kosmos’s stake but the West African state was ready to buy it all and decide later with whom to partner.
The Jubilee field is one of the largest oil finds in West Africa in the past decade and sources said last week that Exxon Mobil had reached a multibillion-dollar agreement with Kosmos to buy its stake in the field. (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Writing by David Lewis)
And this story has also popped up today:
Fight For Ghana’s Oil: Exxon vs China
… China, Ghana petroleum co in talks
… Kosmos To Sell To Exxon Mobil: WSJ
… GNPC says Kosmos sale bid illegal
… Officials in Ghana says no approval yet
… GNPC ready to buy entire Kosmos stake
… Morgan Stanley hired to advice
A Kosmos official confirmed that the energy firm has a “binding deal” in place to sell an interest in the potentially vast Jubilee oil field in offshore Ghana to oil major Exxon Mobil.
The deal — valued at an estimated $4 billion — would mark Exxon Mobil’s largest acquisition in about a decade.
It comes amid reports that China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) – see report below – could also bid on assets off the coast of Ghana.
Kosmos Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Greg Dunlevy said in an e-mail to MarketWatch, “I can confirm that Kosmos has entered into an exclusive, binding agreement with (an affiliate of Exxon Mobil) to make a rival bid for Kosmos’ stake in the field, known as Jubilee.”
China National Offshore Oil Corp is in talks with State-run Ghana National Petroleum Corp to bid for a stake in a large oil discovery off West Africa, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday, citing unnamed sources.
The offer for Kosmos Energy’s stake in the discovery, Jubilee, would rival a $4 billion bid by Exxon Mobil Corp, the Journal said. The paper said CNOOC and GNPC plan to submit a strong competing bid in the next few days, citing one person familiar with the matter.
According to the Journal, the Chinese company sent some senior officials to Ghana several weeks ago, including CNOOC Chairman Fu Chengyu. The paper said CNOOC committed to an equity stake for GNPC in the deal and discussed helping the Ghanaians develop their national oil company.
State-run Ghana National Petroleum Corp (GNPC) believes Kosmos Energy’s deal to sell its stake in the huge Jubilee oil field to Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) is illegal and is ready to buy the stake itself, a GNPC source said on Monday.
Ghana has received expressions of interest from the China National Offshore Oil Corp for Kosmos’s stake, according to the source, who declined to be named. But the West African state is ready and able to make the purchase on its own, and would decide later with whom to partner.
The Jubilee field is one of the largest oil finds in West Africa in the past decade and sources said last week that Exxon Mobil had reached a multibillion-dollar agreement with Kosmos to buy its stake in the field.
“We have formally notified (Kosmos) that we do not recognise whatever agreement they reached with Exxon — we told them we disapprove of it because it’s illegal,” the GNPC source said.
The source said Kosmos had violated Ghanaian laws when it shared confidential exploration data with over 20 companies for its own commercial purposes without giving the GNPC any prior notification.
Ghana is due to start pumping oil from Jubilee in late 2010 and the country’s oil finds and relative stability in a turbulent region are luring investors.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that China’s CNOOC was in talks with Ghana to rival Exxon Mobil’s $4 billion bid for Kosmos’s stake in Jubilee.
The GNPC source confirmed that the CNOOC was interested.
“But as far as GNPC is concerned, that also remains only as an expression of interest, like many other companies … It could be any company — it could be the Chinese, it could be Exxon,” the source said.
Kosmos owns the field with UK-based oil explorer Tullow Oil and Houston-based Anadarko Petroleum ). It put its interest in the field on the market earlier this year.
I want Ghana to get the best deal. A deal that involves jobs for Ghanaians and training, high end jobs, and environmental protection. Neither Exxon, nor the Chinese have good records or reputations in this regard. It is up to the Ghana Government to get and enforce the best deal for Ghana and the Ghanaian people.
So my question is, what, if anything, is going on under the table? Who may be getting paid for what? It is much easier for the Chinese to pay bribes than for Exxon, although Exxon is resourceful. Or is GNPC being revolutionary, and actually looking out for the development interests of Ghanaian citizens, by trying to add value to the deal? I surely hope so. We know the Chinese government is involved. Is the US government involved as well? Given the culture of corruption that was heavily institutionalized by the previous administration, and the tradition of corruption in the oil industry, in which neither Exxon nor the Chinese have clean hands, I fear there are too many people who look at the previous administration and see government service as a path to wealth. I believe President Mills is an honest man who cares deeply about doing the best for Ghana and Ghanaians. I don’t know about his ministers. I reserve judgement about intentions or motives unless I know or can see more.
Govt studying Exxon-Kosmos deal: State-run Ghana National Petroleum Corp (GNPC) is studying an agreementby Exxon Mobil to buy Kosmos Energy’s stake in the Jubilee field in Ghana before passing it to the energy ministry for its perusal, a Ghanaian government source said on Wednesday.
‘GNPC is required to look a the entire deal as negotiated — the idea is to ensure that it is the best offer not only in monetary terms but also it should come with the technical expertise,’ the government source involved in the energy sector told Reuters.
Oil map offshore Ghana from Borneo British Petroleum
There are a number of comments on this article at GhanaWeb that provide more information and insight:
MKO explains in more detail how this works:
1. The Ghana govt granted Kosmos (together with other companies, forming a consortium)exploration rights for a fee, which was paid to the govt. The license (exploration rigths) – comes with some conditions attached.
2. Kosmos as the holder of the equity (by virtue of it contribution to the consortium) has the right to sell its sake to any buyer of its choice.
3. Kosmos is owned by a private equity (PE) group. PE generally operate on short / limited time span on projects. Typically what they do is acquire companies, add value (sometimes thru restructuring or other means), and the sell the company to make profit for the investors who gave them the money to buy the company/ run the project in the first place. The PE group then takes a % of the profit and a commision as reward for their “”management wizardry”” (usually 2% of the total investment commited and 20% of profit realised)
For this reason PE’s are not interested in hanging around unnecessarily – projects usually have a timeline of say 3 to 7years which contractually binding. So if they do not sell before the time they usually lose thier commission and their profits become jeopardized (sometimes zero)
4. Now GNPC on behalf of the governmant of Ghana, has the right of refusal to any deal that KOsmos enters into based on an earlier contract that they have with the Govt of Ghana. The reason for objection would have to be leagally justifiable. (could include lot of issues for example some aspect of the Govt’s contract with Kosmos is being circumvented/ altered in the Kosmos sale to Mobil, Mobil’s business operations has violated Ghana statues in the past and was not resolved, etc, etc,
5 So GNPC has to look at the sale agreement between Kosmos and Mobil to make sure that no clause of the original agreement has been violated.
6. This process is usually just a formality – govts don’t block such sale unless there are other factors such as effect on local competition, monopoly, unfair advantage etc.
7. The main reason why the Govt has to go for these arrangements is because we lack the technical expertise, but more importantly we usually lack the capacity to raise funding for such projects independently on the worlds finance markets.
Kay includes that the:
… State of Ghana gives its natural resource to Kosmos for processing while we share profits at 90% Kosmos and 10% Ghana. Please note that we share only profits, and as a nation, we do not even know what kind of investments the oil companies are making into the project.
That is why today, Kosmos says they have spent $800 million and as a nation, we have no way to verify this. Kosmos has used our own reserves to push their stock market prices to the roof. Now, out of the blue, Kosmos decides to sell the reserves for $4,000 million. What that means is that over time, our profit margins will reduce because Exxon Mobil will have to recoup these investments each year, reducing profit margins that should accrue to Ghana. Kosmos and Exxon are part of one and the same clique. This arrangement then makes it impossible to carry out any form of future re-negotiation with Exxon Mobil.
What is the basis for Kosmos selling the oil for $4,000 million? Only three months ago, they had put it for sale at $3,000 million. …
MKO responds to a number of comments:
To be frank with you I don’t think Kosmos give a toss about GNPC, Exxon or the Chinese. They are only interested in making the maximum return for their investors. Unless of cause there is US governmental influence encouraging them to favour Exxon Mobil. If that is the case, it would also come with a premium (=more $$) so why would they not take it, earn more cash and also earn brownie points in high places. And you would not be able to fault them because they would have brought a globally reputable company with the technical know how and expertise to the table for Ghana to tap into, and would have made their investors tons of money and their govt presumably happy because they’ve created jobs thru Exxon.
Currently there is so much competition for money for oil and gas projects worldwide (this my surprise you, but there is not enough money to go round for every project!! in spite of Sino-dollars)
Bare in mind that there has been significant new finds in Uganda-Kenya, several in Brazil, Liberia/serraloene, Sudan, Gulf of Mexico, North Sea, even Lybia amongst others. The owners of all of these are looking for investments. So do not think that just because we’ve found oil every body will queue to beg to invest with us.
The position of the jubilee fields may be strategic for the US. That I can understand; for example it would be cheaper to transport oil from West Africa than form the Mid-East; like-wise bringing equipment and services.
We’ve been told that production may start in Q3 (jubilee). Why such a wait? There are so many reasons, one of them being that the vessel required for production is now being fitted/ refitted in Singapore. And I understand that it really took a while to secure because of funding constraints.
We need private Ghanaians who would inspire confidence in investors and or collaborators and understand the mechanics of operations – We need to develop local competencies and capabilities, PERHAPS this George Owusu could be a catalyst.
With regards to the Chinese, What I can say is because of forecasted growth in their economy they seems to have adopted the policy of acquiring sakes in sources of energy where ever they can. This also I can understand. However from a business perspective we know that fore casts are usually wrong. Which would raise a few questions
1. If the Chinese because of their wealth acquires so many oil field around the world, would they develop these fields at the same pace? My answer would be No, since it would not make economic/business sense.
And what criteria would they use to develop these fields that they now own? I don’t know. What I know is they are interested in oil for local consumption and not necessarily for trade.
2, What would be the competitive advantage to the Budding Ghana oil industry by having Exxon or Chinese? I would not be able to do justice to this question now.
Finally in my opinion, I think we can have the both. Estimates suggests that there’s lot more oil lying off-shore on our coast. The chinese should perhaps also acquire exploration licenses or buy into other exiting exploration groups …and get to work!
In these things the terms of contracts are related to the risks involved. Relative good terms where there are huge risks, and vice versa. One would therefore expect that going forward terms of contracts should be more favorable to the Country.
Prior to the Kosmos (Tullow, Anadarko) finds, the risks involved were very high – but not so now!
It would therefore worry me if the Chinese want to muscle their way into the Tullow-andarko setup through Kosmos simply because they want to benefit from the terms of contract that these guys have ….which the chinese thinks looks very “Yummy”
Besides …I would not put the Chinese and Tullow-Anadarko (UK, US) together. This combination may lead to inefficiency of operations – to the disadvantage of Ghana. I would rather they compete independently.
I know the US State Department and AFRICOM want a close connection with Ghana. Ghana is strategically located on the coast of West Africa amidst oil finds and other natural resources. Ghana is a working democracy and a congenial place to visit as President Obama found. AFRICOM has been very busy trying to insert itself into Ghana and the Ghanaian military. One Ghanaian comment I read called Ghana the center of the world, the country closest to the intersection of the Equator and the Prime Meridian. I don’t know how relevant this last is, but I like the image. So I think it is entirely possible that there has been US governmental influence encouraging Kosmos to favor Exxon.