corruption


Chatham House hosted a discussion in January, Nigeria in 2012: Crises and Reforms. In it Garba Sani gave a brief history of Boko Harum that is one of the best I have seen.

View of Zuma rock from Madalla market, taken October 2008, photo from Christian Blanchard on Flickr. Madalla was a site of the 2011 Christmas day bombings by Boko Haram.

Garba Sani:

Garba took a narrower and more focussed perspective analysing the issues facing Northern Nigeria and the role of Boko Haram. From the perspective of Northern Nigerians, ever since the days of colonialism Western style education and Christianity have been imposed upon them as a package from the south. The response to this has been a resistance to Western education and the Western way of life. However, this is not simply a cultural sentiment. The civil servants and politicians produced by this system are seen conspicuously wasting money. Poor Nigerians see their politicians flying abroad, shopping in Dubai, and sending their children to expensive Western schools. Consequently people feel that the leadership is devoid of justice, and when they call for the establishment of Sharia law it is not about religious piety but reflects a desire for a more just system.

The resentment fostered among the youth of Northern Nigeria is where Boko Haram has its beginnings. Whilst Boko Haram started as a non-violent breakaway group, persecution and aggressive crack-downs from the security services brought a violent response. Boko Haram was at first a small and controllable problem, but the issue escalated in 2009 after heavy crackdowns were ordered by President Yar’Adua. The crackdown was brutal and disproportionate; around 700 innocent people were killed, some of them publicly executed on suspicions that they were member of Boko Haram.

Following the killing of their leader the movement went underground but emerged a year later with renewed attacks. Even at this point the situation was controllable, yet the government response was again heavy-handed. Local people felt more intimidated by the soldiers deployed to fight Boko Haram than they did by Boko Haram itself. This sentiment was compounded by the violent and indiscriminate responses of the security forces, which frequently caused the destruction of property and the loss of innocent lives. It is quite possible that the Boko Haram situation may have been encouraged by the Federal Government to undermine the North. The fact that the government refuses to negotiate with the group fuels these suspicions.

With regard to international actors and what helpful role they may play, the main problem is that internationally the current situation in Nigeria is seen very simplistically. It would be helpful for international actors to instead look at the problem from a local perspective. For example, calls for Sharia law and Jihad are exaggerated in the Western discourse. There is also no affiliation between Boko Haram and Al Qaeda. Rather, the statements made by Boko Haram’s leaders reflect local grievances and in this sense there is some sympathy for the group in the North. That said, Boko Haram is not representative of Islam and has been condemned by Muslims in northern Nigeria. Both the international community and the federal government should
proceed with caution – they need to understand the local nature of the problem. A good start would be to consult diasporas from the northern communities.

Following a policy of wherever there is oil we must engage terrorists, the US Dept. of Homeland Security has just issued a report that examines the threat of Boko Haram predictably simplistically.
Boko Haram: Emerging Threat to the US Homeland PDF.

The shorter version of this report is: We don’t know anything about Boko Haram but even without any evidence we think they are collaborating with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and al Shabaab in Somalia. This creates a huge threat to the United States. Therefore we need to crank up a massive military and diplomatic response.

Keep in mind that the US is constantly looking for terrorists to feed the anti-terrorism industry. US corporations need terrorists to justify selling their anti-terrorist products. More terrorists equals more sales. And the US Africa Command needs terrorists to justify its ongoing security activities all around the continent.

The US report does recommend consulting with the Nigerian diaspora. However judging by experience to date with expat Muslim communities in the US, and particularly the Somali community in Minnesota, consulting with the diaspora consists of spying and intimidation rather than actually listening to what the diaspora has to say.

The African Partnership station is mentioned in the report, and right on cue, the African Partnership station is back visiting Nigeria. You can view pictures of APS activities at AFRICOM Along the Coasts and In the Creeks.

The suspect in the Madalla bombing was captured by the Nigerian authorities, and then “mysteriously” escaped. As Teju Cole put it in one of his eloquently understated tweets:

@tejucole
The Madalla bombing mastermind, arrested in a state governor’s lodge, coincidentally, has escaped from jail, quite by chance.
19 Jan (2012)

This escape proved such an embarrassment that Nigeria has recaptured the suspect Kabiru Abubakar Umar Dikko, who is also known as Kabiru Sokoto. Getting caught came as a shock to Kabiru Sokoto who is quoted:

The source quoted Sokoto saying in an emotional tone: “For instance, I never for once believed I could be arrested.

“I thought I was invincible. But now I’ve realised that if I could be arrested; if Abdullahi Damasak, the spiritual adviser, could disappear (arrested), then it’s a matter of time before everyone is caught.”

Sokoto is now said to be cooperating and providing a great deal of information which is being compared to the information provided by Abdul Qaqa, captured separately, who is being interrogated about the money trail:

It would be recalled that Monday, one other chieftains of the sect, Abdul Qaqa said the group engaged in criminal activities, breaking banks and seeking for money from every available illicit sources.

He spoke on the exploits of the dreaded body and stated that though they agreed to split such monies into five, “nobody dared ask how the money was spent and nobody dared ask questions for fear of death”.

Sokoto said the members feared the leadership of the group more than the security agencies.

Sokoto is said to have provided details of the sponsors of the sect who comprise mainly politicians, traditional rulers and some influential business men.

“The man is co-operating well with us. He has said a lot, though some of the revelations he made are chilling and nerve racking. He has named some top personalities in the society as their sponsors.

“He has also named some of the bank managers who have been facilitating them to make some transactions and how they bring in their deadly weapons, including the explosives they use in their bombings.

“We have put some construction companies on surveillance and we shall screen the permits they obtained for dynamites and explosives and we shall cross-match these with the activities they had to carry out for which they applied for such explosives,”

At the moment Nigeria appears on the right track regarding Boko Haram. It is important for genuine security that Nigeria handle this internally. The more the CIA and US military Special Operations go beetling around playing at counterinsurgency, the more damage they will do to Nigeria and Nigerians.

Nigeria needs to find some way of addressing corruption, and needs to avoid heavy crackdowns on the innocent. The Occupy Nigeria protests in response to the sudden removal of the fuel subsidy may have given Nigeria a nudge in the direction of trying to do something about corruption. The Nigerian police have been trying to upgrade their image. So far that does not seem to include modifying police behavior. I haven’t read anything that indicates people believe they can trust the police more than before. Teju Cole addresses this with another relevant tweet.

@tejucole
To ensure that Nigerians see the police force in a new way, Inspector General Abubakar announced a redesign in police uniforms.
15 Feb (2012)

Kano from Dala Hill, November 2005. Recently Kano has suffered several bomb attacks by Boko Haram

When banks are too big to fail, whole countries fail instead. Bankster greed is destroying our nations, our cultures, and the water, air, and land where we drink, breathe, and live.

What the markets want, as one commenter points out:

The markets want money for cocaine and prostitutes

Paul Krugman featured this comment in one of his columns:

“Kevin O´Rourke has a post, What do markets want , raising the same issues I´ve been discussing about debt, austerity, etc.

But never mind all that: read the comments, specifically this one:

The markets want money for cocaine and prostitutes. I am deadly serious.

Most people don´t realize that “the markets” are in reality 22-27 year old business school graduates, furiously concocting chaotic trading strategies on excel sheets and reporting to bosses perhaps 5 years senior to them. In addition, they generally possess the mentality and probably intelligence of junior cycle secondary school students. Without knowladge of these basic facts, nothing about the markets makes any sense-and with knowladge, everything does.

What the markets, bond and speculators, etc, want right now is for Ireland to give them a feel good feeling, nothing more. A single sharp, sweeping budget would do that; a four year budget plan will not. Remember that most of these guys won´t actually still be trading in four years. They´ll either have retired or will have been promoted to a position where they don´t care about Ireland anymore. Anyone that does will be a major speculator looking to short the country for massive profit.

In lieu of a proper budget, what the country can do-and what will work-is bribe senior ratings agencies owners and officials to give the country a better rating. Even a few millions spent on bumping up Ireland´s rating would save millions and possibly save the country.

Bread and circuses for the masses; cocaine and prostitutes for the markets. This can be looked on a unethical obviously, but since the entire system is unethical, unprincipled and chaotic anyway, why not just exploit that fact to do some good for the nation instead of bankrupting it in an effort to buy new BMWs for unmarried 25 year olds.”

That´s what I call a policy recommendation – and it´s better than most of what passes for wisdom these days.”

I have a friend working in a posh hotel in New York. When I sent him this passage he wrote back:
“… having served many of these dudes at my hotel…..very true.”

For more on the American lead in all this see:
Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America by Matt Taibbi, taking off from his legendary Rolling Stone article. You can also read about the book discussed here.

Another book about the US financial crisis that sounds interesting is All the Devils Are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis. I have not seen the book yet, but did watch an interview with the authors that interested me.

Others who know far more than I have discussed all this and more. I have always been a fan of political cartoons, and the video above is an inspired example of the genre, worth spreading far and wide.

An international discourse of China-in-Africa has emerged … China in Africa has more in common with the West than is usually acknowledged; … there are nevertheless notable differences between Western and Chinese presences in Africa

Map of Chinese investment in Africa 2005 (click to enlarge)

African exports to China (click to enlarge)

In December Asia Pacific Journal published:

Trade, Investment, Power and the China-in-Africa Discourse by Barry Sautman and Yan Hairong

They make a number of interesting points about the nature of China’s involvement in Africa.

An international discourse of China-in-Africa has emerged, particularly in Western countries with dense links to Africa: the US, UK and France.

The essence of the discourse then is to cast PRC policies in Africa as promoting human rights violations or “colonialism,” while implicitly comparing them invidiously with high minded US and Western practices. Some PRC activities in Africa do violate the human rights of Africans — not in ways that Western elites claim, but in much the same manner that Western policies do, through disadvantageous terms of trade, the extraction of natural resources, oppressive labor regimes, and support for authoritarian rulers, all common features of the modern world system. These are practices that China’s elites used to denounce, but now come close to extolling as dynamic capitalism. … the path taken by China is “consistent with the logic of market capitalism-liberal trade” and makes China not a colonialist, but “a successful capitalist in Africa.”

The discourse should not be inverted by arguing that China’s presence in Africa is positive and the West’s negative or that problematic Chinese activities in Africa are justified because abuses are shared with the West. The analysis of China-Africa should invoke neither a “win-win” nor dystopic representations; rather, the trees of China’s behavior should be seen as part of a world system forest and the discourse examined using comparative analysis. Our arguments are threefold: 1) given the world system, it is difficult to assess the pluses and minuses of China-in-Africa as a single phenomenon; 2) as a player in the world system, China in Africa has more in common with the West than is usually acknowledged; 3) there are nevertheless notable differences between Western and Chinese presences in Africa; many derive from China’s experience as a semi-colony, its socialist legacy, and its developing country status, features which together make PRC policies presumptively less injurious to African sensibilities about rights than those of Western states.

The US Treasury termed China a “rogue creditor.” Africa remains, however, in a Western-created “debt trap,” owing more than $300b and paying significant interest. Yet, as US Africanist Deborah Brautigam has noted, China “regularly cancel[s] the loans of African countries, loans that were usually granted at zero interest [and] without the long dance of negotiations and questionable conditions required by the World Bank and IMF.” …

OECD researchers have concluded moreover that increased PRC activities in Africa have not deepened corruption among African governments. China’s leaders know corrupt officials will siphon off part of their infrastructure loans, but its packaged loans are less likely than Western aid to being drained by corruption. As a Hong Kong journalist has noted, because China’s loans and aid are tied to infrastructure projects, that is, a large portion of the funds are allocated directly to contractors, “corrupt rulers cannot somehow use it to buy Mercedes Benzes.” A close US observer of PRC activities in Africa has argued that China’s aid is more effective than Western aid because much is used for “hydroelectric power dams, railroads, roads and fiber-optic cables, which have the potential to benefit ordinary people, no matter how corrupt the regime under which they live.”

Despite promoting a rhetoric of transparency regarding African oil-producers, Western states have not bound their citizens and corporations. Bids for oil blocks in Africa typically feature “signature bonuses,” paid to governments, which often run into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Foreign oil firms know host governments skim off large shares of what the companies pay. In a rare instance of disclosure, Western oil firms told the IMF that they paid $400m in 2001 for an Angolan oil tract, but the Angolan government claimed it received only $285m. Presumably the difference went into the pockets of government officials.

Most multinationals refuse to publish what they pay to secure oil rights. Western governments do not compel oil firms that are their own citizens to make disclosures, but “ask the tiger for its skin” (yu hou mo pi), as the Chinese say, by demanding corrupt governments publicize their own corruption.

Western policy interventions have not actually diminished the resource curse.

… oil is capital intensive, creates few jobs, is environmentally damaging and corrupts producing states. People in oil-rich regions, such as southern Sudan and Nigeria’s Niger Delta, receive so few benefits from their patrimony that violent conflict has ensued.

The China-in-Africa discourse will likely continue to focus overwhelmingly on oil in discussing PRC imports from the continent. American analysts particularly see the US as strategically competing with China for African oil. … The US government estimates African oil production will grow 91% in 2002-2025, while global production will grow 53%. Armed forces in a newly established US Africa Command will have as a main task protecting US access to oil.

US prominence in taking African oil is accompanied by its backing authoritarian rulers in almost all oil producing states.

Sautman and Hairong’s article discusses Chinese activities in Africa regarding the textiles and clothing (T&C) industries and also mining, particularly in Zambia. They provide detailed information of T&C in Africa and how it works in different countries.

If the affordability of PRC imports benefits grassroots African consumers, there are in any case only seven countries that receive a significant share (5-14%) of their imports from China. Basic consumer goods do not predominate among PRC exports, but rather “machinery, electronic equipment and high- and new-tech products.” A UK government study found that in only one African country, Uganda, are basic consumer goods more than a fifth of the value of all goods imported from China and that PRC imports into Africa mainly displace imports from elsewhere and have little effect on local production. The PRC government recognizes that some exports are of poor quality. Many Chinese goods are brought to Africa by private Chinese or African entrepreneurs whom the PRC government does not control. It nevertheless has “in place stringent measures to ensure that its goods meet all the minimum quality standards for exports [and] a ministry to ensure low quality goods are not exported.”

WB/IMF-mandated structural adjustment programs (SAPs) were the actual gravediggers of African T&C production. The influx of second-hand clothing from developed countries particularly reduced domestic markets for African T&C producers.

A balance of positive and negative impacts for China’s exports to Africa is not easily drawn. Yet, as to the T&C industry, the balance is less negative than the discourse makes out. Its fixation on Africa’s T&C industry is non-comparative and lacks historical context, as China did not contribute to the steep decline in African T&C through SAPs [structural adjustment programs], while Western states have yet to restrict their used and new clothing exports to Africa.

Most foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows to Africa come from Europe, along with South Africa and the US. These countries together account for more than half of Africa’s FDI inflows. China had only $49 million in FDI in Africa in 1990 and $600m in 2003. Its FDI stock in 2005 was $1.6b, of $57b in global PRC FDI. In 1979-2000, the most recent years for which figures are available, 46% of PRC FDI in Africa went to manufacturing (15% to textiles alone), 28% to resource extraction, 18% to services (mostly construction) and 7% to agriculture. The PRC has said it will encourage investment in Africa’s industrial processing, infrastructure, agriculture, and natural resources.

Investments thus also figure in the China-in-Africa discourse.84 Even more than with trade, the discourse is narrowly focused; its primary focus has been on only one investment by one Chinese SOE, among the more than 800 major PRC enterprises in Africa, 100 of them large SOEs. Western media have devoted hugely disproportionate attention to the Non-Ferrous Company-Africa (NFCA) Chambishi copper mine. The upshot of these reports is that “the Chinese” are Africa’s super-exploiters.

Sautman and Hairong discuss the low wages, no job security, lack of health care and unsafe working conditions for miners in Zambia. Zambian miners had previously enjoyed some health benefits and better wages. The authors point out that the lowered wages, reduced safety, and lack of health care date to the privatization of the mining sector mandated by the World Bank.

In drawing their conclusions they write:

The China-in-Africa discourse in the West for the most part insists that Chinese have particularly positioned themselves to exploit Africa and Africans; for example, by supporting authoritarian rulers in countries like Sudan and Zimbabwe. Several Western states, however, directly support despots by providing military assistance and legitimacy. In fact, US assistance to African rulers for purchases of US arms and the training of African states’ military forces has increased significantly under the Obama Administration. China is thus not likely to fare worse than the West in an evaluation of how foreign investments impinge on development and human rights in Africa.

The modalities of trade examined for development implications commonly involve the import and export of goods. There is also trade in money and people however. Western, but not PRC, banks have traded secrecy and interest to the exporters of 40% of Africa’s private wealth. Western states trade citizenship for the skills of professionals, especially doctors and nurses, trained in, but now largely lost to Africa. These forms of trade likely impinge as much as commodity exchange on Africans’ right to development.

The main problem with the China-in-Africa discourse is not empirical inaccuracies about Chinese activities in Africa, but the de-contextualization of criticisms for ideological reasons. Some analyses positively cast Western actions in Africa compared to China’s activities; others lack comparative perspective in discussing negative aspects of China’s presence, so that discourse consumers see a few trees, but not the forest. Such analysis reflects Western elite perception of national interests or moral superiority as these impinge on “strategic competition” with China. Many analysts scarcely question Western rhetoric of “aiding African development” and “promoting African democracy,” yet are quick to seize on examples of exploitation or oppression by Chinese interests.

To comprehensively interrogate Chinese and Western activities in Africa is to question a global system that has in many respects de-developed Africa and into which China is increasingly integrated. Failing that, one is left with little more than a binary between a Western-promoted new “civilizing mission” on behalf of Africans and activities of the “amoral” Chinese, who refuse to fully endorse that mission by not adopting trade and investment practices wholly compliant with neo-liberalism. China, after all, can and does throw this binary back in the face of its proponents by portraying the West as seeking a new tutelage for Africans and China as eschewing the role of intermeddler, while promoting “win-win” trade and investment. So too do many Africans. The popularity of features of China’s presence in Africa, compared with that of the main Western states, goes well beyond elites. The 2007 Pew Global Attitudes Survey asked Africans in ten countries to compare the influences of China and the US in their own countries. In nine of the ten countries, by margins of 61-91%, African respondents said Chinese influence was good. These percentages substantially exceeded those for the US. One important implication of the Chinese presence in Africa then is that Western states and firms may need to engage in greater self-reflection about their own presence in the continent.

There is much more, I can hardly do justice to this meticulously well sourced article and recommend you read it for yourself: Trade, Investment, Power and the China-in-Africa Discourse.

Large sums were misappropriated, and just plain stolen by the people managing the celebrations and observances for Ghana@50 in 2007, Ghana’s golden jubilee celebration. On June 17 2009 President Mills established a 90 day Commission to look into what happened, and deliver a report.

Ghana@50 scandal over vanished funds

Ghana@50 scandal over over stolen property and vanished funds

Quite a few, though not all, of the relevant articles can be found in this list: Ghana@50 Dossier
[Nov. 18, 2009:  That list appears to have been removed.  But you can get a good selection of relevant articles by going to the GhanaWeb Search the News Archive page, select the year 2009, and search for Ghana@50.  It is not comprehensive, but you’ll get a good overview.]

From Commission of inquiry into Ghana@50 inaugurated the Commission is to provide:

… an objective, fair and just enquiry that establishes the cold hard facts of all transactions and activities related to the 50th anniversary celebration.

Reports and stories of malfeasance have been trickling out for some time. They really gathered steam after the election, though it was obvious well before then that something was seriously wrong. I gather from people watching the hearings of the Commission on tv, that it is breathtaking how much money just disappeared, and how those responsible appear to be totally unprepared for any reckoning. Those being questioned are twisting and squirming, and many of the major players are yet to be interviewed. I understand a few have fled the country to avoid being held accountable.

From Ghana@50 Cost US$60m:

… another irony of the situation was that while GH¢12 million was raised and used for the procurement of Jubilee Souvenirs, only GH¢318,417 was realized as proceeds from the sale of those items.

Ghana@50 in arrears; already spent $60 million:

Accra, Jan. 26, GNA – The Ghana@50 Secretariat charged to organize Ghana’s Golden Jubilee celebrations two years ago is in arrears of more than GH¢18 million to contractors.The Secretariat has reportedly already spent US$60 million and with the arrears, the expenditure so far incurred stands at US$78 million against the US$20 million which Parliament approved for the celebration in 2007.

Government auditing officials on Monday told the sub-Transition Team on Executive Assets sitting in Accra that only one out of 25 toilets for which an amount of GH¢19 million was allocated had so far been provided.

Auditor General, Mr Edward Dua Agyemang … said neither staff nor records to assist in the auditing were available, and the Auditor General’s Department had to put receipts and payments together to determine whether there was value for money.

“We just had to put things together to be able to form our opinion. There wasn’t any account over the $60 million account,”

Ghana@50: More Revelations!

27 January 2009 The interim report of the Auditor General on the Ghana@50 celebrations reveals dinner wear for 48 houses at the AU Village in Accra was procured in excess of GH¢108,000 ($100,000) and were not used.

A company was overpaid in excess of GH¢43,000 for the supply of 288 decanters or flasks and sample count of items costing over GH¢1million revealed that items valued at over GH¢467 were missing.

A loan of approximately GH¢1.3 million granted by the Secretariat to the Ghana Trade Fair Company has not been refunded.

The Secretariat is said to have overdrawn its bank account with Prudential Bank in the sum of GH¢1.2 million.

The report noted that management of the Secretariat could not provide invoices and receipts covering procured receipt books and so the omission prevented the audit team from determining missing receipt books

Ghana@50: No trace of 139 vehicles – CEPS

Jan. 27  One hundred and thirty nine vehicles imported for the office of the President by five motor firms in the country cannot be located by the Customs, Excise and Preventive Service (CEPS).

CEPS has also described the mode of disposal of the vehicles as questionable, as no records on them can be traced.

The 139 saloon and 4×4 vehicles were imported on behalf of the Office of the President …

Giving a breakdown of its finding in the letter dated January 19, 2009, the CEPS commissioner noted that 968 vehicles were imported by the Office of the President between 2003 and 2008 with the value of tax forgone on the said vehicles amounting to GH¢7,892,935.67.

It explained that imports made on behalf of and for the Office of the President were tax exempt.

On PHC Motors Ltd, CEPS indicated that its current records and enquiries did not disclose the current location or mode of disposal of the 35 Chrysler vehicles imported for the Office of the President. It said Fairllop International Ltd imported 40 Jaguar X-Type, 40 Rover 75, two Rover 75V6 and one Rover 45 for the Office of the President.

Out of the number, Fairllop bought back 35 Jaguar X-Type, while CEPS’ enquiries did not disclose the location and mode of disposal of the remaining five Jaguar X-Type and 43 Rovers.

With regard to Mechanical Lloyd, CEPS said the company imported 50 BMW 730 LI, two Land Rover Discovery, two BMW 745 Li high security, 13 Ford Ranger pick-ups and one Ford Explorer.

CEPS’ “current records and enquiries did not disclose the location or mode of disposal of two Land Rovers, 10 BMW 730 Li; two BMW Li 745, 13 Ford Ranger pick-ups and one Ford Ranger”.

The letter noted that Universal Motors imported 36 VW Passat (Comfort Line) for the Office of the President and subsequently released 35 of the vehicles to the custody of the Ghana@50 Secretariat.

… under the CEPS Law, although items bought for the Office of the President and the Diplomatic Corps were tax exempt, anytime they were to change hands into private hands the new owner was made to pay the appropriate taxes.

Some of the cars were allegedly sold, although CEPS law also requires any sales of vehicles acquired by the government in this way to be open for public bid, and there is no record of any public bid for the vehicles that were “sold” or disappeared.

Spending by Ghana@50 Secretariat questioned

[From] a statement, issued and signed by the Executive Director of NGYL (Next Generation Youth League, an NGO) Benjamin Akyena Brantuo, a former Junior Common Room (JCR) President of the Commonwealth Hall of the University of Ghana, Legon …

“Whilst we are equally alarmed, and concerned about the horrifying revelations coming from the report – the total cost of the celebrations (¢60,172,251.8400), fraud in the form of over-invoicing (¢432,000,000), purchases in excess of budget (¢1,080,000,000), failure to account for VAT deductions (¢3,796,575,000), failure to pay withheld taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (¢1,396,400,000), etc, financial recklessness, lack of proper cash books, no stock register of value books, no contract register, technically incompetent financial officer, etc, the total debt owed to contractors and suppliers ¢184,439,340,000 and the lack of priorities in spending, we are far more disturbed about the limited scope of the public debate, which has confined itself to the ability or otherwise of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations Secretariat to provide adequate documentations to support expenditures they have engaged in.”

… accountability should not be limited to the ability of public servants, to legally support their whimsical and impulse actions with documentations, but the extent to which such actions have satisfied ethical requirements, which includes adding value and bringing improvement into the living conditions of the people they work in trust for.

… anything short of this, is a proper case of causing financial loss to the state …

“For the sake of argument, let us concede that indeed, the findings in the report amount to witch-hunting, and is a ploy by the NDC-led regime and the Auditor-General to persecute their political rivals. Does that assumption change the fact that the whole concept of Ghana@50 was a fraud by a few political elites to enrich themselves?

Ghana@50 report -Mpiani Milked Ghana

The main concern raised in the report is the total expenditure incurred GH¢71.70, which is almost twice the original allocated amount of GH¢31 million.  Also, out of the 25 much-talked-about jubilee toilets only one has been completed.

For a sample of the proceedings: Prudential Bank boss grilled:

In what could be described as teacher-pupil session, the Managing Director of Prudential Bank, Mr Stephen Sekyere Abankwa, was on Thursday quizzed when he took his turn at the Presidential Commission mandated to investigate the activities of the Ghana @50 secretariat. …

Mr Abankwa had to constantly consult his counsel before giving any answer, attracting the attention of media cameras.

The first hefty punch which was thrown to Mr Sekyere Abankwa by Mrs Marietta Brew Appiah- Oppong- a member of the Commission was that : Did he (Mr Abankwa) sought to enquire whether the Ghana @50 secretariat was a corporate entity when it approached his outfit for loan?

In a shivering mood, the veteran economist (Mr Abankwa) directed the question to his counsel, Akoto Ampah who was sitting beside him to handle the question after sipping some water.

Interestingly, Mr Akoto Ampah’s response to the question was that, “Mr Chairman, my client is not a lawyer so therefore; he can not answer legal questions.”

The answer which obviously made the Commission members to wonder why then did Mr Sekyere Abankwa responded to their invitation since he was aware that the Commission had the powers of a High Court.

And more revelations continue as the Commission of inquiry continues.  There has been much discussion of vast amounts of souvenir cloth that was given away rather than sold, with no accounts kept.  And there are other items missing, houses built, home furnishings that disappeared, and more.

It is obvious that no one ever expected any accounting to be required for any of this.   I hope these proceedings serve as a warning to anyone who joins Ghana’s government who might be planning to chop and go.

On the plus side, because democracy worked in Ghana, these crooks may be held accountable.  In many countries the government would be able to get away with this, no questions asked.  It is obvious the previous government was expecting to continue in this fashion, with no accountability.

________

You can find a more comprehensive list of related stories by searching GhanaWeb here.  Enter the search Ghana@50, and specify the year.  I check the following areas to be searched:
General News
Business News
Politics
Crime & Punishment
Diasporian News
Regional News
You can also choose Feature Article, for opinion pieces.

In Warri, Delta State, the raging battle between the men of the Joint Task Force (JTF) and militants operating in the creeks shifted to the metropolis yesterday as men of the Nigerian Navy invaded the predominately Ijaw enclave, the “Warri Corner” and Miller waterside near the Naval Base and the Warri Port, a move that resulted in a shoot-out that lasted several hours. – This Day Online

The Niger river at Warri photo by davethompsonministries http://www.flickr.com/photos/davethompsonministries/3019276569/in/photostream/

The Niger river at Warri photo by davethompsonministries on Flickr

… the resultant gun battle triggered a stampede as workers from the nearby NNPC Zonal office which also houses the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), the Warri South Local Government secretariat and the Warri ports took to their heels. Some journalists who were in the vicinity at the time of the invasion took shelter at the nearby Police Area Command office as the bullets continued to fly for over two hours.

The fighting in the Delta is costing the Nigerian government over 1 million bpd, barrels per day, of oil revenue. The JTF shows no concern for civilian casualties. Starting a gunbattle in a city such as Warri, is certain to kill far more civilians than fighters, it is a much more visible show of the JTF’s contempt for human life. There is far greater destruction for now in the villages. The civilians in the village communities themselves are most certainly part of the intended military target, they are not accidental collateral damage

The makers of the film Sweet Crude write:

On Wednesday, May 13, the Joint Task Force (JTF) began aerial and ground attacks on militant camps in the Niger Delta. On Friday, these attacks widened to include at least nine Gbaramatu Kingdom Ijaw communities, including Oporoza, the village where much of Sweet Crude was filmed. Based on our most recent information, these attacks on civilians continue.

According to first-hand accounts by village residents, the JTF used gunboats and helicopters to fire on villages, with women and children among the estimated 500 casualties. Some were killed while fishing in canoes. Residents fled in terror into the bush. The villages are now deserted and as many as 30,000 civilians are displaced without adequate food or water supply.

There is no way to accurately report on the number of casualties, as aid agencies have not been able to get into the region. This leaves the injured without medical attention, as there are no hospitals in the area. It is reported that the JTF has closed the waterways, barring outside access and preventing villagers from traveling and fishing.

There is a tragic history of Niger Delta civilian communities being targeted by the Nigerian military. In 1999, Odi, a community of 5,000 was wiped out completely � all residents were killed and the village was razed. In 2005, Odioma suffered a similar fate, as did the village of Agge in 2008.

And in an email yesterday the filmmakers wrote:

It was reported today that the village of Oporoza, where much of Sweet Crude was filmed and where we have many friends, was burned to the ground by the Nigerian military Joint Task Force. Other villages too. The destruction continues and the region is still blocked off to aid agencies.

Ijaw elders and leaders issued a statement: The Systematic Destruction of the Ijaw. It says the violence and destruction is on a scale greater even than in the Nigerian civil war, and includes these statements:

b) The burning, destruction, complete razing of Okerenkoko, Oporoza, Kunukunuma, Peretorukorigbene, Kurutie and many other communities and the killing and maiming of innocent people including women and children amount to systemic annihilation of an ethnic race and this is simply genocide. It therefore deserves international condemnation.

d) The Ijaw ethnic nation contributes more than 70% of Nigeria’s wealth. We appear to be a people who have become victims of our own wealth by the use of sophisticated military hardware bought with our own petro-naira to kill our people.

e) It is indeed criminal, unjustified, inconsiderate and callous to declare full military operations on communities in the guise of undertaking a search and rescue mission for hostages and missing personnel whereas it is common knowledge that hostages and hijacked vessels are secured within the precinct of militant camps and not villages inhabited by innocent people. This is nothing but a deeply contemplated systemic killing of the Ijaw people in furtherance of the age-long crave by sections of this country to either forcefully relocate us or make the Ijaw identity extinct in the Nigerian map with a view to taking over full possession of our natural resources.

f) The Ijaw ethnic nation appeals to the United Nations Organisation to set up a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the circumstances surrounding this latest assault and killing of hapless and innocent people since we do not foresee the possibility of justice from a Nigerian government commissioned inquiry.

The violence is losing the country a lot of money, also from This Day Online:

At the present price of $60 per barrel, and at the current exchange rate of N145 against the dollar, Nigeria is losing about N8.7 billion daily …

There are comments on many Nigerian websites to the effect of kill them all, or sometimes just kill all the militants. He may not like the loss of money, but Speaker Bankole appears quite comfortable with the violence:

Bankole: Military Action Part of Peacekeeping
Speaker Bankole yesterday said that the military operation in Niger Delta is part of the effort to achieve peace in the violence ridden region.
Bankole, who spoke with journalists at the Presidential /VIP terminal of Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos, described the military option recently being employed by the federal government to counter and suppress the insurgence of the militants in the Niger Delta, who have almost held the nation’s social and economic activities to a stand still in the area for some years now, as a necessary option to achieve peace in that part of the country.
As far I am concerned, it is a peacekeeping option that is going on in the Niger Delta,” he said.
On the innocent citizens who are being killed on daily basis in the crossfire, the Speaker said casualties of that status were inevitable in the cause of attempting to resolve any conflict.
“When two people are fighting and you try to separate them, you might get punched as well,” Bankole added.
He also expressed his sympathy for the families of the victims.

Quite touching that last bit, you can tell just how sincerely he cares.

And it is true the militants are a mixture of actions and motives. In many quarters they get little or no sympathy, from Punch:

While one may count millions of reasons why the military should never engage in its present activities in the Niger Delta, the fact that the militants are causing the nation great pains is incontrovertible.

In the beginning, the militants were protesting the rape of their land by oil explorers and many people regarded it as part of the struggles to get those who are reaping the resources of the area to pay attention to the sufferings of the people. Then they were kidnapping foreign oil workers and setting them free after the payment of ransom. Today, the militants have taken the business of kidnapping to a blood chilling level. Now they kidnap everybody including Nigerian men, women and innocent children many of who neither have business with oil in the Niger Delta nor the oil companies. The kidnapping of a three year old girl is a case in point. Recently, the nation was awe struck with the news that a kidnapped young lady was killed after a N10m ransom was paid.

There are and have been strong links between the militants, elected officials, and even the oil companies.

Punch also reports:

Indications have emerged that the Federal Government’s rebuff of pleas to stop further military onslaught against militants in the Niger Delta communities may have been caused by negative intelligence reports on some leaders of the region.

A security source said that some prominent leaders in the region, including state governors, had been found to be fraternising with militant groups before the ongoing operation.

He said, “How can you listen to people you know have openly identified with known militants in the Niger Delta region? Today, they have lost control of the boys and there is nothing they can do about it.

For more information on how this works, Human Rights Watch released an extensive report on the political situation in Nigeria in 2007, called Criminal Politics: Violence, “Godfathers” and Corruption in Nigeria, click here for the Pdf version.

With their village homes destroyed, and their families fleeing, in hiding, or slaughtered, the militants are threatening a nasty escalation, from Punch:

The JRC [Joint Revolutionary Council] is made up of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, the Martyrs Brigade and the Reformed Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force

The spokesperson for the JRC, Ms. Cynthia Whyte, who accused the Joint Task Force of attacking civilian settlements, including the palace of the Agadagba of Gbaramatu, schools and other public places, vowed that the soldiers would be made to pay for the “desecration of Ijawland.”

Whyte said, “Let us also warn that any bandit soldier of the Nigerian state who breaches the rules of engagement in this campaign will be summarily executed.

“Any attack on unarmed and innocent village-folk will be revenged. Any attack on community people will result in an equal attack on families of soldiers in any barracks we choose to attack. It will be an eye for an eye henceforth.”

The militants debunked the claim by the JTF that Camp 5 of the militants had been taken over by the soldiers.

According to the statement, militants had long vacated the camp, adding that it had already become a tourist centre before it was taken over by the JTF.

The statement reads in part, “Let it be known that Camp 5 had long become a tourist centre and a haven of sorts for various Ijaw organisations who seek to keep the peace.

Let us remind all men of goodwill that the attacks on Gbaramatu Kingdom represent the height of an attempt by a northern cabal to fully sink their teeth in oil production operations in the Niger Delta.”

And this last is one of the huge problems facing Nigeria. The illegal bunkering in the Delta is big time and sophisticated. The criminals and syndicates involved make $60 million a day, by one insider estimate.

From the BBC in an article that also talks about the UK offering Nigeria military assistance for dealing with the militants:

But a source close to the former government of President Olusegun Obasanjo says the problem is not about quashing militants in boats.

Some of the people who run the cartels are among Nigeria’s top political “godfathers”, who wield massive political influence.

“If the president goes after them, they could destabilise the country, cause a coup, a civil war. They are that powerful, they could bring the state down,” said the source, who did not want to be identified.

He says that attempts in the past to bring the trade under control were stopped for that reason.

“This is an industry that makes £30m ($60m) a day, they’d kill you, me, anyone, in order to protect it,” he said.

In order to get away with the theft, the bunkering syndicates operate under the cloak of the conflict between militants and oil companies in the Niger Delta.

They need “security” – gangs of armed heavies to protect their cargos – and threaten anyone who tries to interfere.

They don’t have to look far to find large groups of unemployed youths willing to do what they are told for a little money.

These youths protect bunkering ships, force local community leaders to let bunkerers pass and bribe the Nigerian military.

The thieves may also need “the boys” to blow up pipelines, forcing the oil company to shut down the flow, allowing them to install a tap in the pipe.

“Hot-tapping”, as it is known, requires considerable expertise, usually supplied by a former oil company employee.

The US and the UK have offered Nigeria military assistance of one sort or another. It is quite clear that there is no possible military solution in the Delta. There are criminals on all sides. There are many many more people who are just trying to live their lives. Lawful regulation and transparency in the oil industry and the related banking would make a big difference, along with lawful and reliable policing. And by reliable I mean citizens would not need to fear the police. The problem that needs to be solved is that the people of the Delta have no clean water, no schools, no clinics, no jobs, and a heavily polluted environment that makes traditional farming and fishing impossible. Nobody seems too uncomfortable with the thought of killing all of “them” to “solve” the problem, the current JTF approach. Any military assistance will certainly assist this “solution”.

Kayode Komolafe writes some wise words in an article printed in This Day:

Not surprisingly the information about the latest bloodbath has been murky as everything about the handling of the Niger Delta crisis over the years. There are no means of getting the records of casualties, if any is being taken at all. Deaths are simply counted in dozens and displaced persons in thousands. Newspapers are awash with photographs of hapless children and old men and women who have been displaced. These defenceless folks are fleeing the spots where soldiers are battling it out with militants. Viewers have been treated to footages on television of people streaming out of the creeks to avoid getting caught in the crossfire. Even the military task force that is “flushing out” the militants has only invited the media to visit the areas of operations “when the dust settles”. Meanwhile, one does not need to be a security expert to know that helpless people will bear the brunt of the crisis.

It is, therefore, not enough to have official declarations that Camp Five and the Iroko Camp of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) have been destroyed. It is even more urgent to stop the suffering of the defenceless persons. While the debate may continue about who is to blame primarily for the Niger Delta debacle, the government and people of Nigeria should be interested about the humanitarian dimension of the fighting now.

It is unfortunate that the nation has ignored the lessons in the tragedies of Odi, Zaki Biam, Umuechem and other places where the military response to attacks on soldiers recorded indefensible collateral damage. The extent of this damage should be made clear as we draw on lessons from the past operations. These are steps that should not be delayed.

For clarity, the government has the responsibility for security in all parts of the republic. And no sane person can justify the activities of criminals who kidnap persons, vandalise pipelines, steal oil or even chase a way construction workers from sites. These criminals operating in the region have distorted the legitimate struggle of the people for justice and equity in the administration of the revenues from oil. The activities of the criminals should be separated from the justifiable protest against the neglect, poverty and underdevelopment of the region. Security and law enforcement forces should be able to deal with criminals without wreaking havoc on whole communities. It is a professional challenge. For instance, kidnappers have operated in other parts of Nigeria outside the Niger Delta such as south- eastern states, Lagos, Abuja and Kaduna. The crime could be fought without unleashing onslaught on the communities.

Yar’Adua should not stop at flushing out militants out of Camp Five and Iroko Camp, he should move swiftly to implement policies that would flush out inequity, poverty, and underdevelopment in the region.

Barclays off-shore banking will bring more of this to Ghana

Barclays offshore banking will bring more slums like this to Ghana

In a move guaranteed to increase poverty and crime throughout Ghana and West Africa, Barclays Bank, at the 2005 invitation of former President Kufuor, is setting up off shore banking in Ghana. Other big banks are waiting to join in the tax haven business in Ghana following Barclays lead.

Barclays bank is playing a lead role in the establishment of a tax haven in Ghana, in a move that could see huge mineral wealth in west Africa vanish into it from poverty-stricken countries’ coffers, the Observer can reveal.

The controversial British lender has for the last four years worked closely with the Ghanian government to start an International Financial Services Centre offering low taxes and minimal financial disclosure.

Development charities fear that the establishment of a fully operating tax haven so close to oil- and mineral-rich countries such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Equatorial Guinea will encourage a rapid increase in tax and capital flight.

There is also concern that cocaine barons, increasingly using west Africa as a trafficking route into Europe, could launder drug money through Ghana.

Oil-producing nations are plagued by corruption and drug trafficking and the creation of this international financial services centre will make this worse – not better.”

This move was initiated in 2005 by former President Kufuor. In light of what we now know about the theiving and raids on the treasury by himself and his cronies, it looks like they were planning ahead to hide stolen assets from the people of Ghana. We know Kufuor initiated this move from an article on GhanaWeb in 2005, when the offshore banking plans got underway:

Barclays Bank to assist Ghana establish off-shore banking
2005 Accra, March 30, GNA
Barclays Bank Plc is to assist the Government to establish off-shore banking in Ghana, Mr David Roberts, Executive Director of the Board of Directors of Barclays Plc and Barclays Bank Plc, said on Wednesday.

“We have to make the necessary arrangements to make off-shore banking operational in Ghana,” he said in reaction to an appeal by President John Agyekum Kufuor that the Bank cooperated with the Government to establish offshore banking.

President Kufuor made the appeal when a delegation of the Bank’s Directors attending the first International Executive Committee Meeting outside Europe in Accra, paid a courtesy call on him at the Castle, Osu.

The discovery of oil in Ghana was not announced until June 2007. But by 2005 they knew it was in the works. The Cape Three Points Deep Petroleum Agreement was signed in 2002, and potential oil fields mapped, also in 2002. So it seems likely Kufuor and his NPP cronies were planning for the influx of oil cash, and a place to stash and hide the money conveniently close to home. Even without oil, their misappropriation of government assets is impressive. There are many examples documented on GhanaWeb, such as Massive looting at Ministries, especially since the change in government has brought a bit more transparency. Financial transparency is what every watchdog group says is needed in the African oil and resource business. Financial transparency is what off shore banking is designed to eliminate.

Barclays Bank has been repeatedly implicated in illegal and unethical banking operations. In March the Guardian published a number of internal memos from Barclays, from WikiLeaks:

The documents are copies of alleged internal memos from within Barclays Bank. They were sent by an anonymous whistleblower to Vince Cable, Liberal-Democrat shadow chancellor. The documents reveal a number of elaborate international tax avoidance schemes by the SCM (Structured Capital Markets) division of Barclays.

According to these documents, Barclays has been systematically assisting clients to avoid huge amounts of tax they should be liable for across multiple jurisdictions.

A commentator to the Financial Times stated:

I was lucky enough to read through the first of the Barclays documents…

I will say it was absolutely breathtaking, extraordinary. The depth of deceit, connivance and deliberate, artificial avoidance stunned me. The intricacy and artificiality of the scheme deeply was absolutely evident, as was the fact that the knew exactly what they were doing and why: to get money from one point in London to another without paying tax, via about 10 offshore companies. Simple, deliberate outcome, clearly stated, with the exact names of who was doing this, and no other purpose.

Until now I have been a supporter of the finance industry – I work with people there regularly and respect many of them, and greatly enjoy the Financial Times and other financial papers. However this has shone a light on something for me, and made me certain that these people belong in jail, and companies like Barclays deserve to be bankrupt. They have robbed everyone of us, every single person who pays tax or who will ever pay tax in this country (and other countries!)

If Barclays can get away with this in the UK, with UK laws and enforcement, how much more can they get away with in Ghana, where the current legal and enforcement communities have a much shorter history, and are grossly underpaid.

Barclays have also been implicated in corrupt associations and illegal dealings with Equatorial Guinea, and along with other banks in Angola. From the BBC:

The same lax regulation that created the credit crunch has let some of the world’s biggest banks facilitate the looting of natural resource wealth from poor countries.

I have quoted Nicholas Shaxson in previous posts, but what he says regarding the movement of money is right on the mark:

There are basically three forms of dirty money. One is criminal money: from drug dealing, say, or slave trading or terrorism. The next is corrupt money, like the fromer Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha’s looted oil billions. The third form, commercial money – what our finest companies and richest individuals hide from our tax collectors – is bigger. The point – and this is crucial – is that these three forms of dirty money use exactly the same mechanisms and subterfuges: tax havens, shell banks, shielded trusts, anonymous foundations, dummy corporations, mispricing schemes, and the like, all administered by a “pinstripe infrastructure” of mainstream banks, lawyers, and accountants.
. . .
In this parallel secret universe the world’s biggest and richest individuals and firms, News Corporation, Citigroup, and, yes, ExxonMobil – 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. This is the clever way to take on the big fish, using a net that would also snag the Sani Abachas, the Mobutus, the North Koreas, the terrorists, and the drug lords.
(Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil, by Nicholas Shaxson, p.225&227, ISBN 978-1403971944)

In 2007 Kufuor and Barclays raved on about what a wonderful opportunity offshore banking would be for Ghana:

President Kufuor said … the Government was fully aware of the numerous challenges and difficulties inherent in the operation of the facility and gave the assurance that the necessary safeguards had been put in place to stave off abuses.

Legal and administrative measures, he said, had been enacted to provide the needed checks and balances within the economy in particular and society in general.

“These measures should promote best practices in service delivery. More importantly, they should affirm the good faith and determination of the entire society to make Ghana a safe, secure and peaceful environment for investment.”

President Kufuor, through whose initiative the offshore banking had become a reality, said It must help to transform the financial system for accelerated socio-economic development.

He said last year, 658 billion dollars was transferred from developing countries to the developed countries, noting that if about half of this had been lodged in such a facility in Africa, the pace of development of the Continent would have been tremendously enhanced.

If that money had gone into offshore facilities in or near the developing countries, it would have made no difference. The reason for offshore banking is to evade the checks, balances, and safety measures. In fact, offshore banking will allow and promote the legal and illegal theft of money from Ghana, and is designed to do just that. Corporate money, drug money, stolen money, money from arms deals, money from illegal bunkering and corrupt politicians, all disappear offshore. Barclays and other big banks take money out of the reach of the countries those assets came from, and out of the reach of the governments and the citizens they are supposed to serve. I doubt Kufuor’s lavish praise for offshore banking was due to naivité. He was planning to be one of those advantaged by the bank at the expense of his own country. It is not for nothing he is known as Thiefuor to many of his countrymen.

Aside from those few who become very rich indeed, oil, and other extractive resources can make a country much poorer. The phenomenon is described in this article in Foreign Policy:

Collier’s model shows that producers of oil, timber, and minerals would on average see their gross domestic products rise by 10 percent in the first seven years, only to have them crash two decades later to only 75 percent of where they started. Sudden cash flows in unprepared countries, he says, lead to unsustainable public consumption, rising inflation, soaring inequality, trade protectionism, and a real danger of civil war.

As Shaxson points out:

People often put the problem like this: oil money would be a blessing but politicians steal it, so people don’t see the benefits. But it’s much worse: the oil wealth not only doesn’t reach ordinary people, but it actively makes them poorer.

Barclays and other big banks help make and keep the majority of people poorer. They insure there is no level playing field. Offshore banking is the tool that possessors of criminal money, corrupt money, and commercial money use to hide that money from its source, and to prevent reinvestment in the people and the places the money came from. That is why it is so shameful for Ghana to be setting up offshore banking. It is shameful that a former president initiated and promoted this tool to steal from the Ghanaian people, and it is shameful for the current government if they allow this to proceed as planned. If offshore banking goes forward, slums such as in the picture above will expand exponentially, people will suffer and die because their assets are being stolen from them, and they have nothing to fall back on.

mary-yates-africom
yates-ghana_us

Above: Yates address on drug trafficking, below: Yates meets President Mills at Osu Castle.

THE UNITED States Military Command for Africa (AFRICOM) has pledged to strengthen military ties with Ghana’s Military High Command and the Ghana Armed Forces towards enhancing Ghana’s democratic regime and good governance.

A delegation led by Mary Carlin Yates, Deputy Commander for Civil Activities of the US Military Africa Command, called on President John Mills at the Osu Castle yesterday [Wednesday March 4] and commended Ghana for the impressive elections held recently.

Yates and President Mills exchanged a number of compliments on democracy in each others countries. I do not think Yates was strictly honest in this, as I suspect the US wanted to interfere in the recent elections in Ghana, and may have made some attempt. Luckily, the interference was nothing to the scale of the interference with Kenya’s presidential election. Jendayi Frazer, U.S Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, was in Ghana just before the December 28 runoff: Frazer meets the press. At about the same time there was talk in the Ghanaian press about “power sharing”, and I suspect that was her work. It was unpopular, and inappropriate to the circumstances.

I think the previous US government and the AFRICOM establishment were far more comfortable working with the previous NPP government, not so much for ideological reasons, but because the NPP government was reliably corruptable. And I’m sure AFRICOM, which already has a robust presence, will try to expand in Ghana. The corruption quotient remains to be seen for the new government. I am a little bit optimistic, and very worried. I think the intentions of the present government are good for now, but the drug money and the coming oil money will be powerful forces encouraging corruption. And, with special thanks to the Kufuor government, corruption is seen by many in Ghana as the way government and business “works”. Not that there was no corruption before, but in the last eight years it was encouraged, and grew exponentially.

Drugs were one of the reasons Yates visited Ghana. As I have written before, drugs are the tool AFRICOM will use to infiltrate into Ghana. It is thanks to the counter effective US “War on Drugs” that the drug trade has moved to West Africa. The primary beneficiaries of the War on Drugs have been defense and security contractors, the same folks who are looking to AFRICOM for more contracts.

As I have written before:

The US War on Drugs has been a failure for at least half a century. It started long before Nixon, as the article indicates. You can read a history of it here: How America Lost the War on Drugs.

… the catastrophe along the [Mexican] border looks like a final reckoning for overseas interdiction. ” It’s like a balloon effect – we’ve never succeeded in cutting off the traffic, we’ve just pushed it around,”

But nobody is giving up the pretense that the effort is serious and worthwhile.

“It is absolutely shocking what has happened — the increase in drugs,” Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates says. …

… West Africa has seen a dramatic increase in narcotics trafficking, with an estimated $2 billion worth of cocaine crossing the mid-Atlantic from South and Central America. A majority of the drugs passing through West Africa are headed for Europe.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates at least 50 tons of cocaine transits through West Africa each year. Local communities are increasingly disrupted because drug traffickers pay their transport costs in cocaine instead of money, increasing the amount of narcotics available to populations.

In Ghana, as part of a larger US government program, US Africom is helping to fund drug screening equipment and upgrades at Ghana’s international airport to support Ghanaian counter-narcotics and customs programs.

Africom also is helping to fund a police evidence storage and training facility to provide more capacity in storing evidence in support of counter-drug operations. The goal is to assist in achieving a greater number of lawful convictions. The facility includes a training center and computer lab, with estimated completion this summer.

Before arriving in Ghana, Yates visited Cape Verde where she talked cooperation in counter-narcotics, illegal fishing, and illegal trafficking.

Yates is meeting with a range of officials to discuss how regional militaries can cooperate in partnership with police and other security organizations to address the growing trend of illegal narcotics, illegal fishing, and other criminal maritime activities.

Cocaine is a serious problem for Ghana. AFRICOM offers hype rather than help. Please keep in mind that the AFRICOM programs to counter drug trafficking, illegal fishing, and other police and security functions were not funded. Talk is cheap.

AFRICAN COASTAL AND BORDER SECURITY PROGRAM (ACBS) – provides specialized equipment (such as patrol vessels and vehicles, communications equipment, night vision devices, and electronic monitors and sensors) to African countries to improve their ability to patrol and defend their own coastal waters and borders from terrorist operations, smuggling, and other illicit activities … No dedicated funding was requested for FY 2008 [or for 2007]
From: AFRICOM from Bush to Obama

So the militarization of political space continues. This comes at a particularly dangerous time for Ghana. The coming expected oil revenues will create dangerous expectations, temptations, and pressures. A military strengthened beyond the control of civil institutions is a grave danger for any country. The active interference of AFRICOM, spells grave danger. Using AFRICOM, the US is already engaged in supporting and choosing sides in internal politics in African countries, most visibly in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia. So far the same people are running Africa policy for Obama that ran it for Bush. This is a time to be wary.

Montgomery McFate - lead scientist for the US Army Human Terrain System
Montgomery McFate – lead social scientist for the US Army Human Terrain System

The Human Terrain system is supposed to provide information to the military on local people and local culture. I have written about it in relation to AFRICOM previously here: Human Terrain mired in a swamp.

HTS seems to be mired deeper than ever.

John Stanton describes:

Led by a wildly unpopular program manager (Steve Fondacaro) and a detached social science advisor (Mrs. Montgomery McFate Sapone), the HTS program continues to unravel. Program morale is at its lowest point in the short and controversial life of the program. Sources predict that more civilian HTT team members and soldiers will be killed/wounded because of lousy management practices and zero program oversight by upper echelon commanders/civilians. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and General David Patreaus are also responsible for this dark state of affairs. In placing a recycled concept miles ahead of proper foundation and structure, they have compromised warfighters-in-theater, destroyed lives, and created a get-rich program for the most mercenary of HTS personnel and private contractors looking for lucrative employment.

… Mrs. McFate-Sapone reportedly nixes any dissent or critique of the HTS program. She has been described by HTS personnel as “a poisonous individual,” “the crazy aunt in the room”, and a “hustler”. One said “you’ve got to watch your six with her.”

Here are some quotes from people involved in the Human Terrain project:

“The HTS program is a ridiculous waste of tax payer money, and in the midst of a recession. Millions have been wasted. And the moronic management of the HTS program seems to have absolutely no problem placing poorly trained individuals in harm’s way, going so far as to falsifying training documents.”

“The amount of cash flying around the HTS program with very little oversight or accountability is disgusting. I continue to work for the HTS program out of obligation because I finish what I start, but trust me, I am counting down the days.”

“I feel for the people whose careers are being ground up in this HTS program mess.”

“It never ceases to amaze me how many egotistical individuals are involved with this HTS program.”

The article points out:

It isn’t really necessary to bring in academics to try to understand psychology, except perhaps for rare pathologies that are not likely to be encountered in everyday life [evolutionary psychology can speak to that]. Where HTS could have helped a lot is in understanding cultural norms and they did try to do that. But it seems to me that HTS over-promised when they claimed that they could help front-line tactical troops with specific situational awareness problems. The key thing to remember is that the differences between any two humans’ behaviors will be greater than the differences in behaviors between cultures.”

As someone who has moved between cultures a certain amount, I heartily endorse this last sentence.

Montgomery McFate, pictured above, is a major player in the fraud and failure. There is a great version of the picture of her here. And more about her domestic spying at Mother Jones.

More from journalist John Stanton on HTS:

Many academics/social scientists, according to one source, treat NCO’s with disdain. Military personnel complain — legitimately — that they end up putting their lives at risk for non-combatant social scientists who offer human terrain system data that is rarely useful.

It is high time that civilian and military personnel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the US Army fix what in the minds of many has become a get-rich scheme for retired military contractors and their friends.

Sources indicate that HTS management has hired a consultant on Africa to sell the HTS program to AFRICOM (AFRICOM’s new headquarters will apparently be in Botswana). And yet, according to a source, the program basics are not even settled. HTS program manager Steve Fondacaro “has spent $175,000 to procure 50 computers that remain unused.” Another indicated that “No one is working! You can watch all the HTS personnel hanging out in the parking lot of the local hotel day after day waiting for something to do. And they get paid for that.”

Interesting about AFRICOM HQ being located in Botswana. I have wondered about this. I have read other speculation on Botswana as the location. The current President of Botswana seems amiably disposed towards western militarism. So far I have seen nothing official.

I ran across a blog that was new to me that has some interesting things to say:
ijebuman’s diary: The online ramblings of an Ijebu man in London
I found what he has to say interesting, and his style entertaining.

His post Criminal Politics – a report by HRW took me to this October 2007 report: Human Rights Watch has released an extensive report on the political situation in Nigeria, called Criminal Politics: Violence, “Godfathers” and Corruption in Nigeria, click here for the Pdf version

I’ve been reading in the report, and it does not paint a promising picture. Most of the governors are utterly corrupt and unaccountable to anyone. The youth are being manipulated and betrayed by their leadership. Just one example of this betrayal is youth training and employment programs being used to pay young men to act as political thugs on behalf of politicians. Considering the fact that a number of US Department of Defense and Pentagon planners consider Nigeria well on the way to being a failed state, and these same planners want Nigeria’s oil, prospects for the future are doubly discouraging. There has even been talk about redrawing African borders, and this from people who went into Iraq without knowing there is a difference between Sunni and Shia.

AFRICOM is already hanging around offshore, and partnering in the neighborhood. The HRW report makes a number of excellent recommendations, but it is hard to see how they might be implemented. There are a number of people in Nigeria who would like to turn the corruption around. But too many of the people who have the power and authority to do it, are enriched and advantaged by corruption. There may be some hope with the courts, which the report indicates are still for the most part trying to do their jobs. But courts alone can’t do it because their activities are by nature largely reactive. The situation also needs proactive measures.

Another post lists suggestions for How to keep your job (Naija style), which, with some slight alterations, applies just as well to all the corrupt and criminal cronies around Bush. I’ve certainly seen US versions of all 10 of these ploys in the news. I’ve copied some below. Substitute “the United States” for “Nigeria”, and there are only slight differences.

So you’ve been caught with your hands in the till (or in this case indicted for not following due process by awarding a contract to an unregistered company run by one of your aides).
No worries, here are a few tips on how to save your job;

1. The best form of defence is an attack, start by turning the tables on your opponents by accusing them of similar crimes.

2. Play the victim. Claim you’ve been set up and you know nothing about the allegations.

3. Employ a powerful Godfather to apply pressure on those in power
. . .
6. Employ Spiritual methods. Call on all pastors and imams to pray for you and Nigeria. If you attend a Pentecostal church, you can organise night vigils, prayer requests or make a large donation to your pastor to ensure he is on your case 24/7.
. . .
9. Set up a fictional group called “concerned citizens of Nigeria“, get the “group” to put out a full page ad in the news papers claiming there is a conspiracy against you. They should also list your “accomplishments” and declare you’re the best ***** Nigeria ever had.

10. Employ good old “shakara“. Declare that “it’s God’s will” that you got to your current position and by “God’s grace” no one can remove you

.

Malam Nuhu Ribadu

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

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

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

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

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

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

Imnakoya at Grandiose Parlor writes:

I’m speechless! This must be a joke!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of the world’s 100 largest economic entities, 51 are corporations, and only 49 are countries.

There are basically three forms of dirty money. One is criminal money: from drug dealing, say, or slave trading or terrorism. The next is corrupt money, like the fromer Nigerian dictator Sani Abacha’s looted oil billions. The third form, commercial money – what our finest companies and richest individuals hide from our tax collectors – is bigger. The point – and this is crucial – is that these three forms of dirty money use exactly the same mechanisms and subterfuges: tax havens, shell banks, shielded trusts, anonymous foundations, dummy corporations, mispricing schemes, and the like, all administered by a “pinstripe infrastructure” of mainstream banks, lawyers, and accountants. (p. 225)
. . .
In this parallel secret universe the world’s biggest and richest individuals and firms, News Corporation, Citigroup, and, yes, ExxonMobil – 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. This is the clever way to take on the big fish, using a net that would also snag the Sani Abachas, the Mobutus, the North Koreas, the terrorists, and the drug lords.
. . .
Africa’s Gulf of Guinea will produce 20 or so billion barrels of oil in the next decade, worth perhaps a trillion dollars . . . If half of global trade finance flows through offshore structures, and soon a quarter of America’s oil imports will be coming from Africa . . . we have a systemic and fast-growing problem on our hands.

The dirty world of tax havens is no grand conspiracy, but a decentralized global terrain tucked away in the interstices between states. It is a problem of fragmented global political and economic architecture. National politicians cannot solve this one: only a coordinated international response will do.
(Poisoned Wells: The Dirty Politics of African Oil, by Nicholas Shaxson, p.225&227, ISBN 978-1403971944)

So far there isn’t much sign anyone wants to do anything about this. In fact for the last several decades we have been moving globally in the opposite direction. But all countries would be well advised to consider the problem of money flow, at least if they want to maintain any sovereignty at all, even the large countries. Of course the people running most countries benefit from the globalized money flow.

And now corporations can behave even more like states, with their own foreign and military policies, hiring the the growing ranks of corporate spies and militaries. “These companies rival and possibly surpass the capabilities of intelligence services of most nations. . . . Such capacity for covert operations has never before been in private hands–and for rent.” This does not bode well for anyone anywhere in the world.

Capitalism without democracy is gangsterism. When capital is global, democracy needs to be global too, or it is threatened everywhere. Democracy can take many forms, and can adapt to cultures and history. But more people need to have their say in how their resources are monitored and distributed.

Marina Beach shanty town, Ajegunle, AJ City, Lagos (Courtesy of Femi Jarrett)
for a brief history of Ajegunle see Ghetto Radio
Ian Welsh over at Firedoglake wrote a recent column on a problem with western development “advice” and “assistance” that has been particularly damaging to African economies. The problem he points out is hardly the only problem, among others, corruption has had a devastating effect on the economies of many countries, and African countries have suffered more than their share of corruption. Those countries with oil have also suffered from the oil curse, with big incomes, but overall standards of living going down rather than up.

In order to generate cash needed or desired for a variety of reasons, developing countries were advised their greatest resource was land, on which they could grow cash crops. Unfortunately, the kind western high yield agricultural techniques necessary for most cash crops eliminate jobs and displace farmers, who then move to ever expanding slums in the cities. Meanwhile, during the last decades of the 20th century a number of developing countries were getting and following this same cash crop advice, glutting the commodities markets and driving down prices.

The ensuing lack of cash was treated as a failure on the part of the developing country, which was urged to work harder, borrow more, and spend less, in ways such as cutting food subsidies for the people whose livelihoods have been eliminated.

So you’ve gained hard currency, but you’ve lost jobs, most of which will never be recovered. The multiplier effect (the number of jobs created to serve primary jobs) is damn near zero, because the fancy new plantations and huge farms use machines built elsewhere, run on oil pumped elsewhere, need to be repaired by expats who were trained elsewhere, the fertilizer comes from oversees and even the seeds probably even come from overseas.
. . .
So, at the end of the day, by following the advice of western experts you’ve destroyed your rural economy, gone from a country which could feed itself to a net importer of food, created huge slums around your cities, increased the instability of your country – and haven’t modernized.
. . .
When citizens of third world countries talk about how the West in general, and America in specific, is keeping them down, this is much of what they’re talking about. It’s an economic system, which while sold as a benefit to the third world countries following the prescriptions, coincidentally worked out to provide very cheap commodities to the first world for decades, allowed quite a number of loans to be made and didn’t lift a single country I can think of out of poverty. (emphasis mine)
. . .
Those loans were made with the aid of experts who made pretty explicit claims about how things would work out for the better. The common excuse is that “corruption” is why they failed, but even in countries where there was little corruption, they failed. . . . Thirty years later the locals were worse off than they were before the loans were made and the advice was followed.
. . .

And meanwhile, in Asia, countries that didn’t follow this path – countries that built up industry behind trade barriers, didn’t try and convert their farmland into cash crops – countries that rejected the advice of the western experts, who didn’t accept the loans – they’re the ones who have lifted themselves out of poverty. The lesson, one might say, is clear. Beware Westerners giving advice. It’s not that the advice doesn’t work out to someone’s benefit, it’s just that that someone isn’t you.

And why did African countries accept this bad advice so trustingly. I suspect part of the reason is that they had little to no experience as countries. Most of the Asian countries had a country identity long before the late 20th century, even those that may not have been independent or unified for a time. The borders in Africa were artificially drawn by Europeans, and African countries are still working out their identities and relationships within and between these borders. There has been a limited sense of a shared identity and history within many countries. Plus, there was very little local expertise of the sort needed to analyse Western advise, especially for the long term.

The dollar diplomacy, the low or no interest loans China is providing some countries, may offer a way to change course. Of course China is a huge marketer of cheap weapons as well, which are hugely destabilizing. And the US emphasis on military aid is also destabilizing. I’d like to be optimistic, but recent history does not offer much support.

Compassionate, image courtesy of Dr. Doom

Charles Onyango-Obbo of the East African tells us a bit of truth, and gives us something to smile over, concerning the legacy of Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank.

Half the world seems to have come down on Wolfowitz from the time the scandal broke. Typically, a British columnist wrote, “In contemplating the near downfall of Wolfowitz, it’s hard to know whether to laugh to cry. Does one weep at the outrageousness of it all: the president of the World Bank, self-appointed apostle of ‘good governance’ and scourge of corruption, caught in a blatant act of nepotism and cronyism – exactly the vice he wants to stamp out in Third World countries his government lends money to??”
. . .
While the World Bank has done some good, it is an imperial institution supremely unaccountable in its relationship with poor countries. Not too long ago, in many African countries, the second most powerful person after the president was not the army commander or the vice president, but the World Bank country representative.

The policy prescriptions of the Bank (of which I support the ones on economic liberalisation) and loan conditions could neither be reviewed nor questioned by elected parliaments and cabinets.

The longer Wolfowitz held on, the more the Bank would have been disgraced. In the process it would have come to seem ordinary and less intimidating. Indeed, it could be argued that by the time Wolfowitz leaves in June, the World Bank will have been much diminished.

To regain its prestige, it will have to eat humble pie and relaunch itself as an institution that listens. The democratisation of the World Bank that campaigners and critics have fought for for decades, could finally be around the corner.

In scandal, Wolfowitz may have done more to reform the Bank than if he had been scrupulously honest. We have to thank an African woman, Riza, for these blessings. And the best part is that there’s an international whispering campaign that the person to save the Bank today is another African – South Africa’s Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.

DAVE CLARK/AFP/Getty Images
ODIOMA, NIGERIA: A villager walks through the ruins of the southern Nigerian community of Odioma, a fishing and trading centre, and a historic centre for the Ijaw people in the oil-rich Niger Delta. It was burned to the ground on 19 February 2005 by government troops. 17 people were reported to have been killed and two women raped when soldiers raided the town of Odioma. The attack was ostensibly to arrest members of an armed vigilante group suspected of killing 12 people, including four local councillors. Some of the raiders were reported to have been recruited by a sub-contractor of Shell’s subsidiary in Nigeria and to be responsible for security in an area where oil exploration was being conducted, despite their alleged criminal record. The suspects were not captured but 80 per cent of homes in Odioma were razed. . . . “We have nothing… If we protest, they send soldiers. They sign agreements with us and then ignore us. We have graduates going hungry, without jobs.” Eghare W.O. Ojhogar, chief of the Ugborodo community in Delta State

Here is the core of the debate over African oil development:

  • Can oil revenues be made to work for Africans or will they profit only the corrupt few?
  • Are oil revenues destined to fuel civil wars and pay for the abuse of human rights or can they build peace and prosperity?
  • Is oil development in Africa’s interest or in the interest of the United States (or, I would add, can the two interests be balanced)?
  • Can African oil and gas reserves be exploited without harming the environment, or is the expansion of the world’s oil-based economy ultimately inimical to our collective future on this planet?

There has been an enormous amount of contact and activity between the US and African countries in recent months.

From oil rich northern Angola up to Nigeria, from the Gulf of Guinea to Morocco and Algeria, from the Horn of Africa down to Kenya and Uganda, and over the pipeline routes from Chad to Cameroon in the west, and from Sudan to the Red Sea in the east, US admirals and generals have been landing and taking off, meeting with local officials.

They’ve conducted feasibility studies, concluded secret agreements, and spent billions from their secret budgets. Their new bases are not bases at all, according to US military officials. They are instead “forward staging depots”, and “seaborne truck stops” for the equipment which American land forces need to operate on the African continent. They are “protected anchorages” and offshore “lily pads” from which they intend to fight the next round of oil and resource wars, and lock down Africa’s oil and mineral wealth for decades to come.

. . . it’s about the oil. And the diamonds, and the uranium, and the coltan. But mostly about the oil.


When we ask the question; i
s oil development in Africa’s interest or in the interest of the United States? I would argue that unless it can be made in the interest of both, it is in the interest of neither. Unfortunately, the leadership in both places seems to have very little interest in the well being of the people they govern. And the leadership in both the US and in Africa seem to be thinking very short term. Even those countries in Africa that have some form of democracy, seem to want to practice something closer to a Bush administration style kleptocracy, rather than practicing more representative democracy.

And without more local and democratic participation in the decision making, and the profits, we have an unfolding environmental nightmare that is a political nightmare as well.

“West Africa alone sits atop 15% of the world’s oil, and by 2015 is projected to supply a up to a quarter of US domestic consumption.” A foretaste of American plans for African people and resources in the new century can be seen in Eastern Nigeria. US and multinational oil companies like Shell, BP, and Chevron, which once named a tanker after its board member Condoleezza Rice, have ruthlessly plundered the Niger delta for a generation. Where once there were poor but self-sufficient people with rich farmland and fisheries, there is now an unfolding ecological collapse of horrifying dimensions in which the land, air and water are increasingly unable to sustain human life, but the region’s people have no place else to go.
. . .
In a typical gesture of disregard for local black lives and livelihoods, the natural gas which sits atop many oil deposits but is more expensive to capture and process than petroleum is simply burned off or flared at African wellheads. Throughout the 1990s it is estimated that 29 million cubic feet per day of Nigerian natural gas was disposed of in this manner. Many of the flares, according to local Niger delta residents, have burned continuously for more than twenty years, creating a toxic climate of acid fogs and rains, depositing layers of soot and chemicals that stunt or kill ocean and riverine fish and livestock, and poison the few surviving crops. For this reason, flaring at oil wells has long been outlawed in the US. But many African communities near the mouth of one of the planet’s largest rivers are now entirely dependent on water trucked in from outside.
. . .
Local Africans are demanding respect and a share in what is after all, their oil. They are now routinely, viciously suppressed in eastern Nigeria, in Equatorial Guinea and elsewhere, by African troops trained and equipped with American tax dollars. When resistance continues, as it certainly will, America is preparing to up the ante with more American equipment, with military and civilian advisers, with bombs, bullets and if need be, with American bodies. That’s what AFRICOM is about, and what it will be doing in the new century.

I hope this is an unduly pessimistic view. But keep in mind that it’s the Bush administration that is “looking after” US interests here. With the history of western involvement in Africa in mind, which continues to the present day, and the track record of Bush/Cheney, this pessimism looks like matter-of-fact realism, maybe even sunny optimism.

This is probably the single largest foreign policy-related failing among American politicians and members of the policy and media elites: A failure to make a serious effort to ask how things look from the perspective of other countries.


Associated Press

U.S. Attorney Carol Lam (right) talks about the guilty plea
of Randall “Duke” Cunningham
as FBI Special Agent in Charge Daniel Dzwilewski looks on
during a news conference held at the Federal Building in San Diego

Eight US Attorneys were fired by the Justice Department. And the evidence is piling up that that were fired for doing their jobs, rather than for not doing them. Evidence is also piling up that Karl Rove is the man who caused these attorneys to be fired. The most notable of those fired is Carol Lam, pictured above, who successfully put together the case against Duke Cunningham, and was well into other cases that appeared to implicate top Republicans. She was fired before she could conclude her investigation.

But the big question is: what were the attorneys who were not fired doing to keep their jobs, and please Karl Rove and Attorney General Gonzalez.

Of the 375 investigations or indictments of candidates and elected officials by US Attorneys since Bush took office, 298 involved Democrats. Were many US Attorney’s following Republican political instructions? It sure looks that way.

The allegations of political corruption against Democratic Senator Bob Menendez just before the November election now seem to have been politically motivated. If Menendez had lost, the Republicans would still control the Senate.

In the last few days we’ve also learned that Republican members of Congress called prosecutors to pressure them on politically charged cases, even though doing so seems unethical and possibly illegal.

The bigger scandal, however, almost surely involves prosecutors still in office. The Gonzales Eight were fired because they wouldn’t go along with the Bush administration’s politicization of justice. But statistical evidence suggests that many other prosecutors decided to protect their jobs or further their careers by doing what the administration wanted them to do: harass Democrats while turning a blind eye to Republican malfeasance.

Donald Shields and John Cragan, two professors of communication, have compiled a database of investigations and/or indictments of candidates and elected officials by U.S. attorneys since the Bush administration came to power. Of the 375 cases they identified, 10 involved independents, 67 involved Republicans, and 298 involved Democrats. The main source of this partisan tilt was a huge disparity in investigations of local politicians, in which Democrats were seven times as likely as Republicans to face Justice Department scrutiny.

How can this have been happening without a national uproar? The authors explain: ”We believe that this tremendous disparity is politically motivated and it occurs because the local (non-statewide and non-Congressional) investigations occur under the radar of a diligent national press. Each instance is treated by a local beat reporter as an isolated case that is only of local interest.”

And let’s not forget that Karl Rove’s candidates have a history of benefiting from conveniently timed federal investigations. Last year Molly Ivins reminded her readers of a curious pattern during Mr. Rove’s time in Texas: ”In election years, there always seemed to be an F.B.I. investigation of some sitting Democrat either announced or leaked to the press. After the election was over, the allegations often vanished.”
(Department of Injustice; [Op-Ed] Paul Krugman. New York Times. (Late Edition (East Coast)). New York, N.Y.: Mar 9, 2007. pg. A.23)

Next Page »